Help make searching for a fire pit the opposite of "the pits."
August 10, 2012 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Is there a cheaper alternative to a new, store-bought fire pit/bowl that I'm not thinking of? (The cheapest I've seen is about $50.)

I've looked online at Home Depot, Target, Lowe's and Walmart for a fire pit/fire bowl that is large enough to make a nice medium-sized fire for a few people to sit around. Is there a cheaper alternative than this that I'm not thinking of? I live in a city with a lot of thrift stores and, I'm sure, a junkyard or two.

My requirements are that it would be:

1. cheaper than $50, the price I could just pick up from the store
2. Can't damage the grass/yard when in use (so an open-bottomed fire ring wouldn't work)
3. Should be light enough to move about once a week when I have a fire. I wouldn't want to permanently set it in the grass due to damage/bald spots, and I do have access to a storage shed
4. safe to use, of course
5. Would be nice if it was a recycled/reused item

Can you help me think of something that fits this criteria? (I know end-of-season sales may be going on in a month or so, and I am willing to wait about 6 weeks or so.)

posted by shortyJBot to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We've used a tireless wheel in the past. It's open on the bottom but could be easily placed on something metal if you want to be creative. You can see an example [plus a bunch of other nifty ideas] in this thread.
posted by jessamyn at 10:15 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend used a cement pedestal-style birdbath. It kept the fire at eye level, which was cool. Don't know what they cost though.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:24 AM on August 10, 2012

The drum from an old washing machine is a popular recycled fire cauldron option, you'd just need to weld some feet on or support it on bricks to keep it from charring the grass. You could also just check craigslist for a used fire pit, they come up quite a bit in my area.
posted by contraption at 10:24 AM on August 10, 2012

In the past, I've used a rusty old metal wheelbarrow -- extremely convenient to move, even with a fire going and without a tire!
posted by urethra_spanklin at 10:44 AM on August 10, 2012

Yes, the washing machine drum works really well. Weld on some feet and add a couple of tires, a la the wheelbarrow idea and it would be super portable.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:48 AM on August 10, 2012

My brother had one of those $20 charcoal square grills from Walmart for about 394 years. It had legs and stood maybe two feet tall. He put it in the yard, surrounded it with bricks and voila - a fire pit. Bonus - he replaced the old grill with a new one and can still BBQ on it. Because it's on legs, he can move it around the yard (and rearrange the bricks).
posted by HeyAllie at 11:00 AM on August 10, 2012

If you have access to old metal drums (junkyard?), you can hacksaw one in half-ish, and support it on bricks/cinder blocks/welded feet/whatever. It gets the job done without looking pretty while lending your fire a post-apocalyptic aesthetic.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 11:00 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

An old oil drum, cut the long way in half-so it's like a bathtub kind of? If the cutting person knows what they're doing, you leave the bottom and the top (circles) whole and just cut the body in half-this way it doesn't want to roll anywhere.
Whether it's cheaper or worth your time will depend on your access to old oil drums.
posted by atomicstone at 11:22 AM on August 10, 2012

Cement can explode if it's heated by fire, so be very careful! I use a galvanized metal tub, about the same size of retail fire pits, that costs around $20 in the garden department at home depot and will hold up way longer than cheap fire pits. You have to add some type of screen to cover the top, like cloth wire, to stop ashy fuels (leaves, paper, etc) from releasing burning ash from the tub. It sits directly on the ground, so heat will cause a bald spot on grass unless propped up by some means. Be careful since heating galvanized metal initially can be toxic from zinc fumes being released as the zinc burns off metal. Don't breath smoke or fumes for the first couple fires. Here's a link discussing dangers in heating galvanized metal:

Good luck! Kanaan Minks
posted by kanaan_minks at 8:30 PM on August 10, 2012

Pick up a used one - or even a free one - from Craigslist.
posted by aryma at 11:44 PM on August 10, 2012

I had been searching craigslist for over a month and put a wanted ad up, and finally got a nice cast-iron base and steel bowl for $15, with the first load of firewood included. Thanks, guys!
posted by shortyJBot at 2:09 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for following up! I have always wondered about the "wanted to buy" ads on craigslist and whether they are ever actually effective. I guess they sometimes are.
posted by contraption at 9:47 AM on September 7, 2012

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