Cookin' like Cowboys

When you think about the iconic cowboys of the open range, it's easy to get lost in Hollywood images of saloon fights, gun slingers and ten-gallon hats. In reality, the cowboys were a hard-working, hard-living, individualistic group of men who appreciated a good day in the saddle and a good meal cooked over an open fire at the sun's setting.

This project is a tribute to that spirit. Easy to weld and install over an existing fire pit, our "cowboy grill" will have you cookin' up steaks and singin' "Home on the Range" in no time. It has space for grub for your whole posse and a handy condiment shelf for your spices. A natural tree-branch handle and a decorative rock at the top add rustic flavor (and help to minimize any chances of impalement in case you've got little cowpokes runnin' around).

Building the grill is a pretty straightforward process. Start by cutting all of the parts to length as indicated in the cutting list and illustration (in PDF below). Weld together the four pieces (A, B) that make up the cooking-grate frame (photo 1); then weld the rods (C) to the ends of the frame to complete the grate (photo 2).

Weld the four pieces of the cooking grate's frame together. Check for square and make sure that the miter joints are tight before beginning the welds.

Space the individual rods that make up the grilling surface 1/2 in. apart, and weld them to the ends to complete the grate.

To create the grate support arm, first align the sleeve (D) and the grate support rod (F), making sure that they're perpendicular and that the support rod is centered on the sleeve's width. Weld the handle rod (H) to the sleeve, making sure that both the support rod and the handle rod are aligned with each other; then weld a support gusset (E) to both the grate support rod and the sleeve (photo 3). Repeat the process (using parts D, E and F) to create the shelf support arm.

To provide adequate support for the cooking grate's arm, weld a 1/2-in.-thick gusset between the grate support rod and the sleeve.

The heights of the cooking grate and the condiment shelf are adjustable, so you'll need to create a threaded hole in each of their sleeves to accept a 5/16-in. 18 x 1-in. winged screw. Start by drilling a 17/64-in.-dia. hole through one wall of the sleeves (photo 4). Then use a 5/16-in. 18 tap to cut threads in the holes (photo 5).

Drill a 17/64-in.-dia. hole through one wall of the hollow sleeve. Keep the drilling speed slow, and use cutting oil to cool the drill bit.

Use a 5/16-in. 18 tap to cut threads in the hole in the sleeve.

Use an angle grinder outfitted with a cutting wheel to create notches in the ends of the grate to accept the grate support rod. Set the support rod into the notches; then weld it to the ends of the grate (photo 6).

After cutting notches in the ends of the grate, set the support-arm assembly into the notches and weld it to the grate.

To give the grill a rustic look, use a 10-in.-long x 2-in.-thick section of a branch to make the grip (L) for the handle rod and a 3/4-in.-thick piece of cedar for the condiment shelf (K). Drill a 1/2-in.-dia. x 3-in.-deep hole in the center of the branch and a 3/8-in.- dia. x 2-in.-deep hole in the center of the shelf; then use exteriorrated two-part epoxy to glue them in place. Finally, use epoxy to fasten a decorative rock to the top of the condiment-shelf sleeve (photo 7).

Use exterior-rated two-part epoxy to glue the grip, shelf and decorative rock in place.

Because the weight of the grate will tend to pull the grill toward the fire, you'll need to create a secure ground sleeve into which you'll insert the main support rod. Start by digging a 2-ft.-deep x 4-in.-dia. hole in the ground where you want to install the grill. Insert a 3-ft. length of 3/4-in.-i.d. galvanized pipe, which will serve as an outer sleeve (I), into the hole. Use a torpedo level to check for plumb; then drive the outer sleeve into the ground, checking for plumb as you work, until its top end is flush with the surrounding soil.

Insert the main support rod (J) into the sleeve, and make one final check for plumb. Pour dry fast-setting concrete into the hole around the sleeve; then spray water into the concrete, allowing the water to thoroughly penetrate the dry mix (photo 8).

Pour dry fast-setting concrete into the hole and around the ground sleeve; then thoroughly soak the concrete and allow it to set (photo 9).

Once the concrete has set, slide the cooking grate onto the main support rod and tighten the wing bolt (photo 10); then slide the condiment shelf onto the main support rod and tighten the wing bolt. All that's left is to light the fire, build a good bed of coals and grill up some victuals.

Slide the grate assembly over the main support rod and tighten the wing bolt so that the grate remains at the desired height.