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.
Fourth Prize in the