How to Make a Personal Fire Pit. For Cheap!

You probably don’t think you need a personal fire pit. And you’re right. Although come to think of it, fire is an essential element. I’m rethinking this – it’s possible you really DO need a personal fire pit. You just don’t need a massive expensive one. A little tabletop cheap fire pit? You could probably use one of those.

My name is Karen and I haven’t lit anything on fire in 5 months.  I’m sure I deserve some sort of a chip or something for that.

You see … I’m a bit of a pyromaniac.  Technically I’m not a *real* pyromaniac I guess.  I mean, I only light things on fire that should be lit on fire.  Like kindling and hardwood and pretty much anything with Hello Kitty on it.  And of course all of Rush’s 1980’s albums where they dabbled in “New Wave”.

I light fires in the fireplace every night here in the old Casa de Karen from October until April.  6 or 7 face cords go flying up that chimney every year.  But as deep and strong as my love of the log runs, I couldn’t bring myself to buy an outdoor firepit when they first came out.

They were hilariously expensive at the time and really in my climate not all that useful. In the last decade or so the weather in Canada has changed.

We used to get Spring. Spring is now a fleeting moment that takes place between the hours of 4 and 5 p.m. in late May. When we wake up the next morning our guts have liquified and the garbage cans have maggots crawling out of them.

Once the season for fire rolls around it happens almost as instantly. And by then I want to be inside laying on the sofa with a hot chocolate and a plate full of cinnamon toast on my chest.  Not outside being bitten by the limp stingers of aged mosquitos.

But still. There are 3 or 4 weeks when it makes sense to have a little personal fire pit outside.

So what was a pyromaniac girl like me to do when it’s cool out, but not cool enough to trap myself in the house all night with my cat, tv remote and fire tongs?

The Answer … The Personal Fire Pit.  (as designed by my sister … I saw hers and then immediately came home and made my own exactly like the one she made.) It’s easy and inexpensive to make. I used to say it’s a lot nicer than any fire pit you’ve seen for sale in stores, but now that 10 years has passed since I originally made this fire pit a lot of stores are carrying ones that look – how do I say this – completely identical.

Here we gooooooo …

How to Make a Personal Fire Pit

Materials you Need

  1. Marine Silicone
  2. Small rocks
  3. 4 pieces of glass (I bought 4 cheap picture frames from Dollarama and used the glass from those)
  4. Metal Mesh
  5. Gel Fuel (recommended) or 70%+ isopropyl alcohol
  6. Square planter (with a bit of a lip on it)

Step #1 – Making a Glass Box

You need to make a glass box.  To do that just run a bead of silicone around the edges of your glass, and place them together.

Do two sides first and hold them in place somehow until they dry.

Position them so your final side will be easy to silicone.

Run another bead of silicone and place your last piece of glass.

When you’re placing your glass, try to be a bit careful about it. You don’t want to smear the silicone around on the glass because it’s a HUGE pain to get off.  Just take your time.

Run a final bead of silicone all around the bottom edge of your newly created (because you’re kind of great) glass box.

Flip the box over then place the siliconed edge on top of the metal planter, making sure there’s enough edge in the middle left over for some metal mesh to rest on it.

Update:  Everyone seems to be in fits over the fact that the glass will EXPLODE from the heat.  It doesn’t. I’m not going to say it never will but 1) only tempered glass EXPLODES.  This isn’t tempered glass.  2) Glass breaks through stress either from dropping it or by extreme, fast temperature changes. Neither of which you should have with this project.  3) Thin glass is less likely to break from stress than thick glass. ** I know that seems counterintuitive.

Step 2: Making the pit.

Your box is made so now you move onto cutting your mesh that will fit inside. The only purpose of the mesh is to support some rocks, which in turn hide the fuel can beneath.

Once your piece of mesh is cut your structure is complete and you just have to “build” the fire.

Put an opened can of gel fuel into the centre of your fire pit. If you’re using Isopropyl Alcohol pour some into a leakproof metal container like an old, clean paint can.

Rest the mesh on the inside edge of the planter.

Finally, start putting down your rocks to cover the hideous mesh. If you’re using rocks that you aren’t sure about don’t put them directly over the flame. Rocks with moisture in them can explode as can shaley rocks.

Update: since writing this post originally, fire pit rocks have become available.  They’re 100% safe so you don’t need to worry about keeping the rocks away from the flame.

Step 3 – Light your fire

What makes this fire pit so amazing is the glass. The flames reflect against it creating dancing flames all over the place! Before I get to the final pictures with the fire pit in it’s rightful home in my back yard I wanted to let you in on a few tips.

1.  Make sure you buy gel fuel that’s meant for gel fireplaces.  Gel cooking fuel will not work because it usually only creates heat, not an actual visible flame.

2. Like I said, if you use a proper gel fuel (Real Flame for example) you can actually use this fire pit indoors. Be careful to place it on heat resistant fabric so it doesn’t scorch your furniture. The metal conducts the flame heat a lot!

3. Make sure your rocks are heavy for their size. Rocks that are light are full of air and may explode!

4. You can use any metal planter for this. This was on sale, so this is the one I got for this little fire pit experiment. Black metal square planters that are probably on sale at garden centres right now would look fantastic with white rocks.

5.  The gel cans last for about 3 hours, if you’d like to stop the flame earlier, just place something non flammable over the glass box to snuff out the flame.  Cans can be relit at a later date or time.

WARNING

Use common sense. Don’t wander off, leaving this burning and never EVER try to refill it when it’s still burning. Snuff out the fire and make sure that it isn’t hot or burning before refuelling. Otherwise you can create a firebomb. You can see that here.

That’s it! That’s all it takes to make your own personal fire pit. $25, about an hour, and a piece of spaghetti.

Update: A lot of people are having trouble finding a metal planter similar to mine. Remember you can also use terra cotta or ceramic.

How to Make a Personal Fire Pit. For Cheap!

445 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    Totally brilliant! I am going to make this for our first anniversary. One question though? Did you get the glass and the metal planter at the same place? How do you make sure that they will fit? and can you share where you got them for cheap?
    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny! I think all of that info is in the post, but I will assume you were so excited over the fire pit you just missed it. LOL. The metal container was on the discount table from a small store around my house. Metal planters are on sale everywhere right now because it’s the end of the gardening season. Try your local garden centre. I bought the glass frames at Dollarama, but you could get thicker (but more expensive) glass custom cut at a glass cutting shop. I bought my planter knowing it was small enough that I’d be able to find glass to fit it. Just keep in mind that most frames come with glass that’s 5 X 7, 4 X 6 or 8 X 10. As long as your planter has an opening that’s somewhere in those measurements you’re good. You can adjust by overlapping the glass a little or extending it a bit and filling with silicone. Good luck! – karen.

  2. Donna says:

    BRILLIANT! Seriously, this is an amazing idea and so inexpensive and modern-looking too, which is a bonus! Definitely going to make one of these.

    Off to browse the rest of your site to see what other genius ideas you came up with! :)

  3. holly says:

    Can I just say WOW? How the heck did you think of that?!
    I love it!

  4. Patricia says:

    Where do you buy Gel Fuel!?

    • Karen says:

      Patricia. You can get gel fuel over the internet, at Costco sometimes and at hardware stores. Just remember, you wan’t fireplace gel fuel, not cooking fuel! I’m in Canada and I got my Real Flame Gel Fuel at Rona. – karen

  5. Debbie says:

    What a great idea…saw this on design*sponge. Here in the Netherlands, everyone uses chimneas or small wood pits, and burn treated wood that stinks up the entire neighborhood. This is SO MUCH BETTER..I cannot wait to get started. Thanks!

  6. ¡me ha encantado!! y espero que no te moleste que lo comente en mi blog y te haga referencia. Es una idea perfecta, práctica y sencilla, como decimos por aquí un BBB (bueno, bonito y barato) que en inglés sería GPC (good, pretty and cheap) ;-)

    (I loved it! and I hope you do not mind that comment on my blog and you refer. It’s a perfect idea, practical and simple, as we say around here a BBB (good, nice and cheap) that English would be GPC (good, pretty and cheap) ;-))

  7. sue says:

    Do you think you could use shells instead of the rocks?
    Which do you find first – the glass and then find a planter to fit the glass size or the planter and then find the glass to match!?
    This is a whole lot cheaper than to have the jel fireplace built in:)

  8. Alyssa has Pink Antlers says:

    This is AH-MAZ-ING!

  9. This is absolutely AWESOME!

  10. emily li says:

    does it provide any heat?
    i’ve been thinking about doing this myself!

  11. Jen says:

    Do you think that you can have this indoors? Or would that not work because there’s no proper ventilation??

    I really want to do this indoors, but would worry about my apt catching on fire :)

    • Karen says:

      Jen, As long as you use the proper fuel (the one I’ve used for example) you can use it indoors. This particular gel fuel is meant for indoor gel fireplaces! Good luck. – karen

  12. Penny says:

    I love this idea! I’m just moving into my first place and can’t wait to make it! I’ll definitely be blogging about that journey and will be sharing this post (assuming you don’t mind!) ;)

    Thanks!!

  13. lori says:

    OH MAN!! what a great idea. I was thinking along the same lines as GF. get the sand bags out. I love your idea!!!!!or I should say our sisters idea!! couple of question…. do you have to put the glass in?
    and what if I wanted to use wood? couldn’t i put sand in first then the wood and light it???

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lori! No you don’t have to put the glass on it. It just finishes it off and helps to reflect the flame so it seems even bigger than it is. The glass really does add to it, but you can do it w/out if you want! – karen

  14. Dane Caldwell says:

    Brilliant!

    Another clever, stylish Canadian…oh yeah!

  15. Tracy says:

    What a great project!! Where did you find the planter?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tracy – I found the planter at a little shop in a strip mall near where I live. You’ll probably never find the exact same one, but just keep your eyes open. Something will pop up somewhere. Discount/junk stores for example, or a lot of planters will be on sale at garden centres right now. (in North America anyway)

  16. Vila says:

    You are my (and everyone else’s) idol :))) am completely in aw with this one!

    As I have a history of pyromaniacal behavior I am not worried about flames, but isnt’s boat silicone suceptable to heat? Wont it just desolve near heat at one point and the whole thing end up in some gaudi-like sculpture with broken glass all over the floor? Will ask around what would be the heat resistant alternative and let you guys know if I find something out :)
    Anyhow, thanks a bunch, you are fabulous!

  17. kristen says:

    In order to extinguish and re-use at a later date/time would you have to dump rocks, lift grate and cover fuel? I don’t know too much about gel fuel. And by not much I mean nothing.

    Thanks!
    Kristen

    • Rachael says:

      Hi Kristen,

      I found the answer in her post:

      5. The gel cans last for about 3 hours, if you’d like to stop the flame earlier, just place something non flammable over the glass box to snuff out the flame. Cans can be relit at a later date or time.

  18. Tickled Red says:

    That is absolutely bloody brilliant!! You are my D.I.Y Queen. Oh…thanks for the rock tip btw, I could just see the Leprechauns having a field day with that one ;)

  19. Liz says:

    Veeerrry pretty.

    Can i get a yard to place it in for $25 please?

    • Karen says:

      Well … $25 will probably buy you about 5 bags of dirt. Maybe you wanna slice those open in an unused spot of your living room. Instant backyard. Yes?

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