Category Archives: Projects

Mission Complete – the final UDS pellet smoker project update

Finished Product

The finished project, my homemade UDS pellet smoker

In my last blog post I reported that I was pretty much done with my UDS pellet smoker project but that I still had a few odds and ends to complete, those odds and end are done, and it is mission complete on this project.

The shot above is the finished product and she has already had her first cook.

Hinged Lid

Hinged lid on the UDS pellet smoker

This shot shows the lid I finally decided to use for this project.  If you search the BBQ forums for UDS smoker projects, you will see that the lid off of a 22.5″ Weber grill is a very popular choice, but since I don’t have one, I really didn’t want to spend $100+ to buy a Weber to just cannibalize some parts off of and then dispose of the rest.  There had been a few posts in these same forums from people who reported buying really cheap charcoal grills from places like Walmart and using those lids.  I stopped by my local Walmart store and found a $30 22.5″ grill that not only had a perfect lid for my project, it was hinged, which the Weber isn’t.  I did have to modify the hinges a little to get them to fit, but that was just drilling a couple holes so things lined up and the above shows the finished lid assembly, as well as some hooks that I hung on the smoker for things like tongs.

Smoke Generator

My Smoke Daddy cold smoke generator installed on the UDS pellet smoker

This last image shows my Smoke Daddy cold smoke generator installed on the UDS pellet smoker.  At first I wasn’t sure that I was going to install it on this smoker, but after my first cook, while it had a good smoke ring, I decided that I wanted to be able to have the ability to add additional smoke to the cook, and since this thing installs easily, I can move it between smokers as needed.

Well there it is, all done and ready to cook.  This was actually a fun project to do.  When it was all said and done, I have well under $500 into it, but I do have a lot of of hours invested.  A lot of that time though was researching the project and then designing it.  If I were to build another one, it would take about half the amount of time.  Thanks for following along with me on this project, now I just need to get my FJ40 back on the road. 🙂

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Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro Hopper – a pellet UDS update

Yesterday marked the biggest accomplishment in this project, the delivery and installation of the Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro Hopper.

Pellet Hopper

Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro Hopper

I was almost as excited to unbox the pellet hopper after work last night as I am when I get a new Macbook Pro or a new Nikon camera.  I was really happy when 5:00pm rolled around and I was able to shut down the work computer and head out to the garage to work on the smoker again.

The hopper is actually a somewhat “generic” device as Smoke Daddy uses this same hopper in a number of different applications, but they do sell a retrofit kit that includes the needed hardware to mount it to a 55 gallon drum as well as a template to mark where to drill the needed holes and to cut out the section of the barrel to allow the burner to fit in the barrel.


Drill and cutout template attached to my 55 gallon drum

With the template on the barrel, all that was needed was to drill 4 holes and cut out the opening.  Both are very straight forward tasks but it did take a little time, and a lot of Dremel cutoff disks, the barrel’s steel was actually a bit harder than I expected and it really wore down the disks, butI had the needed holes and opening in short order.


All the needed holes and cuts to install the hopper

With all the drilling and cutting done, it was a simple matter of attaching the mounting brackets with the supplied hardware and then bolting the hopper to the mounting brackets.


Pellet Pro hopper attached to the 55 gallon drum

You will notice that there is a 3-ring binder under the corner of the pellet hopper.  The hopper is actually quite heavy and I was having an issue with it not balancing well with the somewhat light barrel.  I suspect that if I would have mounted the hopper over the wheel, which you can see in this picture, instead of between 2 wheels I wouldn’t have had this problem.  I can think of a couple ways to address this, one being adding some sort of “foot” to the hopper or to add some weight to the other side of the barrel, I will figure that out but in the meantime I will be using a little chunk of 2×4 to hold things straight. 🙂

Once I had everything mounted up, it was time to give it a test firing so I loaded the hopper with pellets and plugged her in.  Smoke Daddy sends instructions on how to fire it for the first time, you are basically priming the pellet auger and honestly, which is very straight forward and before I knew it I had the internal barrel temperature up to 225 degrees.  Not shown in the picture above is a temperature sensor that you install into the barrel that regulates the hopper to maintain the temperature that you select.  It seems to do a great job of keeping things where they should be.

I still have a few odds and ends to finish up before she is ready for her first brisket or tri-tip.  I need to install a heat diffuser, you don’t want direct heat under the meat when you are cooking “low and slow” as well as coming up with some sort of a lid.  I picked up a cheap stainless steel pizza pan that should make the perfect diffuser and I am still looking for a 22.5″ domed Weber grill lid.  Regardless, I should be giving it a test run with a tri-tip on Friday or Saturday and possibly a full brisket for the big game on Sunday.

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Wheels and cooking surfaces – a UDS pellet smoker update

I realize that it has been quite awhile since my last ugly drum pellet smoker project update.  There are actually a few reasons for that, and while you might think that it being winter would be the biggest, it actually has more to do with the holidays and simply not having a whole lot of free time.  Now that the holidays are well behind us, I have started moving forward again and actually hope to have the project finished by this coming weekend, who knows, maybe brisket for the big game on Sunday.

UDS Wheels


I have been debating for quite awhile what I wanted to do for legs for the new smoker.  I had come up with a number of ideas along the way but in the end, and with a little input from my wife, I decided to go with wheels instead of legs.  The wheels that you see in the picture are actually from a left over furniture dolly we had left over after our move to Olympia in 2012.  I wasn’t using it any longer and in the interest of reusing / recycling I couldn’t think of a better use for these old wheels.  Attaching them to the barrel was quite simple, just drill some holes and use some bolts to hold them in place.

I also picked up a couple round Weber replacement grill surfaces over the weekend.  They are 22″ in diameter and fit in the 55 gallon from almost perfectly.  To install them I simple attached stainless steel L brackets to the inside of the barrel and laid the grill on the L bracket.  The following picture shows the lower grill.

Bottom Grill

Lower cooking surface

As far as spacing from top to bottom of the barrel, I sort of just “eye-balled” it to what I thought would be a good place for this lower grill.  I also wanted to leave enough room under it incase I want to add another once to use as a drip pan so I can have 2 cooking surfaces, in this setup the grill you see here will hold the drip pan and the upper grill will be the cooking surface.

Top Grill

Upper cooking surface

This shot shows the upper cooking surface, as well as the lower one, in place.  For this one I installed it 5″ down from the top lip of the barrel.  My plans are to use a domed lid from something like a Weber grill as the top of the smoker, but with it being 5″ down I can still get away with something flat until I can find a domed lid that will serve my purposes, I don’t have one yet.

For the most part, I am only missing 2 components to allow me to fire this up and start cooking in it.  The first is the lid that I have already mentioned, and I can always find work arounds until I find what I am looking for, and the second is the actual pellet hopper / burner which is scheduled to be delivered today.  It should go without saying that I will be updating the blog as soon as I have it installed. 🙂


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Smoke Daddy cold smoke generator

Smoke Daddy

The Smoke Daddy cold smoke generator attached to my vertical smoker

While this isn’t directly related to my UDS pellet project, it is an indirect part of it, so I wanted to share an update.  I have been wanting to move into the world of “cold smoking” for a long time, but there are a lot of challenges with doing that, the main one being the ability to generate smoke without increasing the temperature inside your smoker, smoking cheese wouldn’t work all that well of the cheese simply melted. 🙂  There are a number of ways to accomplish this, and I went with what you see in the above picture, the Smoke Daddy Cold Smoke Generator.

To keep things very simple, a cold smoke generator is nothing more than a small device that you put combustible materials in, that is separate from the main chamber in your smoker, and when the material in the cold smoke generator burns, the smoke is released into the smoker, but very little heat is transferred since it is isolated from the main smoker.  Please visit the link above for demo videos from Smoke Daddy.

I will be posting another update in about a week after I sample the cheese that I used for the test smoke this weekend, from what I read smoked cheese should sit for at least a week for the flavor to set, and I will report back on that, but in the meantime the next image is of the amount of smoke being generated by the cold smoker.

Cold Smoke

Plenty of smoke generated

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Sanding and painting the barrel for the UDS smoker project


Got a little more work done on the UDS smoker project this weekend.  After the recent burnout, the next step was to give the barrel a quick sanding and painting.  To give it the quick sanding / stripping I used one of my favorite things from 3M, their paint / rust remover attached to an air powered die grinder.  Considering that most of the paint was actually burnt off from the fire, it really just took a few minutes to get it down to bare steel.

Many years ago I bought a can of high temp paint with the plans of refurbing a grill I had at the time.  I ended up replacing that grill but still had that can of high temp enamel on the shelf, imagine my surprised when it turned out being white paint instead of the black that I was expecting.  Still, I wanted to give the barrel 3 coats of paint so the first coat ended up being the white.


I ended up finishing the task up with 2 coats of high temp black enamel.


It’s time to start adding some of the hardware needed for the cooking racks and handles.  I am planning on going with stainless steel hardware and will update the blog here as I get to that.  I will be out of town this coming weekend so things might be sitting in this state for a couple weeks.

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