How to Craft a Smoker – A Comprehensive Guide

Building your own smoker requires a lot of time and effort. But if you have the skills of a craftsman, this project will turn out to be a great experience for you. At the same time, you’ll also save yourself some cash as you wouldn’t have to buy one from the store. 

So without any further ado, let’s start the tutorial on how to craft a smoker by yourself! 

How to Craft a Smoker – Steps And Tips  

Build Understanding of Your Smoker 

One benefit of crafting a smoker is that you can customize its size and design as per your choice. The primary components of a BBQ smoker are the cooking chamber, firebox and smokestack. For making a standard cooking chamber, you can buy the easily available propane tank having a capacity of 250 gallons. Since these tanks are made of 1/4″ steel, they are rugged and do not corrode.  

Next, you need to decide the material of your firebox. Using a steel plate (3/16” or more) is best for retaining the heat inside the smoker. If you have a thinner steel plate, use ceramic insulation for better fuel efficiency. 

The size of your firebox should be 1/3 of the cooking chamber’s volume. You can also consider using a calculator for deciding the design and dimensions of your smoker. 

The third major component that directly influences the taste of your smoked food is a smokestack. It is best to choose a tall smokestack with a diameter of 6-10 inches. Do not install a small smokestack on your grill or the limited airflow will lead to improper combustion and the thick smoke will infuse bitter flavor in the meat.   

Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting a Cooking Chamber 

What You’ll Need 

  • Propane tank (250 gallons) 
  • Ceramic insulation (optional)
  • Soft tape 
  • Bubble level 
  • Hinges (optional) 
  • Round stock and tubing  
  • Vice or welding torch 
  • Angle grinder 
  • Chop saw 
  • Cut-off wheel  

Cutting a tank containing any leftover propane gas can be potentially dangerous. To remove all the gas, fill a mixture of water and dish soap in the tank before cutting. Also, if you are not confident about your skills, we suggest seeking help from a professional.    

Step 1: Make the Measurements 

You can either cut one or two doors for your cooking chamber. However, a single door involves increased chances of distortion due to greater internal stress applied while cutting. 

Therefore, we suggest cutting two identical doors with their top starting from a few inches below the tank top. While their bottom starts from 1/3rd of the way around the propane tank. Mark your measurements accurately using a soft tape and level. 

Step 2: Craft the Hinges 

Before starting to cut the door, weld any suitable hinges you have bought on the door top. You can also build your own hinges using round stock and tubing. To do this, you will need to cut both materials to length with a chop saw and angle grinder. Next, weld the cut tubes right above where you have marked your door top. 

For hinges, bend round stock by using a torch or vice. Slide the bent round stock in the welded tubes to check if they fit in perfectly. 

Step 3: Cut the Cooking Chamber Doors 

Set the hinges aside and start cutting the door following the lines you marked earlier. Do the cutting using an angle grinder and cut-off wheel. 

Stop when you are almost done cutting the doors and secure your hinges in position by welding them. Now complete the cutting of doors. 

Step 4: Weld the Door Handles

Just like you made the hinges for the door, you can also plan to make the door handles. Bend two more round bar pieces and slide them into a tube, you are done crafting a door handle. Fix the round bars in the tube and weld the handle on the bottom of the door. 

However, doing this drill is not necessary if you are lucky to find something that you can hold comfortably for opening the doors. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting a Smokestack 

What You’ll Need 

  • MIG welder 
  • Angle grinder 
  • Metal sheet (1/8”) 
  • Jigsaw or cut off wheel

Now that you are done making the door, the next step is to start working on a smokestack. Though you can make a smokestack simply by cutting a hole out of the top of the cooking chamber and attaching a pipe to it, this won’t secure the ideal airflow for you. 

Rather, we suggest connecting a smokestack parallel to the cooking chamber. Also, the width of the smokestack should be sufficient enough so that better air collection throughout the smoker is ensured. 

Step 1: Make the Measurements 

Start by marking the center point at the side of the cooking chamber where you want your smokestack to be. Extend a line from this center point, this is roughly the level of your cooking grates. Next, draw two parallel lines a few inches higher and lower to the centerline. 

Step 2: Start Cutting 

Grab an angle grinder and start cutting the marked portion. In the pipe, cut a notch of a height similar to the smokestack opening. Make out the remaining part of your smoke collection using a 1/8” sheet or a sheet that matches your pipe thickness. Use cardboard as a template to get an idea of the shape and dimensions of the smoke collection unit. 

Next, cut the sheet pieces using a jigsaw, cut-off wheel or grinder. 

Step 3: Join the Smokestack Geometry 

Attach all these pieces along with the pipe. Start by welding the bottom plate, this should be strong enough to hold the pipe. Next, weld the pipe in place, then side plates and finally the top piece.  

Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting the Cooking Grates

What You’ll Need 

  • MIG welder 
  • Expanded steel (3/4″ opening size) 
  • Square tubing (3/4″) 
  • Angle iron (3/4″ x 1/8”) 

There are two approaches to making cooking grates. The easier one is to simply weld the expanded metal piece in the cooking chamber on any support. However, welding the sheet directly means you won’t be able to remove it which can later make the cleaning task grueling. 

Rather, plan to spend some extra time and effort installing removable cooking grates. These grates will be located in line with the door bottom. For two doors, you will be installing two cooking grates. You can also increase the cooking space by adding shelves on the bottom grates. 

Step 1: Weld the Angle Iron

To support the cooking grates, you will need to weld angle irons in the cooking unit. Set their geometry such that each angle iron is parallel to the other and perpendicular to the cooking chamber door.  

Step 2: Design the Frame 

Measure the dimensions of the cooking grate. Cut expanded metal and tubing accordingly. Join all the tube pieces together to form a frame for holding expanded metal. Next, weld expanded metal on the frame but do it carefully to avoid warping. 

Step 3: Install the Cooking Grates 

Once you are done making the frame of expanded metal, you can place it easily on the angle irons you welded earlier.  

Crafting a Firebox 

What You’ll Need 

  • Steel plate (1/4″) 
  • Steel plate (5/64”) 
  • Circular saw 
  • Ceramic insulation (1 1/2″) 
  • Square tube (1 1/2”)

Your firebox should measure around 1/3rd of the cooking chamber. Avoid using a thin steel plate or the heat will escape out of the smoker. Though not necessary, adding ceramic insulation to the firebox will help in trapping the heat inside the smoker for a long time so that you are saved from requiring a lot of fuel. 

Step 1: Cut the Steel Plates 

Here, we are going to make the firebox interior using a 1/4″ steel plate, then adding ceramic insulation and covering it with an external layer of 5/64” steel plate. Cut the steel plates using a circular saw as per the measurements of the firebox you want. 

Step 2: Join the 1/4″Pieces Together   

Tack weld all the sides of the firebox and then secure the joints by running a weld on every corner. For firmer joints, leave a small gap between edges which is later filled with the welds. 

Step 3: Add Insulation Layer to Your Firebox 

Attach square tubes to the sides you want to insulate. Now, add the ceramic insulation layer and secure it with a thinner steel plate (14 gauge). Do not insulate the top of the firebox as you will be needing to join that part with the cooking chamber later. 

Step 4: Cut Firebox Opening in the Cooking Chamber 

The dissimilarity in the shapes of the cooking chamber and firebox makes tackling this step a bit difficult. So, do it with great consideration. Start by marking a centerline on the opposite side of where you have installed the smokestack. Measure the width of your firebox and mark it on the centerline. 

Take a torch or cut-off wheel and start cutting this line with the sides and bottom tracing around the tank. This opening will shape like a half-moon. Check if the firebox fits right in the opening. If not, do some grinding.  

Step 5: Weld the Firebox onto the Cooking Chamber 

Join the firebox with the cooking chamber by welding along the edges. Once done, do the insulation of the top edge and cover with the steel sheet. 

Season Your Newly Built Smoker 

What You’ll Need 

  • Charcoal or wood 
  • Vegetable oil 

Finally, your smoker is almost done and needs a burnout to char away if there’s any debris or chemicals left on the surface during manufacturing. 

Step 1: Perform a Complete Burnout 

Add and light up the fuel in the firebox and cooking chamber. Leave it to burn for 2,3 hours at least. Next, dump away the debris. Clean the smoker from every nook and cranny.   

Step 2: Season the Cooking Chamber 

Fill vegetable oil in a spray bottle or submerge a clean cloth in oil and coat the cooker’s interior with it. Next, light fuel in the firebox and leave it to burn for several hours. Now, wipe the chamber and repeat the same process. Your cooking unit has been seasoned and is safe to start cooking. 

Get the Smoker on Wheels 

What You’ll Need 

  • Tubing (2”x3”)
  • Trailer kit
  • Chain hoist 
  • Angled pieces 
  • MIG welder 

To make your smoker mobile, you will need to attach a trailer with it. If you are already exhausted by building the smoker, skip this part and find any suitable utility trailer to do the job. 

But if you want to take credits of every single part of your smoker, go ahead with building one by yourself. 

Step 1: Design the Trailer Frame 

Take the dimensions of your smoker and craft the trailer frame accordingly. You can use 2”x3” tubing, C channel or angle iron for forming the frame parts. Cut and weld all the parts together. 

Step 2: Attach the Remaining Parts 

Buy a trailer kit to get all required things in an all-in-one package. Connect the wheels, axle, lights and everything else on the frame. 

Step 3: Mount the Smoker on the Trailer

To do this, you will require a chain hoist that holds the smoker in position until you install it on the trailer. Decide the height at which you want your smoker, block up the base if required to reach the desired height. 

Next, weld rectangular tubing to attach the bottom of the cooking chamber with the trailer. The angled pieces can be welded to connect the smoker sides. Lastly, weld the firebox directly on the trailer by cutting notches on the sides of the frame.  

Crafting a Smoker – Final Touches 

To make all your cookouts worthwhile, mount thermometers in your cooking chamber (near grates). This will assist in keeping an eye on your smoker’s temperature. 

For locking the longevity of your smoker, try coating it with high-quality paint or getting a professional finish from an auto shop. Adding a grease drain, firebrick layer or damper to the smokestack will further make the cooking procedure simple yet enjoyable for you. 

Finally, the time has ripe to fetch the fruits of your labor. Call your friends and family on a cookout, show them the beautiful demonstration of your craftsmanship, and start away with smoking meat, fruits, vegetables, and whatnot!