I'm a kiwi living in the UK and I hadn't heard of your (USA) smokers before until a South African home-brewing mate mentioned them and said he wanted to build one. I Googled it and was amazed by what you guys are up to - and yes, I wanted one too!
So, after a bit of reading and ambition, I settled on a double barrel smoker. I've finally finished it.
I got several ideas from various websites and pictures on the internet, and I wanted to share my build too especially if it will help anyone else in the future. The Brethren I believe is the best place to do that.
I had some spare stainless steel beer kegs. So I cut the rims off, and used one on the bottom for the fire box, and joined three together on the top for the food barrel.
[Please note that (in the UK) breweries own the beer kegs and they are expensive things, so no stealing - go and purchase them if you want to use them!]
Now, I'm not great at using forums, but I've tried to attach some pictures. They should be self explanatory.
1. Stainless steel is expensive. Because I had stainless beer kegs, I thought I would go all stainless. Ouch!
2. Stainless steel is much harder than normal mild steel. It wears out your tool tips very fast and it's hard to work.
3. I purchased a cheap Chinese WSME200 Tig. It works, well, intermittently, but the results are fine.
4. Stainless beer kegs are under slight spring tension. I never knew that and that has been the biggest headache for this project. I cut out the lid and it went 'ping' and distorted its shape. That meant hours of panel beating and buying custom rolled reinforcing steel around the lid (braces). Honestly, don't use beer kegs - this alone was the biggest pain.
5. My spring handle and thermometers are from the US. Thanks America!
6. If you have a Mrs, she won't like the smoker being inside the lounge while you measure it up, especially with a toddler running around. Some girls just don't understand...!
So for the first firing I risked it and invited several people. I heated it to 400+F (we actually do C over here... so about 215c) to cure it - ie burn any metal grease or anything else off it, then cooled it and smoked/cooked for just over 8 hours at about 205F. I used Hickory chips (USofA tree - we don't have those here).
When we opened the lid I couldn't believe the colour the smoker had gone - a reddy-brown and not greasy at all. The meat came out juicy and tender and was a 'hit' with everyone. Several of the Brits I invited hadn't had smoked meat before (other than cold smoked salmon and bacon, which are common here) and they loved it.
Things to do differently next time:
8 hours isn't long enough. Although tender, the meat didn't fall off the bone. I might try 24 hours at 205F next time.
Soak the gammon knuckle (ham hock, or whatever you guys call it) overnight in just water. I didn't bother, but I had been warned and sure enough the salt used in the curing does mean it's just a tad too salty to use as is. It was still damn good though.
Thanks to the Yanks for all your help and ideas!