It’s be some time since I wrote anything on here, so I thought I would kick it all off again with a bang and give a little guide on making a cool fire pit for your back garden or that summer camping trip.
Now, I can’t take credit for the idea or the design as I saw it posted on social media and thought I would give it a go. I have been teaching myself/learning welding over the last few months by welding up the Jetta, so I thought cutting up and welding together some old wheels might be a fun way to practice.
To start with you need a pair of matching steel wheels. I tried to find a matching pair, but all I could find were two 14″ steels that had been hidden at the back of a barn for years. Though they were slightly different widths and designs, they were the same diameter so all was good.
Now the first thing that you need to do when you have your wheels is to clean them up a little and remove the valves and weights from the wheels.
Once the wheels are clean and the valves and weights are off you will need to mock up the two wheels together to mark out the opening. I used a marker pen to mock up the opening first and eyed up the markings. I used the first sewage in the wheel as a mark of the top of the hole.
Once you are happy with the size of the hole, cut the wheel with an angle grinder with a thin cutting disk on. Make sure to wear the correct safety equipment as cutting the wheels can be tricky due to their shape and size.
I was planning on having rounded corners to my hole, but the metal hole saw I was going to use was too large. If you want to have round corners I would recommend using a 15-20mm metal hole saw, though it will be tricky to get the hole right.
Once you have the two wheels cut, you will need to mock the fire pit back up again to make sure you are happy with the shape and size of the final hole. At this point you can also make sure the holes on the two wheels line up perfectly. If you are slightly off use a grinding disc on an angle grinder to grind off the extra metal to get everything to line up nicely.
Once you are happy with the hole and are ready to weld, you will need to clean up the lips of both wheels to make sure for a good weld.
I used a wire wheel cup on a grinder to clean up the rust and make the lips on both wheels nice and shiny again. This is a very important part of the build as any rust left on the lip will contaminate the weld and make it much harder for you to get a good weld.
Once you have a nice clean welding environment, put the wheels back together and make sure you are happy with the fitment and how it all lines up. The two lips of the wheels will line up, but it can be difficult to get the two to line up perfectly, but if they are out of line the wheels will be more difficult to weld up to give a tidy finish.
I only had a small MIG welder to help up the thick wheels, so I whacked the welder up to high with a high feed rate and started tacking. Testing the settings on the first couple of tacks will allow you to get a nice finish. Because the metal is so think, it is a good way to practice welding beads of weld because you have almost no chance of burning through the metal.
I started by tacking the corners and making sure the wheels were still aligned correctly. Then beaded a weld all of the way around the wheel. Due to the thickness, the penetration of the weld was not great, so I added some tacks to the inside of the wheel too. These were to strengthen the weld, though having tested the pit the exterior weld would have probably have been fine for the job as it is not load bearing.
Now that the two wheels are welded together, get your grinder back out and use a grinding disk to take off the excess welds. Unless of course you want the industrial look (and you are better at welding then me), then you can of course leave the welds as is if you want.
Once you have ground back the welds you should have nice clean connection between the two wheels.
Next you need to sort out some legs. I was lucky enough that there were some old metal gates laying around that were being scraped that had some pretty cool swirls, so I cut those bad boys out and welded them onto the base.
For the second fire pit I used the cut out sections of the wheels as the feet of the fire pit. If you managed to cut the wholes in one go, it is a simple task to measure up the two pieces of left over metal to make sure they are the same size, then half each side to make 4 legs. Then clean up and weld the feet onto the base 90degrees from each other. I simply did this by eye, but you could use a piece of wood and mark out the locations instead.
From here you can leave the fire pit as it is, or paint it with some sort of high temp stove paint. I have done both, and I prefer simply leaving the fire pit as you can see above, though painting it does help to protect the new welds from oxidation.