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New year - New UDS (Australian build)

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I'd wanted to build an UDS for months, looking a photos, making some design sketches, reading everything i could find, but never taking the leap. Then i blinked and it was 2015, enough was enough and I decided to build me a smoker! 

i was lucky enough to be visiting my mum just after new years and she had a couple of 44 gal drums her cousin had given her. i think she's planning to turn them into mini gardens (meaning she will get me to turn them into gardens for her, gotta love family).

After quickly convincing her to donate one to me and my BBQ ambition, i left her house with a drum in my ute and a smile on my face, thinking about all the ribs and pulled pork i'll be eating soon. 


My plan was to have a BBQ with some friends in two days, not to be discouraged, I promptly invited everyone to the BBQ, that I was planning to cook in a smoker that didn't exist yet... The race was on!


First thing first was cutting the lid off the drum, as it had a lovely flammable liquids warning on it, I decided I wasn't going to break out the angle grinder and start cutting straight away (people have been killed doing that!!!)


Step 1: Empty the drum as best you can 


Step 2: Fill the drum up with water (only took about 10 mins) I added some detergent as i figured it'd help clean it out. Filling the drum with water displaces all the air and stops anything from blowing up in your face!!! (I like my face where it is) 




Step 3: Cut that lid off! I would have liked to have found a drum with a removable lid as I've read that webber lids fit these perfectly, but I was gonna make do, I didn't have time to find the perfect drum, I would make it work! Cutting the lid off with an angle grinder was surprisingly easy, i just followed the inside lid of the drum, careful to make sure i was only cutting through the top of the drum



Step 4: Use an arbor bit in a drill to cut out the 3 x 24mm (1 inch) intake holes  



Step 5: burn baby burn! I should have burn't mine out a bit better as i didn't burn all the paint off the outside and it took a fair amount of time to get that off with paint stripper and a wire wheel on the grinder. And if you care about your lawn I'd suggest propping up the drum on some bricks as I burnt a nice circle in my lawn :icon_neutral:


Step 6: Scrub the inside clean, I used some steel wool and acetone to scrub the inside, followed by a pressure wash, followed by a scrub with soapy water, followed by a pressure wash


Step 7: Run out and buy everything you need to get this baby cooking! I went straight to Bunnings (Big Australian hardware chain) and picked up brass fittings, some 3/4 copper pipe (I wanted 1in but they didn't have any, i'll be replacing it as soon as i can) I found a cheap kettle BBQ 57cm with a thermometer already in the lid for $70, done! as webber's aren't really popular where I am, i couldn't find a second hand one for that price. Got some stainless steel fasteners and black BBQ paint and raced home to get started on fitting out the UDS. I already had the ball valves at home


Step 8: Fitting the lid... Much to my disappointment the lid didn't fit. But i wasn't going to be beaten, I had an old bbq I was going to take to the dump, took one look at the stainless steel hood and got the angle grinder out again and started cutting strips out of it. With these strips i made a lip on the inside edge of the drum and used stainless steel pop rivets to hold in place. It worked well and i like the rivet look. I will be sealing this with some sort of gasket



Step 9: paint, one can of bbq paint was enough for me, but given the short time frame i had given myself, I only did one coat


Step 10: Assemble and season, once i put her together, i wave the inside a good coating of grape seed oil (high burn temperature, so i figured it'd be a good oil to use) I don't have a charcoal basket yet, all i used was an old brazier i had lying around, worked pretty well but isn't big enough and the conical shape means was you cook you get less and less coals, next week i'll be building a new charcoal basket





Step 11: get those ribs on her! I made rum and coke ribs, turned out pretty good, everyone loved them. I think it'll take a little while to get to know how the UDS works, but i'm very much in love with the style of cooking, the flavour and the satisfaction of cooking on something I've made with my own two hands.  

My first UDS build - 2 days well spent!


Future improvements:


Charcoal basket - Build a nice big charcoal basket with an ash tray


Bigger intake pipes - I want 1in pipes, probably don't need them but i think it'll look better, might bend the copper as a bit of a feature (I love the look of mat black and polished copper, would like to polish up the copper and brass, hit it with some clear coat to stop it oxidising, i think that'd look sweet!)


Nomex gasket - Found a nomex gasket for sale on ebay in Australia for $45, seems a bit steep, but i don't really have any other options for sealing this baby up good


Hinge the lid -  the lid came off a bbq that has a hinged lid, I will have to modify the hinges to fit the drum


2nd grill - I want to add another level (the whole reason I went the the trouble of getting the dome lid)


Side table - I got some scrap timber i'll be running through my table saw and turning into a side table, as its a bit awkward taking the lid off and trying to put meat on it


Dual probe thermometer - The el-cheapo thermometer in the lid couldn't be great, think i'll be getting a iGrill2 or a maverick 733 when i can (being an engineer i like the thought of the igrill's graphs and data)


Then I'll be happy with it... Until i decide i want to build another one, i can see this becoming an addiction 

post #2 of 23

looks good. Quick build time too. You'll love it. Takes a few times to learn how it likes to run but your off and running. 

post #3 of 23

 Get a 16" pizza pan. EZ ash tray. Drill three or four holes and use 3-4" bolts with washers to attach the tray to the charcoal basket.

post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 

Yeah I'll update this thread when I get a chance to make my charcoal basket, might have to butcher one of the pizza pans from the kitchen... better not tell the Lady of the house, it's always easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission 

post #5 of 23

You didn't waste any time  Good job    I like it



post #6 of 23

Wow Aussie on a mission!!! quickest UDS build I have seen on here! Great JOB!

Keep Smokin!!!


post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

Haha thanks Wolf, I'm currently working in a remote gold mine in Australia, where I work for 2 weeks than fly home for a week. Only being home for a week at a time really gets you motivated to get things done. The downside is I've spent two weeks at work thinking about all the things I want to do to my UDS and all things I want to cook!  

post #8 of 23


this  is my basket. It works really good. Just giving you some ideas.

post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks Timberjet, what's the dimensions of your charcoal basket? I'll be making mine this week 

post #10 of 23

12 inches high for the basket. You want at least 2 inches clearance between the bottom of the basket and the ash pan for good air flow. 3 would be even better. Mine is 14 inches across. just make sure you have enough clearance to get it out past the grate supports. I highly recommend Weber hinged grates too. Makes it real easy to throw some wood down in the basket if you need to without taking the racks out. By the way sorry I don't have a metric tape around here or I would have given you cm.

post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks for that, working in my industry you have to be pretty bi-lingual with measurements. we've got some american machines and all their drawings are in that outdated measurement system :P

post #12 of 23

Nice bit of gear mate.You really went flat stick on that build. Really impressive.

post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the positive feedback,it's motivating me to get the rest of the things done and start cooking some serious bbq.


As a fellow aussie, Moikel, what woods do you use when you are smoking? And where are you getting them from?

I've got plenty of bottlebrush wood at my place and I've heard paperbark wood is good as well. 


Any tips would be greatly appreciated by this newbie 





post #14 of 23

I use pellets from Mistygully in Vic but I have an MES.I buy 10kg bags&cure 1 for my bacon & other small goods. They have changed their name to something else I will have to back through my emails to find the last invoice. Fruit  wood is always safe,apple ,cherry but they aren't very Qld. I have friends in Cairns & my partners son is a medical resident at Mackay hospital. He will graduate out of James Cook uni in 2016.

I have a fully blown wood fired oven in my backyard that I built myself. The Italians in the wood fired pizza places use iron bark ,red or grey.Lots around me here all get the same delivery,I see the truck monday tuesdays. I have seen grape vine cuttings & olive cuttings used for good results.Likewise old wine barrels are oak so a good fuel,with extra flavour.

I have bought some Mallee which is nice & I know lots of northerners swear by Gidgee,haven't tried it. I grew up in River Red gum country so if I see the charcoal I buy it for old times sake.

Regards Mick

post #15 of 23
post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

Yeah, Brisbane is a bit tropical for a lot of stone fruits, but I did plant a tropical peach tree, a grape vine and an olive tree about 3 months ago... Might be waiting a while before i get some decent cuttings from them 


I'm planning on making a maze pellet smoke generator, as I have found an abundant source of perforated stainless steel sheets (large hydraulic filters that get thrown out) it should only take me an hour or 2 to knock one up, beats paying $65. Plus i really want to have a go at smoking cheese and some bacon 


There's a charcoal guy in Brisbane, that I'll try and visit when I'm home this week to see what he's got.


Very impressive pizza oven! I've wanted to make one for ages, but I don't really have a spot for one at my place (yet)   

post #17 of 23


Suppose you spent a lot of time and money developing a product, then you went through the hassle of patenting it!! How would you feel if people were publishing that they were going to make knockoffs of your design just because they have a cheap source of the raw materials it is made of and pictures? In my mind that just aint right!!

Keep Smokin!!!


post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 

I don't see how you can "draw a line in the sand" regarding the morality making your own compared to buying something. Especially when their is such a strong DIY culture around BBQ and smoking, I've spent hours and hours of my time trawling through hundreds of builds, all from avid DIYers who are happy to share their knowledge and intellectual property with the world, much as I did showing how I built my UDS (albeit, not much knowledge or IP). I guess I'm just a strong believer in the emerging open-source culture of, things worth having are things worth sharing (how many lives would have been lost if Nils Bohlin and Volvo had patented the seatbelt? An extreme example i know)


Given the rather small market in Australia for smoking, compared to the US, it allows the limited number of suppliers to monopolise the market and charge whatever they want. You wouldn't believe how expensive it was to buy a Nomex gasket for my UDS! Exactly the same product was over $30 cheaper in the US. 


For me, it's a simple matter of, if i didn't make it, i wouldn't have it. I wasn't prepared to fork out a lot of money for a smoker, as it's all relatively new to me, so i made one. I'm not familiar with cold smoking, so I'll make one. There's no question it'll definitely be a poor quality "knock off", but for the time being I'm only looking for functionality, if it works I'll be happy. And, if cold smoking is something I start to do often, I'd happily upgrade to a commercially available one, even at exorbitant Australian prices. I'd hate to spend $65 on something that I use once, then throw it in the cupboard filled with all the other things I've bought and hardly used.   


Having a product design background myself, I understand the point you are making, and agree with you, its a massive pain dealing with cheap knock-offs in a competitive market. If I was to manufacture these with the intent to sell them, then that'd be wrong. But if someone is prepared to spend the time, money and effort, creating something for themselves, i see no problem. After all, that's really what you are paying for, the convenience of not having to make something yourself. 

post #19 of 23

Do it yourself cold smoker. Just add chips. Just make sure and use a new not used soldering iron so you don't have any toxic vapors happening. Thumbs Up

post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 

UPGRADES!!! Home from work for a week, had to upgrade my UDS, I'd been obsessing about it for the two weeks i was away at work!


I sent half a day going round to a few scrap yards trying to find some perforated sheet or mesh, I though a sheet of scrap steel from a laser cutter, would be perfect, but could find nothing!

So after begrudgingly going home empty handed I stumbled on some old steel trays out of a fridge, stashed behind my shed (Not sure where they came from). After grabbing the grill off the old BBQ I'd used when I made the UDS, I cut it down to a square shape and decided to wack together a square charcoal basket, I made it pretty big as I figured a square basket wont have any airflow issues, and I'd rather have a larger basket then one that's too small.



I cut up two of the shelves for the sides, welded some 100mm (4in) bolts to the bottom and was pretty happy with the result. I've added a ash tray underneath cut from the lid of the drum, still need to add a handle of some kind to pick it up as it's a bit awkward and heavy to put it in the smoker.

I added a second tray and couldn't find a grill for a decent price so i just cut up one of the other fridge shelves into roughly the right shape, works great!

Added a self adhesive nomex gasket around the lid to seal it. Now she seals up perfectly!

Couldn't wait to fire her up and see how she goes! 



I'm still curious as to what temperatures i should be getting out of it though? The thermometer in the lid wouldnt go above 120 deg C (250f) with all three valves open, is this normal? I've read guys going to 300+ ? should I leave the lid off for the coals to really get going? Thoughts?






(I just ordered a iGrill 2 from the States, should be here in a few weeks, will be very interested to see how that goes) 

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