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Step 1: Pick a container
In addition to the plumbing parts you will need a container that is able to handle high temperatures and hold the media you will use. Make sure it’s water tight if your going to make a sand garden.
With a little searching though your local hardware store, garden center, junkyard or restaurant supply you can find great ready made vessels to build in.
The bottom 6″-12″ of a 55 gal drum works great. I have also used woks, Stainless Salad bowls, dog bowls or a flat plate of steel. Stay away from painted steel, aluminum, and galvanized steel as these will release fumes or melt.
Don’t situate the fire directly against cement or wood. If you’re working with a cement or wooden structure, set up a metal vessel within the structure, allow for ventilation and leave plenty of room between the metal and the structure for air flow.
For more inspiration see our page with examples of finished fire pits.
Step 2: Add a hole for the coupler
Locate and mark the center of the wok, then center punch. Make sure you are center punching with a hard object backing up the other side. if you don’t your mark will be too light and you risk just making a big dent. Now using a step drill (picture 2) or a hole saw, drill a 1 1/8″ hole (for the bulkhead brass coupler) or a 1″ hole if you are using the weld-in steel coupler. If you find the bit wandering off-center, go back and make a better center punch. Stainless steel is very hard and requires a lot of pressure to get the hole started. Step drills are a great way to make round holes in thin materials. Normal drills tend to make oblong holes in thin materials and a large hole is really not recommend with standard drill bits. A step drill can be found at your local hardware store in the drill section, or in the electrical area for making knock outs for EMT conduit. They are not cheap. A more economical solution is a hole saw.
Step 3: Plumbing
For this build I use the brass 1/2 NPT Bulkhead fitting. It should fit snug in the hole. Secure with the nut and add additional high temp sealant if it is not water tight (for sand). The 1/2 NPT coupler could be welded in it’s place as an alternative. Next use the 1/2 NPT nipple to attach the ring to the inside of the bowl. If using sand make sure the holes on the ring are pointed down so it doesn’t run in, for rocks, high temp glass or other porous materials point the holes up. On the bottom of the bowl attach the 1/2 NPT x 3/8 45 deg flare fitting to the coupler. Now attach the hose/regulator using the 45 deg flare fitting on the end of your hose.
Use Teflon tap on all the NPT fittings. Do not use on the 45 deg flare fittings (hose connection).
See the video above for the plumbing assembly without the vessel for clearer visibility.
A venturi (gas air mixer) upgrade kit is available for fire kits that will be used with rocks, high temp glass or other porous materials to achieve a cleaner burn with less soot. These kits replaces the 1/2 NPT x 3/8 45 deg flare fitting that comes with the standard fire ring kit. The small nut in the center is used to adjust the air/gas mix. Adjustments should be made with media in place as this will affect the burn. The instillation is the same as what is shown above.
Do not use a venturi if you plan on using sand or any small particulate material that will impede the gas flow. Too much pressure in the gas line will cause gas to back up and escape from the venturi, potentially causing a small but unwanted fire beneath your vessel. I recommend lava rock or glass chunks, as gas can flow easily between each piece.
Step 4: Make a stand
Since you now have a gas hose poking out through the base you will need to find a way to stabilize the vessel and keep the heat away from anything flammable. You will need ventilation under your vessel for safety (you don’t want an enclosed space where gas can accumulate) and so your venturi can breath. My stands are welded, but there are plenty of creative stand solutions. Use plumbing parts, bolt legs directly to your vessel, cast something out of cement, set it on top of fire bricks, set it into a metal bucket with holes, or find your own innovative way to keep your vessel stable and safe. Check out our examples page for inspiration.
Step 5: Add media
Your vessel can be filled with materials such as sand, lava rock, or glass.
Sand Gardens are an especially big hit because the fire burns at the surface and you can create burning designs in the sand by drawing into it with a rod. Sand should be 3-4″ above the ring. I use playground washed sand from the hardware store. Do not use a venturi if you are using sand as this may cause a buildup of back pressure.
Use your discretion (aka common sense) when choosing materials for your media and structure. If you aren’t sure, do some good old fashion research. Some advise I give a lot is to make sure the media won’t pop or crack when heated.
Step 6: Attach to Propane Tank And Light
Use caution when lighting as built up gas will make a whoosh and burn off your hair. Even a few seconds can be dangerous. With one hand get a visible flame on the end of your lighter and have it positioned over your fire pit. With your other hand open the gas valve. If you are using sand, dig a small 2″ deep hole and light that spot. If you have the 0-60 psi regulator, start at about 10-20 psi.
Getting a fire pit to work requires some tuning. You may need to adjust the amount of media on top of your ring. If you have the option, your gas pressure and air/gas mix may need some work to get dialed in for your ideal flame.
- Do not ever touch your vessel, stand, or filling media (glass, rocks, sand, etc.) with your hands or any other part of your body until it has completely cooled. Drawing in the sand can be a lot of fun but choose your tool wisely. Keep in mind, hot sand sticks to skin.
- Don’t worry about fire traveling up the hose, but do make sure you fittings are leak proof (soapy water is a good way to test).
- Keep your tank as far away as possible from your pit.
- Use caution and common sense, and remember fire is hot!