First 250 gal RF build

Discussion in 'Reverse Flow' started by bnew17, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. bnew17

    bnew17 Smoke Blower

          Let me first say how great i think this forum is and how friendly and informative everyone on here is.  Information i have gathered here has given me alot of the inspiration for me to tackle my first smoker build and first time EVER welding. I began searching for materials over a year and a half ago.A year ago I jumped the gun on a unfinished smoker i found on craigslist. Bought a tank on a boat trailer. It was out of town and had a buddy of mine pick it up for me. Got it home and after doing alot of research i quickly realized the tank nor the trailer would fit my needs. The tank was 1/8" and the trailer was an old jet ski trailer. Luckily i was able to sell the unfished rig and get my money out of it. Not long there after i found a 250 gal tank for 40 bucks. The next week i found a guy an hour away selling 2 cut off pieces of 1/4" plate. The dimensions of one of the plates was 31" x 86" which would be perfect for my RF plate once it was scaled down some. There was also a piece included that was 19"x 86 which is going to be my firebox on a 35 gal RF i plan on starting once this one is completed. I got both plates for $50 dollars total. I then started looking for some material for the firebox. I found a scrap yard an hour away and went there one saturday morning. They had a cut off piece of 3/8" plate that would give me (6) 27" square pieces and still have 4 or so square feet of plate left over. I picked this up for $150 bucks. Next i had to find a trailer. All trailers were out of my price range. Luckily a good friend of mine offered me 33 feet of 4"x4"x 1/4" tubing. Slight over kill but i knew it would make one stout trailer. Best part about it was it was free! Next i located an axle and wheels off of a minivan from a fellow across town for $40 bucks. I had the bulk of my materials to start the build so off i went,

         Through all of my reading on this forum i have seen alot of awesome builds and awesome tools. Unfortunately i do not have any tools such as hoists, jacks, plasma cutters, torches, etc. I have a welder and a angle grinder. Its a good thing i am patient and dont mind working.

          The 4x4 tubing was just enough for me to make the exact size trailer frame i wanted. I wanted to cut the tubing at angles to join it but i did not trust myself to make those precise cuts and waste any materials so i squared my cuts off. I have (2) 4x4 supports for the middle of the frame. I added the 2nd one after the pictures were taken. This is once i got the basic frame tack welded together and the stylish minivan wheels attached to the frame!

    After i was pleased with the basic outer frame i added the inside supports. Next i had to find some material to make the tongue with and supports to tie into that under the trailer frame. Once again i had a really awesome friend help me out. He lives out of town and comes hunting with me a good bit during deer and turkey season. He had access to a 10 ft piece of 2x4x1/4" tubing and picked it up for me i guess as a thank you! I knew the 10ft wouldnt be quite long enough but it would give me a great starting point. I wanted my tongue to be 4ft from the end of the frame and tie in under the last support in the middle of the trailer frame. Once i did that i was left with roughly 4ft of tubing. I decided to use that to use it for a side angled support for the tongue and tie it into the same middle support as the tongue. Right now i dont have the other support but i am keeping my eyes open for one. If it comes to it i can use some material i have in the shop but i would like for it to match.

    As you can tell from my welds i am definitely a beginner. I have a 220 v Hobart Handler 180. I dont plan on this cooker ever leaving my house. Even so when i am done with the build i am going to have someone with more welding experience examine my structural welds and beef them up if they are not adequate.

    This next part was really fun. I had been dreading it since before i started the build. How was i going to get the tank on the trailer with no equipment. When i loaded the tank when i bought it i had several friends along with an electric winch. I didnt have any of that so i waited until my brother could come over and we grabbed a T post out of the garden, fed it through the handles on the side of the tank and lifted the front end on the trailer, then the back it. It was pretty tough and you can see what it did to the t post. Im not sure it could have handle much more weight.

    From where i had the back end of the trailer frame positioned to support the tank feet, there was a voided area from where i wanted to put the firebox. I had a piece of 2"x2"x1/4" tubing laying around. i decided to tie it in to the back of the frame and tie in the back of the firebox to the other side of it. It worked out really good because i was planning on putting the firebox on the back of the tank seam anyways.

    I had a couple spare pieces of steel laying around so i decided to put some angled supports and tie in the tank to the middle supports. I figured i would need more support than the feet of the tank welded to the frame for the next step.

     The next step was to cut into the tank. I was very nervous about this. I had filled the tank with dish soap and water the day i brought it home and let it sit for at least a week and emptied it. Then a few months later i decided to do it again, Fast forward many months when i knew i was about to start the build i filled it again and emptied. I kept thinking to myself how would i safely check to see if there was still gas in the tank, even though there "shouldnt" be after all valves being open for a year and being submerged 3 different times. I drove the tank across the street to some of my property in the woods, Got the trailer off the truck and put a long piece of straw bailing twine into the valve and lit it and sped off several hundred yards down the road, pulled out the binos and watched the flame disappear into the tank, explosion. Im good, so i brought the tank home and started the very long and tedious process of cutting with my grinder. I was absolutely going through a ton of disk, much more than i have up to this point. WHen i got the piece cut out i saw why. I was cutting through the tank and a piece of 1/4" flat bar of some sort that was overlapping the seam by 1/2" on both sides. Good news is the tank walls are 1/4".

    This is as far as i have gotten with the build. Yesterday i went by a local steel stop and picked up a 5x10 piece of #9 expanded metal, 1" sq tubin, 1/8" x 1 1/2" flat bar, and 1 1/2" angle iron. I was also going to get them to cut out the inlet holes in my fire box and cut out the firebox to cook chamber opening, along with 8 hinges i had traced out, but they wanted to charge me $220 dollars. They said the plate had rust on it and they would not be able to use their laser? I think i know someone with a torch. I may see if i can pay them to do it. We have a local bbq competition March 1st and 2nd for St Patricks day . I was hoping to have this done to enter but i do not think i will make it this year! As usual all input is welcome!
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  2. bnew17

    bnew17 Smoke Blower

    A question for the experienced RF builders. What is my next step? I have cut out the doors except for the corners and middle. Im assuming i need to get hinges on them and get them cut out first and then get the RF plate situated?
  3. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looks good......
    One of the experts will be around.....
  4. Nice looking build so far. I guess you see now why people say don't cut a tank at the weld. I made that mistake once too.

    I would put some of the flat bar on the outside of the door before finishing the cut. That will keep the door from falling in when you cut it.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
  5. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Your moving great.  Yes, I would get the hinges on, and as Rassimo said, weld some flat stock on the outer edges of the door for both a seal and as a door stop.  When you weld the flat stock to the outer edges of the door, I suggest only making 1" welds every 6 inches or so on the door, we welded the entire length of the door and I had to do some bending and beating to get my door to fit somewhat flush again.  I still have a bit of a gap in places, but not enough for me to worry too much about.  One of these days I'll try sealing it up with some RTV.  Looking good so far! 
  6. 05sprcrw

    05sprcrw Smoking Fanatic

    When I make the doors on my cookers, I usually start by making the cuts in all 4 corners of the door leaving the middle between the corners in tact. I then weld my hinges on that way when I make my cuts they doors will still be exactly there I want them with an even gap the whole way around. Another thing to do is make the cuts the whole way leaving a small 1/2" - 1" piece connected on all sides and let them completely cool then make those final cuts to help keep heat out of the metal which will help minimize the amount the doors will want to spring. This will make final tweaks on the doors much easier as it won't require as much. Some times however no matter what you do the doors will want to spring and require tweaking.
  7. weld the hinges on before you finish cutting out the door. that will get it spaced right and won't fall in. then build your rf plate, grates, stack. firebox. buy some paint, buy some meat. do a good test burn and then start cooking. to bad you don't live close. i'd cut it out for you.

    happy smoken

  8. Great build.....inspiration fo me. Next time where would you cut your hole for the firebox to avoid the extra metal?
  9. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Just beyond the seam, towards the middle of the tank.
  10. On welding the door flange/seal on....something I tried on my last build that worked out very well for me...

    Use a cut off wheel and put some small v shaped notched about 2' apart, along the outer edge of the door, lay the flat bar centered on the outside and from the backside, fill the notches in with weld. then grind them smooth.  Easier and faster than drilling holes, and the v shape is easier to get a good weld in, rather than trying to center a hole.

    Also, these tanks are made from a rolled sheet, and sometimes no matter how carefull you are, they will spring back when cut and the radius of the door will be off.  An easy way to adjust the door radius is by heating the door evenly with a rose bud, then blowing cool air on the side you want to shrink (usually the inside).

    Just my two cents......Good lucjk with your build.
    bruno994 and themule69 like this.
  11. good tip.[​IMG]

  12. bnew17

    bnew17 Smoke Blower

    Smokinwelder...I made my cut along the edge of the seam to the inside of the tank. I was unaware of the extra steel on the inside. I will know for next time though!
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
  13. bnew17

    bnew17 Smoke Blower

    So I will weld the flat bar on from underneath? Sounds like a good idea and a good way to hidE the weld. I would have just welded the flat bar to the door from the outside of the flatbar. Thanks for the tip.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
  14. Another benefit of welding it from the backside is that your directing most of your heat into the flat bar instead of the door. And that works out becouse you want to bend the flat bar, not the door.
  15. bnew17

    bnew17 Smoke Blower

    Havent made much progress with the smoker lately. But the past few weekends with the time i have had to work on it. I have welded the smoke stack in place, fitted the doors and welded the flat bar on them, made hinges and handles for the doors, and put in some supports for the RF plate and drain. I used some bolts and nuts for the door hinges and dont like them at all. So i will be changing them out this weekend with some steel rod i will weld in place. I had some excess 1" tubing from my grates so i decided to use it for the supports for the RF plate and drain. I also used the wire wheel on my grinder and cleaned out the inside of the tank and gave it a thorough cleaning with Simple Green cleaner. This weekend i hope to get the RF plate in.

    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  16. bnew17

    bnew17 Smoke Blower

    Well I have had 0 time to work on my smoker lately. I think its been 3-4 months since I have done anything on it. My 6 month old little girl keeps me busy! But I have made some progress since my last update. I got the rf plates tack welded in and got the drain pipe as well. I have also welded together the fire box,,,but I still have a good bit more welding on it to do. Its like a never ending process welding all the seams on a firebox. I got a little bit done this weekend until I ran out of wire. With the limited tools and help, putting the reverse flow plate in was very difficult. The size and sheer weight of each plate made it tough. I welded on some handles that made it a little bit easier. Ive got a good fit but there is a lot of welding left to do with the plates. The drain pipe was very difficult as well. A torch would have helped a lot but eventually I got it done with a standard electric drill and oxide drill bits. I did snap a few bits in half during the process. I still need to figure out a way to grind the hole in the angle iron to fit the opening of the pipe a little better. As you can tell its got a square look now.
    When I finish welding all the seams on the firebox I am going to fit it to the tank and weld it on. I wish I had waited to weld the smoke stack on because now it wont fit through my roll up shop door. Would have made fitting the fire box , using the car jack, a lot easier but I will have to figure out another way to get it done!
    She's not too pretty to look at right now but I think when I get it all finished and do some touch up, and get all the rust off and painted....she will look good!

  17. bnew17

    bnew17 Smoke Blower

    What a project! I have made some progress in the past few months. I am just about done with the smoker. I have a few more small things to do but the bulk is done. I have the firebox welded on and the RF plate completely welded in. Ive also got most everything painted although i have a few nooks and crannies left to touch up. Im using Rust Oleum flat black paint. I also have the valve holes on the top of the tank to fill which shouldn't be too much trouble. The pull out grates did give me some trouble. When i made the tracks for the grates to slide on originally i did not do a good enough job measuring and they were not level so i re did them. I am going to put some sort of "stopper" on the grate in the near future but i am trying to figure out a good design that would allow me to take the grate out completely if needed. Originally i had planed on having a second grate on top but i think i may wait until later for that. I also plan to build 2 separate rests to go in front of the doors to lay things on and possibly a fold out rest for the front of the cooker as well. As noted earlier everything has been done with an angle grinder as far as cuts and the other day the grinder took a dump on me. Its a Dewalt grinder and has worked well for me. Its barely 1 year into the 3 year warranty so Dewalt told me to send the unit to them to look at. Im hoping they can repair it. In the mean time im getting by with a $15 harbor freight unit. I will post some more pictures in the next few days of the firebox and the firebox handle and latch i made.

  18. Have you got to smoke anything yet?

  19. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Looks great, can't wait to see some food on it.
  20. Turned out nice, bet your proud!

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