I'm looking at creating my own fire bowl, as I would find it more fun and satisfying instead of just buying one and plonking it down. I haven't decided if I want it standing or sunk, but that doesn't really matter just yet.

Does anyone have any ideas on what I could use for the actual bowl? I don't have the facilities to shape or weld metal, so something already "bowl shaped" is preferable.

Is there anything metal I could pick up as scrap that would work as a fire bowl? I don't mind the looks as I could possibly alter that

13 Answers 13


I have played with various fire pit options in my backyard for 15 years. I have tons and tons of trees and yard waste and try to burn most or turn it into compost. I have grabbed the saucers from trash piles and used those - can't put much on there and wind blows stuff off easy. I have had an enclosed mini-chimney pit I built from stones. This worked great but was harder to clean and I had to break down the wood into pretty small pieces.

So I have happily moved on to an in ground pit. I dug my pit down about three feet into the ground about four feet long by two feet wide. There is one row of stones below ground level and two rows above ground. It was made from neighbors throw away stones - and the neighbors throw their wood in the pit. It is safe, looks good, and I just shovel it out every 3 months.

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The example above is pretty close to what I have done except:

  • Mine is longer going left to right
  • I have one brick removed on the right so that I can get in and out or prop something up without knocking over bricks. So it is more of a horse shoe.
  • My pit goes about a foot above ground. This is so that ashes don't hit grass directly and so that someone can't just walk into it (we are picky about which limbs we burn).
  • Sounds good, i'm leaning more towards "submerging" my pit I think – SaturnsEye Apr 13 '15 at 16:16
  • I have a large piece of granite that was thrown away at a job site sitting at the bottom of my pit to make it easier to clean. Really digging your pit vs something like an old grill which is a good suggestion is more about the size you want. Mine is pretty big and can handle most pieces of limbs in my yard. – DMoore Apr 13 '15 at 16:18
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    CMU's (aka concrete blocks, cinderblocks) tend to crack in this service unless protected by a lining, IME. – Ecnerwal Apr 14 '15 at 0:11
  • @Ecnerwal - I have used CMUs and pavers and bricks, they all crack eventually, then get buried deeper. I use my fire pit a lot and average maybe 2-3 broken stones a year. I have about 50 various stones in my shed so good for at least 10-15 years. – DMoore Apr 14 '15 at 2:10
  • I did something similar with curb stones. Digging the whole to full depth (25cm), lining it with those elements, then filling it up again halfway to keep the curb stones in place. Worked fine for me these last eight years or so. No cracking either, and I did it so that the lawn mower can just straddle it. ;-) – DevSolar Apr 14 '15 at 8:59

The internal bowl/barrel of an old washing machine works well for an above-ground solution - the holes around the sides allow the embers to breathe well and help to radiate heat.

Washing Machine Fire Pit

You can add legs as this person has, or simply prop it up on a slab or some bricks.

Just make sure that it IS metal - a lot of the newer/cheaper washing machines use plastic barrels, which... don't work.

  • haha great idea! would never of though of this, this could even be sank into the ground too. Might have to keep my eye out for broken washing machines ;) – SaturnsEye Apr 14 '15 at 10:43

Find a scrap tire rim, and place it on top of four or five bricks. Voila: one excellent firepit.

  • This would be fine with tractor rims that detach from the hub, but most vehicle rims are welded or otherwise non-detachable from the hub. It would be a lot of work to use a car tire rim... – Adam Davis Apr 13 '15 at 19:18
  • I have also made fire pits from old steel wheels. Scrap yards are full of them. No use for them really. Try stacking a large one on top of a smaller one for a nice look. Wheels make ideal fire pits because most are full of holes which of course aids air flow. – handyman Apr 15 '15 at 6:40

You can shape a bowl out of steel sheet with only three cheap tools:

  1. Steel snippers (for cutting a circle), approx $15.
  2. Ball nose hammer (hit it until it becomes a bowl), approx $10.
  3. Piece of wood (to place below the sheet while hammering), available free anywhere.

I would say it will take around 20-50 hours of work to make a 50 cm diameter bowl this way. A lot of hammering, but it will surely be satisfying. A manually hammered bowl also has a very nice pattern of the hammer blows on it.

  • Thanks jpa, this is a good budget method. And yes I could imagine it being very rewarding also :) – SaturnsEye Apr 14 '15 at 10:43

enter image description herehey we just bought end of propane tank at flea market which we will set on cut in half 55 gal drum

  • Oh man, that's so nice! I love the shape of it as most fire bowls are cut a lot more shallow so you do get as much of a deep "scoop". I'll keep this in mind. Thanks! – SaturnsEye Oct 8 '15 at 8:09
  • @SaturnsEye If you snag one of these it will work awesome. Using a torch or plasma cutter you can make some cool designs, or not. Just resell it for far far far more than its worth like this dude does ($1300 USD plus freight shipping, rofl): store.johntunger.com/products/… After the sale you can make just about any fire pit you can dream up with an extra $1200 in your pocket to buy really good steaks with. – dhaupin Apr 21 '16 at 15:14
  • @dhaupin I smell a business idea and I will send you many fine steaks ;) – SaturnsEye Apr 25 '16 at 13:29

If you see any charcoal grill should work. Just use the bottom and you can cut the legs to height. If you get the right paint you can paint it or build your "pit" to suit the shape of the grill bottom. Recycle the top or even keep it to snuff out your fires.

  • Of course! why didn't i think of an old round grill – SaturnsEye Apr 13 '15 at 16:13
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    @SaturnsEye You'll find lots on craig's list for free or cheap at the beginning of each grilling season, too, as people upgrade. – Adam Davis Apr 13 '15 at 19:00

I came up with this in about an hour with stuff laying around my blacksmiths shop. Just happened to have a firebowl from a storebought pit. The tripod is made of 1/2" hot rolled square and the hangars are 1/4" sq. All in all probably 15 bucks worth of metal. Super easy to make and super portable as well, as it can be taken apart and hangs flat on a hook on a wall.

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If you really want to "make it, not buy it" and you can't shape metal, castable refractory or fireclay are the materials that come to mind - otherwise you're just buying something (but not called a firepit) and plonking it down as a firepit (IMHO.)

Clay oven (for baking bread) builders might be a better-than usual source of info on using the material. Alternatively kiln (for firing clay) sites may also help.

Stacking bricks does provide some reasonable room for creativity - as mentioned in comment, my experience is that concrete masonry units are not a good surface for direct fire exposure, and things built with them tend to crack and crumble over time. Bricks intended for fireplace use do fine - cement "bricks" don't, even if they are dyed red. A layer of firebrick can protect CMUs from direct flame.


Since you don't have anything to shape the metal, might as well consider buying a fire pit insert. It is just the metal liner and then you make the rest out of stone or brick.


As @ulysses_rex mentioned you can use an old rim (preferably from a large truck, tractor, or other large piece of equipment) can work. I've also seen guys use the inside metal basin on a washing machine. Another one that works fantastic is a grinding cone from a rock crusher but those are like 1" thick steel and weigh hundreds of pounds (also hard to find for next to nothing). For in ground... using the retaining wall blocks or just standard cinder blocks works pretty well.


I recently just made my own fire bowl (pretty sure you're asking about the smaller table top type decorative ones not a backyard fire pit but I may be wrong) anyways, I just used bowls from the dollar store one bigger and a smaller one that fits inside with an inch or more between the two and mixed up some concrete and a few decorative stones around the trim. Coat the bigger bowl on the inside with cooking spray, dump in the concrete about halfway full, coat the smaller bowl on the outside and push into the concrete until it has the thickness you desire. Weight it down and place stoned if wanted and just wait for it to dry. Once dry cure the concrete for recommended time. Get a small round grate to fit inside. Place fire gel can then grate on top and then some lava rocks and sit back and enjoy the fire! Make sure to use proper rocks for fire so you don't have an accidental explosion when heated too high and a way to remove rocks and grate to snuff out the fire when finished. Mine works fantastic! Best of luck.


I used end of a pressurized 4-foot diameter tank I found at a scrap metal place. With some planning this is what I wound up with. I suggest a hole in the bottom for water drainage, something to cover the hole, and sand to keep the metal cooler. The pipes under the bowl are bolted into the wood and act as a buffer between the fire bowl and wood. The metal ring (2'diam) prevents the 3 posts from spreading over time due to weight of bowl. Bowl was sanded to bare metal and painted with several coats of 2000 degree black paint.

enter image description here


Easiest is probably scrounging a used truck rim. You might want to keep it above ground this lets you regulate the air with vents for a good burn. A sunk pit won't draw air as well or radiate heat. OTOH it might use less wood.

If you don't use fire rated lining burn a small fire to dry out the cinder blocks then your regular fire the next night. Less likely to break up from the gas pressure. So i'm told, don't know if I believe it LOL. I like the dead BBQ idea.

  • This looks like it should be comments and/or votes on other posts, rather than a post itself. Unfortunately it's not possible to convert for you since there are multiple comments for multiple posts included in here. – BMitch Apr 15 '15 at 12:08

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