I came across a sealed (non-removable lid) 30 gallon food-grade barrel for $15. My intention was to use a Jumbo Joe 18.5" lid to make the top of the smoker, so I cut the top of the barrel out and grinded down and flattened the remaining burr. Unfortunately, the barrel was about a 1/4" too wide for the Jumbo Joe lid, so I gradually beat and formed the rim of the barrel in order to narrow it. I finally got the Jumbo Joe lid to fit like it was made for the barrel, but man was it a lot of work. I was concerned with it looking clean, so I took my time hammering and slowly formed it without denting it. The lid fits snugly with no visible smoke leaks.
My neighbor uses a projector to show the Royals baseball games on the front of his house and he always has a fire pit burning. I brought my barrel over and he burned it out for me through a couple of the games, which burned off all the exterior white paint and the interior liner. I used a flap disc on my angle grinder and sanded off all the char on the inside and outside. The barrel actually looked pretty cool all sanded and I considered using high temp clear coat engine enamel on it to keep the look, but eventually decided to paint the outside of it black
I looked at a ton of pictures of how to make a charcoal basket and came up with my own version...mainly because I was free-styling based on available materials. I bought most of the charcoal basket materials from a local sheet metal shop for $14. Basically, I took a cheap grill grate I had lying around and tied it perpendicular to an old Weber charcoal grate from on old 18.5" charcoal grill with stainless steel wire and then cut a hole in the middle. I then wrapped expanded metal all the way around the charcoal grate about 3.5" up the expanded metal sheet so that ash can fall through and not choke out the fire.
The sheet metal shop had a bunch of 1/8" punched out steel circles (heavy duty) laying in their scrap heap so I had them weld some 1/2" black pipe to a 15.5" circle and a 1/2" black pipe female adapter to a 12.5" circle. The sheet metal shop was nice enough to do the welding for me for free because they were already in the process of welding.
The grill grate wrapped in expanded steel sits on top of the 15.5" circle and the 12.5" circle screws on to the black pipe. The larger circle acts as an ash catcher and the smaller circle is the heat deflector. Total height assembled is 14". I can pick it up by the heat deflector (with welding gloves when hot).
Assembled and in the barrel, the heat deflector is 4.5" inches below the bottom cooking grate. I have two cooking grates; one at 4.5" below the rim of the barrel and one 9.5" below the rim of the barrel.
This pic is of the charcoal basket in the barrel without the cooking grates. I can easily add more charcoal and wood chunks from above because I left a 3.5" gap between the top of the expanded steel and the heat deflector. I rest an aluminum drip pan on top of the heat deflector to catch run off, which works great.
...and with the cooking grates.
I have four 3/4" nipples evenly spaced along the bottom of the barrel for airflow; two have screw on pipe caps and two have 18" black pipe extensions and 3/4" gas ball valves via a 90 degree black pipe elbow. I drilled two holes near the top of the barrel and use rubber electrical grommets ($0.55 each) for temp probes. They look crazy crooked in this pic angle, but they actually are not.
Here is the finished product. It sits on some casters I had lying around. I was concerned with it being a little front heavy, so I added a door spring as a fail safe. Once the heavy charcoal basket is inside, it is not, but better safe than sorry since I cook on a wood deck (on top of cement board).
I cooked two 8.5 lb. pork butts on it yesterday for a party we had and the thing ran on about 10 lbs. of charcoal for 8.5 hours between 275 and 300 degrees and I still have quite a bit of usable fuel left. I cooked one butt per grate and the top butt basted the bottom butt as fat rendered. I periodically sprayed apple juice on the top butt. About half way through the cook, I rotated grates, moving the bottom butt to the top and the results were awesome. These things are incredibly efficient and easy to use...I couldn't be happier!
Edited by JamieLamb - 11/1/15 at 12:14pm