Northern California evenings on the bay can get cool, here is our way of fighting off the chill and dew when hanging out on our boat!
Step 1: Create Need for Evening Fireplace and Drink a Keg
Ok, first of all who doesn't need a portable propane fireplace for ambiance or a little bit of heat? It is the perfect complement to any sort of outdoor space that needs a bit more light and warmth without having to deal with wood piles, ash and smoke.
We recently bought a sailboat for weekend excursions on the San Francisco Bay. We had a larger camp chef fire pit we used before but it took a ton of space in the boat when in storage. Also, at 48k btus it was a bit too warm for close quarters use in the cockpit of the boat, even on low with barely even a flame showing.
So while technically we already had a fireplace, it wasn't ideal primarily because of size and weight, so I figured why not drink a mini keg and brainstorm how to make it into a easily transportable yet warm propane fire pit.
- 3/8 by 1foot poly tubing
- 5/8 by 1 foot poly tubing
(12) #8 by 3/4" screw with nut
(4) 5/16th by 3" galvanized with (8) nuts
14" 1/2' copper tube
3/8-5/8 plastic hose adapter
Original plan: standard pencil tip torch attachment for 1lbs propane tank- not enough btu/propane output
Variation: camping stove regulator and valve 15k-20k btu unit
2 pack galvanized hinges
(2) 3/16-5/8 hose clamp
(2) 1/2-1" hose clamp
(1) cabinet handle
8"x 24" chicken wire
(6) bicycle spokes
1lbs hickory lava rocks
1lbs propane tank (I use the refill adapter on these instead of lugging around the 20lbs tank- I also have the adapter to run 20 devices from 1lbs tanks- huge help when space is so limited like on our boat)
Box of drill bits
Step 2: Prep Keg
Sharpie or dollar store equivalent
So I used a very scientific way of deciding how big to make the opening... About half of the way around for circumference and at what seemed like a good place in the curvature of the keg on either side.
Then I just eyeballed it from there.
For the "vertical" cuts near either end of the keg, actual cutting with the hacksaw worked fine.
For the "horizontal" I couldn't get a good angle so once I managed to cut in on one of the bumps, I just used the hacksaw to essentially rip the aluminum along the lines I drew.
Take your time and be careful, the edges will be sharp, I only managed one careless cut but found myself unconsciously trying to get more!
Once the "door" is cut out, there is a hose and I think a Co2 tank that need to be removed. Just yank em out.
Step 3: Drill and Bolt Some Stuff
Scientifically chose locations for "legs" (5/16 bolts)...aka eyeball it. I looked at the midline and counted a hash or two away in either direction and marked it with my knock off sharpie
*remove the lid before drilling* I left it in upside down because moved to the boat to finish and have a couple extra holes on the top oops
Drill out leg holes 5/16 bit and insert bolt using a nut on either side. I suppose lock washers and washers might make it a bit more stable but I'll just tighten it real good like!
Next I put the lid on and lined up the hinges, roughly marking the holes with marker, drilling on the keg body first. The first hole (3/16 or 5/32 bit cant remember,) bolting it then drilling second hole using hinge as a guide to be sure holes lined up. Bolt and repeat for second hinge.
Mark lining holes on lid, follow same procedure for drilling and bolting and in no time you lid will have hinges!
Next I drilled holes for the latch in the same way.
*important* the lid will be flimsy and not want to latch, I put washers on the back of the lid portion of the latch to ensure it would hold together- see pics
Finally I managed one crookedly offset hole for the carry handle. I though the #8s would be good for bolting on the handle but they were too big, I ended up stackin washers on the handle bolt to make it tight lol
"If they don't find ya handsome, they'll at least find you handy"
Step 4: Burner Element
first drill the biggest hole you can in either end, ideally in the same place ;)
My bits did not taper and my chock is only 3/8ths, so 3/8ths it was.
I used my hacksaw to stretch the holes a bit more and pulled back the edges with a pliers to fit the pipe through.
Making the pipe propane ready:
So I never sautered before and don't even know the correct terminology. However, I managed a decent sauter/solder/whatever and no gas leaks!
1- sanded edge of pipe, sanded interior of cap, coated pipe in lead free solder flux paste and put the two together(took a bit of work)
2- began heating with propane torch.
3- ran lead free electrical solder along joint, heat pulled it right down the joint then I ran a bead along the top, it was pretty simple and no leaks. I'll try and post a video from computer(this writeup is on the app)
Burner element holes:
In another instructable, one of the guys used 1/16, I tried it and flowed ok (problem was the torch attachment I was using not providing enough volume) I ended up boring it out to 3/32 which worked fine even with the new propane adapter I added later. I suggest starting with good flow and 1/16 then move up if you feel necessary- I think the 3/32 allows too much gas out early and flames are not really consistent across the board on lower settings. I drilled 4 on each side exiting about 45deg off the vertical- not straight up, not straight out, but at an angle in between...
(This is where I first hooked up lines to test flame height and hole diameters-optional step if you are sure 1/16 will be adequate) hookup describe in later step...
Step 5: Prep the Lines and Keg for FIRE
Definitely a good idea to have lava rocks (or some variation of them) to help the heat radiate out instead of burning straight up into the air, I chose hickory flavored so it would smell a bit like an actual fire. Bag was 6lbs, I only needed 1lb but will have plenty for the future (I guess the hickory smoke/flavor is only supposed to last so long before they function like regular old lave rocks)
Either way, here's how:
I was going to use coat hanger wire to make cross supports for the chicken wire mesh, I ended up remembering about a bike wheel whose spokes started breaking, so I used those instead. (They will be more weather resistant and have aluminum finish already ;-)
6 holes drilled 9/64th bit eyeballed equidistant apart going length of the opening, slide bike rod through and bent on back to hold. Have to trim later, for now I just bent them upwards and wrapped with one (see pic)
I bent the chicken wire on itself so I could support a bit of weight from the few lava rocks and keep them from falling to the bottom below the burner element.
Next I attached the hoses to fittings and pipes, got my starter torch ready on the holes, and slowly turned up the gas, it lit up great and put out nice little flame. Unfortunately, the above picture is of the torch attachment flow on max. Later pictures will show a different fitting from a camping stove that allows much more propane and a larger flame.
Step 6: Load Up Rocks and Enjoy
Place in a few lava rocks and surprise your lady (or impress up your buddies) with the amount of flame this tiny thing puts out.
I thought 11 rocks was good, we'll see how it turns out in the future.
First pictures show maximum output using torch attachment on propane tank/tube system
Last picture then switched to stove attachment at about half output, too breezy to try max and the flame jumps about 16" when over half open!
Really looking forward to the small convenience but still great heat output this thing is capable of. (I think the stove the adapter came from was a 15k-20k btu unit)
Step 7: Afterthoughts
Here is where i'll post stuff i have figured out after finishing or stuff i forgot to add in the original
1. Run the firepit over insulation of some sort. I do not believe the fiberglass to be made to withstand heat generated by fire, so, like in the past, we put an aluminum sided window shade underneath to block heat from the fiberglass. Fortunately now, the piece is much smaller than before because of the compact fireplace.
2. Added a 90 degree bend to the copper element. 2 reasons: 1) i was worried about a kink in or constricting the tubing and 2) the element gets pretty hot and managed to melt the tubing ha (was wondering what the hissing sound was for a sec before i saw the tubing melted.
- i have a video this time to show you what i did for soldering, get it uploaded here soon....
- usual process: sand copper, flux paste on both parts, heat with torch, bring solder to pipe, if needs more heat, bring torch to solder and melt it all together.