Wishing Well Burn Barrel





Introduction: Wishing Well Burn Barrel

About: Half crazy, half clever....you can decide. I enjoy experimenting with new materials and new mediums whenever I can, constantly striving to be a jack of all trades.

A burn barrel is a fun way to have a safe and convenient fire on site when you are camping, at the beach, or hanging out in your back yard. I aquired a washing machine drum to use as a burn barrel and I wanted to add a bit of creative design to it. Thus, the idea of a wishing well was born.

This design is functional both in the ability to contain a fire as well as being able to help cook simple meals. The metal basket is intended to be filled with foil-wrapped food like meat and veggies. The bucket can then be lowered into the fire like a traditional water bucket, cooked, then reeled back up for retrieval! The bucket can also be swapped out with a Dutch oven, a camping kettle, or any hanging - style pot for maximum outdoor cooking versatility.

The design was kept simple with the ability to be deconstructed and packed within the barrel itself. Assembly on site consists of 8 bolts and can be fully built within 10min or less.

This project is inexpensive, simple in design, and can be completed in a weekend. You can create your very own stunning fire feature for all of your outdoor events!

Step 1: Obtain a Washing Machine Drum

First things first, you need a barrel!

Washing machine drums are easy to come by if you look for abandoned machines out on curbs, scrap yards, or you might be looking to find a use for your own worn out washing machine.

Be prepared to get a little dirty wrestling it out but it's worth the fight. You will probably end up smelling a bit like laundry soap by the end.

Step 2: The Roof

I used some perforated steel for the roof. The holes will make it light, prevents it from trapping heat, and allows you to watch the fire from the top.

The sheets I used were scrap from the shop so I'm not sure of the guage of the metal but it was a total of 4 sheets that were 24in x 6.5in.

I overlapped the metal sheets a bit to make it look like traditional wood slats and screwed them together. 2 screws per roof half was enough to hold it together well. #6 bolts can be found at any hardware store and they fit the holes perfectly.

I chose a set of decorative hinges and screwed those in with the same #6 bolts. I used hinges so the roof can be lifted out of the way with a handle I welded on. That way you can have easy access to add wood, poke the fire, and handle the bucket without struggling. For the hot handle I cut apart a chipping hammer, sandblasted it, and spot welded it onto the roof that will lift (opposite side of the turn handle so they don't collide).

Tah Dah! Now let's build the crank for the bucket...

Step 3: The Bucket Crank

For the bucket turn crank I used a 3ft length of 3/8in mild steel rod that can be found at any large hardware store.

The handle is made by making 2 bends on one end of the rod. I'm not one for accuracy or precision so I set it up in a vise and bent away. It is best to do the handle bend first and then the bend to complete the 90 degree angle. You can use the length of the rod to help you bend it or use a mallet for a sharper bend.

Next step is welding on a threaded quick link so you can add the chain and take it off again. This allows the rod to be installed and removed quickly.

I also welded a little nubbin that was cut off the back end of the rod. This will create a stop as it is held in place by another nubbin so you can lock in the height you want for the bucket.

Finally, I cut down some 3/8th all thread, welded it onto the end of the rod that is not the handle, and added a washer and nut. This prevents the bucket crank from getting pulled out and your meal ending up in the fire.

Step 4: The Bucket

The bucket is the one element that really sells that this is more than just an ordinary burn barrel. It simply wouldn't be a wishing will without it.

The hardest part was making the rings. I had to go back to my geometry days to figure out the circumference of the rings so I could cut the proper lengths. I ended up with 5in diameter for the bottom and 6in diameter for the top and 5.5in diameter for the decorative middle ring.

I used another rod of the 3/8in mild steel, cut it down to size and curved it. I was lucky and had access to a slip roller so I could get prefect rings in no time. I'm sure there are many other ways to go about making your bucket if you don't have the same tools.

After I had the rings welded I cut down some bar stock metal for the slats. Each slat was 1in x 4in x 1/8in. I used 12 total and welded then haphazardly to the rings for a rustic look. I then traced the bottom angles onto the bar stock so I could trim them to size and maintain the round shape.

Finally, I used the vice again to bend up a handle and hook it between slats for it to hold into the top ring.

Now you have a heavy duty metal bucket ready to brave the heat of a fire to ensure you have perfectly warmed meals.

Step 5: Side Supports

Ultimately the sides are fairly straightforward but there is a lot going on. This is the part that really bring everything together.

First, I closed the roof panels until they naturally stopped at the maximum reach of the hinges. I'm not one to worry about the actual degree of the angle, I just needed to make sure they were the same. I traced the angle, stenciled it onto 2 pieces of 2in x 24in x 1/8in bar stock. That way I can cut the bar stock to the perfect angle.

Each side support needed 2 holes to connect it to the washing drum. I figured out the holes were consistently 2in apart so I marked out some lines and punched the holes. #8 bolts fit great in the barrel holes and I picked out some #8 wing nuts for easy assembly.

I punched a single hole in one side to hold the bucket crank rod. That is the side I adorned with welded stops on both sides for the washer and the locking nubbin.

The other side I punched a series of holes to make an opening that would fit the rod, the lock nubbin, and the threaded quick link.

Finally, I needed to weld on rails to support the roof. I cut down some 1in angle iron into 9in lengths. I punched holes into 2 of them. The rails with holes will be used to bolt the roof onto. The other rails will not use bolts so you can utilize the hinges to freely lift the roof. A few weld beads to secure the rails to the side bars and we are ready to assemble!

Step 6: On Site Assembly and Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor

After all your hard work is time to put your burn barrel to work.

It arrives on scene conveniently packed all into the barrel.

After removing the pieces from the barrel the side supports are added in no time. 4 bolts are rapidly tightened with the help of the wing nuts.

The bucket crank fits right through our openings and is secured with a washer and bolt on the end. The chain and bucket are attached with no difficulty.

Finally, the roof is attached with 4 bolts using a Philips head screwdriver found in my utility knife set up (Thanks Amanda for demonstrating the assembly).

As soon as the sun sets: light up some logs, add a meal to your bucket, and enjoy some relaxing conversation around your one-of-a-kind burn barrel.

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    22 Discussions

    well dang it! i see this 2 months too late to use the old extra large capacity washer i killed...i am pretty creative but i never thought about doing this with it. oh well...in about 7 years, when my new washer goes, i know what i am doing lol

    well dang it! i see this 2 months too late to use the old extra large capacity washer i killed...i am pretty creative but i never thought about doing this with it. oh well...in about 7 years, when my new washer goes, i know what i am doing lol

    That is great - that is a well fed fire with all those holes. The first time you fire it up - is there a smell or anything? The few times I have played with washer drums they seem to have a "granite" like texture paint on it - does that burn off?

    Thumbs up!!

    2 replies

    The granite paint is actually a ceramic coating and it holds up to the heat of the fire very well. There was nothing burning off, no smell, and the ceramic is still intact. I'll be sure to update if the condition changes after multiple uses. Thanks for your questions!

    I've been using the same washing machine drum since the late 90's, and have had hundreds of camping fires, as well as burned multiple tons of redwood needles and even melted lead and babbitt in crucibles with it....I've seen it start to glow red several times.

    Even after all that punishment, the ceramic coating on mine has just recently begun to slough off.... but once it does, the steel underneath rusts in a heartbeat.

    I have lived with an eyesore-of-a-washer in my backyard for far too long holding out hope for such a time as this.

    CrazyClever, are you from the USA ? I am, and live in Wisconsin, and have lived in neighboring states so I was wondering about the name of your project (Burn Barrel}, in this area of the states people use 55 gallon barrels (or comparable} and put holes in it, and burn their burnable garbage in it, and they call it a burn barrel. So I couldn't at first figure out why you would make a pretty one, then I read on.Maybe some thing like "Wishing Well Outdoor Cooker" by all means up to you, but around here anyway, that is a demeaning name for such a wonderful build.
    Take care & of course name it as you will!

    2 replies

    I am currently living in Pittsburgh, PA but my experience with burn barrels came from living in Alaska where it refers to any sort of fire pit for camping or huddling around for warmth. I can definitely see them being used for burning trash though. Perhaps I'll update it to "wishing well fire pit". Thanks for the recommendation!

    What ever you wish to do, it is a great item, and I bet you just might get requests for orders if you are using it on a public beach!

    Man I saw this, and just had to jump on it, went into the house drug the washing machine outside & got that drum out in no time. The rest of the job I was able to finish in a few hours, well then my wife came home & now I am staying at my best friends house until she cools down.

    OK, just kidding that really didn't happen, it is a great build & the idea of lowering pots etc. to the desired height is awesome!


    1 reply

    Ha ha! I glad to see you were inspired by this project and I'm sure your wife appreciated your restraint from taking apart the washing machine. Keep an eye out for abandoned ones though! Good luck!

    The holes make for an amazing fire as it keeps it well fed with oxygen. Washing machines work great as burn barrels and that makes for perfect upcycle!

    This is SO super creative, yet so simple all at the same time! Great job! I'm so excited to share this with my Union Sheet Metal hubby! Thank you for sharing your Instructable with us! Definitely worth the vote!

    1 reply

    Thanks for the support! I'm glad you enjoyed the project and I hope your hubby does too!