DIY Toolbox Barbecue

This DIY toolbox barbecue has several drawers to store cooking utensils and carrying handles to easily transport this portable grill from your backyard to the beach.

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by Brent Darby Photography LTD

In Upcycling Outdoors: 20 Creative Garden Projects Made from Reclaimed Materials, Max McMurdo provides 20 inventive projects to get readers upcycling and recycling. The book includes valuable information on the tools, techniques, and materials to help you create unique designs and go on an outdoor creative adventure. The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, “Eating and Entertaining.”

If there are three things that make me happy in life, they are upcycling, tools and eating good food with friends. I’ve had this particular toolbox in my workshop since I started my business — I purchased it with the money I received from my first sale. It’s a bit battered and has seen better days, but I couldn’t part with it for sentimental reasons. Then, while drinking tea and stroking my beard, searching for inspiration, I had a moment of madness: what if I could upcycle it into the ultimate portable barbecue?

red toolbox with bottom drawer pulled out filled with burning coals and middle rack pulled out with grill rack inside and corn being cooked on it

I always strive to combine form and function, so I was keen to have a series of cooking levels that could be varied for searing, cooking and keeping food warm. The toolbox is made from the same thickness of metal as most barbecues, and with several drawers of varying depths it seemed perfect for what I needed it to do. The top compartment offered an obvious cache for storing tongs, skewers and other essential cooking tools. It just needed the addition of carry handles, so you can take your new upcycled, self-contained barbecue wherever you fancy, whether it’s the back garden, a festival or the nearest beach. I knew I wanted to produce a barbecue for this book that was unique and quirky, and here was the answer.

a red toolbox with four metal racks placed around and a leather belt sitting inside of it

Items to Source:

  • Metal toolbox with drawers
  • Old barbecue grills
  • Old leather belt
  • Metal rivets

man holding ruler inside of a drawer of a red toolbox and marking with a black marker


    1. Mark out Drawers: Empty your tools from the toolbox, give them a clean and a new home! Mark out the bottoms of the drawers to be cut, keeping a lipped frame all round to locate the grill. When cutting out a square or rectangle the corners can be tricky and create weak points. If you drill a hole in each corner before you cut, it makes for a neater, stronger result.

Tip: Cone cutters are a great versatile tool to have around your workshop. They allow you to drill a variety of hole sizes the further up the cone you go, ideal for cutting these corner holes in this steel.

person holding drill with cone shaped drill bit pointed down in to the drawer of a red toolbox

    1. Cut out Bases: Using an angle grinder with a cutting disc, remove the bases of the drawers. Watch out for flying sparks — wear appropriate clothing and safety goggles or a welder’s mask to protect your eyes.

person using an angle grinder on the drawer of a red toolbox with sparks flying

    1. Smooth Edges: Sand the cut edges with a sanding disc on your grinder. (Remember to disconnect the power when changing attachments!) To finish, use a small round file to get right into the corners.

man wearing a welding visor holding angle grinder against the inside of a red toolbox drawer that has the bottom cut out

man using a round file on the corner of a red drawer with the bottom cut out

    1. Cut Grills to Size: Using the natural dimensions of the salvaged barbecue grills, decide which way round they are going to be used, maintaining as much structural integrity as possible. Trim to fit with your grinder then sand the cut edges to ensure they are not sharp.

man using angle grinder to cut the end off a salvaged barbecue grill

    1. Assemble: I even managed to rescue the temperature gauge from the donor barbecue, so simply drilled a hole and bolted it on! Now assemble the barbecue by dropping in the grills.

red toolbox with drawers opened part way like stairs showing salvaged grill racks inside

man holding temperature gauge to bottom drawer of red toolbox

    1. Attach Strap: To increase portability I added a brown leather strap made from an old belt. Cut the belt to length then drill holes through (or use the existing belt holes) and rivet the belt in place, using the original carry handles on the toolbox as your attachment point.

brown leather strap made from a leather belt attached around a metal handle on the side of the red toolbox

man holding red toolbox with temperature gauge on the front by a leather strap

book cover with a small shed with potted plants in it made of doors

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Excerpted with permission fromUpcycling Outdoors, by Max McMurdo. Photography by Brent Darby. Published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group, © 2018.