How to Build a Wood-Burning Stove

A wood stove burning in a modern condo
A wood stove burning in a modern condo.
©iStockphoto/Dave Raboin

With a few tools, odds and ends and a steel barrel, you can easily and inexpensively build your own wood-burning stove. Here's what you do:

  1. Remove the top (the plug end) of a 55-gallon (208.2-liter) steel barrel. This disc will be the stove's cooking floor.
  2. Clean out the barrel.
  3. Put a piece of stovepipe on top of the barrel, about an inch (2.5 centimeters) away from the seam. Trace a circle around the pipe. Draw a second circle, ¾ inch (1.9 centimeters) smaller, inside it.
  4. Drill a pilot hole in the smaller circle. Fit a jigsaw into the hole.
  5. Cut out the smaller circle. Saw ½-inch (1.3-centimeter) wide lines from the center to the outer circle. Bend up these tabs with pliers. Fit the stovepipe over the tabs. Bolt it on with two L braces.
  6. Cut a 12-by-8-inch (30.5-by-20-centimeter) rectangle above the top crimped ring of the barrel, opposite the seam. The top part of the barrel will serve as the firebox. Cut out a 14-by-10-inch (35.5-by-25.5-centimeter) piece below the bottom crimped ring. This larger hole will remain open. Save the larger piece of metal for the firebox door and the smaller piece for the draft.
  7. Attach the firebox door with a door hinge that's old and worn (to allow for thermal expansion).
  8. Form a door latch out of two L braces.
  9. Bolt at least six L braces around the barrel below the top crimp.
  10. Bolt the firebox floor in place. Fill the crack around the edges with aluminum foil.
  11. Cut a piece of leftover metal into a 2.5-by-9-inch (6.5-by-23 centimeter) piece for an air draft. Mark ½-inch (1.27-centimeter) columns all the way across the draft. Hold this up to the door. Drill three air holes in every other column, going through the draft and the door. Attach six carriage bolts so that the draft can slide back and forth. Attach a knob. Close the draft by sliding it so the ½-inch (1.27-centimeter) spaces cover the holes in the door [source: Countryside].
  12. Set a test fire to burn all the paint off and show you any flaws that need correcting. Do this outdoors. Wear welding gloves so you won't get burned [source: Backwoods Home Magazine].
  13. Paint the stove with stove spray paint, if desired.

Remember to place your stove on a fireproof surface (e.g., concrete or brick) and keep it a safe distance from the walls.