How to Make a Tabletop Fire Bowl
If you have the DIY spirit and want to add some fire-lit ambiance to your patio, you can easily make your own fire bowl to set on your deck table. First, you need to set up an appropriate workspace and grab some safety gear. Then you use two disposable bowls to make a mold for your concrete bowl. Once that dries, you just need to remove the mold, sand it down, and fill it up with fire glass or stones and a sterno can.
Choose a workplace with plenty of airflow.You’re going to be mixing and sanding concrete to make your bowl, so work outside if weather permits. Otherwise, pick an air area with strong air circulation. If necessary, set up fans and/or open windows to improve airflow.
Protect surrounding surfaces.Drape a dropcloth, tarp, or similar covering over your worktable. Do the same for the floor or any other nearby surfaces that may potentially get dirty from your project. Then secure your covering(s) in place with duct tape. This will make clean-up a cinch.
Wear appropriate safety gear.Wear work gloves to protect your hands. Also wear safety goggles to protect your eyes. Additionally, wear a dust mask, even if air circulation is strong, since mixing and sanding concrete will still introduce a lot of particles into the air.
Making and Filling Your Mold
Choose two differently sized bowls for your mold.You’re going to need two bowls of different sizes in order to cast your mold: one to shape the fire bowl’s exterior, and a smaller one to shape its interior. First, pick one that matches the size you have in mind for your fire bowl. Then choose a smaller one that will fit inside the first. Also make sure that the smaller bowl is:
- Wide enough to fit a sterno can, with ample space left over between the can and the bowl’s rim to fill with fire glass or stones.
- Deep enough so that the top of the sterno can is below the bowl’s rim, in order to contain spills.
- Roughly half the size of the larger bowl to ensure that the fire bowl’s walls will be sufficiently thick.
Mix your concrete.How much concrete you need will depend on the size of the bowls you chose (as well as how many bowls you intend to make). Err on the side of caution and purchase a larger bag of concrete mix than you think you’ll need. Follow the brand’s instructions on how much water to mix that particular formula, and in what increments.
- ShapeCrete and Quikrete are two popular brands for small DIY projects.
Grease your bowls.Now that you’re concrete is mixed, ensure that you’ll be able to easily remove it from its mold before you pour it in. Spray the interior of your larger bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Then do the same with the exterior of the smaller bowl. Lubricate them now so that concrete won’t cement with them as it dries.
Add a level layer of concrete to the bottom of the large bowl.Use a trowel to fill the bottom of your larger bowl with wet concrete. As you do, flatten the concrete so it’s nice and flat. Once the bottom is covered, use a level to make sure the flat surface is level.
Place your smaller bowl inside and adjust the concrete as needed.Once the concrete in the larger bowl is flat and level, set the smaller bowl on top of it. Judge its depth within the larger bowl. If its rim stands higher than the larger bowl, remove it, empty some of the concrete, and try again. If, on the other hand, the smaller bowl is still too deep inside for your taste:
- Take the smaller bowl out and add more concrete. As you do, just remember that you want to keep the concrete flat and level. Also check the smaller bowl’s exterior to make sure it’s still coated in cooking spray. If it isn’t, clean off any concrete and spray it again.
Fill the gap between the two bowls.Once the bottom layer of concrete is the right height, center the smaller bowl on top of it. Then begin filling the gap between the two bowls with more concrete. Depending on your taste, you can fill the gap all the way up to the smaller bowl’s rim, or you can quit sooner to ensure a higher wall between your fire bowl’s flame and its surroundings.
Agitate the concrete to get rid of bubbles.Once the gap is filled to your satisfaction, lift the larger bowl and drop it on the ground or your worktable from a height of a few inches or centimeters. Force any bubbles or other gaps that may have formed within the concrete to collapse. Then, if needed, add more concrete to the rim of your fire bowl to correct any flaws.
Protect your mold while it dries.Place weights inside the smaller bowl so it’s less likely to move in case something bumps into your mold while it dries.Prevent any foreign elements from settling into the wet concrete by covering it with a dropcloth, tarp, plastic, or any other protective covering. Then follow the concrete’s directions regarding how long you’ll need to wait for it to dry.
Finishing Your Fire Bowl
Remove the mold.First, turn the bowl upside down.Then give the larger bowl a couple of soft taps with a rubber mallet to loosen it from the concrete. Pull the larger bowl off the fire bowl. Then turn the fire bowl right-way up and pull out the smaller bowl.
Sand blemishes if desired.If you like the look of a rough bowl, feel free to skip this step. Otherwise, give the fire bowl a look over. Use 60- to 80-grit sandpaper to smooth out any flaws.For an even smoother finish, repeat with a finer grit, like 150.
Fill the bowl with sterno cans and fire glass or stones.First, center one or more sterno cans within the fire bowl. Fill the gaps between those and the bowls’ wall with fire glass or stones. If you want to hide the cans under a layer of glass or stones, place a grill grate on top of them, then layer your glass and stones on top of that to keep them from falling into the sterno cans.
- If you’re layering glass or stones directly over the flames, be sure that they are safe for such use. Ask staff at your local garden center which types of stone are best for this best purpose.
- If you’re unable to find a grill grate that will fit inside your fire bowl, you can fashion your own out of metal hardware cloth.
Video: How To Make a Concrete Fire Bowl | Gel Fuel
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