Alternative Energy

How to Build A Wood Stove: The Money-Saving Guide to DIY Wood Stoves

How to Build A Wood Stove
Samuel Funt
Written by Samuel Funt

With the recent spikes and increases in oil and gas prices, consumers like you may be finding ways on how to build a wood stove so that you can save bucks and energy. No doubt, this may be one of the best moves you are about to make because not only that you are going to save piles of cash for building wood-burning stoves, but you will also be able to conserve  fuel and gas, something that we owe Mother Nature of.

And with all these surmounting amount of money we spend on monthly utilities, which include gas for cooking, it would be wise that we allow our creativity and resourcefulness to come in and help us devise homemade stoves, which we can use in cooking food and maybe heating our homes.

So much so, not only that these homemade stoves are very easy to make, they are also energy-efficient and which some tips on how to do it we’re going to share in the latter part of this guide.

See also: Hot Ash Stove Review: Burn wood safely for a quick meal when on the go

Did you know that you could actually build wood stoves out of scraps, including gas bottle, water tank, electric water heater, steel barrel, steel plates and paint cans, to name some? Well, we don’t have to emphasis on this, but those materials you think have got no use, could actually be your solution to saving on fuel, eventually lowering monthly expenditure you could have been spending on cooking gas.

Definitely, there are more benefits than one for making a wood stove, and aside from these mentioned, one can also work for heating your home, something to help you save on energy further, especially in the winter, provided you select the right wood to use for burning, something we’re going to discuss later in this guide.

Building wood burners

Definitely one of the easiest to make and also the most efficient, gas bottle sitting in your garage or backyard for years may actually have its purpose, better purpose to serve, other than accumulating rust.  And making your very own homemade wood stoves are  not a difficult task at all; perhaps, it  has been one of the most popular DIY projects around, proven by numerous online guides featuring how to make one. You can even check a very simple project such as the DIY camp stove to share with your older kids.

At the very least, you won’t need much of those tools you could imagine and some of these stoves do not even require the use of any welding tools. The first concern, however, is to equip yourself with the very basic tools you would need for this project.  Some people use diagrams they print out from online sources and which contain a specific design for building the wood stove. Not so much to worry about any diagram of sort though because you can use your creativity in designing your very own homemade stove.

For the most part you will need a saw, a drill, a grinder, a screwdriver, a hammer, a set of pliers and a file, some of the tools commonly used in repairing things in and around your home. In terms of the welding equipment, you may need it depending on the foundation material you are going to use for your stove, really.

For the raw materials, which are going to dictate the tools to use, choose the right ones when making a wood stove, and the most basic of all is a used steel barrel with a removable top or cover and that allows clamping back on and locking in for your safety. Consider what was stored, like flammable material, in the barrel before using it for this project. And for safety reasons, many people opt for used water tank heaters and not gas bottles.

Whichever you select, see to it that it has a lid for opening and closing. Then generally is whether to use a diagram or not, but whatever you opt for, make sure that this design has a good exhaust and proper air intake and can offer fire safety as well.

Building a wood stove from a metal sheet

Getting your materials ready

Prepare a sheet of mild steel, preferably one of a minimum 3 millimeters but not thicker than 6 millimeters, only except if you have an industrial machinery to use for thicker ones. Ideally this thickness would be good for heating nicely, while it does not deform.

Materials for Wood Stove

Nevertheless, do not go below ideal 3 mm thickness of steel sheet.  You also need an angle grinder, a jigsaw, a file and an emery paper. Most importantly, you will need to have loads of patience and perseverance because learning of ways on how to build a wood burning stove may pose a challenge.

Designing your wood stove

Use sketch software, such as Google SketchUp to design your stove. It is free and easy to use even for beginners. Think of how big you would want to make yours. For instance, you can use a 4-mm thickness of mild steel with dimensions 1200 mm by 625 mm for this stove. You can start, at the very basic, making the front, sides and back of your stove, sort of creating a net of a cube and then folding them to make good corners, something to work better than welding the plates and then spending hours of grinding to finish smoothly.

Seam weld its top and then fit a baffle inside of it for improving the burn before fitting the stove’s bottom using bolts (*for easy cleaning). Then, you can start working on the legs with more sheets of steel to make small angled legs. If ever you would be running out of steel, you can also make use of an old chair’s legs.

Grinding or cutting your wood stove

Next stop is cutting or grinding. Start grinding a groove on its inside and then begin cutting the strip from the metal sheet. When you finish up the box, you can have it 500 x 200 x 250 millimeters (LWH). Use an angle grinder in order to bend the stove at the corners. First, use a 2-millimeter fine cutting disk in order to cut a groove, and then use a normal, approximately 4-mm thickness of cutting disk to create a wide slot.

Get a good fold by cutting about three-fourths of the steel’s thickness. Then for the stove’s door opening, you can mark its curved top and then use a thin grinder and a jigsaw to make a cut into the stove’s corners.

Welding/folding your wood-burning stove

For the main box’ body, you can just run a bead of weld right below its inside corners once your box is formed, but this does not have to be too neat.  Weld its front inside and out and then ground flat and smooth. This part should look nice because it is visible.

For the baffle,  cut a piece of metal for it, which could go full length of your box’s body from its back, while leaving a tiny space in its front, ideally only about 30 millimeters so that the hot air could be forced around, keeping consistent secondary heat and burn.  You will then have to cut out the top and start welding it in place, starting from its exterior portion. Take note that this has to be solid and all the same looking nice.

You can take your time when rounding the corners off so that you don’t have to keep yourself catching on them. Then, make the top bigger of about 50 millimeters so that you could make it more usable, creating a measurement of 600 x 300 millimeters (L x W). You can now cut a hole on the stove’s top through drilling a few spots around this circle before cutting them out to form holes with your jigsaw.  You can keep this piece for the damper in the flue.

Inside and underneath, you can start welding little tabs so that the base is fixed. Drill and tape them so that they can allow little countersunk Allen-keyed bolts, if you have them. This base should be sitting flush inside your stove’s bottom.

Creating the door, hinges and air vents

For the door, you can start cutting a few more of your metal sheet, making it 10 millimeter bigger all around so that you can make a good seal using the rope. To seal the door, use a rope and the correct glue to attach it fully.  And then for the hinges, you can cut small tabs using flat bar, and then drill them out so that they can accept a six-millimeter round bar.

You can make use of a six-millimeter threaded rod on both the hinges before lining them up for welding and then removing it before fully welding your round bar into the bars at the bottom. In this case, the door can lift off the hinges, while leaving the stove’s pin on the box.

Wood stove diagram

Mark the shape for your vent and drill out its shape’s corners and then cut them using your jigsaw. Use a hammer to make a little teasing and a file for the tickle. Fit a thin vent over it to rotate and then reveal the holes, but then it should have a wire handle so that it won’t get too hot.  You can also start fitting a vent at the top just right above the stove’s door, allowing for the secondary combustion.

You should not worry because it is very simple to do and that you can just put the flat bar on its front and then drilled on both pieces in order to align the holes up. And then, start welding the little brackets so that they can glide on before making a ring on its front.

Making the flue and legs

Get a mild steel pipe of about four inches thickness (with its wall at two millimeters in thickness). It does not have to be too thick because much of the heat is absorbed in the stove’s body. Cut 1000 millimeters and 500 millimeters in order to create a tab mechanism for joining them with a pin. You only need it to be 1.5 meters above the stove’s top, which is about two meters from the ground, making a sufficient head height.

Fit the flue damper in the stove’s shorter section through the piece you had cut from the stove top and then weld two bolts, passing through the holes located on the sides. You will have to weld the bolts on, making sure they are inside the flue. Then, you will need to weld on a small lever in order to allow operating the damper from the outside of the stove. You can use a 24 inches of steel ruler to create a collar that the flue can be fitted into, and then roll it to create a good circle that you can weld in place around the  hole you can find on top.

For the legs, you can make use of the legs of an old school chair and then weld a few nuts inside your stove before sending a bolt from its side so that you can easily remove the stove for easy transport.

Painting and finishing the stove

Spray your wood-burning stove with paint that is heat-resistant and that can last for a few years. However, see to it that you have filed the rough edges as well as the lumpy welds. You should also sand the stove surface with an emery paper for a smooth finish before spraying paint.  Some cooking is needed after spraying, and this would cure the paint to last longer. Light a gentle fire on the stove for a couple of hours.

Then, make a basic grate with a thick wire mesh although you can change it later because it has a tendency to bend in the middle, requiring you to flatten it out each time you are going to use the stove.

Learning of efficient wood-burning tips

  1. Remember that a clean wood stove is a warm wood stove, so always keep it clean. You should remove the soot from the stove so that heat can be more efficient. Otherwise, heat efficiency would be affected because heat would not be conducted well. Clean it more often if you use it every day.
  2. Take note that various types of wood can also provide different heat levels. As you may already know, hardwoods can give off more heat than what softwoods can, although the latter is much cheaper. Softwoods can only be good alternatives for firewood during the start and the end of the winter when temperature is not that cold. They can also give off cleaner burn without turning your house into a sauna. However, it burns quick, so you may want to combine hardwood when burning it.
  3. Are you thinking where to place your wood stove? Determine your chimney’s location, unless you are looking to make a new one for accommodating this new wood stove. Remember it can be unwise for having over seven feet of stove pipe which you will connect the stove going to the chimney due to excessive creosote to accumulate.
  4. Place the wood stove about 36 inches away from any combustible materials, including furniture, walls and doors. You can also reduce a stove’s clearance ranging from 36 to 12 inches by using a heat shield in which a 28-gauge sheet metal can be used. This type of shield should be mounted off the ground providing an inch of air circulation between the wall and the stove.
  5. If you want to heat your property with the wood stove, you can position it near the middle of your home or where you spend the most of your waking hours because woodstoves are not central heaters to circulate heat even in remote rooms or corners.
  6. There are consumers who burn designer logs, which possess low amounts of energy output. They can work adequately if you want the logs to burn simply for ambience, but not good enough for heating.
  7. See if there is the right airflow in the flue and if air is going through it and not coming back down through your woodstove. Now if you could feel a draft, then the airflow is coming in through the stove’s flue and not flowing out. To solve the problem, crumple up some old newspaper pages and then put them up as high to get into the stove going toward your flue. You can start lighting the newspaper, while the air is starting to suck the ball going to the flue, reversing the airflow.

As you see, building a wood burning stove does not require rocket science and you don’t also need any fancy material or tool to come up with one. By learning of this skill, you are surely going to be proud of yourself, as you can spare money for buying a commercially made one. So if you have metal scraps or used water tank, heater or gas bottle, get it and gather the rest of the materials to build a wood stove right now. Finally, you also have to educate yourself on a few tips we’ve mentioned above for getting the most out of a DIY woodstove.

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Feel free sharing this article with friends who may also be thinking to build a wood stove for themselves.

To give your more choices, check out our informative reviews of the best camping stove to help you.

About the Author

Samuel Funt

Samuel Funt

Samuel is a prepper with over 15 years of experience. Samuel is excited to share his knowledge and the things he learns while travelling in British Columbia, Canada where he lives and around the world.