The idea was to build as cheaply as possible a BBQ smoker. I wanted something that I could do a whole hog on or just cook some weekend goodies. I also wanted something unique, different, conversation piece, but functional. My material hunt started with finding a tank to make the cooker out of. It didn't take long and I found one. The next step was to build a firebox to heat this tank. I soon discovered steel prices were approaching gold prices :-) Plan B was now in effect. I had to find another tank to make a firebox out of. After several weeks I found one for sale and bought it for about 1/10 the cost of steel to build one. Once I got it home and started looking at what I had I came up with an idea. I would mount one horizontal and one vertical. Part of the vertical would be the firebox and part would be a vertical cooker. So, now I had both the cook chamber and a firebox for far less than buying new steel and I recycled. The only thing left to do was to start building it.
Here I am about to start sampling some goodies off the smoker.
First a safety warning. I used old propane tanks for my cook chamber and firebox. Propane is VERY dangerous. You should seek a professional to render the tank safe for construction. Do not attempt this yourself.
Step 1: Door Cut Outs
After you get your tank back from the professional who rendered it safe, you should mark and cut out your doors. Measure around the tank and divide by 4 to get the dimension for 1/4 of the tank. You will want to mark and cut your doors to be approximately 1/4 th of the tank. This will give you a good opening for your cook racks. Mark the door/doors with a colored Sharpie using a level as required to get a nice straight and level line at top and bottom. I use a fabric tape for drawing the vertical lines for the door as it will wrap around the curvature of the tank.
The door/doors design is a personal choice. Mark and cut whatever you feel will work best for you. I elected to make two larger doors with the little door in the middle (shown cut out in this pic) so that my cook racks could be one piece, slide out, and I would have room to place a whole hog in it without fighting to wiggle it in and around a center piece.
A word of warning here. Don't be surprised if when you cut the tank things warp a bit. This is normal and not your fault. There are ways of correcting this that I won't go into now.
Once you have your doors marked you can cut them out with and acetylene torch, plasma cutter, hand grinder with cut-off wheels, or a sawzall with metal cutting blades. I have also known people to cut them out with a circular saw with a metal cutting blade. I prefer to cut with a some sort of saw as the gap is less in the cut and I don't cut a very straight line with a torch and can't afford a plasma cutter.
Another tip is to not completely cut out your door. Leave some materiel in the corners and middle of the top and bottom of the doors to keep the tank in alignment for as long as possible. You will go back and make the final cut outs later.