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After shopping for a tabletop fire pit and not finding anything less than $75 I decided to make my own! I was able to make one easily for about $10 plus fuel.
Supplies You'll Need
- 1 fire-resistant container
- Fire-safe rocks
Planning Your DIY Tabletop Fire Pit
When it comes to making your own fire pit, there are a few concerns that might come to mind that I want to address right away. Then we'll get into how to make your fire pit.
*Safety not guaranteed so use your DIY fire pit at your own risk.
How do you plan to use your tabletop fire pit?
ADDING OUTDOOR AMBIANCE - If your goal is to add fireplace-like ambiance and perhaps a little heat to your outdoor space, then the type of fuel you choose matters. There are quite a few options to choose from that will provide a pretty yellow-orange flame and will give off some heat. You can use tiki fuel, ethanol, or alcohol fuel. Ethanol and alcohol are clean burning where tiki fuel can have additives that are not safe to burn indoors but can have added benefits like bug-repelling properties. Some fuels will be safe for use indoors, some won't. Check the package of each fuel type to make your choice.
ROASTING MARSHMALLOWS - If you plan to use your tabletop fire pit for a convenient indoor/ outdoor marshmallow station, then you'll need to use a certain type of fuel. You'll want to use fuel specifically designed for roasting s'mores and if your wish is to be able to roast marshmallows indoors, you'll want to check the label of the fuel to see if it can be used indoors as well if it's safe to use with food.
Choosing Your Fuel Type
Sterno make a product specifically for s'more roasting called S'mores Heat. This is obviously great for cooking but it produces a small blue flame, not a pretty warm orange or yellow flame. So If you are looking for a fuel that is safe to roast marshmallows over and also has a nice looking flame, then your best bet will likely be an ethanol or alcohol based fuel that burns clean. Again, be sure to check the label of any fuel you buy to be sure it's food-safe.
Sterno cans are convenient and are a great size for housing fuel for a small tabletop fire pit even though the flame isn't super pretty. So what you can do is repurpose a Sterno can by thoroughly cleaning out the fuel and filling it with a type of fuel that will produce a nice flame like tiki torch fuel or fire gel. Or an ethanol or alcohol-based fuel if you plan to use your fire pit for ambiance as well as for food. You can also start with an empty fire-proof fuel canister instead of a Sterno can but they are a bit more expensive.
Shop ethanol-based fuel
Shop alcohol-based fuel
Shop Sterno S'mores Heat
Shop Tiki Fuel
Shop Fire Gel
Is it safe to roast marshmallows over Sterno heat?
It's not clear from Sterno directly whether you can safely cook over an ordinary Sterno flame or not but since they do offer a s'mores roasting product, I would suggest going with that, the Sterno S'more Heat cans of fuel, and reading the label to be sure your comfortable with using them.
Choosing Your Rocks
What rocks are safe to use in your tabletop fire pit? The fact is, almost any type of rock can "explode" if heated, especially those that are porous and allow water to seep in. When rocks absorb water and then get heated, the water expanding quickly can create pressure on the inside of the rock and cause it to forcefully break apart becoming a dangerous, "explosive" situation.
Your best bet is to make sure your fire pit stays dry and also choose rocks or glass that are specifically fire-rated. You can use decorative rocks if you'd like since they are cheaper, but do so at your own risk. I haven't had a problem with my decorative rocks but I keep them dry (I store the fire pit inside when not in use) and I also don't keep the fire pit heated for extended lengths of time.
If you plan to store your fire pit outside, you can help prevent the rocks from getting wet by covering your firepit, however due to exposure to humidity and condensation, even covered fire pit rocks can soak in moisture. If you can bring your fire pit inside when not in use, that will be ideal.
You can find decorative rocks almost anywhere. Walmart, Dollar Tree, craft stores, etc.
Fire-safe rocks are a little harder to find. There are many colors and textures available on Amazon, however.
Shop fire glass
Shop lava rocks
The amount of rock you'll need depends on the size of your contain which we'll talk about next.
Choosing a Container
A heat-resistant contain is obviously going to be the best choice for holding your rocks and fuel since both the rocks and fuel canister will get hot after burning for awhile, the contain may become hot too. You'll want to avoid plastic containers. If you use a wooden container, you can line it with extra rocks help prevent the wood from burning by using Fire Guard, flame retardant spray. Use wood at your own risk since wood is by nature, flammable.
I went with a cement planter which is fire resistant although can get hot to touch, and had a nice style to it for a great price. I picked this up at Walmart but you can pick up pretty planters at many home decor stores and even grocery stores when they're in season. Amazon also has some options or you can make your own!
The size of the container needs to be able to accommodate your fuel canister with some extra room around he sides. The amount of filler rocks you need will depend on how large your container will be. You should be able to eyeball this pretty well how much rock or glass you'll need and buy what you need accordingly.
Shop cement planters on Amazon.
Assembling Your Tabletop Fire Pit
Once you've done the hard work of planning and choosing your supplies, assembly is easy.
First, take your container and line it with a single layer of rocks, not packed too tightly but try to keep it as level as possible since your fuel can will rest on top of this layer. If your container is very deep, you may want a thicker layer. The idea of the bottom layer is to give some air flow around your fuel can to help air flow which will allow heat to escape.
Next, add your fuel canister, centering it in your container. You'll want to remove or at least loosen the lid to the fuel so that you can easily take it on and off. Once you add rocks surrounding your fuel canister, it will be difficult to take in and out and some lids need to be pried off.
Once the fuel canister is in place and the height of it is where you want it, fill in around the sides and top with remaining rock.
That's it! Your tabletop fire pit is now ready for use. Go ahead, light it up and enjoy your new indoor or outdoor fire feature.
Patricia Bowman says
What happens once all the fuel is burned up in that canister. How do you replace it. Can you pour in alcohol and use that as a holder
Angela G. says
Yes you can refill the canister. Just make sure to clean it out well. And the best type of fuel I found for refilling is Tiki oil.
@Angela G., will tiki fuel burn with out a wick like the gel does?
Angela G. says
Yes! No wick needed.
Shelly Toldness says
@Angela G., I am making my first fire bowl. I found a cute concrete shell shaped container that is perfect. I filled it with a small layer of fire glass (Dragon Glass that I bought at Home Depot). I added a thick small glass container and filled in around it with more Dragon glass until it was flush with the glass bowl. I put some more Dragon glass inside the glass bowl and added tiki torch fuel also bought at Home Depot. The fuel will not light. What am I doing wrong? We added a bit of tiki torch wick laid on it side and that worked, but the fire only lasted 15 minutes.
Thanks for any help.
Angela G. says
Hi Shelly, It sounds like you may have simply run out of fuel. If you are filling the fuel holder up with glass as well, there might not be a lot of room left for the fuel. When I made my, I did not add fire glass (or rocks in my case) to the same container as the fuel, just put them around the fuel container and re-purposed a fuel canister so no wick was needed.
Could a ceramic planter work as well? Assuming no embellishments?
Angela G. says
I used a ceramic planter and it worked well. I’m not sure all ceramic planters are made the same so there’s a chance it could crack due to the heat.