Sorry.... didn't read all of this. I actually started my drum build about two months ago. I found this site last week. I got the drum back home. It had the brown translucent liner in it. Found somebody locally to blast the liner out for $30. I patterned mine from the Popular Mechanics site. I got it put together Saturday, rubbed down with Crisco, and fired that puppy up for seasoning. It was windy yesterday and I couldn't get the temp over 330ish but it held that for 6+ hours. I went to bed and it was still puffing. And it was damn windy today, but I had to try it out. Lightly seasoned the ribs, 2 hours then 1 hour in foil, @230ish, and there's only one place I've ever had better ribs. I really want to try it in calm weather. I think my stand pipes are too high maybe(18 inches at 3/4 and theres 4 of em)? Not enough exhaust(old spinner of a kettle) .? Starter fire too small.? Not real sure what's going on but I'm real happy with my beginner's luck. I gotta get the temp up before i try a turkey though. I'll keep browsing here and experimenting.
Keep throwin' money at it, it'll get better.
Wished I'd built one sooner...