Monday, May 11, 2015

Guest Post: Making a Wheel Stove

by Firehand

(Editor's note: Firehand is a blogger and a part-time blacksmith. He is a frequent contributor to this blog and his previous articles may be found here.)

I cannot claim any credit for coming up with this. There have been many different grill/smoker/heater ideas over time, this being one of them. I first saw it mentioned in a post on the BCP Facebook page; someone had posted a picture. Then, not long ago, I saw one in my father's copy of Backwoodsman Magazine. Being a blacksmith, I just had to try this.

Simple Directions
  1. Take two steel car/truck wheels.
  2. Stack one on top of the other.
  3. Cut a hole in the side for lighting/feeding the fire.
Here I used one 15" and one 16" wheel.

If you use two wheels of the same size, you'll have to weld or somehow clamp them together, as they'll not be stable otherwise. If welded together, the stove will be heavier and more difficult to move, too. With the sizes an inch apart, they'll stack nicely, and can be disassembled for moving.

After doing a bit of fiddling I decided to put the 16" on top. This is no less steady than having the 15" on top, and gives you a slightly larger grilling surface to work with.

I used a drill, reciprocating saw, angle grinder, and wire brush. I'd planned on using a rotary wire brush chucked into the drill, but the house brownie has been playing games again and it's not to be found, so a hand brush it was.

Strictly speaking you could do all the cutting with a hacksaw, but I don't recommend it. You could definitely do all the cutting with the angle grinder and a suitable wheel. The drill is for two sets of holes to be described later.

Earmuffs or plugs are strongly recommended.

Useful Directions
Take two steel wheels*. If dirty or rusty or both, use a wire brush to clean a side of each so you can lay out your cutting lines.

Cutting lines laid out.
I used a wider opening at the rim, narrower inside. No science or plans there, just decided that would be sufficient size. Use a colored marker, paint pen, whatever you've got that shows up well enough to draw the lines, and then start cutting. cutting. The dimensions I used were 6.25" at the edge, 4.5" at the inside, 3.25" deep. Yes, that's measuring after I cut; we got real precision here.
I made the two vertical cuts on each first using the saw. Then I had to drill two holes side-by-side next to one of them to get clearance for the saw blade to make the horizontal cut. That gives you the cutout in each wheel.

Here's where I used the angle grinder to clean up the edges and get rid of any burrs (burrs are bad; think of reaching in to feed the fire and getting caught on one on the way out), leaving smooth edges.

This is where the drill made its second contribution. Both wheels have a series of holes in the face,
but  they're covered on the bottom wheel when it's set on the ground. The hole in the side would probably give sufficient air flow, but just to be sure I went around the rim on the same side the valve had been and drilled a line of 5/16" holes (because that's the bit I had handy), spaced between the holes on the wheel face.

This step might not be necessary, but it certainly won't hurt.

That's it for the cutting, grinding and drilling. Now it's wire-brush to get rid of dirt, rust, and anything else that might keep the paint from adhering. Paint is not required, but it'll help keep rust from becoming a problem. I used some Rustoleum flat-black high-temperature spray paint left over from another project.

In Use
This is just a small fire,

but it gave me enough data to make a few notes:
  • Orient the stove right and it does a wonderful job of keeping the wind from messing too much with your firestarting.
  • This hole is quite big enough to feed wood through. 
  • It does a fine job of directing the heat upwards. After about five minutes I found the lower wheel just warm, the upper wheel hot, and the top very hot, just from this small fire. It ought to do very well with a pot of stew.
  • It'd be easy to lay hot dogs or sausages on the top, though I don't know if the paint I used makes this a good idea. But a grill laid across the top would work well, as would using sticks to hold them up. A griddle for pancakes or other such edibles is also a notion. 
  • If you want to get fancy you could fit a piece in the hub hole of the bottom wheel to make starting the fire easier(no wood falling through).
  • If you don't want to kill the grass under it, I'd suggest using a shovel to cut the sod and move it out of the way; after you're ready to move, wet the ground a bit and put the sod back in place. Or set it on some flat rocks, with some under it to catch the ashes and coals that fall through. I had another wheel handy, so I used it for this purpose.

*If they're aluminum or magnesium wheels, forget it. Aluminum will soften too much from the heat, and if you used magnesium, and it actually got hot enough to ignite... it'd get real exciting for a bit.

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