Building a whole hog smoker on the cheap. What are your thoughts? (Q-view)

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Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
SMF Premier Member
Feb 22, 2008
Marble Falls, AR
Hello all... I've been doing a whole hog on a cinder block for about four years now.

They turn out great but I'm looking to upgrade. A little bit. I have this tank that was given to me.

It's 7 feet long and 3 feet 9 inches wide. I'm looking to keep the build very cheap and primitive. Something like this.

Some concerns I have would be about the main chamber door (across the top... not pictured) being so big it warps. Also, clearance from the fire box to the cooking surface. I have no experience building a smoker. I really need to get it right the first time. At least, mostly. I could use some advice! The hog roast is Oct. 4th so I feel like I need to get on it. By the way.. if you're in the Northwest Arkansas area. You're invited. The more the merrier. Heck...if you're in Alaska and want to make the trip... you're invited. I would love to meet some SMF folks in person. That would be awesome! Thanks in advance. This is an awesome site!
TheMule69... I was over thinking it. The grate on the bottom is way better. Change made. As for how thick.. I'm not sure. This tank was used for liquid fertilizer 30 years ago. I know it's not as thick as a propane tank but feels thicker than a 50 gallon barrel. The guy that gave it to me thinks it's plum empty but said he can't be sure.When I tap on it, it sure sounds empty. All the same, I'm taking it to a professional welder to cut the lid out for me. I figure that's a crucial cut plus, that way, I don't blow myself up or something. Ms. Smoke_Chef is really against the idea of me blowing myself up. I'm not to much in favor of it either.

Thanks 50aksSmoker. I went and read that thread. I'll keep following it. It seems that fella has access to better toys that I have but I'll get'r done.

Pics of progress coming soon! (I hope)
Bummer. I went to pick up my tank today and the tractor I had wouldn't lift it. That thing is heavier than I thought. The problem... it still has some liquid in it. And... for some reason, this tank doesn't have a drain hole. The only access is on the top. Tomorrow I'll try with a bigger tractor.
Bummer. I went to pick up my tank today and the tractor I had wouldn't lift it. That thing is heavier than I thought. The problem... it still has some liquid in it. And... for some reason, this tank doesn't have a drain hole. The only access is on the top. Tomorrow I'll try with a bigger tractor.
Not to be negative but I would open the valve and see what is in it before I would spend any more time or money on it.It could cost you more in waste disposal charges then what a new tank would cost.Once it is at the welders shop he will have to check it out and if it is not correct he will just have you haul it off.

I like the build and wish you good luck that it is just old rusty water.

Hi Dan,

It's liquid fertilizer. Disposing of It is no concern. It's still viable to use on the field. I just have to get it out of my tank and into the sprayer. I've googled it and it seems it's pretty easy to remove the residue. A burn out should get 100% of it. Apparently it cleans out easier than either gas or oil since it's a water based product to begin with. Also, it's not explosive or flammable but it seems it's fumes can be. A water flush should take care of that. Hopefully I'll get the tank empty tomorrow and to the welder on Monday.

Move to come soon... I hope.

I got my tank picked up. I took it by a guy I know who has built a couple of smokers before. He's suggesting I not use this tank because it's only 1/8 inch thick. I know that's pretty thin, but I figured... 1. It's a free tank. 2. I'm only using it once or twice a year for whole hog so even if it is a fuel guzzler, I think I'm okay with that. My friend, who happens to have a 250 gallon propane tank he'll sell me for $100.00 is certain I'll be disappointed with the final product. But, I've seen where people build smokers like the UDS types. I'm pretty sure drum barrels are even thinner than 1/8 inch. So, what do you guys think? Go forward or get a different tank?

I'm not an expert on metal smokers, but the UDS works in part because of its smaller size. As long as you don't mind tending it, it will probably work, you will want to be careful cutting that thin metal so it doesn't warp, grinder over torch will be best IMO. Dave would be best since he has built a hog smoker like this, but worst case is you get hooked and start a collection, nothing says you can't build this one, see what works and what doesn't and maybe build a better one in a few years.
I made some progress today. I got some old metal cut off. Got the doors most of the way cut out. I just need to add the hinges and finish cutting them.

Here's where I'm a little stuck though. My Brother-In-Law gave me this trailer to use for this smoker. I realize most smokers are built on a frame and sit long ways. However, I have this free, nice trailer as a gift. I would hate not to use it. So.... how do I use it. The best way I can think of is just putting the smoker up on top of the rails. Really, the only down side I see if having to step up on the trailer every time I need to mess with the meat and well... maybe a downside is looks? But hey... free is free right?

What do you guys think?

Thank in advance for input. On the trailer or otherwise. This is my first build and I can use all the help I can get.
SC, morning..... I built the 'whole hog" smoker and I think you've seen it.... It sure cooks great pig but the one drawback is a killer... Fat dripping on the fire.... Once the pig starts rendering fat, you are in trouble.... keeping the temp low enough to cook it, and not render fat, is a tough job......

What I would do for my next smoker build..... build the Fire Box inside that big drum... No wasted heat loss.... the fire would be covered so dripping fat would not flare up..... That would save a "Run Away" fire.... I've had them..... burning pork fat is REALLY impressive...

Here is a drawing I just put together... Trying to overcome all the failings of my other Pig Smoker.... I would line the bottom of the FB with fire brick or sand..... The "Ideas" are there... maybe not complete....

In fact, I like this sooooo much, I may modify my smoker using these ideas..... You won't need a big FB.. The heat will be used and not much will be lost....

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Thanks for the input Dave. I will totally incorporate some version of the FB cover. I would like to avoid the run away fire if possible. I may give the smoker a trial run before doing the sand/brick idea. I totally get the idea of retaining the heat but worried that would make cleaning the smoker a much bigger task. Maybe I'm over thinking that part. I tend to do that.

You're pretty handy with whatever drawing program you're using as well. That's pretty good for just putting something together real quick. Much better than my trailer drawing. LOL

Again, I really appreciate your input. Your pretty much a legendary pit builder in my book!
We made some progress on the smoker today. The only problem was we got some pretty bad warping in the door. Note sure what I'll do about that. I thought we were being careful to do the stich style welding. I guess not good enough.

My nephew Tyler came to help today. He has pretty made skill for only having a high school welding class. The help was greatly appreciated.

Here's the gap I mentioned from warping. It's about an inch wide and runs the whole length of the bottom of the door. The type of hinges I've used would make it very difficult to remove the door all together. I read about heating it up then cooling it with a towel. I'll try that tomorrow. We tried beating on it tonight. It has to much spring to do any good it seems.

I'm studying now on how to attach the counter weight to my main door to hold it open. It's funny how you see that over and over in these posts but when you go to do it, it's not as simple as it seems. Well to me anyway. I can assure you, I'm the most amateur of the amateurs when it comes to stuff like this. But, it's been fun so far and I think it will smoke some good whole hog!

Any advice on anything you see is always appreciated!
If you can chain the door closed, some sort of "ribs" similar to the pic below, will hold it in place.... the ribs will replace the current hinges and allow for a door handle.... Weld only the tabs.... full length welds WILL cause warping....

The hinge/strap may be causing some "lift" on the door...... cut off the hinges with a thin grinding wheel.... could save you a lot of work.... on pic to enlarge....
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