How to make an oil drum BBQ

Stuart Anderson
Tuesday, 7th June 2011

Step by step instructions on how to make your own BBQ for free from reclaimed materials in under an hour

Now into its fourth summer, our oil drum barbeque bears more than a passing resemblance to a colander and it was time to replace it. Taking no more than an hour, here's how I did it.

Rather than going shopping at your local garden centre and parting with upwards of a hundred pounds for a purpose-made BBQ, wander down to your local garage and see if they have an empty small oil drum they could let you have. Ensure that it's drained as much as possible before you take it home, then give the outside a wash with hot soapy water.

You're going to remove a 135º segment and fold back the edges. Using a marker pen and a straight edge, mark out where you're going to cut and fold. Take your time and do make sure you're on the correct line before you start cutting.

You'll need to drill a hole large enough to get a jigsaw blade in (10mm should do it) and to stop the drill bit skidding around when you start, use a centre punch (or a four inch nail) to create a little dent for the tip of the drill bit to sit in.

Put on eye protection and drill a hole on each face of the drum.

Put on ear-defenders too, then using a jigsaw with a metal-cutting blade—check you're on the right line—steadily cut through the metal. Don't push, let the saw do the work and make sure that the sole of the saw is held flat on the drum. When cutting along the drum, chock it up, get someone (also wearing eye protection and ear defenders) to hold it or otherwise stop it from rotating.

When the segment is removed, you'll find some residual oil, so wipe this up with some kitchen towels. The cut edges will be sharp, so do be extra careful of fingers and forearms until the edges are safely folded over. This is easily done with an ordinary set of pliers: working along the fold line, bend the metal to 90º.

Using a lump hammer or solid block of wood as a dolly, tap the fold flat.

Drill holes in the drum and bolt on a scrap piece of angle iron to support the grill. If you haven't already got a grill, you can buy one and it's worth making your oil drum first so you can get one that's snug fit.

One thing I haven't detailed here is a support for your drum BBQ. Mine was welded up from some scrap metal by a friend but a pile of bricks would work just as well; I'll leave this to your ingenuity.

Light a fire to burn off the residual oil, then put some old bricks in the base, ordinary ones are fine (see photo 8 above). This protects the oil drum from direct contact with the fire, so it will last longer.

One last DIY trick, cut the bottom out of a sweet tin to make a BBQ starter. This makes lighting the charcoal easier and gets it all to a similar state ready for cooking.

Bon appétit!

Thanks to young neighbour Camille for helping me illustrate the techniques. Don't worry, the tools weren't plugged in; this is definitely a job for responsible adults!

N.B. Cutting into oil drums can be extremly hazardous if the contents has not been properly cleaned out first. They can explode if a spark ignites fumes or any flammable liquid remaining in the drum. Please ensure you have removed the last traces of the original contents and vented any associated fumes before commencing cutting or drilling into the drum.

Inspired by permaculture and a love of French life, Stuart and Gabrielle moved from Brighton to Brittany some five years ago, living and learning on their three acre smallholding. They grow fruit, vegetables and firewood, raise sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks and rabbits and rent out their holiday cottage.

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