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Do-It-Yourself: Campfire Grille
© 2006 RogueTurtle.com

Steps and lessons learned while making my own


Getting Started

With the kind cooperation of a few contractors in my area, I was able to "scrounge" a lot of 1/2 inch rebar. "Rebar" is reinforcing steel bars used during concrete construction for extra strength. You can buy this same rebar in Home Depot but getting it for free had a certain allure.


About 15 years ago I found a Lincoln Arc Welder on sale at Sam's Club. I bought it, used it for about six weeks and put it into storage. There it sat until last weekend. I haven't lost the touch... I'm still a bad welder. It may not be pretty, but it works.

I had plenty of rebar available so I made the grille a size I thought would be functional and fairly easy to store. It is approximately 34 inches long and 17.5 inches wide. I added an extra support under the long side of the grille. I could picture the grill over a campfire, getting very hot, and setting a heavy pot of water on to boil. Since water is also very heavy, I was afraid it might just bend in the middle. The extra support should solve this problem.

The whole job took me three weekend days, but would have been a lot less if I had the use of an oxyacetylene torch to bend the corners. All I had was two MAPP gas tanks I used with the flames very close together. The rebar was bent with one end in a vise and heating the spot for the bend. If it doesn't bend easily, it's not hot enough. Cherry red is the color to look for to get a nice sharp bend.

Seen on the left, I added a lifting handle on the end to make it easier for two people to carry. On the right side of the corner, you can see the extra rebar I added under the long side to prevent sagging.

There are 26 short bars welded along the side, and each one is welded in three spots.



Seen on the right, each cross bar is fillet-welded on each side, and again on the end. I used the grinder to knock down the rough edges and round off the fillets. I also ground off all the welding "splatter" that always makes my welds look lousy. I didn't knock it all off because it's going to be used over a campfire, so how pretty does it have to look?

To prevent rusting, coat the grille with PAM or other spray-type oils. Make sure the grille is COLD when you spray it. Store it in a large plastic bag.


Left: Seen from the underneath side, you can see the fillet welds holding the long pieces together. Also, the handle, made from a piece of three-eights inch rebar, is fillet-welded to the short side of the grille.

Caution: Sitting over a campfire for a long time will make the entire grille hot to touch. This includes the handle. When you are ready to pack up - or move the grille to add more wood, make sure you have some protection for your hand. It can get very hot - very fast.


Preparation

I also own a Makita hand grinder that I used with a four-inch cutoff wheel and grinding disc. The hardest part of the job is cleaning the metal. In order to weld correctly, the metal surface must be absolutely clean. The easiest way is to first wire brush the metal rod to get off the accumulated grime, and then grind off the outer surface metal so you are looking at pure steel. This part is very important because any imperfections or dirt in the weld will make the weld weak.

I selected this size and style grille to use as a base for cooking with cast iron skillets and pots. The spacing is a little too wide to cook some meats directly on the grille. The wide space will let some valuable food fall between the bars into the fire. However, if you are bound and determined to grill directly on the bars, I would recommend you set a narrower wire grille over this one, so the food cannot fall through. The extra grille will not appreciably affect the cooking temperature of the fire.

This grille is not light. It weighs about fifty pounds. As seen in the first photo in the article, it will need a support on each end, preferably a large rock at each corner.

Rationale

Why did I spend a long weekend on this project? Because in a "bug out" situation, you will probably NOT be camping in a location with a commercial grille (such as found in state and national parks). If you don't have it with you, you cannot use it. I elected to spend a few hours to make sure wherever I go, I will have a nice grille to cook on.


Scrounging

Some brief words about "scrounging": In Florida, if you don't get the contractor's permission to walk off with the rebar, it is a FELONY. When most construction jobs are over, contractors are happy to give the stuff away since they don't have to pay dumping fees or wages to someone to dump it. However, they get very unhappy if you take it away and (the next day) they need it - and its gone. Ask first.