I built my first UDS a few months ago now and have recently changed the way that I get her going. I used to use 10-12 hot briquettes to get the charcoal started, but lately I have been having better success using 6-8 hot briquettes. Also, since there is already a certain amount of clean air in the drum, I start with all intakes closed, and after about 15-20 minutes I open up the ball valve about half way. If it looks like it's not getting enough air (the temp stops rising and plateaus at a lower temp), I open up the ball valve all the way. I've had much better control over my temps this way. I did an overnight butt this weekend (brethren-post soon to come) and the drum burned 3/4 basket of charcoal over 24 hours and rocked 225* about 95% of the time. It took about an hour or so for the temp to get where I wanted it, but it never spiked and got out of control...
Do you have any pics of your drum?