Being broke like myself we can all still appreciate the taste of home smoked meat. I spent a total of $66 making this smoker. Over time, I may add some bells and whistles to it. But for starters, here is how I made a low cost, no weld 55 gallon drum smoker.
Step 1: Acquire a 55 Gallon Drum. Remove 3" From the Top.
You can spend mega bucks buying a new unlined drum but the purpose of building my own is because I didn't want to spend the $100 - $200. So I acquired this empty drum from a friend that was just rusting away in his garage. Cut the "lid" about 3" from the top assuming you don't have a removable lid. I used a sawzall. Once it was removed I hammered the lid edges outward so that way it would fit over the rest of the drum.
It had unused organic oil in it. Now, before you start worrying about hazards about what was in my/your drum please continue.
Step 2: Scrub Scrub Scrub
My decision in getting an organic oil drum was made after discovering that these drums do not have an interior liner that I'm told is impossible to remove. A little bit of elbow grease and lots of dawn dish soap will easily break down the oil and leave the interior nice and shinny.
Step 3: Burn Baby Burn!
To remove any oil and exterior paint I needed heat. Here's the first purchase I had to make. A weed torch. Amazon had a 500,000 btu one for $30. I felt this was a necessary purchase. I've seen other people just burn a drum in a fire pit or just have a fire inside the drum but
1. I could legally own a flame thrower
2. I could legally own a flame thrower
3. I needed to ensure the oil was properly burned off by high heat and couldn't risk any cold spots associated with just throwing it in a fire (unless your firepit was big enough... mine isn't)
At 1000 degrees Fahrenheit the paint on the outside simply flaked away. At 1500 degrees Fahrenheit I was sure any oil left was destroyed. This was my favorite step.
Step 4: Give It a Car Wash and Time to Prime
After burning the barrel I took it to the car wash and pressure washed it ($2).
Using 2 spray paint cans of Rustoleum high temperature primer ($4 a peice) I coated the outside of the drum and lid. Don't spray the inside. That's unnecessary.
Step 5: Grafix
If your artistic you can try painting flames or skulls on your drum. If your artistic skills are that of a drunk toddler like me, you need to cheat. I printed a biohazard symbol online. Carefully cut it out and glued it to the drum before adding the paint.
Step 6: Paint and Add a Handle.
I used 2 cans of black Rustoleum grill spray paint ($3 a piece). Plus I found a garage door handle at Wal-Mart for $2. Once I spray painted the drum I removed the glued biohazard sign.
Step 7: Season and Smoke.
Coat the inside with lard, crisco, ect. This protects the metal from corrosion. Then throw in a 5lb bag of lit charcoal for a dry run to season the inside. From here you can drill your air intake holes.
Step 8: Air Intake
I prefer the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid). I got 3-3" metal caps from Menards for .99 cents each. I drilled a 1" hole near the bottom and attached the cap with a bolt and lock-tighted nut. It'll swing to cover/uncover the hole. I installed 3 of them equally spaced (every 23.5")along the bottom.
EDIT: this is not enough air flow. Your going to want larger holes or more 1" holes because 3 - 1" holes is not enough. I now recommend 3 - 3" holes. Sorry for the wrong info but in practice I realized I needed more air
Step 9: Handles
Just like the lid I installed 2 more handles to the drum on each side for easy portability.
Step 10: The Grate.
Using 4-3" L shaped brakets I bolted them to the inside of the drum equally spaced and level using 1/4" bolts. A 21" grill grate from Sears ($11) fits perfectly on it.
Step 11: Fire and Water.
My charcoal and wood will be in a chimney charcoal starter. Im also using an old baking pan to catch my ash and a cast iron pan filled with water to rest on top of the chimney starter to add moisture and keep direct heat off whatever I'm smoking. In the future, I might build a larger charcoal basket but for now it'll work.
Step 12: The End
I had a great time building this smoker. The great thing about this is you can always add things too it. Enjoy!