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Help with my horizontal brink man smoker

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
So I got a new horizontal smoker and tested it out last weekend... My problem is that it would not keep a steady temp... I could get it it cranked with wood but that would soon die out... My coals were hot and I had it vented.
Any ideas????
post #2 of 13

Cracker, did you do any moderations on the smoker? We need to see what you have or have not done to the unit.

 

Send us some pics and show us how she does. Sounds like you need to seal the gaps...

 

You said you were using wood? Stick with it and your "Q" will be Lip Smackin',lick the plate clean gooddrool.gif. And if you need help controling the heat PM me and I'll help you out.

 

I have a Wiki on Stickburning 101; read through it and you'll begin to understand.

 

Stan   aka   oldschool

 

have fun and.........

post #3 of 13
post #4 of 13

icon_cool.gif

Welcome to your new Addiction

Practice

post #5 of 13

welcome1.gif   Glad to have you with us!

post #6 of 13
  1. build a charcoal basket and raise it up from where the current grate is. so air can get to your fire.
  2. extend the smokestack to the grate
  3. install a couple of thermometers closer to the cooking grate
  4. and lastly make a baffle and tunning plate

 

You tube is your friend.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaU8uRfgqY0

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVt4Po7BWn8

 


 

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks, I added some pictures in my profile, just having trouble getting them into my post...

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

IMG_0163.jpgIMG_0166.jpgIMG_0165.jpgIMG_0164.jpg

post #9 of 13

cracker - i have this same smoker, and you're going to love it ~

 

i've got some "right out of the box" advice for the SnP that will hopefully be helpful for beginning users of this unit while they prepare for their "permanent" mods.
 
if you have one of these units, first thing is that by now, you've probably found that the axle/wheel system on the SnP is not so hot. just run down and buy some large washers and 2 large bolts that will fit through the "axle holes" and two fitting lock nuts. i don't know what the "right" name is, but the bolts i got were the ones that had threading only on the end portion, leaving a portion with no threading so that the wheels could turn freely. you can also, if you choose, purchase some heavier-duty lawnmower or similar wheels.
 
next quick fix - this is easy! get some hi-heat tape for dryer vent or wood-burning stove work; it is usually silverish in color. use this tape to block the two big holes at either end of the smoking chamber. this helps a lot with airflow and temperature retention.
 
next - rather than following the instructions and building your fire on the bottom grate of the fire box, move all grates up to the "top" level so that it makes a crosshatch and build your fire here. there is much, much more air below your fire to keep it from choking out now. note that this is a "quick and dirty" mod that can later be replaced by a better mod, which is a well-designed charcoal basket.
 
next, take your "drip tray" and set it so that it is all the way up at the "west" end closest to the fire box, and down as far as it will go at the opposite end. the reason for this is to block flames and deflect the harshest heat from your firebox into your smoking chamber. it is a 'quick and dirty" substitute for a proper manifold/tuning plate, but works very well until you get or fabricate one.
 
to extend this idea a little and make it even more effective, set a small bread loaf pan (the disposible heavy-foil type) right up to and almost against the hole from the firebox on the drip tray, leaving just a small area for smoke and heat to pass through. you might have to lower the drip tray a level to do this, but it will be fine as long as the tray is still at a downward angle. this helps control the hot spots even more and does add a small amount of moisture to the cooking process, similar to the water pan on an ECB. finally, it helps regulate the temperature coming into the smoking chamber so that it can even out across the chamber.
 
next, get at least four regular masonry bricks or six 2x2x8 bricks (or a similar square-inchage of fire bricks, if you can find them at a local spa/stove store). place these 2x2 (3x3 if using the 2x2x8 bricks) starting at the "east" end of the smoking chamber (farthest away from the firebox, under the chimney end). this is a good start, but you can of course put as many bricks as you want and even go all the way across the smoking chamber if you want. this will go very far to retain heat and prevent temperature drops. it will make it so that your unit takes longer to come up to temperature, but once it does, you are in great shape.
 
the last of the "quick and dirty" mods"  is also so easy that it is silly: get two or three HEAVY old blankets and fold them so that they sit on top of the smoking chamber only, extending to the chimney and "folding" around it. it is OK if there is some draping down over the "east" end and the front and back of the unit, but make sure nothing is hanging down at the west or firebox end. these layers of insulation help more than you can imagine no matter what climate you live in and will drastically cut down on your charcoal or wood consumption - moreover, temps should even out very closely across the chamber. it looks as redneck as it sounds, but it WORKS, and that's what matters. before long, you will get pretty good at folding the blankets so that they fit just right and will aslo be able to lift them off and put them back on easily as you add, remove or check the meat, spritz or mop etc.
 
the above mods work, and work well, and don't cost anything at all. having said that, they can be improved upon with some investment in materials and welding. i consider most of the Q&D mods to be simply "poor man's substitutes" for what actually needs to be done. i used them all, and still use some. but for many i now have the "permanent" advanced modifications.
 
now for the advanced mods:
 
first is easy: go to a muffler shop and buy a length of new 2.5-inch exhaust pipe. the length you want is probably 9.5 inches. then, have a 45-degree angle cut at one end. finally, have your muffler guy expand two inches of the end of the pipe to fit the base of your chimney (be sure to bring your chimney base - mine was somewhere between 2.5 and three inches), thie chimney extension will now fit very snugly in the base and extend 7.5 inches down into the smoking chamber. this forces the air, heat and smoke to draw across the bottom of the smoking chamber, rather than skirt straight up diagonally from the firebox to the chimney at the far end.
 
over the last few weeks, i have taken the final steps in maximising the potential of the outstanding properties of this pit. the first is the manifold.

otherwise known as a baffle, tuning plate etc., the purpose of the manifold is to both deflect direct heat from the food and act as a heat retention device in order to maintain steady temperatures across a pit. we can argue semantics and the science of heat transfer of all day, but that's a good layman's description. the thick, heavy manifold takes a while to heat up to temperature, but once it does, it is like you are on autopilot and you can maintain temsperatures for a very long time with only a very small addition of fuel. the improvement in fuel efficiency is nothing short of miraculous, which is important any time, but even moreso in winter - and that factor is multiplied exponentially where i live.

 

this manifold is modeled on RIVET's design, with a few differences that reflect both my preferences and also the necessities imposed by geography. The manifold is constructed of quarter-inch steel plate. rivet has a spec sheet drawing with specific dimensions etc., but basically it is wide enough to sit in the smoking chamber under the grates, and long enough to reach to the midpoint of the smoking chamber. the "western" end of the manifold is canted at a 45-degree angle and butts up against the opening between the firebox and the smoking chamber perfectly. there are a series of vents blown through that start small on the canted portion and gradually get larger toward the eastern end. there is a handle for conveniently lifting the manifold in order to set it on or take it off the pit, and also for moving it east or west, if desired for temperature and smoke control. the space between the canted portion and the edge of the handle will accomodate a loaf pan, should a water pan be desired.

 

there is also a secondary manifold that is the same width as the primary, but just long enough to reach the western edge of the chimney. this secondary manifold is specifically designed for this north montana latitude and climate, where temperatures during the winter are so low that they don't get talked about on the news. because of our special tempeerature conditions, i wanted another level of heat retention, and the secondary manifold provides just that.

the "great northern" moniker is a reflection of the history in north-central montana and is a nod to james j. hill's great northern railroad, which blazed the trail into this area. in the winter, temperatures can be very, very far below zero; last week, i woke up to 38 below zero, no windchill. in a climate like that, you need all the thermal mass you can get!  

 

here's a series of pictures showing the design features of the manifold.

 

2010-01-16_153558_gn_manifold_1.JPG

 

2010-01-16_154615_gn_manifold_2.JPG

 

2010-01-16_154638_gn_manifold_3.JPG

 

due to the fabrication process of the manifold, it is necessary to do a "pre-burn" in order to burn off any residues or oils. we prepared for this by filling the trusty charcoal basket (another outstanding rivet-designed mod) with cottonwood and some chunks of scrap 2x4. note: the 2x4 sections (and pine, for that matter) would NOT have been used if we were going to cook, of course, but for quick, hot heat, it works very well.

 

2010-01-16_154921_gn_manifold_4.JPG

 

i would have used charcoal to get things going, but there were no opened baggs of it around, so this was an all-wood burn.

we set the primary manifold in place; butting it up right against the western wall of the smoking chamber:

 

2010-01-16_155319_gn_manifold_5.JPG

 

here's a good view of how the canted portion works to deflect direct heat away while allowing smoke and ambient heat to waft into the chamber:

 

2010-01-16_155511_gn_manifold_6.JPG

 

we then set the secondary manifold in place, off to the east of the primary, below the chimney:

 

2010-01-16_155555_gn_manifold_7.JPG

 

here's what we had when both manifolds were in place:

 

2010-01-16_155648_gn_manifold_8.JPG

 

as you can see, the secondary can be moved around if necessary in order to regulate airflow, smoke infiltration etc.:

 

2010-01-16_155744_gn_manifold_9.JPG

 

we wadded up some newspaper and tossed it under the charcoal basket, then lit it up. before long, we had a good, crackling fire, but because much of the wood was wet on the outside, there  was a lot of smoke. all the better to see the vent pattersn perform exactly as advertised! soon, we were getting some good warmth on a chilly day.

 

temperatures took a little while to rise while the firebox lid was open (we were letting the wood catch well before closing the lid). half an hour or so later when the wood was burning well, we closed the lid, and the temperatures rose quickly and dramatically. the outside of the smoker got good and hot, too hot to touch, and i took a look in at the oven thermometer i had set in the smoking chamber at the far end (so i would know the temperatures farthest from the fire). the temps were already past 300 degrees. the manifold was doing it's job perfectly, keeping direct heat away while also evening out temperatures. it wasn't that much later that we were at 400, then 450.

 

2010-01-16_160702_gn_manifold_10.JPG

 

i had a ridiculously easy time holding the temps at 450 for a half hour, which i figured would give enough time to burn off any residues. the manifold of course blackened as it seasoned, but it's all good, that's what it's supposed to do.

 

2010-01-16_160717_gn_manifold_11.JPG

 

i had to leave for a while to head out to my parents' place and help my dad with something. i got back maybe an hour later and temperatures were still above 350. not bad, consideirng i was using fast-burning cottonwood by now, and it was a cold day. i put a few small logs of cottonwood on and brought the temperatures up quickly up above 450 again, and then since then have let it burn down.

 

2010-01-16_160738_gn_manifold_12.JPG

 

all-in-all, a very successful pre-burn. i am very much looking forward to using this at regualr cooking temperatures for cooking barbecue. i was going to toss a chicken on today to cook and then de-bone/chop for a soup tomorrow, but in the end decided not to until i can clean out all ash etc. from the treated 2x4s i was burning. i will be sure to report on my first smoke with this outstanding modification package!

 

a million thanks to RIVET for all of his assitance with the great northern manifold project. without him, it wouldn't have been accomplished and i am grateful!smiley32.gif

once the manifold was accomplished, i turned my attention to the firebox door:
 

2010-01-19_174709_firebox_door_1.JPG

 

the reason for this mod is because the original (on the right) is made of very thin metal. after a season or so of real barbecue, the thin metal will warp and the door's ability to regulate airflow is compromised. the solution? build an exact copy, except in 1/8" steel plate.

 

2010-01-19_174824_firebox_door_2.JPG

 

as you can see, this metal isn't going to warp any time soon, if ever. the difference between the two is clear. there is an extra advantage in that retained heat is kept in the firebox rather than being lost through the thin skin of the firebox door. we're currently looking into the possibility of a "sheath" that will insert into the bottom of the firebox to perform a similar heat-retention duty, and also to protect the bottom of the firebox from deterioration due to heat and moisture.

 

2010-01-19_175031_firebox_door_3.JPG

 

the new firebox door is an exact copy, using the old one for a template. the butterfly "shutter" regulates the airflow and can be adjusted accordingly. here's a view of the back side:

 

2010-01-19_175136_firebox_door_4.JPG

 

the shutter turns easily from open to closed:

 

2010-01-19_175158_firebox_door_5.JPG

 

2010-01-19_175207_firebox_door_6.JPG

 

this mod was a bit on the expensive side, 65$, but i have a feeling that it will pay for itself before long in reduced fuel consumption. besides, with a thin, warped door, that you're going to have to eventually replace anyway, you might as well pay your welder for some quality. i would much rather spend 65$ now than replace with a cheap, thin one three or four times and end up spending more money and still coming out with something that doesn't do nearly as good a job.

 
currently, we are looking into the viability of a heat shield for the bottom of the firebox, and also possibly fabricating a thicker lid (say 1/4-inch) for the firebox. the heat shield will accomplish two things. the first is that it will protect the thinner base of the firebox from weakening and deterioration due to heat rusting. the second is that the shield will have a 1/2-inch lip at each end that will raise it off the floor of the firebox enough to provide an excellent heat-retaining "insulation" what should boost efficiency and cut down dramatically on charcoal/wood consumption. due to the planned thickness of the shielf, we also expect it to stabilize temperatures similar to the effects of the manifold. updates will be provided as they occur.
 
hope this helps ~ if you ahve any quyestions at all, just ask ~
 
ron
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Wow what great ideas and information! i :grilling_smilie:will try some of the quick and dirty mods for now and will look into the other mods you suggested...
post #11 of 13

Great suggestions Ron. Probably the 3 most important and cheapest mods are sealing the smoke chamber up and raising the fire grate and extending the smokestack down to grate level. You will see a huge difference just doing these three.

post #12 of 13

Tsunka if you are out there smoking when it is -38, my hat is off to you. But only real quick lest I get frostbite. :D

 

Cracker, you can pickup a 1' x 2' x 1/16" steel plate at most hardware stores (ask them where their rack of metal parts is...steel strap, expanded steel, angle iron, etc) Cut it into three pieces (50%, 30%, 20%), bend one end of the largest piece  up at 45 degrees and you have your first shot at a manifold that you can adjust by moving the plates around.

 

The charcoal basket that Tsunka showed is pretty key. It allows you to build a larger fire and to close down the air intake a bit so you get a more even, longer lasting burn from each basket of fuel. You can make one out of a sheet of expanded steel and bailing wire. Nothing fancy required.

post #13 of 13

grreat comments, guys - thanks!

 

spoonful - i should clarify that i wasn't actually smoking anything when it was 38 below - basically, i was just seasoning the manifolds and also kind of seeing what they were capable of, and i wans't disappointed! the good news is that if/when i am crazy enough to actually cook at that temp, it can be done!

 

 

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