Sounds like a P.O.S. homemade job to me. Not all stickburners are "hard to work with" as grant said above. However, the cheap ones are. I've seen folks spend twice what one is worth trying to "fix" these things, some with some success, others just wasted money, time, effort, hope.
A good/inexpensive smoker would be a WSM (aka. Weber Smokey Mountain). I love my stickburner, but it's a GOOD one.
Hance - Lake Dogs Cooking Team - MiM/MBN/GBA CBJ and comp cook
Lake Sinclair, GA (strategically about an hour from everywhere)