How to Make a Charcoal Chimney




Introduction: How to Make a Charcoal Chimney

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Lighting charcoal briquettes without lighter fluid is easy with this homemade Charcoal Chimney. While you can easily buy one of these things for under $15 at your local hardware mega-store this one can be built for practically free.

This is my very first Instructable.

Step 1: Opening the Can

Materials Needed

  • 1 #10 tin can (coffee can)
  • 1 can opener
  • 1 church key
  • 2 Wire coat hangers
  • 1 drill with a 1/8" drill bit
  • 1 pair of diagonal cutters
  • 1 pair of needle nose pliers

With the can opener remove both ends to form a basic chimney

Step 2: Making the Vent Holes

Using the church key make a series of triangular holes on one side of the can separated by about 2 inches (this side will be referred to as the bottom)

Step 3: Drilling the Holes for the Wire Mesh

Drill two sets of eight holes about 3 inches from the bottom of the can with about 3/4 of an inch separating the 2 holes in each set

Drill 4 holes for handle (see illustration)

Step 4: Making a Wire Mesh

  • Open the coat hangers and straighten with the pliers
  • Cut the coat hanger into 12 8 inch pieces using the diagonal cutters
  • With the pliers form a hook at one end of each of the 12 pieces of wire about 3/4" in diameter
  • Thread the straight end of the wire through the can to it's opposite hole making sure to thread the hook end into it's corresponding hole
  • Insert the hook into the the hole nearest it and using the pliers, on the inside of the can bend the wire so that it cannot be removed from the can.
  • Repeat the inserting process for all the holes, you may have to drill additional holes and place additional wires to make a tighter mesh depending on the size of charcoal you plan to use. (I had to do this.)

Making the Handle

  • For the handle drill 2 sets of two holes, one set at the top of the can and another near the mesh. Drill the sets vertically
  • take the remainder of the coat hanger and fasten it in the same manner done when creating the mesh

Step 5: The Finished Product

And there you have it one Charcoal Chimney for the price of a few Band-Aids. It's not the prettiest thing but it does work.

You can see it in action on this OpenTutorial tutorial How to Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid


  • Be careful, I cut myself twice while building this be smarter than me, use gloves.
  • I make absolutely no claim to the safety of this project, make it and use it at your own risk. There are professionally built Charcoal Chimneys on the market. Please consider buying one if for any reason you feel uncomfortable about making your own.

Usage Notes

This particular design lights enough lit charcoal to fill a small barbecue, perfect for cooking a few burgers at a time. If you need to fill a large barbecue then you may want to make more than one of these or consider purchasing a larger one.

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    7 years ago on Introduction

    May I suggest that you use the church key to create your vent holes before you cut the bottom out of the can? The can is more resistant to bending with the bottom in place.



    9 years ago on Introduction

    Best. Instruction. Ever! 20 minutes my charcoal chimney was cooking away. perfect!


    14 years ago on Introduction

    We used to build these in the Boy Scouts before we did charcoal cooking. We used to make dozens of them so every patrol could use a few of them to cook, and when you need dozens of charcoal lighters, these can't be beat. (If you just need one of them for your own house or frequent use... get a commercial one.)