Oil Drum Handicraft: Barrel Stoves, Barrel Heaters and Barrel Smokers

Gary Brooks shares how you can convert 55 gallon oil drums, Blazo cans, and Blazo crates into barrel stoves, barrel heaters, barrel smokers, and many other useful appliances.

| July/August 1973

"You cheechakos have too much stuff to work with," growled the old sourdough. "When I came to Alaska back in '36, we didn't have no fancy 'lectric furnaces to heat our cabins. There weren't no tubs for baths. We learned to use what we had . . . we didn't throw nothin' away."

One look at the old-timer's cabin confirmed his boast. He had built the house with logs from his homestead. The stove he used for cooking and heating was made from an old oil drum. A square Blazo gas can hung beside the building to serve as a shower. Everything had been made from whatever was on hand at the time.

The old fellow was wrong, though, when he took us for tenderfeet. My wife was born in Alaska, and I've lived here for six years. During my time in the "bush" I've made many of the objects the veteran was bragging about. I, too, have learned to improvise from what I can find, or modify what I have at minimum cost.

Like many residents of the North, I've found that the easiest and cheapest of all materials to recycle are 55-gallon drums, five-gallon (Blazo) gas cans and Blazo shipping crates. These versatile objects have been put to so many uses, in fact, that folks in these parts refer to the barrels as "tundra daisies" and to the boxes as "Alaskan lumber".

Where do you get these handy articles? Well, some gas stations or garages will let used 55- or 30-gallon drums go for free. The bulk petroleum plants usually sell them for $10.00 or $15.00, depending on whether or not you buy the containers filled with fuel. It's a good idea to do so . . . I've found that it's usually much cheaper to purchase a barrel of gasoline from a wholesale distributor and siphon the fuel into my car than to stop at a service station each time my vehicle's tank runs low.

The bulk plant also deals in "case gas"—two Blazo cans in a wooden crate—in the form of white gasoline, pearl kerosene or aviation fuel. Or, if you don't need any of those products, garages usually have tins and boxes lying around that their operators sometimes give away.

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