Fellow Brethren: Let me begin by saying "WHAT A PHENOMINAL THREAD!!!" When I began my quest for a new smoker, never did I imagine I would be building my own. I discovered this forum while investigating some recipes/comp techniques and was rewarded with a heck-of-a-lot more. I began reading this thread one day early last week and well before the end of the week I was totally stoked. Have now read all 224 pages (many posts more than once -- more on that later); anyone not reading the entire thread is missing a GREAT read -- informative, insightful, incredibly entertaining, often funny, sometimes profound. Thank each and every one of you who have contributed and made this the uncontested best source on UDS. You've done The BBQ Brethren proud! I'd like to especally thank the following brethren who pioneered alot of the recommendations here, from whose experimentation, hard-learned mistakes, and innovative solutions I have greatly benefited. In no particular order, an American Royal size thank you to:
Bigmista - Early trailblazer, respected (and deservedly so) by all. Moink on!
Norcoredneck - For, among alot of other things, designing a great fire ring; and for promoting the preferred drilling method: Step Bit.
Third Eye - a brethren of many talents, and inventor of the wiggle rod
Swamprb - for unselfishly helping newbees with innumerable questions, most asked over, and over, and over again
; for fabulous theme music, for displaying one incredibly beautiful drum cart, and for regularly sharing some hunger-producing pron.
Old Bob - For being old like me, mentoring as well as learning along the way, for his patriotism, and for his service to this great country of ours
N8man - For his laid-back wisdom, for reminding me (and others paying attention) to catch the temp on the way up!
... and best alternative use of a C-Clamp.
Smoking Gator - For some good advise on tending and temperature management, for suggesting garage door handles, and for doing 6 butts at one time
Bottes 'n Bones - For having the coolest, most formidible looking stacks I've even seen on a smoker
MT4Runner - For engineering an alternative solution to vertical intake - the much copied ball valve extender
Meat Burner - For his many, many helpful posts
Dr KY - from across the pond (although he kinda speaks funny ...)
Two Fat Pollacks - for Spicewine Ironworks, and a very cool (no pun intended) thermometer (hope this shameless plug gets me a discount on my next order!)
Mark in St. Peters, MO - A homeboy who has intelligently contributed throughout almost all of the (currently) 224 thread pages
Motley Que - Original founder -- as far as I can tell -- of the St. Louis BBQ Drum Corp
Meat Burner, Napper, Piedmont, Bbq Bubba, Barbarian, JD McGee, Brian in So Cal, Chinese Bob, ... and many, many unnamed others, particularly those who advised to "Keep it Simple!"
One quick question - Should the first grill be 24 inches from the bottom of the fire ring, from the top of the smoke ring, from the center of the bung hole or the front of the wiggle-rod hole, from my back kitchen door, or my garage charcoal store. Oh who cares, I'm going to make it 18 inches anyway because I think I can make it faster, better, cheaper. Thanks anyway everybody. Now, about those plastic liner thingies ...
Well, enough about you.
While waiting to be accepted into the Order of Breathren, and having experienced 223 pages of BBQ foreplay, I couldn't hold back any longer and went out this past Monday to buy a brand new, 55 gal, unlined, lid-unencumbered, steel (no I didn't say SS -- I'm mad at my money, but not that mad) drum. Cost - $52.50 (excluding tax, and plus about 3 1/2 gallons of gas RT to pick it up. It made my nipples hard (where have I heard that before???). Note: having read about the crop circles remaining after one, or four eyebrow-fringing burnouts and not wanting to kill my weed-ridden lawn and resident little critters, I opted for the "brand-spanking new, right off the showroom floor model (sans lid, since the only tool in my arsenal worthy of an attempt at removing the top is a rarely used - yet badly rusted, nonetheless - hacksaw. Neither I nor my toolbox were up to the challenge.
The following day (Tuesday, for those of you keeping track) I scored two slightly used (well, 1 was actually VERY used) Weber kettles off of CraigsList -- Note: "scored" is probably not the best word choice here, since I paid a staggering $30 apiece for them. Could've, should've, ought've waited --but much like my sex life, and growing impatient and exasperated with "maybe later" -- when I'm ready, I'm ready. Drove around with the two Webers Tuesday night and all of Wednesday, not wanting to expose my new purchase to my suspicious wife (nor did I want to incur her wrath, since I already have a perfectly good Weber kettle).
Finished the last of the 223 page thread on Wednesday, went to Lowes and picked up parts and tools (1/2 inch Unibit and 1 inch saw bit) and, oh yeah - more lump charcoal). It was time to expose myself - figuratively speaking. I unload the 4Runner of kettles, and parts, and tools - found my trusty Dewalt variable-speed drill, and commenced to work.
Removing the sealing band, I smiled
as I gazed upon the silver, shiny, bare metal (not orange, not red, not rusty, not smeared with goo, but sparkling silver goodness). My pulse raced. I positioned the Weber lid on top of the drum. Fit: Miserable!!! About an inch shy of covering the top. Damn! (Oops, sorry I meant Ugh!) Thought about possibly changing my smoker plans to include a flat top. Repositioned the flat drum top onto the barrel. I was instantly puzzled at how the top could be so warped when I just moments ago had removed it from its sealing band. I stepped on it, then stood on it in order to flatten it out once again. No luck - this would have to be a problem for another day. I had other work to do.
Measuring oh so carefully, I marked off my drill holes: 4 precise, unsmearable dots 2 inches from the bottom of my majestic ebony drum; next, 25 inches above those (remembering that my fire ring would have 4 1/2" X 3" carriage bolts for legs) I marked off another 4 carefully calibrated dots; wanting to maximize the size and girth of the meat awaiting placement on the lower grill, I measured a scant 1 1/2 inches from the top of the barrel and marked off 4 dots (notice how I avoid using technical terminology here) for the upper grill mount. Deciding which side of the drum looked most impressive, I selected it for the front and place a miniscule mark for the surface-mounted (candy) thermometer. Now it was time to punch and drill (the handles and the lid would come later).
With great skill that would make my father proud and impressionable young women squeal, I punched out starter holes for the three iron intake pipes
and one incredibly costly ball valve. Locating my 1 inch hole saw, I quickly fastened it to my fully-charged Dewalt and eyed the placement of my first hole. Throbbing inside, yet pressing the bit down ever so gently, then "SNAP". The guide-bit broke halfway down the hollow of the 1 inch saw, and rolled off onto the concrete patio making a sound much like the heart-breaking sound of the telephone ringing in a distant room just when you were ready to get it on ... and you just know it's your mother-in-law (but that's another story for another day). I pressed on with my mission, lightly pressing the sawblade to the smooth, factory-painted surface of the drum. And again, and again, and again ... each time the drill bit erraticaly spinning away from the intended target. I pondered. I could run to Lowes and buy another bit. Sunset and thunder clouds were looming in the evening sky. Better that I not waste time, and drill some other, smaller holes.
Replacing my saw bit with the newly acquired step drill bit, I was re-invigorated by how easily and with what great accuracy the bit did my bidding. Holes for the grill mounts -- finished, slick as snot; opened up the therm hole -- again, absolutely no farkin problem.
Next, went to work on the fire ring. Secured two 12X24" sections of expanded metal together, then wrapped it and secured it around a rusty but sturdy Weber grate (I hardly noticed the slight gash I put into my hand from the razor-sharp expanded metal. No time for disinfectant nor bandaids now - I wiped off the stream of blood onto my sweat-soaked t-shirt (did I mention it was 92* and humid outside), then begain fashioning a stocky length of metal rod into a basket handle for the fire ring. Like a blacksmith I hammered on the two ends of the rod against the hard surface of the concrete patio, gradually bending them enough to exchange the hammer for a different tool ... heavy duty pliers, channel locks, vise grips. The heavy metal rod fought nobly, but was no match for my relentless persistence. At last, I bend the rod around the top of the caverness fire ring. Fire ring - Check.
Went back to the intake marks mocking me from the bottom of the barrel. Step bit drill in hand, I attacked. First one hole, then two, then three, then four. Easier than smoking a fattie. I gleamed.
Maybe I can widen the holes with this majical drill bit. Bit whirling, I pressed against one side of the hole, then the other. No progress. I tried again. Same story. I conceded. I went back to the hole saw. First I roughed up the surface around one of the (now) half-inch holes and bore down with the hole saw. It wouldn't catch. Then -- inspiration. With little to lose and running out of daylight, I angled the hole saw into the hole and began augering away. The bit tore at the metal, shaping an enlarged crescent shape at one end of the circular half-inch hole. Slowly and gradually I raised the saw bit toward vertical -- until at last the bit submerged beneath a nearly perfect 1 inch hole. Three more to go. And three more times I ended up with nearly perfect 1 inch holes.
I dragged the drum beneath the patio overhang as rain was beginning to fall. Now to insert the threaded iron pipe fittings. With minimum effort the drum yielded to the hardness of the pipe and soon three fittings and the ball valve were in place. Filled with breathren wisdom, I secured each firmly with conduit nuts.
The rain grew in intensity (all right, it was a real storm!), but I was not going to be deprived of the moment. I screwed on the pipe caps, uprighted the drum, and lowered the fire ring into place. I hardly noticed the years of grime on the two Weber grills as I positioned them on their mounts. Next, I annointed the drum with the radius-challenged Weber topper -- settling at a slight tilt. As a finishing touch, I inserted the Taylor candy thermometer into it's snugly fitting hole.
9:00 p.m. Exhausted. Hungry. Wet. Grimey. Smiling
. I basked in the glory of a more-than-marginally-successful evening.
Time for a shower, some grub, and a well-earned evening's rest.
(to be continued ...)