So I've had this project on the back burner for quite some time now and finally got the ball rolling. I'm putting a thread up before it's finished because I'm hoping that will motivate me to keep cracking at it until it's done; a little bit of Brethren accountability
. Should be a little easier to finish now that the hardest part is done (thanks to a fella I work with and his skills with a plasma cutter and MIG). This whole deal is probably a one day build for someone with metal fab skills and the proper tools (neither of which I have, my previous life as a custom millworker doesn't help much with smokers!). Basically what I want is pretty much a homemade Cajun Bandit insert made out of a 55 gallon drum. It won't have a door unless I decide later on to add one. I figure if I can cook on a UDS without easy access to the fire basket or bottom grate, I should be able to do the same on this. In a pinch, I can lift the insert out of the kettle bottom by the handles for access to the basket. One big advantage I had in making this work is some CB legs that I already have. A buddy sold me a kettle a couple of years ago with the CB legs still attached; he uses the insert on his Performer. When I sold that kettle to a guy awhile back, I opted to throw a standard Weber leg kit on it and stash the CB legs for this build.
The project started out as a standard open head 55 gallon drum with the nice rolled top lip. No pics prior to surgery, but use your imagination. It does have the dreaded liner paint from hell, but now that the bottom is cut out of it, I shouldn't have a problem getting a fire hot enough to cook the chit outta this paint in every nook and cranny and get her down to bare metal. The first step was to cut the bottom out of the drum, cut the rolled top lip off (leaving a little bit of flange on it for welding it back on in a different position later), cutting 11" of height off of the drum, and splitting the drum vertically on the factory seam (so we can reduce the diameter of the drum to fit the kettle top and bottom. We used the edges of the drum along the bottom, top lip, and vertical seam as a guide for the tip of the plasma cutter. Cutting down the height of the drum was a little trickier; we opted to take some red/green paired hose from an oxy/acetylene torch, wrap it around the drum along the measured markings, and strap it in place with a 1" ratchet strap. It worked good enough for what that cut needs to look like; it gets inserted into the kettle bottom and hidden as you'll see later. We also had to notch the bottom rim of the drum back so when we lap joint and re-seam the vertical weld of the drum wall, we can do a butt joint with that bottom rim. After we're done and the drum is inverted and set in place, the bottom rim will be the edge that the kettle lid sits on, so it has to be nice and round.
Next step was to reduce the diameter of the removed rolled top lip of the drum to match the diameter of the kettle bottom. We used the inside of the kettle lid as a guide to match up the size that we needed it to be. We also used it as a jig to get the other end of the drum sized to so the lid will fit on snug. It will now be tack welded back on and used as a "stop" of sorts to keep the cylinder from dropping too far down into the kettle bottom. I wanted it to stop the cylinder insert short about 1" above the original cooking grate location for three reasons; 1) I want to be able to put a grate on in the original spot for something to hold a water pan or dry pan heat deflector, 2) if the cylinder drops in too far, you start hitting the taper in the kettle bowl and get the cylinder pinched in place or worse, not get a good seal if it's in there cockeyed, and 3) The farther down you go and get into the taper, you have to reduce the diameter too much and 22" grates are really tight and difficult to get in there.
Here's a pic of the whole works (upside down) to show the extension of the drum wall where it will insert into the kettle bottom past the "stop"
And here's a rough idea of what it's going to look like. I had the drum and a OTG kettle bottom donated from a friend with too many projects. He was originally going to make a UDS and cut the top 2" off of the OTG and put it in place with stove gasket like a lot of folks do to make the kettle lid fit their UDS. I intended to complete the UDS as he planned but went this way for other reasons; I REALLY like the ash sweeper system of the OTG as opposed to reaching in or lifting the fire basket out/scooping/dumping ash etc. with a UDS, I prefer the "Weber" look, and I just thought it would be fun to do. The lid in the pics is a brand new Weber lid with the insert thermometer under the handle I scored on CL for $5. I still need to clean up the welds a little bit, cook the paint off and repaint it high-temp black, drill and install the SS bolts for the 2 cooking grates, mount a pair of handles, drill the kettle bottom to permanently mount the CB legs, and install the new ash pot and ring I have lying around here (somewhere!!). With a wife, 7 kids, full time work + commute, etc. etc., I expect it to take a little while to finish but thought I'd post what I have done so far. I'll update later on as time permits more progress!