Halloween Cauldron From a 55 Gallon Plastic Barrel




I used an extra 55 gallon barrel to make my Halloween cauldron. If you can find one in black or with a removable top, it would be much easier.

1- blue barrel
35- 3/8 in. carriage bolts- (29 of them 1and 1/2 in length and 6 of them 2 and 1/2)
scrap plywood- 12" by 8' for the legs
2- 3' sections of pipe insulation
Plastic and metallic spray paint
Wood glue
1 tube left over silicone caulk

Tape measure
Jig saw- 8-10 teeth per inch
Drill- 3/8th inch bit
Grinder with cutoff wheel
C Clamps
Wrench and vice-grips

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Step 1: Pop the Top!

The top was pretty thick and took quite a bit of work to get it off.

1. Use the grinder to make a perforation around the top of the barrel. This helps remove material for the jig saw; otherwise you will burn through some blades pretty quick.
2. Drill a pilot hole with the drill large enough to insert the Jig saw.
3. Use the Jig saw to cut along the perforation you made with the grinder.
4. Using the grinder, smooth out any sharp saw marks. It doesn't have to be prefect just clean enough to not hurt if you rub your hand across it.

Step 2: Cut Things Down to Size!

The layout was critical. My barrel had two "ribs" 10 and 1/2 inches from the top and bottom of the barrel. I wanted to save the ribs to keep some character and make it look like it was there to hold the banding in place.

Cut off the top 1/3rd
1. Using a compass (remember those?) I placed the sharp point along the rib edge and traced lightly traced 1 and 1/2 inches below the top rib.
2. Using painters tape, I traced the pencil mark lifting it and keeping it tight to keep it strait.
3. Drill a pilot hole for the Jig saw
4. Cut along the tape line with the jig saw
5. Set aside the top 1/3rd of the barrel

Make the banding (two of them)
6. Measure down 2 and 1/2 inches from the cut edge and mark with the tape.
7. Drill a pilot hole for the Jig saw blade.
8. Cut along the tape line with the jig saw.
9. Repeat step 6, 7, and 8 again.

Bottom1/3rd of the barrel
10. Using the compass again, I placed the sharp point along the rib edge and traced lightly traced 1 and 1/2 inches above the bottom rib.
11. Using painters tape, I traced the pencil mark again.
12. Drill a pilot hole for the Jig saw blade.
13. Cut along the tape line with the jig saw.

My workbench has movable clamp top which cradled the barrel perfectly to roll while cutting at the top.
Cut from the top of the barrel working down keeping the material (banding) on the barrel to help it support itself.

Step 3: Break a Leg

Using the compas again, I designed a template leg. Mine was 18inches high lifting the barrel 5 inches off the ground. I measured to make sure the flat spot was against the banding to that it looks forged together. My plywood was inexpensive 3/8 inch interior ply. scraps, Mine was 12 inches wide and the legs were exactly that with the notch to go under the barrel.

1. Draw out your design on a single thickness of scrap plywood. Play with it until you are comfortable and make sure to have nice rounded corners for the jig saw to prevent it from binding.
2. Cut the design out with your jig saw.
3. Trace the pattern on the your next piece of plywood.
4. Double up the plywood and clamp with spring and C clamps.
5. Cut out the double thick leg.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to give you three sets of legs.

Glue and tack the plywood together before cutting, it keeps the lines sharp if the clamps slip, which they will.

Step 4: Riveting

The banding was too tight to fit around the barrel by itself so I ended up cutting the two hoops and making two separate halves which overlap at the first and last holes of the two sections.

I planned on 10 sections which are 7 and 1/2 inches apart.

1. Cut the banding vertically with the jig saw to lay it flat.
2. Mark the two banding sections every 7 and 1/2 inches
3. Using the drill and the 3/8 inch bit, make holes 1/2 inch from the top and bottom of the banding.
4. Using the clamps, hold the bottom banding onto the bottom of the third of the barrel.
5. Drill the first hole (only) and insert the bolt and tighten.
6. Continue around the banding: clamping, drilling and bolting as you go along.
7. Overlap the cut edges of the two banding halves and secure with the bolts.
8. Place the top 1/3 of the barrel onto the bottom and continue to drill and bolt the top section to the banding.

The carriage bolts an lock nuts were difficult to keep still in the slick plastic. Lock some vice-grips on the bolt head and then wrench on the nut.

Step 5: Getting Roughed Up!

Plastic paint needs a little roughness to stick. I used 60 grit paper and in a random pattern it makes the barrel look like cast iron.

1. Using the sander, sand the barrel using the workbench to roll the piece.
2. Sand the legs with the sander softening any jagged edges.
3. Prime the barrel black and legs metallic silver without them being attached

Step 6: Assembly

Again, place the barrel on the workbench and attach the first leg. for added strength
bolt the legs together. I used three sets of bolts, washers and nuts to lock the doubled legs together.

1. Drill three holes in each pair of legs using the 3/8 inch bit again. Mine were two at the bottom and one at the top near the banding (remember to make the top holes close but not crossing where you need to attach to the barrel.)
2. Bolt the three sections of legs together using a washer on the nut side.

Add the legs to the barrel
3. Place the leg piece on a natural seam or something you need to cover on the side..Drill through the top of the leg through the barrel.
4. Insert the longer 2 and 1/2 inch carriage bolt and tighten the nut from the inside.
5. Line up the leg vertically.
6. Drill through the bottom support and into the barrel with the 3/8 inch bit.
7. Insert the longer 2 and 1/2 inch carriage bolt and tighten the nut from the inside.
8. Measure the remaining distance and mark the location of the other two legs (mine were approx 25 inches apart)
9. Repeat steps 4-7 for the two remaining legs

Step 7: Final Paint

I added two pieces of foam insulation to the top of my barrel to give it a more authentic look.

1. Slit foam at the factory edge.
2. Dry fit the pieces of foam. (Two pieces fit perfectly for me)
3. Using left over silicone caulk, glue on the top foam pieces

Paint and More Paint
4. Using painters tape and paper, outline the banding.
5. Paint the banding silver on top of the black plastic paint base coat.
6. Using a bronze metallic paint, age the silver paint randomly lightly as not to make the silver too dark.
7. Do step 6 on the three sets of legs.
8. Paint the top foam rim and any other part of the barrel black with the plastic paint

To prevent yourself from having to air the garage out for an hour at 1am because your wife can't sleep with the smell, you might want to place the barrel outside to dry. Even with the garage open, the fumes were heavy from the metallic and plastic paint for hours.

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    9 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    We were putting up a gaggle of witches on the front porch today but the cauldron was just way way to small, I started describing your project and my daughter got this look on her face and said, "wait" then ran off, when she came back from the possibilium pile she had an old tree bucket I had been using to corral small objects, made of black plastic and about 3' across and 18" deep. A painted pool noodle to beef up the rim, some florescent green painted plastic inside to hide the fog machine and "VIOLA!" Thank you 4 the inspiration

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I read this:

    [ To prevent yourself from having to air the garage out for an hour at 1am because your wife can't sleep with the smell (...) ]

    ...and thought to myself...

    "Why is his wife sleeping in the garage?"

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    nice "ible" but you told us everything except how to make it smoke ! I almost wish we had a witchs room this year so I could make one !

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I used a regular fogger from the store( clearance last year) which is why I had to go big. I'm working on a fog chiller which will cause the fog to roll out of the cauldron and sink the the floor.