Project: Build a Campfire To Go

No fire pit? No problem, with this portable steel framework.

On a cool fall evening, a small campfire can provide an inviting gathering spot in your own backyard. But it’s even better if you can create the same atmosphere at the beach or your favorite outdoor hangout. To that end, we designed this weldedsteel fire basket that’s inexpensive, lightweight and portable, so you can toss it in the back of your vehicle and enjoy the warmth of a campfire anywhere.

Processing parts
You can buy the materials for this project at a home center or hardware store, but you’ll pay less at a metal wholesale outlet. The design is simple and efficient, so you can get the maximum number of parts from standard lengths to reduce waste.

Although there are only five sizes of parts for this project (see the illustration and and cutting list in the PDF below), you’ll have to make many cuts. If you don’t own a metalcutting saw, consider renting one for half a day. The number of cuts required to make all of the infill pieces and the accuracy necessary for the frame’s miter cuts easily justifies the small expense.

You can make a frame side and an end out of each piece of 48-in.-long square stock, and each piece of 48-in.-long flat stock will yield five infill pieces. To ensure consistency, use a stop block clamped to the saw’s miter fence when cutting infill pieces.

A saw with a bonded abrasive wheel will often leave sharp “flags” on the workpieces. Use a file or bench grinder to remove them before welding, and be sure to clean off all oil and rust around the welds as well.


Use a metal-cutting saw to cut all parts to size. Depending on the saw, you may need to space the stock away from the fence to make the miter cuts on the frame parts.

Fabrication
Although this project isn’t structural and doesn’t need to fit together with other fabrications, you should take steps to keep it flat and square as you work so the finished basket will look good. Be sure to weld on a surface that you’re certain is nonflammable and flat, such as a welding table, to prevent any twist in the frames. Use a square to check accuracy, and clamp parts to the table to prevent them from moving. Always wear a welding mask, leather gloves and flame-resistant clothing to protect your eyes and skin.


Lay out a frame side and end and check for square with a carpenter’s square. Securely clamp the pieces to the welding table; then tack-weld the miter joint.


Add the other two frame pieces, clamp them to the welding table and tackweld each joint. Check for square again and then finish welding all of the joints.

Once you’ve built the first frame, use it as a template for the second one. The finished project will look better if the frames match, even if they’re not perfectly square. See the photos for tips on how to keep everything straight and level.


Assemble one frame above the other by clamping one infill strip on each side. Check that the assembly is square and that the frames are spaced 7 in. apart at each inside corner.


To ensure consistent spacing of the infill strips, make a story stick for marking both the upper and lower frames. You’ll need to make one stick for the sides and one for the ends.


Finish welding the infill strips and bottom supports by first tacking them in position (photo 6) and then completing the welds on the ends. To add the feet, tack them in position and square them; then finish welding.


Use an angle grinder and a bondedabrasive wheel to level and smooth high and rough welds and to ease sharp edges. Be sure to remove rust and oil before painting.

Before finishing, remove any rust with steel wool or a Scotch-Brite pad. Clean the metal thoroughly with mineral spirits or a citrus cleaner to remove oil residue and dirt. Apply a high-heat-resistant paint such as Rust-Oleum High Heat Ultra (see Sources in the PDF below).

Once the paint has cured, you’re all set to build a small relaxing fire at the location of your choice. (See “Recreational Fire Safety,” below, for necessary precautions.)

Recreational Fire Safety

  • Check and comply with all local burning regulations.
  • Ensure the fire is at least 25 ft. from all structures.
  • Don’t burn when it’s windy, and avoid using fast-burning or resinous woods.
  • Never burn construction scraps or treated wood.
  • Have a means of extinguishing the fire quickly, and don’t burn directly over grass or under low-hanging tree branches.