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.

| January/February 1981

  • 067 wheel rim wood burner - full unit
    The wheel rim wood burner may not be attractive, but it gets the job done.
  • 067 wheel rim wood burner - metal screen, damper
    LEFT: The metal screen on the heat exchanger dries boots and gloves and warms coffee. RIGHT: The homemade damper controls draft.
  • 067 wheel rim wood burner - door handle
    The door handle consists of a bolt.

  • 067 wheel rim wood burner - full unit
  • 067 wheel rim wood burner - metal screen, damper
  • 067 wheel rim wood burner - door handle

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.


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