A little background. I had a really crappy charcoal/water smoker that I tried to use, but I didn't feel confident in controlling the temps and a Weber that I sometimes modified for indirect smoking, but still wasn't terribly thrilled with those results. So I ventured out to build my first UDS to help control the temps like I wanted to so I could be lazier and drink beer most of the time I am Q-ing.
I don't have real detailed build pictures, but I think I have enough to walk through the stage of gathering parts to final product. It was a lot of fun and it was a great reward when I finished it!
Stage 1: Get parts . . .
I needed to find a drum and a Weber kettle lid since I knew that was the way I wanted to go. I already had an older Weber that I wanted to keep intact mostly because the steel feels like it is double the thickness of today's Webers (I still use the old Weber for grilling).
I got on Craigslist and found a couple of barrels for ~$10/barrel and the Weber was a steal for $15. It took me about a week to get the right expanded steel for the charcoal basket. I bought a sheet of 1-1/2 LWD expanded steel from Amazon (cheapest place I could find it) only to receive 3 LWD (they don't follow standard specifications for expanded steel). I didn't want charcoal falling out of the side of the basket so I had to buy another sheet that they specified as 3/4 LWD, even though that sheet is 1 1/2 LWD. The expanded steel in combination with an old charcoal grate from the Weber 22.5 kettle was going to be used for the charcoal basket. I had three 22.5" cooking grates that I had scavenged one was in very poor condition and I thought to use it for a drip pan grate that sits slightly above the charcoal basket. For the vents I bought three 1/2 or 3/4 inch steel pipes, 2 that would get pipe caps and one with an adjustable valve. I bought some 1/4 - 1 1/2" zinc coated steel bolts and nuts for the grate racks.
Stage 2: The hard work . . .
The Weber I bought was a little beat up and the barrels that previously contained oil needed to be burned out. I also had to chisel open the top of the barrels. Once I opened the top up on the barrel I drilled the holes and installed the steel pipes from the inside of the barrel (I didn't want that much pipe sticking outside the barrel). I tack welded them in and got the fire started to burn out the barrel.
For the charcoal basket I welded a 48" x ~8" piece of the expanded steel in a circle and then welded the circle to the old charcoal grate for the base of the basket. I had some 3/8"-3" carriage bolts that I used to stand it up off the ground. I don't show it in the pictures but I used a 16" pizza pan as an ash catcher that I welded to the end of the bolts.
After the sanitation burn was finished and I was satisfied that the barrel was good and clean I sanded and prepped the outside of the barrel for its high temp paint job. I could start to smell the finish line.
I had to open up the rim of the Weber lid slightly to get it to fit over the the 55 gallon drum. I drilled the holes for the top grate two inches from the top and the middle grates holes slightly above the top rib and the bottom grate slightly above the bottom rib.
Stage 3: The seasoning, test burn and reward . . .
So on a Friday night after I bought some Royal Oak I coated the inside of the barrel and lid with some cooking spray. I filled the basket ~2/3 full (about 1/2 a bag) and lit the lump from the top with 5-10 pieces of Kingsford at about 10PM. I monitored the temps until 2 AM (which were around 220 F) and went to bed with both pipe cap vents closed and the pipe valve open all the way. I got up around 7:30 AM and checked the temps and it had choked a little to around 190F. I opened one of the pipe caps and partially closed the pipe valve. It stabilized around 210F and had about 1/4 of the coals at 11 AM. I was very satisfied with how long the fuel lasted. I dumped the remaining coals in a container and refilled the charcoal basket with the remaining 1/2 bag of Royal Oak and mixed in some soaked hickory chunks and some partially charred oak. I used the remaining basket from the previous night to light the charcoal and let it sit until noon.
At noon I put a chicken and small pork shoulder roast that I had dry rubbed the previous day and let sit in the fridge overnight (I usually let them sit for two days with the mixture). I put some fresh rub on them just before I put them on the smoker. I foiled and coolered the chicken around 5-6ish (just a little dry) and I foiled the pork shoulder around 9 (temps were at 191F). I let both of them sit in the cooler for about an hour before I unwrapped them and enjoyed. My cooler still smells like smoked pork two weeks later after I washed it out!
I am an amateur Q'er that has enjoyed smoking various cuts of pork and chicken to date and am looking forward to my first beef chuck roast and brisket in the near future.