Winter. Those nine months out of the year we spend huddled against our electric baseboard heaters in ski masks because we know all too well that the most inefficient way to use electricity is by using it for heating. But what if there were a way to huddle around a wood burning hearth just about anywhere (OUTDOORS ONLY)? That’s why I decided to make a portable version of my wood stove to enjoy that toasty warmth everywhere (OUTDOORS ONLY). The duration of heat provided by your wood stove will depend on size and wood species, but you can expect anywhere from 15 mins to a couple of hours of warmth. Let’s get warm!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Milled piece of wood (I suggest selecting a hardwood if possible to extend the burn time of your wood stove, but with shivering immediacy I grabbed a 4’ piece of 2" x 6" left over from a previous project and that worked just fine !)
- Popsicle or stir sticks (for details )
- Toothpicks (for hinges )
- Wood Glue
- Medium grit sandpaper
- Painter’s tape
- Hand or Powered Woodworking Tools (depends on how cold you are! )
- I used the following, but use what you have access to:
o table saw
o mitre saw
o Japanese pull saw
o miniature spokeshave
o 5/64’’ twist bit (for toothpick hinge holes )
o 7/8’’ spade bit (for smoke stack -aesthetics )
o 3/8’’ x 12’’ twist bit (for smoke stack -function )
o 3/16’’ twist bit (for the door’s vent holes )
o 2 1/8’’ forstner bit (for the hole at the front of the stove )
o flush cut side cutters (to trim toothpicks to length )
o carving knife
o Wire stripper/cutters (for cutting the detail pieces of the door )
o 1’’ strip sander (for the shaping of the hinges and handle )
o drill / drill press
o small flat file
o 1/8’’ paring chisel
Step 2: Milling Lumber
This step can be avoided by using lumber that is already the desired thickness, since I used a 2” x 6” I resawed the pieces to the approximate thickness (I used the table saw to resaw the pieces but a bandsaw’s kerf would waste less wood ). I then proceeded to rip the pieces to their final width at the table saw and crosscut them to their final length over at the mitre saw. The overall dimensions of the saw is at your discretion, it all depends on your definition of “portable”. The main body of my stove is 6 ¾” x 4”, the front face is 4” square, the smoke stack is 6 ¾” and the legs are 2 ¼” long and around a ¼” square.
*I ended up using stir sticks for the raised details on the wood stove’s door face, but I thought I would also demonstrate how to make a temporary zero clearance table to cut small strips at the table saw. If you don’t feel comfortable using a tool in any modified manner, don’t. If you don’t think that this method is safe, simply don’t use it. Use popsicle sticks instead !
Temporary Zero Clearance Table:
Cut into a thin and flat sacrificial piece of wood (or 1/8” MDF ) until its end butts up against the front edge of the table saw, then either hot glue or tape it down to the table saw. To cut even smaller strips clamp a sacrificial board to your table saw’s fence.
Side Note on Safety:
I grew up in a shop without any safe guards on any tools (especially the table saw ) and was simply taught to always use a tool properly and to never lose respect for any tool regardless of experience. Accidents in the shop happen; however, and one safe guard that doesn’t “get in the way” on the table saw is a riving knife. A riving knife is something every table saw should have, if yours doesn’t, make or buy one.
Step 3: Assembly of the Body of the Stove
At the table saw, I cut a 45º bevel on the longer edges of the four side pieces. I then proceeded to tape the joints for the glue up. Once the glue is applied to the edges, the sides are folded up and more tape is used to finish clamping the box together. Once the glue is dry, remove the tape and sand the outside of the box. Then place one of the 4”x 4” pieces on the bench and place the assembled box on top of it. With a pencil, proceed to trace the inside perimeter of the box onto the 4” x 4” piece which will become the back of the assembled stove. Cut off and sand the edges of this piece so that it fits snugly into place. A band or scroll saw is great for this but you can cut it out by hand with a coping or Japanese pull saw. You can choose to either glue or not to glue this piece into place.
Before attaching the other 4” x 4” piece to what will become the front of the wood stove, mark the center and drill out a 2 ¼” hole with a forstner bit. Once the hole is drilled, proceed to glue the front piece onto the body of the stove. I used more tape to clamp it into to place while I worked on the door of the stove.
Step 4: Making and Adding Details to the Door and Attaching the Legs
To make the door, cut another piece roughly a ¼” smaller than the 4” x 4” dimension of the front of the stove. With sand paper, a file, a small block plane, mini spokeshave, or utility knife, round over one of the edges. Along the top of that same edge, mark in pencil the depth of where you would like the hinges to end up. Determine an approximate width for the hinges and decide on their placement by placing the door onto the front of the stove. Cut out using your method of choice the openings for the hinges and clean up the bottom of the cut with a small pairing chisel and sandpaper.
To make the hinges, use one of the small pieces we milled up with the temporary zero clearance table or glue multiple popsicle or stir sticks together until the right thickness is achieved and mark the material that must be removed for the hinge to fit loosely. This material can be removed with a utility knife or sandpaper. Drill holes for the hinge pins (toothpicks ) into the ends of the door are straight as possible. Clamping up the door into a drill press vise and drilling them out that way is probably your safest and straightest bet. Once the holes on the door have been drilled, place the hinges into the openings and mark the where the holes must be drilled with a straight pin. Use a pencil to fill in the straight pin mark to be able to see it more clearly. Before attaching the hinges, sand the surfaces of the door to remove any pencil marks. Proceed to then carefully drill out the holes into the hinge pieces (a pin vise would be ideal for this delicate operation ).
Be prepared to make the hinge pieces a few times as the wood tends to split. Then insert the toothpick hinge pins into place, the tight tolerances of the holes should be enough to hold them in by friction but a small dab of CA glue on the ends of the pins will keep them locked into place. Next, attach the door to the body of the stove temporarily with masking tape and glue the hinges to the front side of the stove.
Using masking tape as a guide to mark out the placement of the door’s grate and handle. I found that the easiest tool to cut the stir stick pieces to length was a pair of wire stripper/cutters but a razor saw, utility knife, chisel, or even strong scissors will do the job. Use CA glue to attach your embellishments to the door. To make the handle for the door I used an off cut that I marked and sanded to shape. Then proceed by drilling a hole into the end that will be attached to the door to receive a toothpick. Drill a matching hole into the door. Glue this toothpick as well as the end of the handle to the door. Rub saw dust into the glue squeeze out to clean it up.
The last step is to drill out and shape the door’s vent holes. Drill out a vertical row of several holes and use a knife to connect them. Then, use a small flat file to clean up the hole’s inner perimeter.
Cut the legs to size (roughly 2 ¼” long by a ¼” square ) and glue them to the underside of the stove and set the stove aside for the legs to dry as you work on the smoke stack.
With the legs finished the detailing is complete!
Step 5: Smoke Stack
Rip a piece of the 2” x 6” square (1 ¾” x 1 ¾” ) and cut it to 6 ¾” in length. Mark the center of the ends and use a compass to draw a circle within the squared stock. Use a saw or a block plane to knock of the edges of the piece, turning it into an octagonal prism. Using a miniature spokeshave, ease over the remaining corners until the octagonal prism become a cylinder.
Once the smoke stack is cylindrical, use a 7/8” speed bore to drill out a shallow hole into the top end of the smoke stack (purely aesthetic ). Using a very long 3/8” twist bit, drill out the center of the smoke stack. Mark and drill a matching hole into the top of the stoves body so that the mating holes roughly line up. Proceed to glue the smoke stake to the body of the stove over the hole.
Step 6: Making the Surround
The metal surround is essentially to safeguard against setting the surrounding area on fire and to reflect the heat of the stove back towards you. I used two pieces of galvanized sheet metal but ideally you never want to heat up galvanized coatings as they emit toxic gases (something I won’t worry about as my surround is purely aesthetic ). Mark the pieces with an awl and use a little oil to drill out the holes to receive rivets. Line up the holes of both pieces and rivet them together.
Step 7: Burnt Finish
That beautiful ebon finish that gives the stove a realistic appearance is achieved by using the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban. Using a torch, preferably a wider flamed torch than the pencil flamed torch I used, scorch the surface of the wood until it turns black and or catches fire. Blow out the fires and keep torching it until the pores of the wood start to open and crack. You can use a wire brush to knock off any loose charcoal and torch the surface again if it isn’t completely black. You might want to do this finish technique outside. Once the entire surface of the wood stove is finished in this way it is waterproofed and ready to use!
As I mentioned in the introduction, the amount of burn time will depend on wood species and the stove’s overall size. Please only use the stove outdoors! Check out the sister project to this one for the best way to get the stove lit! Dryer Lint Fire Starter Twigs