About two years ago a friend of mine told me that you could use washing machine drums as charcoal burners. Generally they would be placed on bricks, filled with charcoal and because of the holes in the sides they put out a lot of heat. It just so happened that we had recently had a good marquee blow down and I’d kept the tubing because I’m a bit of a womble (it drives my wife nuts). Anyway I set about building a tripod frame to hold the washing machine drum off the ground. After a number of different designs I ended up with this:
Now, this design has a number of advantages. Firstly because the drum is secured to the legs it gives an unprecedented level of stability. No matter how hard you kick the legs the whole thing will just settle lower (a big advantage if there are lots of drunk people at festivals). Secondly the whole thing can be unhooked, the legs fold neatly together making the transportation of the firetub very easy. Finally, because the drum is off the ground you won’t be scorching any grass and you can also tuck your feet underneath if they are cold!
In this article I’m going to take you, step by step, through how to build your own firetub from scratch.
If you like the idea of owning one of these but can’t be bothered with the hassle of making one I can make one to order for £65
- 1 washing machine drum
- Three poles approx 1.2 metres in length
- approx 20cm of small gauge chain (often used for things like hanging baskets)
- 6 small S hooks (can be bought cheaply at most hardware stores)
- 3 30mm split rings (trickier to get hold of but I bought mine from ebay)
Be warned, removing a washing machine drum from an old washing machine is not for the faint hearted. Seriously even now with many firetubs made it still takes me a good 45 minutes with an angle grinder, crow bar, lump hammer, socket set and screwdrivers to remove the drum. I can’t tell you just how tough it is. Also WEAR GLOVES. I can categorically guarantee that you will cut yourself if you don’t.
I’m lucky enough to have an uncle who runs an engineering firm. He orders me aluminium tubing for my firetubs. They look lovely and don’t rust but are quite expensive (approx £20 for 1 firetub). Initially though I used reclaimed tubing. This was absolutely fine but was often made of mild steel which rusts. For a one off and your first firetub I would use some reclaimed tubing.
OK lets start…
Cut three lengths of tubing 122cm long; be careful to cut them exactly or your firetub wont stand straight
Next mark 1cm from the top edge:
Centre punch on the mark (if you don’t do this the drill slides everywhere); I don’t have a centre punch so I used an old nail. This works fine for aluminium and should also be OK for mild steel..
Once you’ve punched, drill a 8mm hole..
Repeat for the other two poles, you should now have three poles with identical holes..
Tip: make sure you clean off all the swarf / jagged edges from inside as this will help with the next stage..
Adding the split rings; start by sliding a split through the hole on each pole. You should then have somthing like this:
Now this gets increasingly trickier. You are now going to feed each split ring through the hole in the tube next to it. Try not to over stretch the split rings. There is a definite knack of turning the rings in place and adjusting the poles. You should now have the three poles fixed together like this:
So far so good. Now you slide the spare split ring on the left through the hole in the pole on the right. It can be a pain but take it carefully and you should have the poles joined like this:
Now time to stand them up. Space the legs out evenly and twist on one of the poles. You should find that the poles lock beautifully together into a sturdy tripod. When locked the tops of the poles should look like this:
Space the legs out evenly
OK, now the poles are standing we are going to mark the inner holes that the drum will hang off. Holding the tape measure on the inner part of each tube mark off 50cm. My son Zak demonstrates how this should be done (that’s my boy!). Also note the small snail that decided to crawl out of one of the tubes at this stage!
and up close..Make sure you mark right inside the tube..
When you have marked all three tubes at 50cm carefully lay the first tube mark side up on your workbench. Be careful NOT to strain the split rings at this stage. You should be able to arrange the tubes so that one of them lays nicely on your bench. Punch the mark and drill a 8mm hole.
Repeat for the other two poles. When you’ve done this place the poles upright and lock them into position. It’s now time to drill your drum.
Most washing machine drums rather helpfully have 3 or 6 points marked on the edge (a few have four and you have to measure the perimeter into three). We want to hang our chains at three equi-distant points on the edge. Lightly punch and drill a 5mm hole.
Try to drill the holes close the edge fold of the drum:
When you’ve done all three holes do the same at the side directly underneath the top holes you’ve drilled.
Now for the supporting chains..
You need to make three chains up with ‘S’ hooks at each end. The total length of the supporting chains including ‘S’ hooks should be approx. 14cm. The links of my chain are quite long so I only need 3 links plus the ‘S’ hooks. First clip your chain to length then close the ‘S’ hooks at each end of the chain like this:
I have used slightly larger ‘S’ hooks for the drum hooks to go right through the holes. Also note that I have ‘splayed’ the smaller ‘S’ hooks a little so they will go easily into the holes on the inside of the tripod poles. Now we push each of the larger ‘S’ hooks through the holes we made in the drum:
Once pushed through I used a pair of pliers to pinch the ‘S’ hook closed:
Repeat for the other holes / chains then place your drum underneath your tripod with the chains lined up with the holes in the poles:
Finally hook each chain into the corresponding hole (if you can’t get the s hook through the hole use a pair of pliers to widen the hook) and you should now have a finished firetub!