A Wheel Rim Wood Burner

The author looked around his workshop and realized he could turn a pile of old car wheel rims into a wood burner for a lot less than the cost of a wood stove.
By William A. Shellberg
January/February 1981
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The door handle consists of a bolt.

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The most far-out DIY thing you can think of

What's the most far-out DIY project you can think of?

After installing a wood burning fireplace insert last fall, I was pleased to note that my household's heating oil consumption dropped from the previous year's nearly 800 gallons to a mere 50! So, when I noted that I was then buying more oil for the small space heater in my workshop/garage than for our entire home, I decided that the utility building ought to have a wood stove of its own!

Now, I wasn't about to invest in a ready-made heater for my workroom, but I'm a pretty enthusiastic do-it-myselfer and figured I could come up with a design that would get the job done. I began my "research" by visiting a neighbor who'd built a stove from kit-supplied components and a pair of 55-gallon drums. I was quite impressed with his heater, too. However, when I added the price of the kit to the cost of the 30-gallon containers that I wanted to use (the drums go for up to $15 apiece in my part of Michigan), I decided to look for another solution.

Not long after making that decision, I happened to be rummaging around in my barn and noticed that I had a goodly supply of old auto wheel rims stacked in one corner. The steel doughnuts are made of pretty stout material, and I figured that a car-rim heater should last a long time! So, I borrowed an arc welder and set to work.

I first cut the centers out of most of the rims that would form the firebox and the upper "heat exchange" cylinder. (The lower chamber consists of four welded-together 14" rims ... while the top cylinder is made from three.) Scrap pipe (for the legs) and sheet metal (which I used to form the ends of the heater and the pipe collars) finished the job. I recycled the 6" stovepipe that had been used on the garage's oil-burner, but did have to buy two elbows to connect the upper and lower sections of my stove.

To protect the connecting pipe sections from early burnout, I decided not to remove the center from the last rim in my stove's firebox, hoping the obstruction would serve as a baffle. I did cut the "innards" from all of the rims forming the stove's upper portion, but don't know that it was really necessary to do so.

The total cost of my little workshop heater breaks down like this: 7 rims (I had them on hand, but they can be bought in this area for about $1.00 each), $7.00 ... two 6" elbows (I used the least expensive I could find, at $2.00 apiece), $4.00 ... and three pounds of welding rod, $3.00.

As you can see, even if I had gone out and purchased the tire rims, I would have paid a scant $14 for my workshop wood burner! The paltry amount I did spend bought me a danged effective little heater, too. And I'm confident that anyone could duplicate the stove. After all, it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes of practice with a welder (have an experienced metal worker show you the ropes, and explain safe working practices) to learn to run an airtight—though not very pretty—bead.

So borrow an arc welder, scrounge up some tire rims and metal scraps, and give it a go! You'll end up with an "ugly duckling" wood burner for a downright beautiful price!

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