Building A UDS

17 Jun
Building A UDS

In previous post I’ve mentioned that BBQ in it’s truest form is a poor man’s pass time.If I had the money I’d drop it in a second for a nice new smoker. Shoot I can’t even afford a WSM (Weber Smoky Mountain). Oh I look at the smokers and dream. But there comes a point in time when a man has to quit eyeballing the Ferrari, and climb into his old beat up pickup truck. They both will get you to where you’re going, just one will turn a few more heads. The same holds true for the UDS. It’s not pretty, but in the right hands it will turn out some mighty fine meat. Do they work? Don’t ask us, ask the people we feed.

You can google UDS plans and come up with tons of stuff. The first one I built, I began by googling it. Most plans had tons of bells and whistles, and said to expect to spend anywhere between $200.00 and $400.00, I could buy a brand new WSM with that kind of money. They also said I needed a welder, that I don’t have, and a good metal cutter, that I also don’t have. But I wanted a smoker, so I grabbed a barrel and went to work.

My goal is to get you in and out of this for UNDER $100.00.

Note: If you have a Weber kettle grill there’s a good chance your lid will fit on your barrel.

This is the first UDS we built, notice the Weber lid.

My smoker doing what it does best

What you’ll need (probably not inclusive):

mms_picture (6)

1 steel 55gal drum (avoid the flimsy ones it’ll take ya longer to built it than it will last)

1 charcoal grate that fits into the bottom of a Weber. (I got mine at Lowes.)

8 or more eye bolts, and 2 hex nuts to go with each one.

1 piece of  6X18″ sheet metal. (Lowes again)

A roll of chicken wire.

1 long thin piece of metal with holes in it. (Also Lowes)

2 22 1/2 inch grill grates Weber’s fit quite fine. (Try your friendly Lowes)

4 1/4 inch bolts, nuts, washers, and lock nuts.

4 4 inch lag bolts 2 washers and nuts for each

4 very long lag bolts 12 inches or more and 1 nut each to fit

1 BBQ thermometer (Hello Lowes)

4 bricks (to get your smoker off the ground)



Electric drill (unless you’re Amish)

1 drill bit slightly larger than your eye bolts.

1 3/8 inch drill bit

1 long piece of string and marker

A hacksaw if you have one, if not a work around is provided later…… because well I  lost mine.

To begin:

The vents.
We’ll get the hardest part out of the way first. Begin by flipping the drum upside and finding the center.

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After you find dead center or as close as you can come, drill a 3/8 inch hole. This will be your pivot point for your vent.

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Now find the center of your piece of 6X18 metal and drill a 3/8 inch hole through it. Now dry fit it by lining up the holes and placing your 1/4 bolt through it.

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Now holding the metal in place use a nail or other sharp object to trace around it. Using that as a guide not mark two squares inside it leaving a half inch all the way around separated by a half inch on BOTH sides of your center hole.

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Now remove the squares inside of your big square. If you don’t have a hacksaw you can, though it will be be quite painstaking, drill holes all the way then drill the spots out in between the holes It ain’t pretty, but it’s the bottom, who’s going to see it?

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Now bend down any rough edges with pliers and attach your piece of metal.

Drill a 3/8 in hole a 1/4 inch from the end of your sheet metal, and atach your metal strip with a 1/4 inch bolt, washers, and nut. Be sure to leave any excess toward the bottom of your barrel so as not to interfere with the opening and shutting of the vent.

mms_picture (10)

Next place a slip washer, then a washer on the bolt, run it through the hole in the plate and the hole in the bottom of your barrel, then place another washer, and slip washer on the bolt add your nut and tighten down. Bend whatever of the long thin strip of metal you have remaining down the side of the barrel, this will give you a handy handle for adjusting your vent.

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Now on to the fire box

Grab you charcoal grate and place 4 – 4 inch lag bolts through it attaching with the bolts and washers. These will act as your legs.

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Then grab your chicken wire (I recommend glove at this point) and carefully fit your chicken wire around your charcoal grate leaving a slight overlap. Fasten it with 2 1/4 inch bolts and washers to hold it closed and trim the top. I’d recommend about 12 or so inches from the grate to the top of your chicken wire. This will give you a plenty big fire box for those nice long slow cooks.

mms_picture (3)b

Now let the wire slip down 1 row below the grate, this is where you’re going to attach it to the grate. Run one bolt along each side through the chicken wire and  UNDER THE GRATE and 1 bolt along each of the other sides ON TOP OF THE GRATE and through the wire, fastening with nuts at each end. (sorry the 4th one didn’t make the crop)

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Ok we’re almost home now, by my calculations you should be on about your third beverage at this stage, if not stop and catch up.

Placing the pins for the racks

Begin by sizing up your barrel with your firebox. You want your cooking surface as far away from the heat as possible, but you want to still leave room for your meat. Think Thanks Giving Turkey here. Leave room for that and you’ll have room for just about anything else.

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Again we are going to work from the bottom up. Measure up about 2 inches from the top of your fire box and mark it. Now measure down from the top about 6 inches or so, use your own judgment here and mark it again.

Now grab a piece of string and place it around the barrel and cut it to the exact length. Now take your string and fold it in half, mark the center, then fold each end in to meat the middle and mark where those fold fall. Now place the string around the top of your barrel fastening with tape.

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Now simply find the distance to your marks you place on the drum, measure down from the top using the four marks you put on your string as a reference and mark each spot. This should give you two rows of four evenly placed, level marks. Now just drill them out with a drill bit slightly larger than the post on your eye bolts.

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Now add your eye bolts with a nut on either side of the barrel to hold them the right distance. You’ll have to adjust these to get just the right fit for your grill grates.

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Now drill a hole for your thermometer, and insert it. You will want it as close to the cooking surface as possible.

If your lid has a gasket seal be sure to remove it.

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Time to burn it in

You’re not quite ready to cook yet, BUT you are ready to fire it up! This may seem like a waste of charcoal but one whiff after you start and you’ll see why we do this step. Begin by setting your barrel on four bricks to allow air to flow up under it. If you have a chimney starter fill it full and get it going, if not use your charcoal grill and get as much charcoal going as you can. Once whichever method you use is blazing hot dump it into your fire box. Then fill the remainder of your firebox with unlit charcoal. Add your grill grates and leave the lid off for about a half an hour, we want this sucker BLAZING HOT!!!! We hit about 650f on ours this last time. Then add your lid and let it burn it’s self out. This will take you anywhere from 8-12 hours.

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You are now the proud owner of a UDS, or otherwise know as an Ugly Drum Smoker.

Hope to bust out a blog post on how to cook on it in the very near future.


Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Building A UDS

  1. Greg

    June 17, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Great tutorial!


    • mrdodd

      June 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      A little long winded but I worry about leaving something out, and catching grief.


  2. IQ110

    February 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Hey there! I just wish to offer you a big thumbs up for the
    great info you have got here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your web site for more soon.



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