DIYdiy projects

diy project: karen’s portable fire pit

by Kate Pruitt

I greatly admire Karen’s penchant for discount shopping; it’s particularly awesome when she shares her results with the rest of us. We’ve posted her tutorials before, but this fire pit might be my favorite. And it couldn’t come at a better time — the leaves are falling outside my window and I am desperate to make a cup of something warm, sit outside and savor the late sunsets while they last. She crafted this beauty from such simple materials as a planter, cheap frames and a can of gel fuel. One trip to the hardware store and you’re set! The simple modern shape and neutral rocks make this budget-friendly fire pit look totally luxe. I cannot wait to make my own and throw a mulled cider party to welcome the chill. You can click here to see the full post on her site. Great work, Karen! — Kate

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • marine silicone
  • cheap glass frames (these need to fit around the edges of your planter)
  • rocks
  • any kind of metal mesh (available at hardware stores)
  • gel fuel
  • any metal planter with a lip (edge)


1. Once you buy your planter, find cheap frames with glass that will fit around the edges of your planter. I used glass document holders from the Dollar Store for $1 each.

2. Construct a glass box by running a thin bead of silicone along the edge of one glass panel. Place another piece of glass over the siliconed edge. Press edge into silicone and hold for a few minutes.

3. Apply silicone to the second edge, propping both sides up to keep them straight until they dry.

4. Once the silicone on the two sides has dried, flip the box over so the open edge faces you. Run a thin bead of silicone along both exposed edges of glass.

5. Gently place the final piece of glass between the two siliconed edges being careful *not* to smear the silicone.

6. Now you have a box! A glass box. Wasn’t that easy? Let the silicone dry for 15 minutes or so. Go eat a cookie. Don’t be alarmed if your silicone squeezes out like this. You can clean it up with a razor once it’s dry.

7. Run a final bead of silicone around the entire edge of the glass box. Flip the box over, placing the siliconed edge on top of the metal planter. Make sure there’s enough edge near the center left over for some metal mesh to rest on it.

8. Now that you have the structure, just a little tweaking is necessary to prepare it for a fire. Cut a piece of mesh (I used a cheapo grill grate from Dollar Store) to fit *exactly* inside your glass box. It will rest on the lip of the planter. Place your opened can of gel fuel in the center of the planter.

9. Use enough mesh to cover the entire surface of the planter, resting it on the small edge of the planter you’ve left inside the glass box.

10. Cover the mesh loosely with rocks, leaving some space in between the rocks to allow for oxygen so the fire will stay lit.

11. Clear the rocks away from above the gel fuel can and carefully light the gel fuel. I use an advanced technique — I light the end of a piece of spaghetti. Whole wheat of course.


What makes this fire pit so amazing is the glass. The flames reflect against it and dance all over the place! Before I get to the final pictures with the fire pit in it’s rightful home in my back yard, here are a few tips:

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

2. 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 is a good conductor and can get very hot!

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

4. You can use any metal planter for this. This one was on sale, so that’s why I got it for this little experiment. Black metal square planters that are probably on sale at garden centers right now would look fantastic with white rocks.

5.  The gel cans last for about three hours. If you’d like to stop the flame earlier, simply place something non-flammable over the glass box to snuff it out. Cans can be re-lit for subsequent uses.

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