Hi I am an intermediate to advanced smoker: ribs in San Antonio TX, brisket, salmon/other fish, Cornish hens, and cheese turkey, etc. My charcoal smoker is custom made: 1/2" thick welded steel, 3' diameter barrel. fire box is about 20" diameter (9 feet total width. Never ever propane here!!
I always start using a full chimney (3 pieces of newspaper) to get 175 degrees. chimney #2 gets 225, with 4" flue about 1/3 open. the smoking chips depends on the meat of course.
I've found keeping an accurate detailed Excel spreadsheet for detailed notes is very helpful in getting a consistent finished product. I hope to pick up various ideas & tips for a bigger repertoire.