I looked through instuctables and other DIY sites to find the model I'd want.
I found many plans but none of them were exactly what I wanted. So I improvised and came up with this project.
I built the whole thing with parts I had laying around the house.
Here is a list of parts and tools you'll need:
2 old rusted propane tanks that stations wouldn't take back (empty of course)
*** I know most of you are smart enough to be careful around propane tanks but I still feel the need to advise you to use great precaution when doing this!
Scraps of wood
The only things I had to buy were a portable hot plate (was on special 14.99$), grills (bought a cheapo 10$ charcoal grill that had 2 grills just the right size), a smoker box (10$) and a can of high heat spray paint.
A grinder with cutting disk
A rivet gun (and rivets)
A rachet strap
Some sort of paint scraper
Step 1: Step 1, Draining the Tanks
Again, I must stretch the importance of safety here... This could be dangerous.
Ok, here is how I proceeded in order to cut the tanks.
What you want to do is cut them right below the top of the tank in order to get as much flat surface as possible.
First things first, drill 2 holes in the top of each tanks. (Again, obviously make sure the tanks are empty)
Some people recommended filling the tanks with water. Doing so pushes the remaining gas out of the tanks. But since I didn't want to pierce large whole I went a different route. First I just left them outside for a few days, thinking that the gas would simply escape by itself (which it probably did).
But to make sure, I stuck my shop vac over one of the whole.I used the blower function to blow the air out the other hole. Make sure not to suck the air in because shop vacs have friction motors and may create a spark and blow you up. The are several articles available on how to properly drain a tank, please refer to those.
Step 2: Step 2, Cutting the Tanks
What I did was strap the tank to my work table with a ratchet strap (see picture).
With my grinder I simply cut through the wall all the way around.
I cut the top part off (where the tap is located) because we don't need this part. (keep them though, I'll reuse one of them later).
While you're cutting, you'll also want to cut a 2 inch strip of the tank (see pictures). This strip will be used to join both tanks together with rivets.
I'm warning you right now, have some air freshener available and do this in a well ventilated area. Even without gas in them, the inside of a propane tank stinks like hell.
Step 3: Step 3, Removing the Paint and Painting Anew
The idea is to strip the tanks to bare metal. I tried a few things (grinder, steel brush drill attachement, sanding) but turns out the easiest way to do this is simply to use paint striper. I used regular old wood paint striper.
Take an old/cheap brush, pour some striper in a pan and lay it on the tank.
After a minute the paint should start bubbling. At this point, take a scraper and simply scrape the paint off (very easy).
Repeat this until you're down to bare metal.
I got rid of most of the rust using a steel brush drill attachment and a simple steel brush.
Once you're satisfied with the result, spray the tank with high heat paint (the kind used for bbqs).
n.b. I didn't paint the interior wall
Step 4: Step 4, Joining the Tanks
You'll need to cut into it and remove about 1 inch so that you'll be able to insert it in the tanks (see picture).
Then you'll need to drill holes in the tank right below the part where you but it. You'll also need to drill matching holes in the 2 inch strip. Make sure about 1 inch sticks out (this will allow you to join both tanks).
Repeat this with the other tank and join the with rivets (you may also weld them, I just don't have a welding kit).
** At first I planned on cutting off the top and use hinges to open/close the smoker (like a bbq) but the top was too heavy. So instead I just remove the top (didn't rivet the top part to the 2 inch strip) that way I just lift the whole thing and sit it back to that bracket when smoking.
Step 5: Step 5, Installing the Burner
(The picture below represents the unit I bought)
Taking it appart was very easy...
Install the hardware at the bottom of the smoker.
There's a bolt at the bottom of the hot plate. I drilled a hole in the tank and attached the plate to the smoker with that bolt.
The I drilled holes for the dimmer and for the lights.
I also added long bolts (see picture) in order to place a grill on it.
That picture also shows the smoke box (which you fill with whatever chips you want).
You can place the box directly on the burner to generate smoke
Step 6: Final Touches
Next you have to create air circulation.
To do that, I drilled holes in the top and below the hot plate (3-4 holes in each).
In order to avoid rain coming in the smoker, I used one of the cutoff tops from earlier and attached it on top of the top. that way the smoke comes through the holes but is deflected by that second top.
I also attached a handle in the the top. To do so, I cut off the valve and used the hole to pass a long bolt (3") trough. A wooden dowel and some scrap wood was used to make the handle.
2 other pieces of scrap wood were used to create side handles (bolted in the walls of the smoker) (in the bottom part obviously).
I also had a thermometer (that I had kept from an old bbq). So I attached that to the top part.
*The thermometer is a must, otherwise you'll have no idea what temperature is in the smoker.
To give you an idea, at setting 5 (hottest on the hot plate) I get about 300 degrees (a bit hot for most smoking). So I usually leave it around 4 (200-250deg).
All that's left for you is finding recipes and start smoking some meat!!