How to Convert a Metal Barrel Into a Grill

How to Convert a Metal Barrel Into a Grill thumbnail
Old barrels find new lives as flower pots, smokers and grills.

An old 55-gallon metal barrel is the ideal raw material from which to create a homemade outdoor grill. The size, shape and thickness of the metal seem almost designed for recycling purposes; the resulting grill is efficient, practical and almost entirely free if you use recycled materials. Producing a simple grill requires no previous engineering or fabrication skills although it is important to remember that whenever cutting tools are used, suitable safety precautions should be taken.

Things You'll Need

  • 55-gallon steel drum
  • Plumb line
  • Strong gloves
  • Goggles
  • Angle grinder
  • Newspaper
  • Scrap wood
  • Wire brush
  • Steel mesh sheeting
  • Tape measure
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    • 1

      Place a 55-gallon drum upright on a horizontal surface. Draw a line from one side of the barrel top to the other side, passing through the center. The line should divide the top into two equal semi-circles.

    • 2

      Use a plumb line to extend the line across the top into two vertical lines, one down each side of the barrel. Mark the path of each vertical line to the base of the barrel, then turn it upside down and join the vertical lines to create a final line bisecting the base.

    • 3

      Don strong gloves and safety goggles. Cut along the lines with an angle grinder fitted with a metal cutting disk. Examine the two half barrels, and select the best looking half. Discard the other section. Tidy the cut edges, using a hand file, to remove burrs, sharp edges and any other irregularities.

    • 4

      Place the half barrel flat on a non-flammable surface such as bare dirt. Fill it with newspaper, small sticks and scrap wood. Set fire to the paper and allow the fire to burn off any contaminants and all external traces of dirt and paint. Leave the barrel to cool, and then empty it and clean it all over with a wire brush.

    • 5

      Rest old bricks in the base of the barrel to form a "brick floor" that will protect the metal base from excessive heat.

    • 6

      Measure the internal width of the barrel about two inches below the lip of the barrel, then measure the internal length. Mark the width and length onto a sheet of rigid steel mesh, and cut it to shape.

    • 7

      Place the steel mesh in the barrel, forming a shelf that rests slightly below the lip. This forms the cooking shelf of the grill.

Tips & Warnings

  • To use, lift out the cooking shelf, fill the barrel with charcoal and ignite it. Replace the cooking shelf and wait until the charcoal stops producing smoke and fumes, then cook food directly on the shelf.

  • The grill can steadied by propping it up between two concrete blocks, partly burying in the ground or mounted on a purpose build stand, according to your preferences.

  • A charcoal grill should not require air holes in the base. However, the addition of a few holes will enable rain water to escape from the grill when it is not in use.

  • Add a lid to the grill to protect it from bad wweather by reattaching the discarded half of the barrel, using hinges. The result is a hinged lid that can either rest over the grill or folded back to lie parallel to it, creating a "double grill."

  • A reciprocating saw can be used in place of an angle grinder.

  • Paint the outside of the barrel with suitable high-temperature paint to produce a rust free exterior.

  • Always vent an old barrel before cutting it or exposing it to heat. A barrel containing volatile vapors may explode when exposed to heat or sparks.

  • Always wear hand and eye protection when cutting and smoothing metal.

  • Metal is an excellent conductor so, when in use, the exterior of the barrel will be as hot as the charcoal inside it.

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  • Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

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