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Thread: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

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    Default Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    After starting this project many months ago...I'm finally nearing the finish line.

    I got into BBQ with a Big Green Egg that came with the house we currently live it. When I discovered the base was cracked, I switched to an 18" Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) (which is awesome, FYI). I wanted the 22" WSM, which retails for $400, but I got lucky and stumbled across an 18" WSM at the local Home Depot on sale for $180 (regular price is $300) so I couldn't pass that up.

    Anyhow, several months ago I decided I really wanted the 22" grates, so I sold the WSM, and started this Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) project.

    I bought a reconditioned drum. It was supposed to be an un-lined drum. It was closed head (non-removable lid). I took it home, drilled the intake holes in it, the rack support bolt holes, and then cut the lid off. When I removed the lid I realized the damn thing had the red epoxy lining. UGH. By all accounts that stuff is so hard to get out that it's simply not worth the effort. A sand blaster will do it, but I don't have one, and the quotes I got to have it blasted were more than I wanted to pay.

    Lucky for me my neighbor was able to get me a drum for free from his work, it was previously used to hold cutting fluid. I drilled my holes, cut the lid off, washed it out with soap and water, and then did a big burn in it, which removed the exterior paint and anything that may have been left inside. I spray painted it....and then it sat, for months.

    The baby girl's birthday party is in a few weeks, so I decided it's finally time to finish it up, seeing as how I'll need it to cook some BBQ for the party. So yesterday my neighbor helped me get the wheels bolted onto the bottom, which was the only thing I couldn't do myself 'cause I can't be inside the drum and outside the drum at the same time.

    How I'm doing it ::

    • There's a 1/16" thick 1.5" wide aluminum strip bolted into the top of the smoker, flush with the top edge. It reinforces the lip a bit, and more importantly gives a little more surface area for the Weber kettle lid to seal against.
    • There's three 1" holes in the bottom : 2 of them with have 3/4" pipe nipples which are left open when bringing the cooker up to temp, then they're capped off. The 3rd intake will have a 3/4" ball valve to regulate the intake air and control the smoker temp.
    • There's three rack levels: the bottom rack will be used to hold a drip pan / head diverter (you could use it as a cooking rack if you wanted). The top two racks are for cooking. They're 22" Weber racks, same ones used in a kettle.
    • The charcoal basket is a weber charcoal grate with some expanded metal rolled into a hoop and bolted to the grate. The whole thing sits on 4" tall legs, to allow ash to fall through and air to flow up. The basket will sit on a water heater pan inside the smoker, the pan acts as an ash catcher to make clean up easier.
    • Two of the wheels are fixed, two swivel. There will be a handle on the front to make it easy to wheel around.
    • I've got a silicone grommet/temp port to add to the side for thermometer probes.
    • I may eventually add a little side table...but probably not.
    • I may add a hinge to the lid...but again...probably not. Maybe though.


    More pics when it's finished. I'm not sure how much $$ I've got in it at this point....especially since I bought a drum that ended up being unusable. Not counting the wasted drum, I'd guess I've got ~$200 in it maybe? The drum was free, the lid and charcoal basket grate came from a donor Kettle I bought used for ~$20, the other racks are all new, all the hardware (stainless) is new, the grommet, the casters, and I had to buy some stepped bits to drill the big intake holes. Those things are expensive, so I got some cheap ones from Harbor Freight...they just barely had enough life to get the holes drilled I needed done. They're pretty much garbage at this point.

    Last edited by dgaddis; 03-18-2019 at 08:49 AM.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    cool!

    so if i'm understanding this correctly, the only access is from the top?

    is there any provision to add charcoal for longer smoking expeditions? maybe a small hinged side door would be handy? where are you going to read the temp? in the lid?

    i have a crazy plan in mind to make smoker myself, and the main goal is to have a separate charcoal box, but i have yet to take action on the project. i've got an old barrel style smoker that's on it's last legs.

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Quote Originally Posted by AngryScientist View Post
    cool!

    so if i'm understanding this correctly, the only access is from the top?

    is there any provision to add charcoal for longer smoking expeditions? maybe a small hinged side door would be handy? where are you going to read the temp? in the lid?

    i have a crazy plan in mind to make smoker myself, and the main goal is to have a separate charcoal box, but i have yet to take action on the project. i've got an old barrel style smoker that's on it's last legs.
    Yep, everything drops in from the top. So I'll fill the charcoal basket with lump and wood chunks, spread some lit coals on top, then drop the basket into the cooker, then put the grates in. The charcoal basket is big enough that I won't have to reload charcoal, it's the same basket I used in my WSM and it once ran for 13hrs at 220-240*F, then another 2.5hrs at 350*F, and still had some coals left - so it'll go plenty long enough for any cook I might want to do. Some people do add a door to the side, but I don't see any reason to, plus it's just another place for air to get in. Plus there's room to put a bigger basket in if I did need it, but I don't think I will. If you live up north and do a lot of smoking in the winter you might need it...but our winters are short and pretty mild, and in the summer you can almost smoke without even building a fire LOL. Seriously, my WSM sitting out in the sun on a hot summer day, the lid thermometer would show 150*F.

    For monitoring temp I've got a Thermoworks Smoke. I've got this grommet to put on the side to stick the ambient air probe through (I'll put it half way between the top two cooking racks), and the meat probe I'll just run drop in the top and close the lid on the wire. I could always add an analog thermometer later (or even just stick it through the grommet). Newer weber kettle lids have a built in thermometer (which aren't terribly reliable), but the one I found does not.

    Also, I've built this thing with zero welding. The only power tools I've used is a grinder with a cut-off wheel, and a drill. That's pretty cool.
    Last edited by dgaddis; 03-18-2019 at 10:34 AM.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    All the bolts are in, intakes are on, it's ready for a fire!

    I do still need to add the temp probe grommet.

    Dustin Gaddis
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    Why do people feel the need to list all of their bikes in their signature?

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Sprayed the interior down with olive oil last night and loaded the basket 3/4 of the way full and lit it up to get it seasoned and get a feel for how it runs. The basket will hold about ~18-20lbs of lump - I put an entire 8.8lbs bag in it, and that only filled it up about half way. I added some more to bring it up to 3/4's full.

    The two 3/4" nipples were capped off when it hit about 175*F. I put a temp probe on the top and bottom cooking grate. There's no heat deflector in it at the moment. The deflector should help even out the temps between the two grates.

    With the valve about 1/4 of way opened, and the exhaust vent opened all the way it cruises at 290/320*F (top/bottom grates, respectively) - surprisingly hot to be honest.

    Right before I went to bed I closed the exhaust about half way. This morning it was chugging along at 215/205*F.

    I opened the exhaust to about 3/4 of the way, and the temps went up to 255/255*F.

    The temps move pretty quickly when you do adjust the intake/exhaust. The lid seals up nicely on the drum, once the temp stabilized there's no visible smoke leaking out from under the lid, it's all coming out the exhaust.

    I lit it up at 9pm last night, I'm hoping it'll still be puffing along when I get home tonight around 5:30 or so. The plan is to just let it run till it runs out of fuel.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    It needs a name.
    rw saunders
    everything is connected

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    BUDS. BIG Ugly Drum Smoker.
    DT

    http://www.mjolnircycles.com/

    Some are born to move the world to live their fantasies...

    "the fun outweighs the suck, and the suck hasn't killed me yet." -- chasea

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Quote Originally Posted by David Tollefson View Post
    BUDS. BIG Ugly Drum Smoker.
    It's not that big (some folks build 'em out of 80gal drums), and it's not that ugly, tho it's not that pretty either.

    Here's one someone spent a good bit of money on (but again, far from the fanciest I've seen....) Ray Hernandez on Instagram: “Seasoning the smoker today. With all vents half open, the thermometer dial is glued to 250 degrees. ] (all that red stuff is purchased parts)

    And here's a pretty ugly one :: Nigel on Instagram: “Something unrelated to the things I normally post. Since today's Chinese New Year Eve, gotta take the opportunity to try something I've…”

    Examples on all ends of the spectrum :: #uglydrumsmoker hashtag on Instagram • Photos and Videos
    Last edited by dgaddis; 03-20-2019 at 11:22 AM.
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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Quote Originally Posted by dgaddis View Post
    It's not that big (some folks build 'em out of 80gal drums), and it's not that ugly, tho it's not that pretty either.
    SUDS? (small ugly...)
    MUDS? (medium ugly...)

    I jest.
    DT

    http://www.mjolnircycles.com/

    Some are born to move the world to live their fantasies...

    "the fun outweighs the suck, and the suck hasn't killed me yet." -- chasea

    "Sometimes, as good as it feels to speak out, silence is the only way to rise above the morass. The high road is generally a quiet route." -- echelon_john

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Update :: home with a “sick” little one (I’m not sure she’s actually sick...)


    Smoker temp has gone up from 255 to 300. Outside air temp has risen about 35 degrees since this morning, and the smoker is sitting out in the sun, so not a huge surprise. I closed the exhaust back to Hal open to throttle it back a bit.

    19hrs run some so far.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Why do people feel the need to list all of their bikes in their signature?

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    ICBM...integrated charcoal brisket maker...too much coffee this morning.
    rw saunders
    everything is connected

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    I want one, but am building a pizza oven so this will have to be on the, ahem, back burner.
     

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Okay, final results from the initial test burn:
    • 3/4 load of charcoal in the basket
    • Temps ranged from 200 to 300 depending on intake/exhaust setting
    • 22hrs before the temp started dropping and dipped below 200.
      • At that point I opened the valve and the exhaust all the way open.
      • Temps went back up to 200, and stayed there till at least 25hrs, then I went to bed.
    • The next morning (32.5hrs) it was still sitting at just over 100 degrees.



    Gonna smoke some baby backs this weekend and will report back with pics! I do need a way to use smaller loads of fuel when I'm not doing a super long cook...I think I could make a divider for the charcoal basket pretty easily that just drops in/out when I want to use it.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Did the first cook in it yesterday. First I made a divider for the charcoal basket for when I'm doing shorter cooks. It's just a piece of expanded metal bent to fit in place, works great. I also got the temp probe grommet installed, and a cheap analog thermometer (which appears to be wildly inaccurate and needs to be replaced).

    One final thing I may do - trim all the bolts a bit shorter so it's easier to get things in/out. The ash catch pan has to be tilted a good bit to get past the grate support bolts

    A few pics ::





    Last edited by dgaddis; 03-25-2019 at 07:29 AM.
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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Those look pretty good. How long did they take?
     

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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Quote Originally Posted by kdawg View Post
    Those look pretty good. How long did they take?
    I do the 2-2-1 method on baby backs, seems to give consistently good results.

    2hrs naked
    2hrs wrapped in foil
    1hr naked, add the sauce the last 20mins or so
    smoker temp around 230*F the whole time
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

    Very nice.

    Now all you have to do is build yourself one of these, and you'll be good to go:


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