A burn barrel can be bought ready-made, but why spend money on it if you can just as easily make it yourself. Generally, a burn barrel will be made from a 55-gallon drum. This is not to mean that you cannot use one that is a little smaller or bigger for your burn barrel. The main goal of making one is to have your incinerator to burn your trash in or to burn wood for a bonfire as well. Either way, you will want a burn barrel that burns as cleanly as possible. Fortunately, there are easy and effective ways to make a burn barrel and the following steps will guide you through.
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Prepare your Barrel
Get your barrel, preferably a 55-gallon metallic drum as they work best as burn barrels, but you can use one a little smaller or larger if you wish. Your burn barrel has to be metallic.
These drums are quite cheap as you can get them from junkyards, or factories and other manufacturing plants at a lower price. You may want to wash it before lighting to remove traces of whatever substances were in it before.
Once you have your drum, cut the top surface out following the edge closely so that there is no space left for water to collect and cause it to rust. If you want it to have a top lid, you could leave a small part that will act as a hinge for the lid.
You can attach a handle for the lid using metal screws to attach the handle which you could make out of a metal bar. You could also get a stretched out metal grate to act as a spark arrester to keep the burning materials inside and avoid flying sparks and cinders.
Make Holes in your Barrel for Aeration
Other easy and effective ways to make a burn barrel is using gun or hand drill to make the holes on your barrel. Feel free to make them as fun or artistic as you can, using different shapes.
Ensure that you space out your holes as in the picture below so that you allow enough room for air circulation in the barrel to encourage combustion.
These holes are optional if you are using the Dakota fire-hole method (will discuss this below). You can also make holes in the bottom of the barrel as well. However be careful not to make many of them or make them big as this could weaken the drum.
The holes at the bottom, won’t just help in aeration: They will also aid in removing the ash after burning.
Create the Base
For the base of your burn barrel, you can use square pavers that you may have lying around, gravel or you could create a base using quikcrete. Your base should be about 12 inches wider than the diameter of your drum to give space between your barrel and the grass. You could also decide to do without a base altogether, that is if you are not worried about damaging the grass in your yard.
Once the base is done, get two brick or partition blocks to help suspend the burn barrel over the base. They should hold the barrel properly and be stable. If you don’t have a base, these blocks will act as the base for your barrel to make sure they are firmly in place.
If the blocks have holes in them ensure that you’ve placed them with the holes going from the inside out. This will help create a draft and help in the burning.
The blocks will be useful when removing the ash from the barrel after completion of the combustion process . If you don’t create a base and you are only using blocks for the base, you may want to wet the ground around the burn barrel before lighting to avoid unwanted fire.
The Dakota Fire Hole Method
The Dakota fire hole method is an easy and effective way to make a burn barrel. You only need to employ a simple technique that employs science to help increase air circulation when burning and produce less smoke. You can use this method with your burn barrel.
For it to work, you need to dig one hole about four inches smaller than the diameter of your burn barrel. Then dig a cylindrical hole about a foot deep.
Dig another hole about two feet from the first hole and it should go down and open out into the first hole. This works best when done on sloped ground.
The method works because the second hole feeds air into the fire in the first hole and the smoke will come out through the barrel. This barrel will have to be open on both ends with a strong wire mesh holding the things being burnt at the bottom of the barrel.
It is important to note that you don’t need to have holes on the sides although you could add them if you want to.
These are some of the effective way to make a burn barrel that will work perfectly for you. Each time you finish burning your trash or wood, allow the burn barrel to cool and then roll it aside and remove the ash from it. You can put your ash in your compost heap or spread it out on your lawn. If you keep clearing the ash from your barrel, it will never build up and become cumbersome.
You can also hose it down occasionally to keep it clean. Keeping the barrel clean helps to extend its life as it does not rot or become an eyesore. Clearing the ash will also help increase air circulation the next time you are burning so that you get more heat and less smoke.
Once you have finished removing the ash after burning, replace the cover of the burn barrel to keep out rainwater as it will cause the barrel to rust and weaken and this will reduce its durability.