Introduction: How to Make an Oil Drum BBQ Smoker

This is a step by step guide on how to build a homemade Oil Drum BBQ Smoker from scratch!! Both myself and friend Darren, created this one evening.This is a great, relatively cheap project, that will keep you entertained all through the summer and surprisingly, even the winter!! This Oil Drum BBQ always ends up getting lit at every party and actually becomes quite the centre piece, getting a lot of attention!!

As you will discover, as well as cooking burgers and sausages, this BBQ Smoker comes into its element when slow cooking large joints of meat! Lovely slow cooked shoulder of lamb, belly pork, beef ribs, pork ribs and even a whole pot of curry! Whatever joint you decide, wrapping it in layers of tin foil will protect it from the fire and keep it tender and succulent!

Happy building! I look forward to seeing what you make!

This BBQ was made with my buddy Darren who is now selling a mini version hand made in Bristol on this website:

Step 1: What You Will Need

What you require

Below is a list of tools and materials that you require to complete this project. Remember that safety is very important. Always wear the appropriate safety equipment when fabricating with metal.

1. Mig Welder + wire, face mask, gloves

2. Angle Grinder + cutting disks, sanding disks, grinding disks

3. Hammer

4. Hacksaw

5. Engineers Square

6. Ruler

7. Tape Measure

8. Permanent Pen

9. Drill

10. Selection of drill bits

11. An old oil drum

12. High temperature BBQ paint

13. Steel Hinges

14. Chrome coach hook

15. BBQ temperature dial

16. Safety glasses and gloves

17. Mild Steel Box Section

18. 6mm Mild Steel Round Bar

19. U Section safety edging

20. Strips of Steel sheet

21. Stainless steel grill or stainless steel mesh

22. Nuts and bolts for the hinges and frame

23. Large Steel Tubing for the chimney

24. A dust / spray painting mask

25. Center punch

Step 2: Stripping the Paint Off the Oil Drum

Before doing any work on the oil drum, it is definitely worth checking what is inside! Be very careful if there have been any flammable liquids inside as these could ignite when grinding! If you are unsure I would advise checking with someone! Any remaining liquids need disposing of accordingly.

For this stage you will need the paint removing disk for the angle grinder. You can also use a wire brush attachment for a drill but I found that the angle grinder removes it quicker!

It is a good idea to wear a dust mask / spray painting mask for this stage as it gets quite dusty! Place the oil drum in a stable location and begin removing the paint. It is worth spending the extra time making sure that all the paint is removed otherwise this will start to bubble when heated up, ruining the final paint finish!

Step 3: Welding the Chimney

The large diameter (70mm) steel tubing was cut at 45 degrees and then welded together. It is important to make sure that the weld bead is all the way around the chimney to prevent smoke from escaping the joint. I use a Clarke 160EN Mig Welder. Make sure you wear the appropriate safety gear when welding - gloves and mask.

Step 4: Cutting Out the Lid

Mark out the quarter-cut lid using the engineers square, ruler and permanent pen. Carefully cut along the lines using the angle grinder with the cutting disk. It is a good idea to rest the oil drum on something stable to stop it form rolling around when cutting.

Step 5: Welding the Side Strips Onto the Lid

Weld on some thin strips of mild steel sheet onto the sides of the oil drum. This will create a lap joint that will prevent the lid from falling inside when shut. It will also add rigidity to the lid, maintaining that curved shape. Tack the strips in place using the welder every inch or so.

Step 6: Clean the Inside of the BBQ

This stage isn't that glamourous but is definitely necessary. You need to clean the inside of the Oil drum to make sure that all the oil residue has been removed. There are two reasons for doing this:

1. The paint won't stick if there is oil residue.

2. The BBQ will emit a lot of thick black smoke if there is oil left inside.

I tried many ways of removing this oil. I tried burning it off (doesn't really work and leaves a big black mess that is even harder to remove)! The best method was using a de-greaser that you might have in the cupboards for cleaning the oven! This was very effective in removing the oil!

Step 7: Fabricating the Collapsible Frame

This is a collapsible frame that consists of two rectangles that fold inside of each other. The dimensions of this frame are completely up to you and depend on what size oil drum you have.

Using a hacksaw, cut out the various lengths of steel box section you need. When welding the two rectangles, keep checking with the engineers square to make sure that the right angle joints are completely square.

Mark up the centers of each leg side section. This will be the point at which the frames will hinge. Center punch the marks and then drill with a small drill bit, working up in size until the desired size for the bolts.

When the two parts of the frame are attached together, the frame needs positioning in the correct place for the oil drum to rest on top. At this point in time there is nothing to prevent the frame from falling flat. I tie two pieces of string around the top halves of the frame to stop the frame falling flat. 4 pieces of steel bar need welding to the frame just above and below the hinge. This will form the bottom out mechanism to hold the frame at the correct angle when open. When the frame is closed it folds flat.

Step 8: Attaching the Hinges to the Lid

The hinges need placing onto the oil drum and the holes marked using a permanent pen. It is vital to make sure that the lid is in the correct place before marking the hinges.

Center punch the holes and then drill them with a small hole first followed by the correct size. Attach the hinges to the oil drum using nuts and bolts.

Step 9: Add the Safety Edging

The U Section safety edging needs tacking in place on the sharp straight edges of the lid and the oil drum. It is a good idea to tack it on the inside to hide the welds.

Step 10: Attaching the Handle

The handle is fabricated from steel square section. The handle is welded first as a sub-assembly and then welded onto the lid in the middle. Make sure to remove all the swarf created from cutting the steel.

Step 11: Adding the Grill Supports and Hooks

The main grill and the smoker grill are supported by steel bar that extends all the way through the inside of the BBQ. This then forms the exterior handles on both sides. The steel bar is welded in place and then the bars are welded together to form the handles. Make sure when positioning the bars that the holes are in the exact same place on both sides of the oil drum.

3 small hooks are welded on the side which form little holders for BBQ tools.

A large hole is drilled in the bottom of both sides of the oil drum to form ventilation holes. Numerous small holes are drilled in the middle of the BBQ to create drainage holes.

A hole is drilled in the lid for the temperature dial.

The chrome coach hook is place in position on the lid, marked and then drilled. Small nuts and bolts hold this in place.

Step 12: Creating the Grill

For this part you can either buy a grill that is the correct dimensions or you can fabricate one. With either method, you want to make sure that stainless steel is used as you don't want bits of rust in your food! This is one of the things that shocked me when I started looking at competitor oil drum BBQ's - a lot of them use mild steel for the grills! I manufacture all of my BBQ's using stainless steel for parts in contact with the food!

The picture shows stainless steel mesh with safety edging that when welded in place will form a custom grill.

Step 13: All Complete!

Congratulations your Oil Drum BBQ Smoker is complete!!

If you don't fancy making your own and just want to use one, they are for sale here:

I look forward to seeing pictures of BBQ's that you guys have made!

Thanks for reading!


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