6 minute read

Make your own smoker

The following instructions are adapted from Introduction to Beekeeping by Peter Bechtel and Kathy Gan, published by the Swaziland Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives.

* Please see the original journal article for the figures and diagrams that go with this article.

Materials needed

1. 1 large tin with lid (such as a 1 kg milk or coffee tin).

2. 1 smaller tin to fit inside the larger one (eg 500 g coffee tin).

3. 150 cm of wire, medium weight (1.6 mm gauge)

4. Flat iron; 1 piece 6 cm x 32 cm, 2 pieces 2cm x 6.5 cm. Any scrap metal will do as long as it bends easily.

5. 100 g of small, flat-headed nails, 1-2cm in length.

6. 100 g of 20 mm panel pins.

7. 2 pieces of smooth wood, 1 cm x 12 cm x 19cm. Any scrap timber that can be cut and planed smooth to these dimensions may be used, but if the thickness is more than 1 cm then the final smoker will be too heavy.

8. 1 strong spring. From an old car seat or box spring mattress.

9. A piece of metal pipe, 1.5 cm diameter and 5 cm long. A piece of tube from a broken tubular school chair works well.

10. A piece of strong material, 12cm x 68 cm. Old car seat, raincoat, leather or rubberised material will do, but it must be without any holes.

11. A few nails of large and medium size for punching holes.

Tools needed:

hammer, handsaw, hacksaw, wire cutter, pocket knife, scissors, metal cutting shears, hand plane, pliers, accurate ruler, brace drill with bit (the bit should be about the same size as the pipe), vice or 2 G-clamps.


1. Cut the material for the bellows using the pattern shown in Figure 1.

2. Prepare the 2 pieces of flat iron, 2 x 65 cm. Take one metal strip and bend it in half lengthways, forming a long L- shape (Figure 2A). Bend the metal strip over the edge of a table or other hard surface. Clamp the metal strip down tightly before striking it with a hammer.

Repeat with the second metal strip. Fit one of the long L- shaped metal strips around the edge of one 12 x 19cm piece of wood. Cut a V-shaped notch out of each corner as shown in Figure 2B, and then fold the metal strip down at the comers. Repeat with the second piece. Take the small, flat-headed nails and punch four small holes in each long side of each metal strip. Punch three small holes along each short side of the strips. When finished the metal strips should be as shown in Figure 2C.

3. Take one piece of wood and drill a hole to hold the pipe tightly. The hole should centre on a point 2.5 cm from the bottom of the wood and 6cm from each side as shown in Figure 3. Fit the piece of pipe into the hole and glue if necessary.

4. Centre the spring as high as possible on the other side of the wood to the pipe.

Attach the spring with small panel pins nailed part way into the wood and bent over to hold the spring in place (see Figure 3). Attach the other end of the spring to the second piece of wood in the same manner. The pieces of wood and spring should now be as shown in Figure 4B.

5. Bend the piece of metal 6 cm x 32 cm into a 4cm x 10cm rectangle as shown in Figure 4A. Punch four holes on each of the long sides: on the doubled side the holes will go through two layers of metal. Drill four corresponding holes into the wood that holds the pipe, such that when the metal is attached it will be 4 cm from the top of the wood. Using two pieces of wire attach the doubled side of the metal rectangle to the wood as shown in Figures 4B and 5A.

6. Fit the material around the edges of one of the pieces of wood and sew the ends of the material together where they overlap. Fold the material in half and mark the centre point on the top and bottom. On each piece of wood mark the centre of the short sides.

7. Tack the material to the wood using a few panel pins, matching the centre marks on the material with those on the wood. The narrow end of material should be along the bottom of the pieces of wood. Nail the metal strips prepared in (2) around the wood, on top of the material. Use the panel pins, using the holes already punched in the metal strips. Be careful to nail straight so that the wood does not split, and keep the material tight against the wood. The finished bellows should look like Figure 6.

8. Cut a blow hole near the bottom and a smoke hole on the opposite side, near the top of the large tin, as shown in Figure 7. The blow hole should be 2 cm x 2 cm and the smoke hole 1 cm x 1 cm. Save the lid of this tin.

9. Now attach the bellows to the tin as shown in Figure 7, using the four holes punched in the metal rectangle. Carefully punch four corresponding holes in the 1 kg tin, and tie the tin to the rectangle using the wire.

10. Now prepare the small tin by making 15 to 20 holes in the bottom of it using a big nail. Cut a 1 cm x 2cm hole out of the top edge as in Figure 7. Discard the lid of this tin.

11. Punch two holes with a small nail 1 cm below the smoke hole of the large tin, and punch two corresponding holes in the small tin, also 1 cm below the hole. upper Using the 20 cm piece of wire tie the small tin inside the large tin, with the upper hole of each tin in alignment. The bottom of the small tin will hang above the bottom of the large tin. Replace the lid of the large tin.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The smoker is now ready for use. The smouldering smoker fuel is put into the small tin, and smoke is produced by squeezing the bellows. This smoker should give you many years of good service if you follow these simple rules:

1. Do not lose the lid of the large tin.

2. Do not let burning fuel remain in the smoker after you finish working with your bees. Empty the smoker in a safe place where it will not start a fire.

3. Do not let the smoker get wet: it will rust.

4. Scrape the black tar out of the smoker occasionally.

5. Replace the tins when they become wom.