Introduction: Making of a Drum Smoker

Smokers can be anything from garbage cans to custom steel fabricated smokers costing $1,000.00 of dollars a drum smoker is just above the cost of a garbage can and will last for many years. This design is using an automatic temperature control device, if you want to build this smoker and do not wish to purchase an ATC system, drill four 1" holes spaced evenly around the base, 2" up from the bottom. Then fashion a cover over each hole so that you can control the draft.

The drum smoker is easy to make with many components already made. Some knowledge of steel fabricating and welding is required.

If you do not have a small welder you can just tighten the bolt and nut in the hole and tilt the rack every time you have to move the racks. There is room between the grill rack and barrel wall so you will not over tilt the meat.

Material List:

1 55 Gallon Drum, open top
1 1/8"(T) x 3/4" (W) x 12" (L), Handle
12 1/4" x 1.5" Bolt & Nut
2 1/4" x 0.75" Bolt & Nut
2 3/8"x 0.75"(L) Bolt & Nut
4 22"Weber Grills
1 18" Weber charcoal grate
2 1/4" x 36" Steel Rod
1 24"x 24"Expanded Steel
1 16" terra-cotta dish

Automatic Temperature Control Device
Rocks Bar-B-Que, Stoker

Step 1: New Drum

This design uses a new open lid 55 gallon drum with no special lining; the cost was approximately $50.00. The drum is the right size to use 22" Weber grill racks. If you purchase a closed lid drum, you will have to cut one end off for your opening. If using a closed drum measure and cut the top so that you may use the lid from the Weber kettle for your top.

Step 2: Locating Bolt Holes

Divide the circumference into three sections, using painters tape to mark the locations of your holes for your rack bolts. I measured down 5", 10" & 15" to create three levels of racks, and then I measured up from the bottom 12" to locate the separator rack. Using a 5/16" drill bit, drill all holes.

Step 3: Welding the Nuts to the Drum

Locate and cut opening for ATC system make sure that the height of the hole is even with the bottom of the charcoal basket.

Grind off paint at each hole on the inside of the drum. Install bolts and nuts, nuts on the inside, weld the nuts to the drum and paint to protect.

Remove the bolts and re-tap the nuts. By welding the nuts to the inside of the drum you will be able to back out the bolts during your smoking session to remove various grill levels without having to tilt the rack. I also located two 3/8" diameter holes with bolts and nuts between the top and middle rack, this will allow the inserting of wires for the ATC system and meat probes.

Step 4: Lid Handle

Fabricating the lid handle. Measure in 1/2" from each end and center punch to drill 1/4" hole. Measure 1" from the end draw a line, then 3" in from the end draw a line now put the piece of steel in a vise and bend to form the handle. Locate handle in the middle of the lid and drill two holes to attach the handle to the lid.

Step 5: Charcoal Basket

You need to fabricate a charcoal basket. Weather you are using a ATC system or just holes in the bottom you need to be able to draw your oxygen from under the coals, so make sure your draft tubes are locate below the bottom of the basket. I used a charcoal rack from Weber for the 18" kettle, and then I rolled a hoop out of 1/4" steel round stock to the same diameter of the rack. I then cut three steel rods 10" long; I welded the steel rods to the outside of the charcoal rack and hoop, and finish the side with expanded steel.

If you do not have a welder you can purchase steel pan and drill 1/2" dia. holes in the bottom and side of the pan. Or you may find a charcol pan form differnet smoker that will fit.

Step 6: Ceate the Heat Chamber

You have to separate the fire box area from the meat. The easy method is to go to your local garden store and purchase a 16"diameter terracotta bottom for a planter. You place this on a grill rack wrapped in aluminum foil, the reason you wrap in aluminum foil is to make clean up easier. I have also made a 1/4" steel plate with holes drill in the perimeter.

Either design will allow smoke and heat to travel up the side of the smoker without direct heat on the meat. If you what a water pan just place it in the center of either plate.

Step 7: Nothing Says Smoking, Like Flames

You can download flame templates from Duplicolor web site. I used Photoshop to make the flames the size I wanted, and then I attached them to the drum. You will notice that I had to cut the flames at the rolled ridge in the barrel, using painter tape I filled in the area and expanded the flames to line up. Using contact cement I attached the template to the drum, cut out the flames with a sharp knife.

Step 8: Painting of the Flames

I use aerosol paint for the red and yellow and an air brush with orange for the mid-section. Make sure that you have protected the rest of the drum before you start painting. Paint the red and yellow and let dry to the touch then mix red and yellow to make your orange and fill in the rest of the flame. You can purchase inexpensive air brush kits for under $20.00 and with a small air compressor you are in business.

Step 9: Adjusting the Draft

Your smoker tempature is control by the draft, if you using a ATC device the heat probe will tell the fan when to turn on and off. Without a ATC device you will need to adjusting the bottom holes and the lid opening at the top. I decide that I did not want a hole in my lid as I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have rain so all I use is a wood shim.

Step 10: Conclusion

The smokers will cost approximately $150.00 without the ATC system. The painting of the flames will take longest time to complete. If you do not paint flames you should be able to finish this over a weekend. I find that I can get 6 - 7 hours of smoke time at 230 degrees with one load of charcoal. I mix in wood with the charcoal, so I'm always getting a light smoke. Using all three racks will give you plenty of rack space. Here is some pictures from the first two smokes.

Firing up the smoker.
1. Fill charcoal bin and light.
2. Place charcoal bin in bottom of the drum.
3. Place rack with heat separator in place.
4. Bring smoker to temperature.
5. Install bottom rack and load with meat.
6. Install middle rack and load with meat.
7. Install top rack and load with meat.
8. Position lid and sit back and let the low and slow heat and smoke do it's thing.

Low & Slow BBQ Contest

Runner Up in the
Low & Slow BBQ Contest