Guys---I'm getting close to making my own UDS...question though...i'm looking at designs for the charcoal basket and all I can find here locally is 18ga expanded metal. Has anyone used this light guage before? Is it thik enough to hold the heat and not loose its shape?
What gauge does everyone else use?
Go out and buy a Weber charcoal grate -- I used the one for the 22.5" Weber, it's a tiny bit bigger than 17". Use that for the bottom.
If you can, get the 3/4" expanded metal, as opposed to the 1/2". Less restrictive airflow.
For a piece of expanded metal that is 24"x24", cut the expanded metal into 8"x24" sheets, overlay them until you get one rectangular sheet that's 8" x 57" (mine has quite a bit of overlap, I didn't feel the need to trim it, I just overlapped it). Use six 1.5" or 2" long ss bolts, 12 2" ss fender washers, and 6 ss nuts. I also used ss locknuts, but don't think locknuts are important for this.
Bolt the assembly up, making sure you put the bolts about 2" from what will be either the top or the bottom of the charcoal box sides. Make sure the nuts are all on the outside, that way when you bring the expanded metal ends together to make a ring, all the bolts stick inward.
Once it's bolted up, you can just lay the Weber charcoal grate inside. You can also wiggle the bolts around before you tighten everything up to get it snug against the grate.
But to figure out the proper circumference for the ring around the grate: take the diameter of your charcoal grate bottom and multiply it by 3.14. I rounded up so I could have some leeway. Worked perfectly for me.
Note that after I took the last picture, I had to lower one of the bolts in order to drop my charcoal grate down to the 2" mark.
Anyway, the point of all this: it doesn't matter what gauge expanded metal I used. I used 13ga, but could definitely have used 18ga because the Weber charcoal grate is stout enough to take the brunt of extended use. The expanded metal is just for the sides.
Hope this helps!