This started life as a Paragon pottery kiln. I don't remember the model number, but the inside is 17 in. wide x 22 inches deep.
I started smoking like a lot of guys with the Big Chief smoker. It worked sort of OK in the summer, but was a No-Go below 40 degrees.
So decided that I wanted an insulated smoker. After thinking about it and drawing up several designs (ok, call me cheap, I would rather build than buy). I sort of decided what I wanted, just needed the right device.
The spouse and I visited a local handcrafted pottery guild to pick up some gifts and right there...was what I was seeking, a pottery kiln. So when we got home I bounced onto Craigslist. Most of what I found was either in real bad shape (meaning the fire bricks), or they wanted a fortune for them...or both.
But I continued my search, and finally it paid off. A kiln in perfect condition, ( the owner said that the upper heating element was out, but what did I care). 50 bucks and it was in my truck.
Got home, ripped all the heating elements and the control unit out of it ( sold it to a guy who needed it for his kiln).
Cleaned out the pottery dust, made a run to the local ACE hardware for some round grills. Got home, cut some rods that fit across into element grooves.
Ripped the heating element out of the old Big Chief, set it on the bottom and fired up a smoke without meat, just to season the inside.
With just the element, the temp. stays around 320 ( I know a bit on the hot side). But adding a water tray in the middle, the temp then settles in at 255. Which seems to work very well.
I am still seeking a hot plate that I can dial the temp a bit more.
I also want to try charcoal sometime, but so far, this is working perfectly.
Especially when it is really cold outside, the insulated inside just keeps everything nice and stable. It insulates so well, that if I pull the plug, it will take over an hour to drop 50 degrees.
If someone is seeking a homebuilt...I highly recommend looking for a used kiln.
al in colorado