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Finally starting my 1st UDS build


Joined Oct 24, 2013
I wish I had found this forum sooner!

I got interested in the uds from the Popular Mechanics article. Without any other research I bought my food grade drum for $20. What I didn't know about was the dreaded toxic red liner. Realizing I had it I researched removing it and thought I was going to have to pay someone to sand blast. But instead I bought a $10 angle grinder and some 40-60 grit sanding disks to try myself. It came off a lot simpler than I was led to believe by all I read. A few hours of grinding and it was done. But lesson learned for the next drum. He had non-food grade drums for $15 but I don't know what was in them or what kind of lining.

I was going to follow the PM instructions, but I see from posts on here that there are some design flaws. One I saw was that all 4 intakes don't need 24" pipes. So I figured I'll go with only 1 long pipe? 

1st question - 3 or 4 intake holes and 3/4" or 1"? I'm ready to do a burn and season to it because it's bare steel right now on the inside and I want to make sure I drill the holes right. I wiped the inside down with some oil so it doesn't rust before then.

2 - Do I need to do anything to the outside after the burn? I'm keeping this down and dirty (and cheap) so I don't want to bother painting it if I don't have to.

3 - Any other suggestions regarding mods to the PM build?

Looking forward to all the great advice and smoking my 1st piece of meat on my UDS!


Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
Joined Feb 3, 2009
you don't need  the long pipes. But it sure is easier to have them at waist level to adjust when needed. You can get away w/o painting .  Once you fire the uds a few times you will need to wipe it down w/ oil to keep it from rusting.

  I have seen the uds built w/ anywhere from 1 - 4 air intakes. when i asked why 4 ,i was told that if you have a fire burning and one side gets hotter than the other you can open and close the valves to control the heat. If you only have 1 valve you can only control that one area of the coals.

 Made sense to me???


Master of the Pit
Joined Jan 29, 2010

I have four 3/4 inch intakes with only one ball valve on mine. I have found that you really only need 2 if you lift your basket out each time you light and let it go for a few minutes. I don't have an extension on mine and the only reason I see a need for that is if you are likely to trip over the lever, (which I have many times). Or I guess bad back and such. I would paint the outside if the burn took the paint off. You do not need high temperature paint. I used flat black primer and like that I can touch up if I get a little rust around the valve or nipples every so often. I have not seen the PM instructions but will say that the fire basket is all important in it's design. You need A few inches of air space below the ash pan, then A few more between the top of the (pizza pan) ash pan and the bottom grate of the basket. Airflow down there is critical to a nice even burn and good clean thin blue smoke. If you have any more questions please fire away. I am a die hard UDS user. 

Also take some pictures so we can help you out even more. Happy UDS building.

The second photo is what I want to do next summer if it all works out. I also have large wine barrels and was thinking the pellet mod on that would be my cold smoking machine. Any thoughts on that anyone. Sorry, not trying to hijack or anything.
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Thread starter
Joined Oct 24, 2013
Thanks eman and timberjet. Going with 4 intakes with 2 valves to keep it even. That DOES make sense. Didn't get to do my burn this weekend because of high winds. But I got the holes drilled and the nipples bought. Looking for cheap valves. Was hoping my retired plumber Dad had some parts, but nope. Nothing I could use.

Next, I suppose, will be to build the firebox. Hoping to get as much material as I can from scrap or freecycle as I'm trying to keep this cheap.

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