Sounds like you have a plan. But, at the risk of giving advice gratuitously...
Smokin' Pit Pros have been around forever. They're known as SnPPs in barbecue land.
SnPPs need a few mods to work their best. 1. A baffle at the firebox opening, in the cookchamber side. 2. An extension for the flue, so the inside opening is at the upper cooking grate height. 3. A Maverick ET-73 thermometer as described in the previous post. 4. A water pan (preferably a loaf pan) in the cook chamber. 5. A charcoal basket (made of expanded metal). And, 6. A drip pan below the cooking area (does that count as a mod? Maybe not). Each of these makes a big difference. If you can manage to tighten up your small offset a little -- you can cook as well as the bigboys.
It takes about two hours to do the mods. Not counting the basket and the thermometer, you're looking at around $20. The basket will probably cost you about $20 to wire together (or weld if you can do your own welding). The thermometer is worth every nickel. I can't tell you how much better it makes the experience.
I'd rate the charcoal basket and thermometer as the top two. The thermometer is obvious -- you get an accurate reading of everything important and your not tied to the cooker. The basket gives you a much longer lasting fire, which burns at a steadier temp. "Longer lasting" doesn't only mean more convenient, but more efficient. You burn less charcoal. Steadier temp means you cook better. Because the air-flow efficiency is improved, you can also run a hotter fire. On the negative side -- 15 minutes and 15 bucks.
If you're interested in a FAQ and set of instructions on all of these, except for the Maverick thermometer, I'll hook you up with a link. In fact: http://www.bbqinstitute.com/SmokerModifications.pdf
I suggest not bothering with the thermometer mod, just buying a Mav ET-73 instead.
Also, here's a little more on simple on modding an SnPP and making a charcoal basket, but more for the guy who can weld than the guy who can barely find the hardware store: index
SnPPs do not make very good stick burners. A "stick burner" is an offset which burns logs only -- no charcoal. The best way to get smoke and heat from your little offset is to mix chunks of hardwood with your hardwood lump charcoal. Preferably in a basket. The reasons SnPPs (and small offsets in general) do not make good stick burners is because of the small firebox size. Small fireboxes mean small sticks. Small sticks burn fast, drop a lot of heat when they burn down, and need constant tending. Also, small fireboxes are incredibly sensitive to bad and green wood. A small flaw can wreck a big roast. Big offset fireboxes have very different airflow and not only are they more resistant to these sorts of problems -- some very good barbecures only use green wood. Go figure.
WSMs take a little experience, but not much. They're very tight, have good fireboxes, and excellent airflow control. Really excellent. It takes a little while to learn the ins and outs of the vents, but once you know ... gangbusters. As good as they are, they're not the perfect cooker for everyone. But if you want to get some insight about how to use one well, check out The Virtual Weber Bullet - For the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker enthusiast
It's not only a fantastic site for WSM owners, it's one of the best barbecue sites period. Enjoy.
The ceramics are great all-round grill/smokers. However if you're serious about grilling and smoking there are better ways to do each. The really limiting factor on the ceramics is size.
Like you, I prefer a small offset. I've been running one or another since New Braunfels first widely marketed them in the seventies. I also worked for a barbeque caterer, featured smoked foods as part of my own catering, and was involved with a couple of Q comp teams. In fact, the "Boar DeLaze" moniker was created as a name for a team I tried to put together.
Passionate about the Q,