Starting a "2 drawer" filing cabinet build - First build

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Mar 6, 2011
Frederick, MD
So I have been interested in smoking meats etc for a while now and lately, since the weather is slowly starting to turn, the itch is on and Ive decided to build my own small smoker. I found a small 30" high 18" deep two drawer file cabinet on craigslist for $15 today and picked it up, attached are the beginning pics of what I am working with, I will post more as I go along. As for now, I have a lot of really good ideas flowing for a classy looking finished product. Any suggestions along the way will be greatly appreciated.


This is what I am working with, just perfect for the use I am making of it!


I was relieved to find that I dont have a whole lot of paint or anything like that to burn out, ill likely do some sanding and then get a good fire going inside for a while to burn off any other unknown chemicals or paint. Im going to use the top guide to set my rack on with some extra reinforcement.


As for the drawers, I am cutting the drawer part off and saving the two door fronts and I am going to make hinged doors out of them with some fancy sheet metal work, you will see when i get to that stage. So far that is all I got, this week I will begin slowly working on it while not at work and I will be sure to keep the pictures coming as well. Wish me luck, Im taking my time on this and want to give it a quality finished look.
This should be a good one. The only problem I see is that most file cabinets are very thin metal. Holding the heat in may be a concern.
I am going to use electric for heat, i am in a condo backed up to the woods and they really only allow for electric heat sources so I can stick this thing out in my back yard and smoke away. Im assuming 1000w source should do me ok? Suggestions welcome of course.

As for the flimsy metal that is one thing I noticed first, I was pondering ideas on how to insulate it better, that I am looking into.

My plan is to make the space below the front bottom lip (see pic) its own separate space, housing the element wiring or body. If I can get even more creative, it will also temp control parts, that is another thing I am still exploring on, I am darn sure I can pull it off, Im pretty savvy when it comes to electricity and technology.
Ok I went over to the local Habitat for Humanity REstore and picked up an 1100 watt hot plate, some AC vents and a small grill rack for a tester, Anyway this is what I got.



I disassembled it and am going to use the bottom of one of the drawers as a base inside the smoker, cut a hole and fit in the chrome base plate that holds the coil. I had also drilled a hole to put the original temp controller in the front so I can control it from the outside to turn it off and on but in the mounting process, the screw destroyed it. I am going to work to grab my recip saw shortly, I will post pics this afternoon of my progress. For now, any ideas on what to do for a new controller, the piece that got destroyed is in the pic above, next to the control knob.
Success, this thing is starting to look like something, as for the rack i have in there now, that is just to get a look at what the finished product will be, I am going to make or buy a grill rack that fits the entire space from side to side,  thinking maybe an old oven at a scrap yard will provide me the necessary switch to control the heating element...



Came across an old griddle controller today at work, opened it up and it is the same inner workings as the hot plate (duh). Ill take it home and see what kind of magic I can work this afternoon! More to come.

Viola! After about 15 minutes of buzzed calculating of the old wire configuration and making sure I was going to connect the right wires to the right place without frying an electrical socket I plugged it in with confidence and sure enough it worked. Now it is time to try and figure out if the middle long metal prong of the griddle plug is the temperature gauge for the cutting off and on of the electricity. If it is, I will work on something to connect to that and monitor the temp of the chamber or somewhere on the hot plate.


More to come! As for you coyote, I would love to use some simple wood heat but again, I live in a condo and am limited to electric power. I am backed up to the woods so fifteen feet back on my "yard" and I shouldnt have a problem.
Finally got some paint on this thing, did some testing yesterday and it sat around 215, thinking if i add my oxygen intakes then it will sit right where i want it on full go at 220, elevated the chip box about a half inch above the element using a small grate to keep from flaring up (had that problem my first test), will add handles and magnetic catches or some sort of catch in general next week for the doors. Also adding some sort of oven door lining to keep the smoke going to the top instead of the doors and vent, had a pretty good test run last night, kept the chips from flaring up. Going to try chunks and see how they do.



left my drill at work so i havent been able to put the locking mechanism on the bottom door yet, i couldnt wait though, i had to do a test run today


so far so good, my door thermometer says around 200, the inside thermometer is reading up around 230, so i need to bring the heat down a little it seems

and i dont even have to insulate it which is where i was going next if i was having temp issues, now its mostly cosmetics, door lining, and a new grill grate to complete the project
it was just a piece of top sirloin with a big piece of fat on the side, I didnt want to do any big meats or $30 cuts until I knew for sure I could run this thing at 220 consistently and do it right, the next will probably be a big brisket, I saw in another thread that walmart has some good ones so thats where i will go. I will have some friends, some beer, and a smoke fest with some games of cornhole thrown in there next saturday probably! is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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