Introduction: Stainless Steel Garden Incinerator - Patio Heater From Recycled Scrap.

Picture of Stainless Steel Garden Incinerator - Patio Heater From Recycled Scrap.

Project:  To build a replacement for the ugly rusted and burned out oil drum we have been using for a incinerator.

Lets face it when it come to recycling we all end up with bio mass that unless you live beside your recycling plant just become a nightmare to get rid off, my nearest center is 5 miles away in a different council district, the one I should be using is almost 12 miles away so anything that I can safely burn gets burnt.

I wanted to make something that would do for burning paper cardboard and garden waste. but would be nice enough to be used a heater.

We have been using an old 45 gallon steel drum as a make  shift incinerator which is almost burned out and rusted to bits. its good point was it had a large capacity for burning, but this was also its bad point was that the large capacity meant you just bunged big stuff in and it tended to go out as it was badly loaded or be very smoky.

I had an old washing machine rusting away in the yard that was due to go for scrap, they have stainless steel drum that well ventilated and look nice and make a perfect incinerator as stainless steel will not burn up like a steel barrel will do over time.

The washing machine drum has a smaller but reasonably good capacity, this will mean it must be loaded better and should hopefully burn much better.

This is a simple and easy project to build if you can scavenge the parts.

UPDATE: Some people have asked what type of washing machine has the stainless steel drum, they are found in the front loading automatic machines. I have added a pic to step 1 of the next victim to be gutted from parts. I will do a detailed instructable of what fab and groovy stuff is to be found in them. 

If you cant find a washing machine a tumble dryer should also have a stainless steel drum that will do, it will probably have a larger capacity also.

Materials used.

Stainless steel washing machine drum.
1" galvanized tube (scavenged from an old farm gate)  20 x 6mm flat steel could also be used.
The rim from an old bike wheel.
M6 nuts, bolts and washers.
Self taping screws.

Thanks for looking and i hope that this gives you some ideas for your own design.


PS. I didn't plan this out, it was a case just wandering around the yard and sheds and using what ever turned up.  So it just kind of happened, sometimes that kind of approach works just as well as the long drawn out plan.

Step 1: Preparing the Drum.

Picture of Preparing the Drum.

You will need to find a busted up and scrapped Automatic washing machine that is a front loader.  Or if you cant find that a tumble dryer should also have a stainless drum.

I gutted the stainless steel drum from an old washing machine that is due to go for scrap.

I used a hand axe to crudely hack the drum free form the plastic tank it is mounted in, this was my quickest option rather and undo just way to many screws.  what ever you choose to do be careful as fingers and eyes don't grow back.

Once the drum is free, you will need to cut it free from the aluminum casting that houses the bearings.  The drum is riveted to the aluminum housing at 3 points they will show no resistance to a angle grinder.

Step 2: The Legs

Picture of The Legs

I wanted something that was about waist height for ease of loading with garden waste and rubbish as it would be primarily a incinerator.

20mm x 6mm flat bar could also be used for this and is quite cheap to buy if you cant scavenge it.

I cut 3 lengths of 1" galvanized lube to 600mm.

Mark the pipes approx 30mm from the end and squeeze flat in a vice and bend to 90*

Mark and drill a hole in the center of each flat end as shown, this is where the legs will attach to the drum.

Step 3: The Ring.

Picture of The Ring.

The ring is simply the rim of an old bike wheel with the spokes cut out.

I had already robbed the hub from this wheel for some other project.

Step 4: Assembly.

Picture of Assembly.

The legs where bolted on to the drum using the 3 holes where the rivets where.

I marked the legs approx in the middle and drilled small holes to suite the self tappers.

The rim was attached to the legs with self tapping screws, the holes for the spokes can be used but you may need to drill one hole in the rim.

I only had a 20" wheel rim so i needed to give the legs a little bend out to make the incinerator more stable. a larger diameter rim will leave the spread the legs out more and make the base much more stable.

Step 5: Job Done. I Love It When a Plan Comes Together!

Picture of Job Done. I Love It When a Plan Comes Together!

I now have a nice shiny incinerator that will not burn away or rust to bits.

I'm quite chuffed as how this turned out as I started of just wanting to build something, with just a rough idea in my head.

If you are looking to build a patio heater of fire pit thingy.  shorter legs would be better. (if i can lay my hands on another one of the drums I will make a nice fancy design and post the results)

Shorter legs will leave your incinerator with a lower center of gravity and less likely to get knocked over.

When playing with fire be safe and take precautions.

Thanks for looking, I hope my idea inspires your own design.



BlackSheepBrit (author)2010-08-03

Saw this pop up in one of my RSS feeds the other day and remembered I just happened to have an old washing machine lying around and decided this was the perfect project for me and my boyfriend. After several hours of getting the damn inner drum out we could all finally sit back and marvel at our shiney new fire bowl. We made the base out of what was actually attached to the outter drum - just flipped it over and voila..perfect! Not only that, it's spins around too - pointless but cool!

Dr Qui (author)BlackSheepBrit2010-08-03

Post a pic of it.

BlackSheepBrit (author)Dr Qui2010-08-04

Hopefully it's added a pic this time!

Dr Qui (author)BlackSheepBrit2010-08-04

Nice Idea, your pulley is the perfect size to make a base.

I wonder how the aluminium bits and the bearings will cope with the fire?

Keep up the good work.

SIRJAMES09 (author)Dr Qui2014-07-07

Aluminum melts at about 2000 Degree F...

if the fire inside gets that hot, that Aluminum is going to be the least of your worries....

But, when the Aluminum breaks down, and it will eventually, I do not see a problem replacing the hardware with a heavier steel.

BlackSheepBrit (author)Dr Qui2010-08-05

I'll let you know when we finally get a chance to try it out. Very excited though, awesome idea...keep em coming!

That is so cool!! lol. And it came with its own base!!! You lucked out!

rimar2000 (author)2010-07-22

With that washing machine drum you can make a MCG (Macro Chease Grater)!!

Dr Qui (author)rimar20002010-07-22


Old washing machines are great, there are so many cool and useful things that can be made from one. there are so many high quality parts used in their construction.

The toughened glass window makes a beautiful glass fruit/punch bowl,  we had one full of fruit on our table and got complimented on the lovely fruit bowl and where can I get one? we had to laugh when we said you get them at the skip site.

bilham (author)Dr Qui2010-07-23

I inherited an old 50's era washer with my last house. I salvaged the bakelite agitator and made a very cool lamp out of it.

Dr Qui (author)bilham2010-07-23


That is so beautiful, our old machine had one of those but it was very plain, that one is just so stylish the lamp shade really sets it off.

Well done.


Dr. dB (author)Dr Qui2010-07-26

Yep! Although the newer designs are probably more efficient and/or effective, the old styles were often MUCH more elegant and decorative. The one I tore out of Mom's washer back in the early '70s (also a 1950's washer!) was about the same shape, but white ( well, off-white after several decades of dirty duty up against four kids and any number of pets...) I think the black one makes the more fashionable lamp, although white-ish might scatter (agitate?) the light better...

deni2me (author)bilham2010-07-25

I think this looks way cool! Great idea!

rimar2000 (author)bilham2010-07-23

There are some of these that are horn shaped, I did a very good passive megaphone with one of them. It was so good that was stolen at the first use...!

Dr. dB (author)rimar20002010-07-26

However, where do we find a capacity conversion chart from "pounds of laundry" into "pounds of cheese"?

PerenialPaul (author)2015-02-27

I love this, I'm guessing with it being stainless steel it'll stay nice and shiny unlike some other incinerators you can buy.

roryos1 (author)PerenialPaul2015-04-14

Modern washing machine inner drums have a steel drum with stainless coating and will rust after a few fires . A easy way to test is to use a magnet to test . If the magnet sticks to the drum then it is steel with a coating :)

bobdog (author)roryos12015-07-03

Actually that isn't reliable, martensitic and ferritic stainless steels are magnetic. Better to just scavenge several drums and replace the rusty ones :P

emmaw2 (author)2014-12-29

Make an outdoor living area comfy long after the sun sets or the leaves turn with outdoor furniture and a patio heater. In my opinion Heatstrip Radiant Heaters are known as one of the most incredible heating solutions for home.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2014-07-07

Old washing machine, or old dryer, = rock tumbler on steroids! :D

SIRJAMES09 (author)2014-07-07

As I too am big on safety, I was thinking( for a backyard/patio type heater) that maybe a cement block/cinder block base might be good...

As for deconstruction of the old washer/dryer, a sawz all works wonders! :)

And if you needed something to block the wind, the cabinet the drum was in would work great!

TY For sharing!

Cya! I'm going dumpster diving!! :)

mpoole4 (author)2014-03-11

Workstead (author)2012-08-14

If the spokes were left on the rim could you put a weight on the spokes to lower the center of gravity and reduce the chance of tipping?

Dr Qui (author)Workstead2012-08-16

You could do, but if you read step 3 you will see that the hub was already robbed from the wheel.

Unindoctrinated (author)2011-09-21

I made one of these many years ago specifically to be used as a small fire for people to sit around. (Some people call them fire-pits but as it isn't a pit or even a brazier I've never really been sure what to call it). Anyway, unfortunately it was a total failure for that purpose, it feeds too well. As an Incinerator it is incredibly effective. The holes almost seemed to be coincidentally or accidentally arranged in such a way as to provide maximum Oxygen supply. I'm pretty certain that if mine had been made with a lesser grade of steel it would have melted. One night I burned thirty or more three inch by fourteen inch logs in about five hours. Great incinerator though.
There are probably different brands or models that have a more suitable air-flow for my purpose that I haven't found yet but the one in this Instructable looks very much like the one I made. If the OP ever reads these comments I'd be interested to know how he/she feels theirs worked in that regard.
I made a small plant pond out of a Tumble-Dryer barrel that is still in my backyard, still holding water, twelve years on.

Dr Qui (author)Unindoctrinated2012-03-31

Hey agaian. I just noticed you said you made a "Plant Pond" I genuinely have to say whats that and can you post a picture of of a 12 year old mature plant pond as I would like to see that.

Unindoctrinated (author)Dr Qui2012-04-02

I took the barrel from a tumble dryer which only had holes in the centre of the back so I took the bulbous window from the door and siliconed it to the inside to cover the holes, buried it in my garden, filled it with water and put three plant pots in it with marsh type plants. They have thrived and as it is mostly in the shade it rarely needs topping up.
Sorry, unfortunately It is so densely surrounded by plants a photo would be pointless.

Dr Qui (author)Unindoctrinated2012-04-12

Ah i get the idea now.

We use the glass window from the washer as a fruit bowl, we even have had a couple of compliments of "oh what a lovely glass bowl where did you get that", that when you start laughing and say what it is.

Dr Qui (author)Unindoctrinated2011-10-11

They work well if you allow a good bed of ash to accumulate and this will cut of the air and slow the burn down, also hot ash will hold heat. rake the ash out to the sides so the holes are blocked and build a fire in the hollow.

larger pieces of wood will give you a slower burn once you get a good hot bed of ash going, add small pieces to keep the fire going.

The one I made works well as an incinerator until a bed of ash starts to build and then it does not draw as well

The general rule is if you want to incinerate keep it clean and if you want a heater be lazy and let the ash build up.

I find the my wood stove runs very hungry until a good bed of ash has built up, the only ash that gets removed is anything that has fallen into the air intake. i find it uses much less fuel once a few days worth of ash have accumulated.

OCMichael (author)2012-03-27

I am fascinated by the idea; it occurs to me that the opening in the top would be able to accommodate a nice, heavy-guage Stainless Steel Salad Bowl, perhaps with some brackets to suspend it to allow smoke from the firebox to escape. Place some well-soaked aromatic wood in the salad bowl and set up some ducting and you would be well on your way to creating a nice, high-capacity Barbeque Smoker. Any culinary "Mac Gyver' types out there interested in giving it a try? If you do, please let me know how it works out! <GRIN>

Dr Qui (author)OCMichael2012-03-31

I don't think it would work all that good probably way to many air holes to make a controlled burn of your wood shavings you are trying to almost starve the burn of almost all the oxygen so you get the most smoke with no heat.

I did see the answer to you question on a UK TV show only a few days ago. it was Channel 4 and the show was River cottage diaries i think, they used an old an old vintage look all metal cased upright fridge freezer (It looked like a 50's American style with the all the non metal bits gutted out of it out of it and a few air holes drilled in they where using it to test smoke a range of cheeses. it was perfect as it had ready made wire racks in and they where on mental rails for the height adjustment.

there have been many easy build home made smokers featured on river cottage over the years so it worth a Google.

Have fun with your experiments

kkeely (author)2011-11-04

I used mine last weekend and it held up fine. The only issue is that 90% of the heat went straight up. Any ideas on how to "deflect" the heat outward? Or make it radiate more heat?

Dr Qui (author)kkeely2011-11-22

Well I have an old enameled lit form an old style Washing machine that fits over the top of the drum, i use it if I'm burning stuff that may blow out of the drum.

To radiate heat be lazy and let the ash build up and it will slow the burn down and hold the heat longer, or get a line the inside with a strip of sheet metal to block of some of the holes.

hope this helps.

re.Create Design (author)2011-09-21

Great repurpose project. Featured it on my blog today (blog focuses on repurposed and recycled projects). Have a look if you get a chance. Would love to know what else you have.

re.Create Design (author)2011-09-21

Love the project! Included it in a post on my blog today for repurposed washing machine drums. Have a look - my blog focuses on repurposed and recycled projects, so I'd love to know what else you have.

tyep (author)2011-04-29

Here is mine. I showed up at the dump, and someone had already dismantled a dryer and left the drum laying there, so I scooped it up, grabbed a refrigerator rack for the top, bolted on some tent poles for legs and it's working fine.

Dr Qui (author)tyep2011-06-23

Nice one.

LittlestWorkshop (author)2011-06-19

My Dad used to repair industrial washing machines and dryers and for ages we had a giant drum at the bottom of our garden, it has made a fantastic incinerator over the past few years, I just put it on some bricks, if the wood is dry it burns super hot and you don't get any smoke at all really.

asteadman (author)2011-04-07

Love it!

Local repair shop gave me a dryer that was too far gone for them to deal with.

Tore it apart today and got myself a new fire pit in about an hour.

The drum housing was weighted with some monster sized lead weights. Made for a great temp base to hold the pulley assembly (now "stand") until I decide wear it's permanent home will be.

Thanks for a great project!

lovejasmin (author)2011-01-03

"Fingers and eyes don't grow back", ahhh, should be a slogan on the next OSHA workplace safety posters. *tips hat*

Dr Qui (author)lovejasmin2011-01-05


The metal work teacher I had in 1st year at high school had a black and white photo of the remains of what had been some poor soul got careless on a large industrial lathe in some factory, it was on the wall of the workshop and was the first thing you where shown at the start of first year. 

It was a hash way of showing us what would happen if we pissed about in a metal workshop, and somehow it did have the desired effect on us.

I doubt if shop teacher would be allowed to show kids such a graphic image incase they might damage their fragile minds.

sneaky snake (author)2010-07-22

As far as green goes this is way worse than recycling. But I'm not against burning but you live 5 miles from a recycling center, good god, that is your next door neighbor. And last time I checked, pretty sure they stop by your house to pick it up for you. Anyways, all criticism aside, I like your Instructable, especially the spontaneity of it. Good job

Dr Qui (author)sneaky snake2010-07-22

Yay, another long term member with no posts picking non existent holes in my ideas.

Sir, I disagree.

I live on a small farm, the council don't come and take away my organic waste. As i said in the post anything I can safely burn ie anything that is NOT plastic and will not pollute.

5 miles away means a 10 mile round trip and for garden waste could mean numerous trips. With fuel prices now 25% higher than they where 12 months ago well you can do the maths.

If I leave this waste to rot and turn to compost it releases methane gas which we now know to be a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon.  Any garden waste I take to the recycle center goes to be composted and therefore is actually worse than me burning it.

Burning organic biomass is also carbon neutral releasing only what the plant already took out of the atmosphere. and the resulting ash can be sprinkled straight onto my garden as a good organic fertilizer.

Kermit the frog was right when he said Its not easy being green. the secret is about finding a balance.

Burning fossil fuel to take biomass to be composted where it releases methane is actually environmentally unsound.

As an over all green project I have canceled out the fossil fuels that would be used to remelt the steel I reused. The stainless steel drum will not burn out in my lifetime and will cancel out the need for many expensive galvanized incinerators that last on average about 2-3 years if you are lucky.

You should look at every side of the green/recycling story before making judgment on anyone else.

nabo00o (author)Dr Qui2010-11-18

I agree with everything you say here, one has to think practically about the total benefits the present disposal methods gives. And using gasoline to reduce emissions is not logical, except of course there is a limit were you can gain if its close enough....

But, about methane, although more powerful than CO2, will not stay in the atmosphere nearly as long. And in colder regions (like here) methane isn't as intensively produced as say close to the equator (I see you mentioned that).
If one has the space and could use it, organic waste makes for perfect fertilizers and benefits the soil it is mixed in. I guess it all depends on the needs and whatnot.

So, 'ideally', I would have separated the stuff that's too wet and the stuff that's dry enough to burn, but it all depends.
Conclusion: Self sufficiency is great and green!

amugno (author)Dr Qui2010-07-31

Are you on crack????

Dr. dB (author)Dr Qui2010-07-26

If your local “official” recyclers are composting and allowing the methane to escape, you're quite right - and they are worse than fools. Any PROPERLY designed facility will capture, compress and use that handy by-product to fuel some of their on-site heating and other small flammable-gas-consuming systems. Of course, at home, on a small scale, it would be challenging to achieve, if possible at all… Anybody done an Instructible on that?

Dr Qui (author)Dr. dB2010-07-29

I have though of building a methane digester at times but the climate here is just to cold for most of the year to be efficient enough to be worth the effort. The closer you are to the equator the better methane digesters work.

Dr. dB (author)Dr Qui2010-07-29

Too true! I live in the northern, midwestern USA and, although this time of year it's oppressively hot, there are still several winter months during which it surprises me that septic systems can actually still function when the whole world seems like one huge ice-cube, right down to the magma...

wfp2a (author)Dr Qui2010-07-23

I appreciate your analysis of the situation but I have a question (I am not trying to be smart...maybe just trying to get a bit smarter). You mentioned that the burning process is carbon neutral because burning paper only releases what the plants had already extracted from the air...I don't want to nitpick but what about glues and whatnots that go into the paper when it is made? Honestly, I know nothing of the paper making process but I figure there has to be something else in there but plant fibers. Typical paper is not purely organic I suppose. Just curious on your thoughts...

Dr Qui (author)wfp2a2010-07-23

Yeah you are right , paper is not totally organic but it is something that you can hamlessly recycle your self often in a more green way to suit your green lifestyle. Paper pulp for fuel brick, even papercrete but I'm not sure if my climate is suitable for to use papercrete.  I discovered from my researching that recycled paper actually recuires in some cases mor chemicals to re bleach the pulp and that they can onlyuse a small % of the recycled pulp to make a inferior grade paper.  Some times when your do the research you find that there is a dark underbelly to the recycling world that they don't want you to know about.

The old engineers often said that there is no such thing as a stupid question, the stupid question is the one you didn't ask. I agree with this as the only way to truly learn is to as why and how, this often leads you to the answer of yes I can.

I don't all the answers either, no one does :) I just research as best I can how best to reuse or recycle the disposable consumer goods I am forced to use.

The incinerator was only tested using paper so I could take a picture for the instructable.

It will be used to get rid of bio mass from around the garden, stuff that has to be burned to kill the seed heads or stop the spread of disease. All this stuff will be carbon neutral.

Any paper I do have is pulped to make sawdust fuel bricks (see my other Instructable)

At the end of the day its impossible to be totally green, in the ideal world it would be great to recycle everything and burn nothing, but in the real world it somethings is just not financially viable to do these things.  But as long as the option you do have open is as green if not greener than your recycling option you have done the right thing.

You alone can't save the planet, you can only do the best you can and if you can inspire others to be as equally green we will eventually get there.

Its not easy being green!

Keep researching, and good luck with your recycling.

About This Instructable



Bio: Learning to live with Fibromyalgia brought on be numerous injuries some old some quite recent. Currently under no fixed agenda, just going with the flow ... More »
More by Dr Qui:How I built a Drift Trike a step by step guide.Drift Trike Forks - how I joined a Huffy Green machine wheel to BMX forks.Evolution of a wind turbine.
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