DIY toolbox BBQ – how to make your own portable grill for outdoor entertaining

Upcycling guru Max McMurdo shares his step-by-step guide to making a quirky homemade BBQ

Looking for a fun weekend upcycling project? How about making your own DIY toolbox BBQ for cooking on the go for days out.

Be inspired to turn an old toolbox into a quirky outdoor cooking solution, with minimal spend. The imaginative idea comes from designer, author and TV presenter Mac McMurdo. 'If there are three things that make me happy in life, they are upcycling,
tools and eating good food with friends' Max says thoughtfully.

'I’ve had this particular toolbox in my workshop since I started my business. It’s a bit battered and has seen better days, but I couldn’t part with it for sentimental reasons. Then, while drinking tea and stroking my beard, searching for inspiration, I had a moment of madness: what if I could upcycle it into the ultimate portable barbecue?'

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So that's exactly what he did, and he's sharing how to do so you can make your own DIY toolbox barbecue too...

How to make a DIY toolbox BBQ – what you'll need

diy toolbar bbq and portable grill

(Image credit: Future PLC/Max McMurdo/Brent Darby)
  • Metal toolbox with drawers
  • Old barbecue grills
  • Old leather belt
  • Metal rivets
  • Drill
  • Angle grinder

'I always strive to combine form and function, so I was keen to have a series of cooking levels that could be varied for searing, cooking and keeping food warm. The toolbox is made from the same thickness of metal as most barbecues, and with several drawers of varying depths it seemed perfect for what I needed it to do.'

Step 1. Mark out the drawers

'Empty your tools from the toolbox, give them a clean and a new home!' Max instructs. 'Mark out the bottoms of the drawers to be cut, keeping a lipped frame all round to locate the grill. When cutting out a square or rectangle the
corners can be tricky and create weak points. If you drill a hole in each corner before you cut, it makes for a neater, stronger result.

Max's top tip: 'Cone cutters are a great versatile tool to have around your workshop. They allow you to drill a variety of hole sizes the further up the cone you go, ideal for cutting these corner holes in this steel.'

Step 2. Cut out bases

using angle grinder cut out bases

(Image credit: Max McMurdo/Brent Darby)

'Using an angle grinder with a cutting disc, remove the bases of the drawers. Watch out for flying sparks – wear appropriate clothing and safety goggles or a welder’s mask to protect your eyes' Max warns.

Step3. Smooth edges

'Sand the cut edges with a sanding disc on your grinder. (Remember to disconnect the power when changing attachments!) To finish, use a small round file to get right into the corners.'

Step 4. Cut grills to size

cutting the grill from angle grinder and wearing welders mask

(Image credit: Max McMurdo/Brent Darby)

'Using the natural dimensions of the salvaged barbecue grills, decide which way round they are going to be used, maintaining as much structural integrity as possible' advises Max. ' Trim to fit with your grinder then sand the cut edges to ensure
they are not sharp.'

Step 5. Assemble

assemble barbecue grill

(Image credit: Max McMurdo/Brent Darby)

'I even managed to rescue the temperature gauge from the donor barbecue, so simply drilled a hole and bolted it on! Now assemble the barbecue by dropping in the grills.'

'The top compartment offered an obvious cache for storing tongs, skewers and other essential cooking tools. It just needed the addition of carry handles, so you can take your new upcycled, self-contained barbecue wherever you fancy, whether it’s the back garden, a festival or the nearest beach.'

Step 6. Attach leather strap

added leather strap

(Image credit: Max McMurdo/Brent Darby)

'To increase portability I added a brown leather strap made from an old belt. Cut the belt to length then drill holes through (or use the existing belt holes) and rivet the belt in place, using the original carry handles on the toolbox as
your attachment point.'

This feature is an extract from Max's new book. If you love this project check out more of his ideas: Upcycling Outdoors 20 Creative Garden Projects by Max McMurdo, £12.48, Amazon

All that's left now is to pop to the supermarket to load up on BBQ bits, and you're ready to go!


Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.