Patio Fire Pit: Re-purposed Scrap Metal Box

Roasted marshmallows, smores and warmth out the back door. SWEET!

I had a rusting scrap metal box that Heidi gave me when she and her husband decided to purge some of their….treasures. Lucky me! She originally got it at one of our favorite spots, ReStore. It sat in her garage for a couple of years and then literally sat up-ended in my back yard for another 6-7 years. Getting more and more beautiful with exposure all the while.

This last summer we started brainstorming what to do with it. I liked the idea of a place to have fire in the backyard, but those I’d seen to buy were either kinda ugly or super expensive. We figured there had to be a way that we could transform this scrap metal box into a place to have a fire. And then the idea of a cover/lid that would allow it to double as a table just flew, projectile fashion, outta Heidi’s head. That happens a lot with Heidi. And so we ducked and started the project.

The first step was to figure out how to insure that we could actually see the fire which meant finding a way to raise it up within the box somehow. I did a little local research to figure out what type of grate or material could be used to hold a fire. After a few more hours searching online I realized I had an unused fire-place grate. Perfecto!

I decide to go with two rods traveling the length of the box to hold the grate up in the box. The grate would simply rest on the two rods rather than having to be laced through the grate making it a burden to remove. Monica assured me, without hesitation, that I would absolutely never, ever, ever remove the grate if it was laced through. I did need to remove it to shovel the ash out of the basin. And so lengthwise was the choice.

Tacoma Screw helped us figure out what size and kind of rods would work to both support the grate and withstand the heat of multiple fires. The final choice was threaded rod cut to the proper length with malleable washers and cap nuts to keep all in place. The mixture of materials looked so wonderful. I think the folks at Tacoma Screw enjoyed the challenge of helping us figure out what materials and how to put it all together. We didn’t expect them to be so interested and helpful. But they had a good sense of humor and worked out the details with us.

I liked the look of black iron metal washers, but Tacoma Screw assured us that black iron would rust in no time. I liked the contrast between the rusting metal box and black iron. So we decided to spray paint galvanized malleable washers flat black (looks like black iron and doesn’t rust), age them by using a steel wool to rough up the paint a bit and then to our surprise E.T. showed up. BONUS :)

After checking on prices to have a metal shop drill the holes for the rods, we decided to drill the holes through the metal box ourselves. Drilling 1/4 inch steel just doesn’t sound easy. Chances of slippage, possible positioning errors or the sight of our own blood made us super cautious. With some coaching we did it! It took patience, pressure and plenty of 3-in-1 oil to keep the heat down and drill bit lubricated. I made a template for accurate positioning out of cardboard. We used a nail to hammer a starter dent in the steel at the correct spot. Monica had a heavy-duty drill that we used and I bought a $14.00 drill bit for steel at my local Ace Hardware store.

Remember Heidi’s swift idea about the table earlier in this post? That was next. We found some wonderfully aged 2×6 fir planks and 2x4s at ReStore for $10.00. Cleaned them up with Simple Green and applied one coat of deck stain. Fir might not be the best for an outdoor table, but we figured with a sealer it would have a long enough life.

After poking around a bit online to find a simple dimple table template, we got after it. I had prepared a sketch with measurements. We made the frame/apron with 2x4s using a right angle guide. Working on the up-side-down table, we drove screws diagonally through the frame to attach it to the underside of the table top. We used outdoor self-drilling screws. And poof, it’s ready for a fire!

We plan to drill holes in the bottom of the fire-box for water draining in case it rains when I have the table/cover off. Otherwise I may end up with a box of water. But the chances of rain are pretty slim in Seattle. Maybe it isn’t necessary :)

If you liked this post, check out some other outdoor ideas:

8 thoughts on “Patio Fire Pit: Re-purposed Scrap Metal Box

  1. Mary Jean, you and Heidi Ho Ho are so clever– how can I be more like you when I grow up? This is such a nice thing you made! I really like the table topper too. Your friend Anne, not always alliterative, but very verbal.

    • Anne, it’s a welcome surprise to hear from you :) Thank you for the compliment. Now get over here and have a Smore with us.

      Hopefully you and family are snuggled a safe distance inland and away from the path of Sandy’s wicked aftermath.

      Take care and the smore fixin’s are always ready, really!

  2. Wow! You 3 never cease to amaze me. Carmen and I expect to use that next summer for a smore (after we get done with whatever project we decide to do) :) Good job ladies.

  3. You have such clever minds the three of you. It is nice to have all those cool restore places for you to find your treasures at. Can’t wait for the smore next summer :) That is if we are still invited for any projects to be completed ;-)

    • I’m glad you like it and yes, smores next summer :). We may have ReStore and Second Use Building Materials in Seattle, but what about those farm auctions in your neck of the woods? And then there are the free goodies left on the boulevard…

  4. As always, I’m amazed at what you did with what would seem to me ‘just a big ol’ ugly steel box’. Great photos and I appreciate that you also advise on the products you use. I really like the way you brought the fire into view, you guys have the coolest projects!

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