The No-Weld Double-Barrel Smoker (and how to use it)

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Picture of The No-Weld Double-Barrel Smoker (and how to use it)
If you're anything like me, you have probably run into this problem:

1.) I need to smoke meat.  (Not want... Need.)
2.) I have no concept of how to weld, and acetylene torches might as well be magic wands.
3.) I'm cheap.

(Well, as we'll later find out, maybe not so much on the last one...)

Meat smoking has been around for centuries, possibly as long as mankind has been alive.  Originally used for fish, its primary function was believed to have been to keep flies away from the drying meat.  Despite our primitive understanding of the fly reproduction cycle, we still figured out that flies make stuff rot... Rotting was bad... And flies didn't like smoke.  This later lead to the preservation of many different kinds of meat through smoking.

Early smoking would have been as simple as hanging the meat near a fire, and then every time the wind changed, swearing out loud and going to move the drying rack.  As time went on and we learned how to do much more advanced things (such as brewing beer) we would have advanced to the phase of swearing, then telling the kids to go move the drying rack.  Eventually we learned how to build structures and the smokehouse was born, but swearing is still a long and time honored tradition with barbeque. 

With the advent of the smokehouse, smoking of large amounts of meat could be done by a single family, enabling them to put away a surplus of food for harder times.  Unfortunately, not everyone could afford to build a smokehouse, and as time went on, not everyone would even want to.  Keeping a smokehouse going required a significant amount of wood and effort, and became obsolete as soon as grocery stores and refrigeration were available to the common man.

At some point, a man that will henceforth be referred to as "Jesus" realized that with a "smoker" we could have the flavor of smoked food combined with the convenience of a grill and the BBQ Smoker was born.

It may not have really happened that way, but that's how I like to remember it.

In all reality, the invention of "barbeque" is a mystery.  Some attribute the word to the French term "barbe a queue" meaning "Beard to Tail", while others say it comes from the Caribbean Taino Indian word "barbacoa" - which basically means a meat-smoking apparatus such as a "smoker."  In fact, the Taino barbacoa would eventually lead to Mexico's form of barbacoa that is a mouth-watering slow-cooked mess of beef or goat (typically from the head, or more specifically the "cheeks" of the animal) which should be another instructable all by itself.  I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  With America being the melting pot that it is, the Taino "barbacoa" and the French "barbe a queue" were likely to have been merged to refer to the type of cooking that made every part of the animal delicious.

In America, the barbeque, like almost everything considered truly American, originated with the cowboys.  On long cattle drives, they were often left with the "garbage" hunks of meat such as the brisket and ribs.  These cuts would have either had little meat on them, or been incredibly lean resulting in very tough hunks when cooked traditionally.  It's little surprise then that they're the very cuts of meat that have become the staple of today's barbeque. A cattle drive's "cookie" (the resident cook) would travel quickly ahead of the herd in his canvas chuck (food) wagon, and choose the evening's camp site far ahead of the cowboys.  He'd immediately get started setting up shop, and begin slow cooking the cheap meats (and beans) to make them more palatable to the cowboys when they arrived for dinner.  This is also where we get baked beans, corn bread, and most of the other things we associate with a good barbeque.

Today when you mention "barbeque" people will think about throwing a hotdog or a couple burgers on the grill.  But if you invite me to a "barbeque" and there's not some sort of slow-smoked meat involved, I'll hope you step on a Lego.

So an important note about this build:  If you want a "set it and forget it" smoker, this is NOT the smoker for you!

This grill does not have a thermostat or propane (I suppose someone a bit handier than me could add that, though).  This is a raw charcoal and wood burner, which means everything from the outdoor temperature, to the wind, to whether or not the sun is behind a cloud will impact the temperature inside the smoke chamber.  You will have to babysit this smoker (about every half hour) for the entire 10+ hours that you're smoking! Make sure you understand this before you try building the thing then telling me it doesn't work.  This is the nature of this design (and I'd argue every design using wood and charcoal).
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DavidD2028 days ago

Recommendations for where to find good, used barrels?

ntense992 months ago

Hey man, love your project. Great BBQ system using the barrels. I myself made a barrel stove outdoor wood burning furnace - I put up an instructable here too, but my originating site has much more info :) Instead of the firebricks like YOU used, I instead used clay bricks I had laying around. I will prob upgrade to refractory fire bricks next season as this is my first season using this!

godawgz9910 months ago

I was wondering if you thought about putting it on casters/ wheels. I am thinking about entering some competitions and it would really help if t was mobile

I would have to agree with the creator of this instructables. I ended up building this smoker with minor modifications, I did however use steel for the legs and a few other modifications. I would not recommend trailering this thing anywhere. We did hook mine up to a trailer and bring it somewhere for a catering event. It made the trip, but some bolts even with lock nuts loosened, and more importantly the bricks need to be reset after the trip. Not something you want to do. you want them to season and seal.
If you wanted to make it trailer friendly, you would need to weld this thing. Meaning also using steel legs and welding the connections. it would really sturdy this thing up and make it more resiliant to travel.

This smoker however does work amazing! I actually just smoked for 21 hours and the thing held temperature very well, every ... couple hours i would need to throw a log or two on. I've used this thing more than once, and the way i start it is to put roughly 3/4 of a charcoal chimney in the bottom barrel spread out, than 3/4 to 1 charcoal chimney that is ready to go dumped across the unlighted coals. Used this to get it to temp, and it worked well with not much fuel. Than on went the wood. And pretty much use wood after that. I did use fireplace roap around the doors, and also wrapped the connecting area with fire rope. The only thing i think i may do, is look into putting rope around the inside of the food barrel, around the 3 sides of the brick, but thats just me.

A friend and i are thinking about making a similar version with one firebarrel and two food barrels attatched at the top.

I've been working on this build with my dad for a few months now whenever we get a chance. We also swapped aluminum tubing for 1" angle iron. We also used gasket rope for the door seals. I think we paid $10 for each 7' long kit (including epoxy) HOLY MOLY THAT'S CHEAP!

I put a 1/2"x 30" axle on one side of the smoker and 4 Harbor Freight 10" tires making it a dually and somewhat portable. At least one of these cheap wheels either has, or already was bent, making the roll a little wobbly.

For the flue, I used a 6" stove pipe that was 8-10" long. We drilled a 6" hole in each barrel, ran the pipe between them, then cut slits on each end to "star-burst" them out against the bottom/top of the insides of the barrels.

Instead of JB Weld (with a rating of up to 500F) we used a Fireplace cement rated to 2000F. We bought 2 tubs and spread it completely over each star-burst of the flue, the chimney's star-burst and on all of the exposed stove pipe between the barrels. We used all of one tub and maybe a quarter of the second. A second application may be required after subsequent burns. I also used it around the 3 sides that the bricks touch the upper barrel.

I wasn't satisfied with how flat I could get the door scraps that were going to serve as the bracing for the upper barrel bricks. We had a friend that works in a metal shop donate a piece of 18"x26.5" 16 gauge steel. This is supported by 3 scrap pieces of 1" angle iron at about 17" a piece. This adds to this beast's already extreme heft, I imagine well over 100lbs.

We also removed all the paint on the barrels where they meet with a paint removing drill bit attachment. This task was very time consuming and forearm numbing.

We've now completed our first burn, with a fire in both chambers to set all cement and the gasket rope adhesive. We didn't have a thermometer inside because I wanted to see how sealed we can get the doors, and I haven't found a suitable silicone grommet to feed the thermometer cables into the barrel yet. Our next burn will have at least one thermometer on the cooking area, and possibly a second sitting in the flue. I've got some spare fat I trimmed from a picnic for our seasoning burn (before we try to cook food on it).

In close to 2 hours, our first burn completely went through 2 charcoal chimney's worth of charcoal (one in each chamber) with the doors shut, and the vent all the way open. With no thermometers installed we were definitely flying blind. I'm concerned that my top barrel isn't retaining heat well enough. My top door didn't turn out as big as I'd like it, some of it rests on the gasket rope instead of covering it. If it's a problem I may either buy or attempt to make a welding blanket, or use something like this, although it will look dumb and probably isn't going to hold stove paint.

Javin007 (author)  jef400dread3 months ago

"In close to 2 hours, our first burn completely went through 2 charcoal
chimney's worth of charcoal (one in each chamber) with the doors shut,
and the vent all the way open."

This actually sounds about right. If you're getting 2 hours out of a single charcoal chimney (one per) you're doing good. When I'm smoking, I'll go through a whole big bag of charcoal to do an 8-9 hour burn. (Less if I supplement with wood, obviously).

My doors arent closed quite as well as i would like, i can get them closed to close with the use of some c-clamps on the uprights. BUT! i've done smokes with the doors open and that top barrel really does retain heat very well, even with the door cracked. Let the smoker get up to temp, and you'll be surprised once every hour and a half or two hours i add another log or two. On a 21 hour smoke it really wasnt bad at all, every two hours, i think at one point i used a second chimney pretty far into the smoke.

Javin007 (author)  godawgz9910 months ago

I would only consider this if different bolts/aluminum piping were used. I think these legs are kinda pegged out at their weight limits here, but I can get away with it due to the force strictly being compressive. I think any sort of shear force (eg: the wheels get caught by a rock or something) would possibly cause the legs to buckle. Those bricks in the barrel are HEAVY. But again, if the wheels are big enough, and you use a thick/sturdy enough frame, I don't see why not.

jef400dread11 months ago

I plan on starting this build as soon as I've gathered all the required pieces. I plan on buying the components in phases just to spread out the cost. Barrels first. Since I won't be buying everything at once, I'll be able to spend a little bit more than I would on 1 trip to home depot. My question is;

If you were going to build another, and buy in phases (allowing a little bit more $ to be spent, but still trying to stay cheap), would you consider using something like a 6" stove pipe as a flue (like armorer243 suggested)?

Also would this make a better sealant to connect the stove pipe to the two barrels as a flue?

Javin007 (author)  jef400dread3 months ago

If I had it all to do over again (and I probably will rebuild it eventually anyway, coz I love the thing) I would make three major changes:

1.) Carefully strip / sand blast / burn / whatever every bit of paint from the barrels, and then paint with several coats of heat resistant paint after the barrels have been cut. Everywhere the paint flakes off from use, it rusts.

2.) Most definitely switch to stove pipe for the flue. The aluminum one I made just simply doesn't seal well, and I lose a good bit of temp through it. Would need a good sealant (I'm not familiar with the one you showed).

3.) Seals. Better seals everywhere. Cheaping out on the fiberglass rope was a horrible idea.

jef400dread made it!6 months ago

If you plan on using a rope for the sealant like this, I'd recommend using something other than masking tape to guard it from stove paint. The tape tried it's best to pull up the rope once it was time to remove it. I'm not sure if over spray would even be that terrible on the rope, but masking tape really made a mess of the rope at its ends.
This version is slightly portable, but I wouldn't want it on a trailer. I can roll it around my yard, but due to it's heft, I try not to any more than absolutely necessary.

Much props to the author, this was the best father-son project ever.

Javin007 (author)  jef400dread3 months ago

Seeing other people's builds makes me downright giddy. :D Especially with the changes to make it even better! Gotta get a weight for mine.

Javin007 (author)  jef400dread3 months ago

Seeing other people's builds makes me downright giddy. :D Especially with the changes to make it even better! Gotta get a weight for mine.

ku5e made it!5 months ago

Thanks for the ideas. I made this with the 2 Volzang kits; door and coupler kits. I had extra parts and decided to make an open grill. I used "adult erector set" angles to make the legs. Then I mounted both on a trailer. They are great for events.

NateRec549 months ago

If I may ask, where did you buy the barrels for $20?

Javin007 (author)  NateRec549 months ago

From a farmer a couple hours away. He was also a proported "bee keeper."

painrelief11 months ago

hi. I'm in the process of building my own smoker. Can you tell me what the circumference of the barrel/drum at the rim? And at the inset? I want to insert the drum into my 22.5 inch weber grill to convert it to something resembling the weber smokey mountain.

chuckyd1 year ago
This is a very well explained instrucable for a great project. I have a few comments, however.

First, kiln-fired clay brick certainly is being made today all over the world.

Second, the frame appears flimsy, and liable to give way. To fix this, add X-bracing to all four sides. Also, care should be taken to assure that the smoker is level and the barrels are parallel to each other.

Third, steel and aluminum have different coefficients of thermal expansion. This is not a great problem for anything, except the flu. between the barrels. Over time you may find a seal impossible to maintain.

Fourth, you didn't mention if your firs food cooked in the smoker was good or bad.
Javin007 (author)  chuckyd1 year ago

:D All fair questions.

1.) Yes, perhaps "kiln-fired clay brick" is still being made... But in the U.S., it's hard to find, and *generally* more expensive than the resin pressed, easily available stuff.

2.) While the frame does appear flimsy (a concern I was myself worried about initially) the using of the barrels themselves as support seems to have made an exceedingly strong framework. Going on a year now without the slightest bit of warping.

3.) You MAY be right there. Couldn't tell. I did such a shit job with the initial flue that it's impossible to tell if the problem is thermal expansion, or shit work.

4.) The food cooked was horrible when I first started, mostly coz I didn't know what the hell I was doing. After the first few burns, however, it moved into the "OMG AMAZEBALLZ" realm. The food is so good I've got neighbors wanting to use the smoker, and though we're in the middle of winter, I'll be firing it up on the first "warm" day we've had in awhile this weekend. It truly is amazing now that I know what I'm doing.

Thanks for the comments!

groovymama1 year ago
armorer2431 year ago
Thank you very much for the write up, you have inspired me to attempt one of my own! I am making a couple changes since I have access to a welder. Just FYI, I found some 1/4" graphite gasket rope on Amazon for $10 for a 84" long rope. I will order some and use it on the doors when it comes to that point. An option for the flue between barrels is using black stove pipe. I am going to weld mine, but you could cut a hole the same diameter as the pipe, slip the pipe through the barrels, and cut the pipe so an inch or so sticks into each barrel. Then using a cutoff wheel (or other cutting tool of choice) cut slots in the stovepipe and bend the tabs over to the inside of the barrel. Then secure with rivets or screws and it should seal pretty well. I am taking that approach but welding the pipe and barrels together. I am also putting a flue in that pipe allowing a little more control if necessary. The stove pipe will cost $8 and the damper another $6. Once again, thank you very much, your write up was a lot of help!
lcorpe1 year ago
Awesome job! I will be making this very soon
DREMMEL cutting discs! A little more time, a lot more accuracy with a much cleaner cut.
lourens011 year ago
Great instructable. I was going to comment on the magnets, but saw you learned the way I tend to learn things, the hard way. One advantage of learning this way, you never forget it again.
One thing I liked besides the product was the goals you set out at the beginning and then plan accordingly. It made me think about a few things I am thinking of building, and changed me approach towards the project.
Thanks for that and the time you invested in this instructable.
Javin007 (author)  lourens011 year ago
LOL! I suppose that would make you the "astute observer" I was talking about! Thanks for the compliments!
bahi1 year ago
nice instructable, and it includes a good honey story.
jinxie23001 year ago
Excellent! Great idea, clear instructions on how to make AND how to use! And best of all, gave me some awesome ideas I will use when making my Rocket Stove styled grill! Thank you!
jinxie23001 year ago
Using the end of your scrap barrel, you could cut out a circle just smaller than the end of your burn barrel, then just place a bolt in the center of each. Should make a good seal, don't have to try hammering the curved part super flat. And you could cut a patch open in the burn barrel then put in sections of different sized holes in the disk... even more 'fine' control of the air flow! Even if you stick with your basic method, a disk would be less likely to slip out of place, while not scratching the barrel. Definitely great plan though, much better than mine!
mayagayam1 year ago
Thorough! Great prepper/resiliency idea! I wonder, wouldn't you get more smoking effect for your efforts by putting the inter-drum flue on the end opposite the chimney, instead of on the same side? Maybe you don't want that?

Anyway this instructable is a keeper, thanks!
Javin007 (author)  mayagayam1 year ago
Thank you!

I opted to put the flue and the chimney on the same side because I wanted to use the bricks to spread the heat and smoke evenly. So far, it seems to work well! Particularly as the bricks get seasoned, they'll "seal" up even more. (See step 2, image 2.)
conny170171 year ago
Good instructible, especially for those with no access to welding . I have one very important suggestion to make.
1. The air intake holes should be on the opposite side of the firebox to upper drum FLUE.
2. The chimney in the upper drum must be on the opposite side of the FLUE, or the same side as the air intake on the lower drum.

This creates a FORCED path for the heat to stabilize, and the smoke to waft evenly over the grill on its way out. The air enters the intake, and as it heats up, it rises, and needs to find a way out. It has to travel across the firebox to get to the flue, and rise into the upper Drum and grill. This time the only way out is across the Meat/ grill to the other side, where the chimney is located, carrying all that nice smoke with it.
I have built many smokers and BBQ cookers in the last 40 years, and this has been the only way to get EVEN cooking, and equal smoking.
Happy smoking !!
Javin007 (author)  conny170171 year ago
Thank you for the compliments, and input!

To your points:
1.) Agreed. While I didn't call this out specifically, this was definitely part of the plan.
2.) I actually purposely did NOT design it this way, because of the flow of the heat and smoke. The heat now gets distributed through the bricks, being routed around them, as does the smoke. The routing of the smoke also allows any ash to fall out before reaching the meat. If I didn't have the bricks in there rerouting the smoke and heat, I would definitely agree!
rys241 year ago
Good job. Thanks for your time!
Aries681 year ago
Why didn't you use one of these?
Javin007 (author)  Aries681 year ago
Have you looked at the prices on those things? It would've increased my cost by $66 for the brackets / flue portion. The lower legs/door are around $80. So that's $146. The disadvantage being that it would've given me a door on the side instead of the front (which I wouldn't want) and costs considerably more than the aluminum and bolts that I used to do the same thing. (About $100 more.) I did look at them early on, but the idea was quickly tossed due to design and cost.
Yes but you would have cured your problem with getting a good seal between the barrels and it has a good collar for the chimney. I think I've seen them cheaper but that is the site I knew right off the top of my head.
madflower1 year ago
Great instructable!

You might add some insulation. They make some rated for high temp that is spun like th fiberglass. It would help seal it a bit from the weather, wind, sun type of temp fluctuations. And you'd probably use less fuel.

You might also be able to start with a double barrel stove kit which could save a lot of hassle building the frame and exhaust.

And last but not least, you could get a temp sensor and tie it to an arduino or raspi, then run a motor to control the vents for your temp. Completely overboard would be an auger for a fuel feeder. :)

It was a well written instructable.
Javin007 (author)  madflower1 year ago
If I decide to do another one, I may just do that. I'm definitely not happy with the way my flue seals came out on this one, so if it ever gets dismantled for a repair, I'll look into it! Thanks!
The seals are the hardest part. And actually it might be easier to just have it welded. Probably 20 bucks if everything is fitted and clean already. But what you are really missing are flanges. You might be able to use like a 4-6 inch pipe and cut out two oversized hunks from the 3rd barrel. Have that welded then you can bolt it between the barrels with the silicone. If you can get it fitted tight enough, with say a hole saw, you might get away with silicone. They also make flanges for the stove pipe or a cap you can put a hole in. Then silicone and screw it. You can't weld galvanized and stove pipe is pretty thin anyway.
I have a home-refirbished electric smoker, and I used Stove Rope from a wood burning stove store to seal the door. It came with attached adhesive, and works really well.

Nice instructable! You should use the internal temperature of the meat to tell when it's done. Brisket is done about 195-200 degrees F to be tender. My buld is here: Steve
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