Picture of Wood Fired Kettle

These are known by a few different names (Billy, Thermette, BackCountry Boiler storm kettle, volcano kettle, Kelly Kettle, or Bush kettle) depending on your locale. They all work on basically the same principle of a water jacket around a wood fire to boil the water. 
The commercially available varieties are quite expensive however, and when I spotted an old broken electric jug in my favorite local dumpster, I had to have a go at making one. 
The process I used involves fabricating a cone out of the same material as the donor jug, and welding it in place, making a donut of sorts.
I've seen copper, aluminum, and stainless wood-fired kettles, this one is stainless steel, and to my knowledge is the first of its kind with transparent viewing windows in the sides. 

  • donor electric or stove top jug
  • donor thermos (optional)
  • sheet metal the same as your jug
  • fork (optional)

  • welding setup
  • Dremel tool
  • drill & bits
  • angle grinder
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Step 1: Gut the Jug

Picture of Gut the Jug
The first thing I had to do was get rid of all the extra bits I didn't need. Fortunately I had the 3 point driver bit I needed for the tamperproof screws. With the bottom & the handle off, all I had to do away with was the heater element. Ye olde multipurpose chisel made short work of that, a few good whacks and it popped right off. 

Step 2: Cut some circles

Picture of Cut some circles
For this part I cut a piece out of the bottom of the jug that was just big enough to fit over the top of the jug. The size I needed was about 3 3/4" in diameter, but it will depend on the jug you use. If the opening at the top of your jug is small enough, you won't need  to save the center cutout, I wanted my top hole about 2 1/2" diameter so I had to weld the bottom to the top in order to make up the difference. I also domed the circle for the top a little by beating it into a piece of soft pine with a ball-peen hammer. 
flamesami3 years ago
i just looked at the thermette web site 8-O !!!! it looks like it was made out of a pipe, 2 end caps and a bit of copper sheet in a cone shape, with a couple of handles and a spout/pourer-thingy...they "only" want a very reasonable 110$! what a bargin! (note sarcasm) maybe it's because they are copper that they're so expensive, but i think i'm pretty much duty bound to make one that costs as little as possible, but will serve me a lifetime...
andrew.spencer.2 (author)  flamesami3 years ago
my sentiments exactly! my relatives have one of the originals, and I thought I've got to get me one of these! I did some research, and the price was the major motivator to make my own. I actually prefer mine to theirs now, especially with the little clear viewing windows! best of luck with your own!
Bayfielder4 years ago
If you live in an area that has a Princess Auto store (it's more surplus, hydraulics, and farm equipment then auto parts) they sell a complete "security" bit set for a decent price $13can at last check. Very useful for projects like this.
TrailH4x4 years ago
Great looking piece of kit! Many I have been hiking with have been experimenting with manufactured stainless versions. I think there is an aluminum one waiting to be fabbed out of an old perculator kettle and some drinking water grade JB weld over in my "little building!"
Thumbs up mate!
bruc33ef4 years ago
Kelly Kettles are great and I've long thought that there must be a way to make one cheap and easy with household tools. Yours is a big step in that direction. Way to go!