I got a drum and ...

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Legendary Pitmaster
Original poster
Nov 18, 2006
Hi Guys!

Looking for advice. I want to try to build a smoker. I got this 55 gallon closed drum at work that carried hydraulic oil for one of my elevators for about 2 hours. I figure I can cut it up with my saws-all and power wash the snot out of it.

The question is ... if this is acceptable .... should I

Cut it in half and make a horizontal smoker with a side fire box (I'm thinking of using the shell from a small old Char grill BBQ for the fire box).


a vertical smoker with a few doors?

As you know I've been using the ECB and although it does a good smoke it's a real PITA to get access to the second level food grate. It's also only 16" in diameter.

In either case I'll use the propane burner from the ECB as a backup heat source. Right now it's just acting like a chimney to start my charcol.

Here's my drawings (bear in mine I drew them in MS Word so there now quite to scale):

Debi, just for health and safety aspects, I wouldn't use any 55 gal. drum unless it was 1) brand new and never used or 2) it could be verified that that it contained only FOOD GRADE products. That's just my $.02.

BTW-I do like the looks of the horizontal pit, though.
I'm with Dutch on this one. Even if the hydraulic oil were a newer vegetable oil based product. I don't think you'd ever get all the odors washed out of the barrel. I think I'd hold out for a food grade barrel.

Both layouts look good - heck do em both decide which you like best, then get someone else involved with smoking.

Keep Smokin
Are you going to smoke with wood or charcoal? I hope wood. There's nothing better.
If it were me and the drums were my only option, I'd build it the way Chris Harper built his.
IMO a sawzall is a pain to cut with. I'd use a jig saw with a fine metal blade. My smoker is 0.20 thick (almost 1/4 inch) and that's what I used to cut the end off. It's just more comfortable to use a jig saw.
If your only option is a drum that has been used, clean it at the carwash after you get the holes cut in it. that way the high pressure spray will go out the holes and not back into your face. Then take it home and clean it real good with a brush and Borax and water.
gee, thanks, tom. i wish i had made a bigger firebox now though. when it is really cold i have to have a huge roaring fire going in the one i have to keep my temps up.
Dutch -

That's a good point. It was carrying a veggie based hydrauic oil and was brand new but what additives are in it? I can always make another (musical) steel drum.

I been looking for new drum but they only seem sell them 4 to a pallet. Thought it would be fun to try. I can't resist the temptation to attempt to build something if I can. May have to check the scap yard for steel.

I am kind of leaning toward the horizontal shape I think it might be more versatile except for hanging sausages and I could use the fire box for a grill if I wanted. Don't have room for both on my 8x10 porch. LOL


I can not even tempt anyone into smoking around here - they just think I bit eccentric about doing things myself. Although I have no shortage of volunteers to eat my smoked products. They all think I'm wasting my time - gee I could like, hmmm watch TV or something that would be productive.


Right now I'm using charcol with bits of wood. The ECB doesn't give me too much room. I did try making wood coals in the old grill and it works pretty well so I'm about 50-50 wood and charcol. I would like to use all wood eventually. I just like the taste better than gas although to be fair I haven't tried gas in the ECB yet other than to ge the charcols going.

I do have a jigsaw maybe I'll try that. I figured the saws-all has more guts, although it has danced me around a few times.


I did kind of steal some of your art work in my design. I did opt for a bigger firebox though because I can get plenty of 3 foot logs and after playing with these tiny wood chips I want to burn some real wood!

I want to do as much as posible with hand tools. Don't ask me why I just have a thing about doing things by hand. I may just break down and ask my brother-in-law to help with his welder and cutting tools.

Thank you Gents! As always your guidence is greatly appreciated!
I built a double drum wood stove for my barn years ago. It didn't have a weld one on it and it didn't leak either. You could buy the kit they sell to make one of them, cut doors in the top and add food grates, then put a log grate in the bottom barrel. You can get these kits at Harbor Freight or Northern Tool and they don't require welding. Check out this thread:
The only thing I'd do different than that one is have the smoke enter one end of the barrel and exit he other end, instead of both.
on the horizontal, you show the smokestack on the same side as the fierbox. make sure you have it on the opposite end, unless doing the reverse flow design.
that looks better. i would cut in the smokestack in the end though, not through the top. do it like in my pic. that works better for marvin and i. i am not sure on the reverse flow design now. i tried drawing how i think it should be in MS paint, and it didn't look right to me. maybe someone else can describe/draw it for you.
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