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How to Build Your Own Smoker From a 55 Gallon Drum Part II


udsdoneresized.jpg
ProfessorSalt.com
Last time, we discussed the 55 gallon drum itself and some sources to buy one to build your Ugly Drum Smoker, or UDS. Finding a suitable drum takes some thought and perhaps a bit of driving around.

This week, we'll talk about the next challenge: building a basket to hold your charcoal and wood chunks.  If you can weld, or know someone who does, you can build a welded basket. It not, take the no-weld option below. I'm lucky enough to have some friendly sheet metal fabricators at my workplace (thanks, Dwayne!), so I'll show you his expert handiwork on my basket.

I should also mention the greatest source for tips and tricks for building a UDS: the discussion forum of Bbq-Brethren.com, a free community where I hang out under the nym Professor Salt. Register a username, introduce yourself in the Cattle Call forum, then read through this 500+ page monster thread about UDS builds. Scores of users have posted photos of their drums, some super-basic like mine, others much more complex. You'll find some great ideas to lift and use for your own project.

Parts required:
  • One charcoal grate from 22.5" Weber kettle grill. The grate itself is 18.5" in diameter
  • Expanded metal, 8" x roughly 44" sheet
  • Four 5/16" x 18 tpi bolts, 5" long, stainless steel
  • Twelve 5/16" x 18 tpi nut, stainless steel
  • Twelve 5/16" fender washers, stainless steel
  • One 12" length of 3/4" threaded black steel pipe
  • One coupling fitting for 3/4" threaded pipe, black steel
  • One aluminum pizza pan, 20" diameter, either flat or with a 2" lip.

It's worth noting that I'm using no galvanized hardware on the firebox. Though I'm still researching the science behind it, the internet hive mind says that zinc coated hardware shouldn't be burned in the presence of food. I'm more concerned about the long-term rust-resistance, so I chose the more expensive and harder-to-find stainless steel hardware. You'll find a wide selection of stainless steel hardware at boating supply stores like West Marine, and at Ace Hardware's Westcliff Plaza and their other beach-adjacent locations.

I chose to make a round basket made from expanded metal and a charcoal grate from a 22.5" Weber kettle grill. Its 18.5" diameter is just the right size to fit past the hardware we're going to put in and drop easily to the bottom of the drum.

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ProfessorSalt.com
Welded version of a basket, with 3/4" threaded pipe handle
The fire basket should hold enough charcoal to last throughout a long cooking session. A large brisket can take 12 hours or more. My basket is 8' high x 18.5" in diameter, and it will hold enough charcoal briquettes for a long burn.

You should also have a handle on your basket so it's easy to lift and lower. Some people forgo a handle, and just extend the height of the expanded metal hoop. Others form a handle by bending a wire coat hanger into a half-circle and looping both ends to the expanded metal. Mine is made from a 12" length of 3/4" black iron pipe. It threads into a female pipe fitting that's welded to the grate.

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Courtesy of bbq-brethren.com user HeSmellsLikeSmoke
No-weld option with bolted-together expanded metal

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Courtesy bbq-brethren.com user enasnidx
Another no-weld example using a round piece of expanded metal as the base

If you don't know anyone who can weld for you, here's how to make a no-weld option. You can form the expanded metal into a hoop by rolling it around an empty propane tank. It won't be a perfect hoop, but it will take on enough of a hoop shape that you can finish the job by bolting the loose ends together. Then twist stainless steel wire to secure the expanded metal to the charcoal grate. Bbq-brethren member enasnidx says, "I just twisted two pieces [of wire] together by clamping it in a vice on one end and a drill on the other to try to give it strength."
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23 comments
sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

One has to be an expert to carry out a process as complicated as fabricating metal into sheets. One wrong step and you might have a metal sheet that is not even or is not strong enough to perform its designated task. 

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

One has to be an expert to carry out a process as complicated as fabricating metal into sheets. One wrong step and you might have a metal sheet that is not even or is not strong enough to perform its designated task. 

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

For the uninitiated, sheet metal fabrication is the process of fabricating metal into sheets of varying thickness, tensile strength and sizes. These sheets are used in myriad applications across different industries—ranging from aerospace to automotive to construction. But this is not the job of an amateur. 

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

There are different ways you can shape a sheet metal. The most common processes that are used for sheet Metal Fabrications include press braking and spinning.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

There are different ways you can shape a sheet metal. The most common processes that are used for sheet Metal Fabrications include press braking and spinning.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

There are different ways you can shape a sheet metal. The most common processes that are used for sheet Metal Fabrications include press braking and spinning.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

There are different ways you can shape a sheet metal. The most common processes that are used for sheet Metal Fabrications include press braking and spinning.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

Press braking is a process that is used for bending sheet metal at pre defined angles. This is done through a process where the sheet metal is passed through a press which then compresses the sheet metal into a V shaped groove so that it can bend at a particular angle.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

Press braking is a process that is used for bending sheet metal at pre defined angles. This is done through a process where the sheet metal is passed through a press which then compresses the sheet metal into a V shaped groove so that it can bend at a particular angle.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

Press braking is a process that is used for bending sheet metal at pre defined angles. This is done through a process where the sheet metal is passed through a press which then compresses the sheet metal into a V shaped groove so that it can bend at a particular angle.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

There are different ways you can shape a sheet metal. The most common processes that are used for sheet Metal Fabrications include press braking and spinning.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

Sheet metal fabrications are very popular because you can give it any shape you want to and also because it can be used for a variety of purposes.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

Sheet metal fabrications are very popular because you can give it any shape you want to and also because it can be used for a variety of purposes. There are a couple of methods or techniques that are used in sheet metal fabrication.

sheet metal fabricators
sheet metal fabricators

Sheet metal fabrications are very popular because you can give it any shape you want to and also because it can be used for a variety of purposes. There are a couple of methods or techniques that are used in sheet metal fabrication.

Poswalt
Poswalt

THe circumference of an 18.5 " circle (Diameter) is over 58". How did you stretch 44" around it. Also, I just got a charcoal replacement grate for a 22.5" Weber and the diameter is only 17". Just looking for some clarity.

plumbing
plumbing

Wow This is great,Thanks for sharing all the things required in order to make these project.

plumbing
plumbing

Brilliant post!Thanks for the share and also for including the materials we need to try this project.

Shanon Miracle
Shanon Miracle

Nice Post!!I  will really appreciate your efforts and you have explained each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And i would like to read your next post too. Sheet Metal Fabricators

Bill T.
Bill T.

It occurs to me that angle brackets (~3?) could be used to attach the side to the bottom, eliminating those welds too.

Briansays
Briansays

just waitsomeone in an apartment somewhere is gonna burn the building downdidn't know or think they need a yard with open space

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

I know someone who built one and used it on an apartment balcony. He was pretty good, and went on to get some more smokers, a bigger place to live with a yard and open space. You may have heard of Bigmista's BBQ? He still has the first UDS, too.

But you have a good point about fire safety. I'll post about that too in a few weeks.

Tabascoprincess
Tabascoprincess

When do we get to the bbq??  J/k.  This makes me want to clear some space for one of these bad boys...

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

We're getting there. You can read through the Grill Marks archive on how to smoke on a kettle grill assuming you have a charcoal kettle grill.

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