20 years ago, I had one of those cheap brinkmann smokers and it worked very well. Of course being thin sheet metal, it eventually rusted out. I finally got another one a few years back and couldn’t get it hot enough. There are tricks and hacks to fix that but I couldn’t see putting the time and effort into the cheap thing and since I have an abundance of hickory, oak and cherry here, I decided to just make a wood fired smoker. After getting some scrap water heaters, I got the idea to make a smoker out of them. I got three 40 gallon units and we had a small under the counter unit. I got one of the water heaters working by putting a new heating element in it and we’re using it in the house. The other two 40 gallon units, plus the small one became the offset smoker with horizontal & vertical chambers like the one below.


Yoder Durango 16 smoker

The above smoker is a Durango 20 inch model that goes for a mere $2300.00 though it is made of schedule 40 pipe which has a wall thickness of about 1/4 inch. Water heater tanks are considerably thinner.

While looking at retail smokers, I stumbled on some drawings giving the dimensions for the 20 inch model and a 16 inch model that’s no longer produced. My water heater tanks are 18 inch diameter so I just split the difference.

Below is Yoder’s 16 inch Durango model.

Front dimensions of a durango 16

They also have an end view with dimensions.

end dimensions of the yoder 16 showing the 16 inch diameter fire and smoke chambers

Using the drawings from Yoder, along with some calculations for openings and smoke stack, it was time to go to work.

I started by cutting one end of the vertical tank out, flipping it over and welding it back on so that both ends would be domed rather than one being concaved. Next, I moved to coping the two big tanks together.

two water heater tanks welded perpendicular


Next I welded the small tank on for the firebox.

the small water heater welded on to the end of one of the large water heaters and one cut having been made in the large tank for a food access door


All the doors were cut out with a cut off disk in the angle grinder. You can see the first cut in the above pic.

image showing all doors cut using a cut off wheel on a small angle grinder that leaves a 1/16 inch cut


The round grates for the brinkmann smokers will work for my vertical chamber. I still need to buy three new ones and install them. As such, I haven’t been able to use that chamber yet.

Holding a round grille from the small brinkman smoker in the vertical smoke chamber of the smoker I made. They will work just fine and they're readily available and cheap


I cut, bent and welded flat bar on to make door flanges. Aside from supplies, flat bar, latches and thermometers were the only thing purchased.

image showing hinges on horizontal doors


Hand made hinges from old truck clutch linkage

hand made hinges and hinge pins from old pickup truck clutch linkage pieces


I capped off the hinges for the vertical tank with weld so they shed rain.

image showing vertical hinge with top capped off with weld

Doors installed


door hinges installed - image shows them in open position


image showing hinges on horizontal doors

Cooking and fire grates made. I also use expanded metal grating to go on top of the rebar fire grate.

image of smoker fire rate and cooking grates in place

First burn

burning the first fire in the newly built offset smoker


Stack with flow damper & adjustment

image of flue damper adjustment made from more old truck linkage


Latches installed

image of door latches purchased - multiple pivot points giving leverage and allowing them to snap into the closed position


Latch and firebox loading door. I didn’t bother with any kind of fancy vent adjustment. I simply crack the door. One inch seems to maintain it pretty well

One of my smokes. Boston Butt is what I do most as it’s cheap. It was also the first thing I tried as it’s forgiving.

image of Boston Butt pork roasts sitting in smoker

That red edge is called the smoke ring.

Pork roasts done and I've sliced into one showing the red smoke ring in the meat

I smoke our ribs so that we can pull the bones right out and eat them with a fork or make a rib sandwich. Likewise with the Butt Roasts. I can pull the bone right out and the different muscles pull right or fall apart. There’s one round muscle about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter and 6 inches long smoking competitors call the Money Muscle. Just melts in your mouth.

image of pork ribs with three bare rib bones having been gently pulled out of the meat

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