It all started last June when I discovered that a building near to where I work was a salad dressing manufacturer with access to food grade 55 gallon steel drums. I stopped in to have a chat and ended up leaving with three barrels for the cost of a smile and a hand shake. Having admired the designs of Big Smokey, Big Baby, and the Texas Hibatchi for some time, I set out to designed and build my own smoker.
Here are the three barrels in my garage, a molasses drum, a honey drum, and a sesame oil drum:
All were food grade so there was no worry about chemicals. The first step was to take them down to the steel and repaint with something that could handle the high temps and the wet Washington weather.
An angle grinder and many hours later, I could have a barrel down to the steel. They sell paint stripping wheels for the grinder at home depot that seemed to do the trick, it took about 1 wheel per barrel. A word of caution, unscrew the barrel cap before doing this as the heat may build pressure. It goes without saying but a breathing mask and safety glasses are also important here.
First barrel stripped. The heat caused what honey was left inside the barrel to liquify and form a puddle on the floor, what a mess. If I do this again, I'm going to collect the honey first as there was probably a couple pounds left.
Rustoleum High Heat BBQ paint. I can't remember how many cans of this I used throughout the process, but it was probably in the neighborhood of a dozen and a half. At $5 per can that really adds up. I opted for green because I like it and all the other smokers I've seen were black. They stopped carrying it at the home depot about half way through my project so I had to drive around to 4 of them and buy up what was left. They still make the black and white as far as I know.
The first coat finished. Each barrel got three coats plus touch up.