Wine barrel smokers cook evenly and retain heat well. They are safer than smokers made with a galvanised dustbin, which can produce toxic fumes when heated. Wine barrel smokers also are attractive and uncommon, which makes them conversation pieces. Even if you aren't handy, you can make your own wine barrel smoker with the right tools and components.
Drill the wine barrel's rings on top of each stave and 6 mm (1/4 inch) into the stave. Repeat on all rings. This will secure the staves to the rings prior to cutting the top and bottom door of the smoker, preventing the barrel from falling apart.
Create a bottom door, which allows you to load the smoker box and adjust the heat, by cutting an opening approximately 45 cm (1 1/2 feet) wide between the top of the barrel's bottom ring and the bottom of the third ring. The door should have a piece of the bottom centre ring holding the staves in place. Screw in a metal brace on the top and the bottom of the inside of the door for reinforcement.
Attach two hinges to the left side of the door. After placing the door back in its opening, secure the hinges to the barrel. Install the latch on the right side of the door.
Cut all the way around the top of the barrel just below the second ring, to create a lid. Place a carpenter's level on top of the barrel and check that it is level in all directions.
Put the heating element on the bottom of the barrel and measure one-half inch up from the top of the element. Mark that height on the outside of the barrel in three equidistant places, making sure they fall in the centre of a stave and to the left and right side of the bottom door. Check to ensure the height is even for three points. This is where you'll drill the three support bolts for the bottom grid.
Repeat the measurements halfway up the barrel and then again 12.5 cm (5 inches) up from the last set of marks.
Drill the first bottom three holes with the 9 mm (3/8 inch) wood drill bit. Stay perfectly horizontal while you drill. Put one ring on the bolt, insert the bolt through the hole, place another ring, and then tighten the nut. Repeat for all nine holes you drilled.
Place one of the grids on the bottom supports, then the second in the middle. This one will accommodate an aluminium dripping pan, and finally the third on the top will be the grid where you'll place the items to be smoked.
Attach the last hinge to the top cover of the barrel and the secure it to the barrel. Attach one of the handles to the front part of the top cover and the other to the right side of the bottom door. Place the thermometer on the top grid.
Be sure to test run your smoker. The heat measured on the top grid thermometer should be around 93.3 degrees Celsius (200 degrees Fahrenheit). You may drill two or three 1.2 to 1.8 cm (1/2 to 3/4 inch) holes that you can close with wine bottle corks to help control smoke and heat output. Soak wood chips for at least half an hour -- more if they are bigger chunks. Don't be afraid to experiment with different kinds of wood.
Don't use your wine-barrel smoker indoors. Don't leave the smoker unattended. Keep children away while smoker is in use, because parts of the smoker will get very hot.