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grilling24x7 01-08-2013 05:14 PM

A few UDS questions - metal work related
1. As far as expanded metal goes for my charcoal basket Home Depot doesn't carry it (near me). I called numerous metal work shops. The best price I can find is $80. This is for a whole 4 ft by 8 ft sheet of expanded steel. The guy said he'd cut it down to whatever I'd need. From my rough calculations, it looks like I'd be able to get multiple 44" x 8" cuts. Hell, I could even get creative with a few taller ones. Thoughts on the $80 for all this expanded steel? (I plan on doing the no weld method on top of a charcoal grate)

2. For drilling through the drum is a step bit the only way to go? I do not have have this type of bit so I'd need to buy one. I read that the Unibits are high quality but they are $50 or so bucks. I saw one on Amazon for $13 that gets decent reviews but I'm not certain that the reviewers were going through steel. I'm referring to a 1 inch step bit.

3. For the lid I like the look of the "smoke stack" but I read that some folks think that this creates cold/hot spots. Rather the multiple 1 inch holes on top are preferred by some. Is there issues with putting out the fire after a cook when you have 8 or so holes open on top with no ability to close? My drum lid does not have a 2 inch bung opening. It's totally flat.

4. Is it worth adding some extra bolts down lower in case I want to add a water pan/heat shield? I just read someone with a grease fire b/c of dripping down fat. Before I paint I'd like to have the holes drilled if this will be needed down the road. Originally I was just going to stick with 1 grate (7 inches down) but now I'm wondering if I'll want to have the option to have a water pan/ diffuser. Thoughts on the water pan / diffuser option?

Thanks in advance! This forum is clearly superior to all in the UDS build world! I love it! :-D


N8man 01-08-2013 05:22 PM

That's a wad of cash for the expanded steel...
perhaps you couid offset the costs by locating
others who need some as well....

just a thought....

and you can use a hole saw for your large intake holes

cowgirl 01-08-2013 05:30 PM

I get smaller pieces of expanded metal at an Ace hardware store.

Like N8 says.. a hole bit works too.

I use threaded pipe plugs in the exhaust holes... yes you need to cover them to extinquish the hot coals.

and I do not use a diffuser or water pan. My drum is about 41/2 yrs old and I've had no problem with it as it is.

smokainmuskoka 01-08-2013 05:36 PM

Have you tried all the hardware stores in your area for expanded or is home Depot the only one around you? I got an offcut from a local independant hardware store, about 48" x 9" for $15, bent it into a rough cylinder shape, then fixed it in place with 3 1/4" stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers( I do not weld). attached it to a new Weber charcoal grate for a 22.5" kettle with stainless steel cable ties, but I've seen other brethren use fencing wire. Made 3 legs from 3" long 1/4" bolts and I have a cheap pizza pan as an ash catcher(the bolt heads keep it in place).

The step bit is great for the 1/4" holes - if you can find a cheap one or borrow one, you should be fine. For my 1" intake holes I used a 1" hole saw instead of a step-bit and it worked fine.

If you're going with the flat lid with holes, plug them with wads of tin-foil at the end of the cook to choke out the fire(and close the intakes, of course).

You should use the search feature at the bottom of the page for more detailed answers. Search "No-weld UDS basket" and " If a Reckneck built an UDS".

I don't think you need a heatshield, but drill away and plug with 1/2" long SS bolts until you try it out and see if you need something.

I built mine last August and I love it. Have fun!

mrboy 01-08-2013 05:44 PM

1) Keep looking, you'll be able to find the expanded metal at a shop, reasonably priced and cut. You don't need to weld it, you can do all the work with washers, nuts and bolts.

2) I bought a 1" metal hole saw (bit) for $7 bucks at Menards. It worked fine.

3) I bought a 22 1/2" donor grill for $10 bucks and used the lid for the top of my UDS, the grill grate for one of my two cooking grates and the charcoal grate for the bottom of my charcoal basket.

4) For years I used a 26 1/2 inch Weber as a smoker and used a water pan to ad moisture. You had to add moisture because of the characteristics of the Weber. I think you'll find that the characteristics of the UDS are different, it's a very moist cooker.

If you still think you need to add moisture, I'll be glad to sell you the 17" terra cotta pot base I bought, I don't use it anymore.

Build it, use it and have fun.

pbj 01-08-2013 06:07 PM

I got mine at Home Depot. No one there knew what expanded metal was. I found it as I was walking in the cement supplies section. It is used for plasteing also. It is not as heavy duty as some of the pieces I've seen here, but $10 for a 2'x8' piece it's worth it. I can make 6 or more fire boxes out of it.

Foxfire 01-08-2013 06:07 PM

Slowly working on my own UDS build...

Can you buy the expanded metal at the HD website and have it shipped to store? For the prices you're talking, it might be worth your time to consider the Big Poppa Smokers drum kit that comes with a pre-fab charcoal basket and step drill bit to boot, plus all vents and hardware for $130. Big P says they'll be restocked after Xmas rush sometime mid January.

For about $5 you can get a titanium-tipped drill bit that might pilot out some holes so a less expensive step bit would probably do the trick.

Wished you lived closer to CA or I'd offer to trade drum lids with you... mine has bungs but I'd prefer a flat one! :tongue:

I plan to have the lower bolts in place so they're there if and when I want to use a deflector or pan. Rather do it now and not use them than decide later I want them and have to go back to fabrication.

grilling24x7 01-08-2013 06:21 PM

Awesome responses everyone!

Gorgeous smoker cowgirl!

Let me stew over these replies for a few days! :-)

Ok --> progress already. I searched "Ace Hardware" for expanded metal. The big box stores don't seem to have it (even when I search online). One piece of this
is $31. It's 16" x 30". So I figure I can cut it in half for two 8"x 15" strips which can be formed into the basket. Assuming my bolt cutter can cut through this. This is 13 gauge, so maybe that's why it's cheaper.

pbj 01-08-2013 06:27 PM

Check this out from Home depot. It is called metal lath.

Enkidu 01-08-2013 06:40 PM

Big P's smoker kit looks intriguing. Basically for $165 plus the cost of paint and tax (the refurbished drum company I found sells smoker barrels with no lining for $35) I can get a pretty awesome smoker that is easy to put together. That said, I cannot leave well-enough alone, and am already considering adding another grate and a second thermometer to double to cooking area (or to have a diffuser/water/drip pan if I so choose). I am also considering just getting a 22.5" weber kettle lid to further increase the space at the top. And then the though occurred to me to add some bars so that I could hang food from it. And of course I'll need access to the lower grate level through the side for a temperature probe for the meat.... who knows what dumb idea I'll think of to add to it next? Maybe I should just leave well-enough alone for my first drum and do it basic style.

Desert Hawg 01-08-2013 06:48 PM

If you go to Lowes, they sell 12" x 24" sheets of expanded metal. It is by where they have the fancy aluminum sheets and various metal items (ie angles, stainless rod). The pieces are individually packaged in cardboard and cost about $10.00. You may have to look for it, but it shouldn't be too hidden. Made charcoal basket with the lathe, really didn't care for it, but everyone has a different idea about what is good..

grilling24x7 01-08-2013 06:56 PM


Originally Posted by Desert Hawg (Post 2321963)
If you go to Lowes, they sell 12" x 24" sheets of expanded metal. It is by where they have the fancy aluminum sheets and various metal items (ie angles, stainless rod). The pieces are individually packaged in cardboard and cost about $10.00. You may have to look for it, but it shouldn't be too hidden. Made charcoal basket with the lathe, really didn't care for it, but everyone has a different idea about what is good..

This will be tomorrow's field trip! I'll check it out. It's roughly similar in price to Ace ($31). I'd have to buy two of these and cut them both in half so that's $20. But still ---> Thanks. I will check it out.

grilling24x7 01-08-2013 06:56 PM

Wow - that seems too good to be true. I wonder if it's really thin and wouldn't handle the heat?

Oh wait - is this what you found in the cement section? So you're already using it!? Please elaborate!

pbj 01-08-2013 07:01 PM

Yes, it's what I'm already using. At that price you can make many from one purchase of $10. I've had mine for 8 months and it's still going.

jrn 01-08-2013 07:01 PM

For my basket I used a charcoal grate from a 22.5" weber kettle. It's 17" wide. The steel shop charged me about $8 for a piece of 3/4" x 9, that was 9" x 60". They even bent it in a perfect circle for me, no extra charge. That really helped out when it came time to put it together. Used a piece of 3/16" x 36" steel rod to make a handle.

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