DIY Oil Drum Cooker

Updated February 21, 2017

One of the easiest and most venerable do-it-yourself welding projects is making an oil drum barbecue cooker. It is very easy to do, and a great starting point for the up-and-coming welding enthusiast.

Before You Begin

The most important thing you will need in order to build your barbecue kit is a 55 gallon oil drum. The barrel must be a liquid barrel sealed on both sides; make sure it has not contained any flammable substances. You can pick one up from a number of places, and certain manufacturers may be willing to give you one for free.

You will also need strips of angle iron, a stick electrode, a pair of 7 inch wheels with bolts, 1 x 4 inch cedar board for shelving, three 3-inch butt hinges, and a handle (1-inch strip of steel and a 1-inch wood dowel). You will also need welder of some kind, eye protection, a sabre saw to cut the iron, a table clamp, a ground clamp, a C-clamp, a tape measure, hinges, a chalkline, a standard 2-inch elbow pipe, unpainted metal grill material, and paint for the finished grill.

The Process

You want the barbecue to sit at about waist level, so keep that in mind when measuring the angle iron. Create a four-legged stand for the barrel, long enough to carry it while it's on its side, with two sets of three crosspieces, one at the bottom for support, and another to carry the barrel.

Use the table clamp to cut all the pieces of angle iron. You might need to use 45 degree angles in some spots.

Make sure that you have adequate ventilation while you are welding. Place the pieces on the floor and use the ground clamp to hold them together while you work. Make the sides first, and then the crosspieces. To stand the pieces up, use a C-clamp along with a spare piece of angle iron sort of like a bicycle kickstand. Double check all your measurements before you weld.

To make the opening, lay the barrel on the frame. Make a lid out of a quarter-section of the barrel. Find the centre of the barrel and make two perpendicular chalk-lines looking like a four-slice pizza. Lay the barrel vertically and mark another chalkline along the length of the barrel. Put the barrel back on the frame and cut along the chalkline. Aattach the hinges, then make the remaining cuts at the ends of the barrel and along the sides.

Make a flip-hatch at one end to get rid of the ash. Put it on the opposite end of the barrel from where the handle will be.

Put the wheels on the frame. Drill pilot holes, and use nuts and bolts to connect the wheels.

Make the frame for the shelving out of more angle iron. Weld using the same process you used for the frame. Attach the shelving frame to the grill frame.

Use a standard 2-inch elbow pipe for the chimney. Use the hole for the lid. If it is a liquid barrel, it should be threaded, so the elbow pipe should screw right in.

Attach the handle just above the lower horizontal seam. Paint the entire unit except for the grills.

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About the Author

Justin Mitchell has been a writer since 2009. In 2002, he received a B.A. in theater and writing from the University of Northern Colorado. Mitchell worked as an ESL teacher in Europe and Asia before earning a master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York. He has written for the "New York Daily News" and, among other outlets.