DIY

A Wheel Rim Wood Burner

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PHOTO: MARK STERLING
The wheel rim wood burner may not be attractive, but it gets the job done.

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!