I have a wood-fired masonry smoker. A load of wood in the firebox generally will last about six hours or so - but that includes the first two hours or so when a lot of thick white smoke is being produced. So I really only get four hours of smoking meat out of my first firebox wood load. I really dislike the nasty flavor that white smoke imparts on the meat I am smoking.
Last summer I bought one of those Weber charcoal chimney starters for some grilling on vacation I was planning - the thing really worked well - got coals blazing in minutes. So I thought I'd try it with wood. Again, it worked very well, but because of it's relatively small size, I had to split the wood into very small pieces and then not much would fit in there.
Soooooooo, I decided to make something similar, only bigger. After scratching my head for about a month trying to figure out how I could find some steel for the wood starter, I spied a 10-gallon portable air tank in my shop that I hadn't used for 15 years (only used it once!). After some cutting and a little welding, I had my wood chimney starter - picture below:
First I cut the two ends off. Then I cut some 1/8" x 1" steel bar into three-inch long pieces. Next I welded the two ends (with the insides facing each other) together with the bars separating them the three inches. I drilled about a gazillion holes in the one end (3/8" diameter) to let air through, but retain the wood. Then I welded the two-end assembly to one end of the open can. The bottom end serves to retain crumpled newspaper to start the wood with, and then also retains any small red coals that drop through.
So now I have a wood chimney starter 12" in diameter and the length of a stick of firewood - I can get a good four or five sticks of wood in there easily.
I mounted it on the side of my firebox. After the wood really gets going I just grab my fireplace wood grabber, lift out the pieces of wood one at a time and place them in my smoker firebox.
Oh darn, after the wood burned for a while, all that pretty red paint bubbled off! I'll sand off what little remains and paint it with some good high-temp paint.
Below is a top view after I removed the pre-burned wood and placed it in the firebox. You can see the holes I drilled into the upper of the two bottom ends. I guess instead of drilling holes in the upper bottom, I could have just welded a bunch of pieces of steel bar on end - either way - just something to let air in and retain the wood. You wouldn't need the lower bottom end if you were going to do your burns on some concrete - just some legs.
I do intend to make a cap and chimney for the unit. One with a large opening in the cap - like half the circumference of the can and about 18 inches tall so that I can easily put wood in and take pre-burned wood out. The purpose being to keep my aluminum roof support from melting and smoke control - the burner is below a white aluminum patio roof.
Anyway, the thing works like a charm. Perhaps this idea will work for someone else also!