Wood stove toddler fence (hearth gate)

I wanted to make a toddler fence to go around the wood stove, and I figured metal would be a more appropriate material for this. I had a whole lot of old bed frames that I collected. The first step was to grind off the rivets to break the frames apart.


While I was at it, I broke apart all the bed frame pieces that I had.


I cut the 45 degree miters for he corners using a carbide tipped cold cut saw.

This sort of saw is not ideal for bed frames. The metal is too hard and wears the teeth out prematurely. But the blade I have on there is already quite worn out, with about a third of the teeth broken, so I figured I might as well abuse it some more.


Then grinding the paint off where I need to weld it together.


Then welding the corners together.


I used a block of hardwood with some holes drilled in it to hook clamps onto and the corner is cut away so I could weld. I clamped the angle iron on with C-clamps. The jig worked out quite well.


With two frames made for either side, I figured they should join with some pieces of angle iron at the front.

But with the door part-way open, it tends to pull the whole frame to the side.

I could fix this by welding the cross-pieces to the frame, but that would make the whole thing difficult to move. I'd much prefer it to be joined with screws.


To give the front stiffness, I figured I should make the bottom two cross-pieces into a rigid frame, which I'm welding together here. Again, with my block of hardwood and two C-clamps as a welding jig.


The welding jig is stiff enough that I didn't end up with any noticeable distortion from the welding. Here holding a square up to it to check that the frame is indeed square.


I needed some holes drilled in it for screwing the pieces together. But this bed frame angle iron is very hard and very difficult to drill. I figured it would be easier with a drill press, so I used my small one and jigged it up on the workbench.


Jigging it up to drill holes in the ends of the small frame was awkward.


But the small drill press doesn't have the low speeds and torque that I need, so I tried a cordless drill on it. This drill gives me much better speed control. The back of the drill is flat, which made it easy to lean on the drill to give it the needed pressure.


Then bolting the whole frame together.


I welded the hinges directly onto the frame. I certainly didn't feel like drilling any more holes in the frame than necessary.


I then clamped the other half of the hinges onto the door to make sure the fit was good.


After that, I welded all the hinges on solidly.


I was planning to attach some hardware cloth to the insides of the frames.

Attaching this with screws and washers would have been better, but I didn't want to drill any more holes than necessary. So I figured I'd weld it in, but that didn't work. The metal is galvanized, which, aside from toxic fumes, may also have prevented it from welding on at all.


So I bought some 1" spaced screen from the metal supermarket (which I had to visit anyway for the stainless steel base for the whole thing). This was a much better solution


I welded it on every other rod of the screen. I had to be careful welding this because the screen rod melts more easily. So I always started the weld against the angle iron, then just touched onto the rod. If I had started on the screen's rod that would have melted away before the angle iron got hot enough for the weld to stick to it.


After that I ground the paint off the edges that would end up visible. I started with a flap disk, but the paint gummed it up. So I used a grinding wheel to get rid of most of the paint, then used a flap disk to smooth it out.


There was a minor amount of rust on the screen. I used a wire brush to get rid of most of it.


I quite liked the look of the bare metal frames, but it wasn't practical to leave it like that. Here painting it black with a can of spray paint. I had the screens stacked on top of each other so that any overspray could settle on the screens below, saving some paint.


Then assembling it around the wood stove.


I drilled some holes for screwing it to the floor and to the wall, but then I realized getting at those screws with the screen in place would be difficult, especially if I wanted to take the screen off to clean behind it.

So I ended up cutting some slots into the frame on the back, which allow me to unhook and lift it off the screws. Its a bit tricky to unhook, so I figure it shouldn't come off by accident.


I didn't have an idea for a door latch, so I just stuck a rare earth magnet to the inside of the angle iron for the door. This is enough to hold it shut. No handle on the door either. It's easy enough to just grab it by the screen.

I don't anticipate any part of this cage getting particularly hot. The stove's door handle is closer to the stove, and it only gets warm to the touch when the stove is in use.

On using bed frame angle iron
If I was doing it again, I wouldn't use bed frame angle iron. The stuff is just too hard to work with, and much too difficult to drill holes into. Bed frame angle iron was ok when I made the lawn tractor trailer because I didn't need to drill any holes in it for that project. Bed frame angle iron is harder than regular angle iron, so weight for weight it's stronger, but with its hardness, it's also likely to break at the weld when overloaded instead of bending like regular angle iron would.

But advantages of the bed frames is that I could start the project without having to go shopping for materials first. It reduced the initial commitment factor because I didn't need to work out the design and budget materials first, nor did I have to worry about whether it would work out.

The bed frame angle iron also has a rounded edge (it's actually made from flat stock bent to an L-shape), which makes it less of a hazard in terms of toddlers crashing into it.

See also:

Lawn tractor trailer
(previous welding project)


To my Woodworking website.