How to build a charcoal grill made from an oil drum

Creative people use metal scraps and old junk to make some useful and interesting things. With a little bit of hard work and intuition, you can turn what was once rubbish into a treasure. Such is the case with a typical oil drum. Using a few tools and some items that you can pick up at the hardware shop, you can convert an oil drum into a large, high-quality charcoal grill. Besides saving you the money you would spend to buy a commercial charcoal grill, this project can be a fun weekend hobby.

Cut the oil drum in half lengthwise using the reciprocating saw. Measure and mark the lines before you cut to avoid mistakes and to make sure that all edges are even.

Clean the inside of both halves of the oil drum. Use the sandblaster to remove any oil, paint or other residue from the inside. It is imperative to remove all oil from the drum to prevent a health and fire hazard when you begin to use the drum to cook your food.

Drill 20 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) diameter holes along the bottom of the lower half of the oil drum. The holes should be in two lines of 10, spaced evenly along the entire bottom of the drum. These holes will provide the ventilation and are essential to allow the charcoal to maintain a flow of oxygen.

Use the angle iron to weld a metal grate for the charcoal to rest on. Wedge this grate into the bottom of the drum. It is preferable for the charcoal to rest on the grate rather than sitting directly on the bottom of the oil drum, because this allows for better ventilation and prevents the metal drum from heating up too much.

Use the angle iron along with the welding torch to fashion two flat supports to place inside the bottom half of the drum, approximately 20 cm (8 inches) above the lower metal grate. The supports should be approximately 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) below the opening of the oil drum. These supports make the grill stronger and hold the cooking grid or mesh in place. Weld these supports into the bottom half of the oil drum, spacing them so that they evenly trisect the drum.

Weld the metal handle onto the top half of the oil drum. Position it so that it is centred and close to the cut edge of the top half of the drum.

Place the top half of the oil drum on top of the bottom half, making sure that they are lined up evenly. Weld the two door hinges to both halves, on the side opposite of the metal handle. The hinges should be positioned close to the each end of the oil drum.

Construct the metal frame to hold the oil drum using the square steel tubing. A typical 250 litre (55 gallon) oil drum has dimensions of 83.75 cm 56.25 cm (33.5 inches x 22.5 inches), but you should measure your particular drum just to make sure. First, cut four pieces of steel tubing to form a rectangle that will hold the barrel. These pieces of tubing should be welded together so that the bottom half of the oil drum can securely rest in the rectangle, without danger of falling out.

Cut four more pieces of tubing that are of equal length for the legs of the frame. Typical grill legs are approximately 75 cm (2.5 feet) in length but can be adjusted to your liking. Weld the legs to the rectangular frame you created previously.

Place the cooking grid onto the supports inside the bottom half of the oil drum and place the entire drum into the metal frame. Open and close the lid to make sure that the hinges work properly. Use oil to lubricate the hinges if they get stuck.


You can find used 250 litre (55 gallon) oil drums at your local scrapyard or car shop. They are often given away for free or can be purchased cheaply, but avoid drums that held toxic waste. You can use the angle iron to fashion a prop to keep the lid open while you are preparing the food inside so that you do not have to use your hands to hold it open. Add wheels to the legs of the frame to allow for easy transportation of the grill.


Be sure to wear protective clothing, gloves and goggles while operating the reciprocating saw and welding torch. The oil drum can get very hot while cooking with charcoal, so be careful when touching any metal parts.

Things You'll Need

  • 250 litre (55 gallon) oil drum
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Electric drill
  • Welding torch
  • Square steel tubing
  • Angle iron
  • Metal handle
  • 2 door hinges
  • Cooking grid or mesh
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About the Author

Alexander Abbott has more than seven years of experience in digital marketing. He has been a featured blogger for several media companies in Los Angeles and brings expertise in emerging technological trends, as well as international politics. Abbott is a graduate of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.