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150 Gallon RF Trailer build...The build continues...

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

I just completed my first Texas Gulf Coast Barbeque Cookers Association competition this weekend with my recently finished RF smoker.  Without all the great ideas, input and previous builds on this forum, I would have never been able to start or finish this project.  Big thanks to Solaryellow for answering all my stupid questions during the beginning stages of my build.  And a big thanks to the many guys on this forum who took the time to post and document their builds, and allow us members to view their projects step by step.  In this first post, will be the near complete rig, the smoker is complete and has logged 2 successful cooks, but the trailer and setup is ever changing and additions are running through my mind. 

RF Smoker 2012 029.jpg

Edited by bruno994 - 12/21/12 at 8:07pm
post #2 of 45
Thread Starter 

As far as the cookoff, it was in Sour Lake, Texas, benefitting the American Cancer Society.  There were 27 teams total in the event, ranging from some of the best in Texas to newbies like me.  If your in the Houston area or surrounding areas, the TGCBCA puts on a well run comp.  Most of the cooks were more than happy to shake your hand and talk a little Q.  In Texas we do fully jointed half chickens, so I turned in my 2 half chickens (I started with 2 hens 4 pounds each) at 12:30, feeling confident cause they were juicy, had a great flavor, but were a bit spicy due to the amount of cayenne in both my brine and my rub.  I was worried about drawing some older judges not liking spicy foods.  But when it came time for awards, the spice must have sit well as I placed 7th in chicken.  Ribs (two 3 pound racks, St Louis cut spares) were turned in at 2:00.  I was not overly happy with my ribs, but they did have a great smoke ring and a good, spicy flavor, but due to the ribs being light on meat, they were not as juicy as I would have liked.  In the end, I placed 9th in ribs, I was very happy with this showing since I was not too happy with the end product.  I told my wife and kids that the judges must have been looking for a dry, meatless rib!!  LOL. Brisket turned in at 3:30, unfortunately, I was experimenting with the pit and cooked at 275 all day and the brisket (11# packer) went on at 5:15 that morning and was done by 11:30, so it was in the cooler for awhile, too long I think.  I cut my slices an hour before turn in and soaked them in the juices off the brisket for that hour to "bring it back to life".  I did make final table (Top 16), but finished 16th out of the 16 finalists.  The extremely long time in the cooler hurt my bark and the higher temp may have hurt the moistness.  Gonna' work on dialing it back to 250 on my next cook.   As far as my new smoker itself, it did everything I asked it to do. 



Looking a bit groggy after 2 hours sleep and 12 hours of BBQ'ing, but had a great time and my family spent the afternoon helping me with turn ins. 

Edited by bruno994 - 4/30/12 at 9:29pm
post #3 of 45
Thread Starter 

Here is the tank I started with, an old (not too old, 1988 model Manchester Tank) 150 gallon airtank for us when it was in service.  It has been out in our boneyard for a number of years, had some pitting due to rust on the outside and a good accumlation of rust inside.  Wire wheels for the inside and Ospho, sanding disks and wire wheels for the outside really helped the looks.

RF Smoker 2012 004.jpg

Edited by bruno994 - 4/23/12 at 10:20am
post #4 of 45

Congrats Bruno! Smoker looks good.


Also congrats on the competition? Sounds like you had a great first outing!

post #5 of 45

great job on both the smoker & the turn ins!

post #6 of 45
Thread Starter 

I cut the old mounting plate off the top, spent a few days debating on one or two doors and size of the door or doors.  Popped chalk lines several times until I got it like I wanted it to be then started cutting.  I used 7" cut off wheels for my circular saw to do the horizontal cuts and a torch for the vertical. Took 5 blades to make the two 50" long cuts.  They worked very well mainly due to the tank thickness only being 3/16".  Not sure how well they would have worked on a thicker steel.  After getting the door cut, I started framing out the firebox from a 4 x 8 sheet of 1/4" steel.  In the picture, the firebox is just fitted up to the tank, not welded yet.  I did not insulate the firebox, but framed it with 1 x 1 square tubing so that if I chose to insulate it later, it might not be as difficult to do.  The firebox is 24 x 24, a bit larger than what the calculator called for, but not too large. It fits well with the tank and made good usage out of the sheet of steel ($190). 

RF Smoker 2012 005.jpg


I ruined 3 pairs of work jeans on this project thanks to all the rust.  I guess I should add that to my end cost, huh?

Edited by bruno994 - 4/30/12 at 9:30pm
post #7 of 45
post #8 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys.  I did have a good time.  I went into the comp with the idea of having a good time and not so much worried about the competition.  Lots of good people hanging out and BBQing.  If the party 2 doors down would have shut it down before 1:30 Friday night, a bit more sleep would have made it a little better, but they were there to have fun also. 

Edited by bruno994 - 4/30/12 at 9:32pm
post #9 of 45
Thread Starter 

The trailer I used was on old boat trailer I got for $100 off a coworker.  It was in pretty good shape, tires needed to be changed and had a few welds that needed attention, but for $100, not too bad.  I bought a 20' stick of 3 x 3 x 1/4 angle to use for the cross supports on the trailer.  1 at the back for the firebox to butt up to, 1 for front legs and 1 for the back legs of the chamber and 1 for the front to tie in my deck and wood / storage box.  Once we got the smoker mounted up, we had to move the axles all the to the back.  So far after 3 tows, it all seems to pull very well and handle any bumps with ease. 

RF Smoker 2012 018.jpg

post #10 of 45
Thread Starter 

Once we (my 2 maintenance guys, they helped me with the big welds, you know the ones I didn't want breaking loose as I drug this rig down the highway at 70 MPH!) got the firebox fitted and welded to the chamber, I built my charcoal / wood box to go inside the firebox.  It is 20 x 22, framed in 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1/4 angle and 1 x 1 square tubing.  The sides and bottom are 3/4 x 9 flat expanded metal.  The ash pan came next, it is also framed out in 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1/4 angle with 1/8 sheet metal in the bottom.  So far during both cooks, they have worked as planned, heavy, but worked well.  Here is the box and pan.

RF Smoker 2012 019.jpg

post #11 of 45
Thread Starter 

After installation of the RF plate (1/4" steel) and drain (1 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1/4 angle, bet you can tell what steel we had the most of laying around...) I started on the cooking grates and slides.  Grates frames out in 3/4 x 3/4 x 1/8 angle with 3/4 x 9 flat expanded metal for the grates.  Top grate is 20 x 49, bottom grate is 23 x 49. Total cook surface of 2107 sq. inches.  Quite of an upgrade from my Chargriller DUO with SFB huh?  About 2 inches from the end of the slide I welded on some 2" long pieces of 3/4 x 3/4 x 1/8 angle for antitip guards, I still need to put some removeable pins in the anti tip guards just incase someone other than me pulls on the grates and yanks them all the way out....that would be a major disaster, especially loaded with meat. 

RF Smoker 2012 023.jpg

post #12 of 45
Thread Starter 

The stack is 1/4" steel pipe, 6" ID.  Heavy duty pipeline stuff.  A local machine shop that does work for us traded it to me for 20 used pallets.  So that worked out well for me.  once we got it mounted to the trailer, I finished my storage box on the side and then put a good coat of Rustoleum Hi temp paint on chamber and firebox, and some outdoor enamel on the trailer and storage box.  After 2 cooks, I have been disappointed in the durablility of the high temp paint on the main chamber itself.  Already flaking and looking like it got hot...duh?   I still have a bit of decking to do on the trailer and a few other little things to add.  I am working on addding a sink to the other end of my wood / storage box.  I have the room, just deciding on how I want it set up and placement or water tanks.   I use the shelf on the front of the pit to hold my Maverick ET-732 and a couple of other digital therms.  With the grates sliding out, not a whole lot of other things to use it for.  But it looks nice all stained up to match the decking...

RF Smoker 2012 030.jpg

RF Smoker 2012 031.jpg

post #13 of 45

  Congrats on the competition! Your new smoker looks awesome! I only wish I had the time,knowledge,skill, resources, to build my own. Maybe one day.




post #14 of 45

Great smoker. Nice job in the comp. Very good for a first time.

post #15 of 45

Great job on the RF and on the comp.


We used to live in Sugar Land and went to many comps as spectators.  They hold some really good ones in the Houston area.  If you did well there, you will do well anywhere.


A question about your build:  Why did you locate the RF on the trailer with the firebox aft?  I come from pig cooker country - usually gas fired because we generally got to sleepy from liquid refreshment to tend the hickory for 20 hours - and most of those are set up so that it's possible to put a chopping table across the back of the trailer.  Did you consider that?  It the RF were mounted with firebox inboard, you might even be able to rig the proposed sink aft, too.


Just a thought from someone who has never - and never will be capable of  building a smoker.

post #16 of 45
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by So MS Smoker View Post

  Congrats on the competition! Your new smoker looks awesome! I only wish I had the time,knowledge,skill, resources, to build my own. Maybe one day.




Trust me, with the ideas and knowledge that exists here, anyone can build one, I did.  My 2 maintenance guys (I run a pallet mill here in Port Neches, Texas) who helped me with a bit of this project kept asking why I was designing this this way and that that way, I just kept referring back to here, SMF.  Of course neither one had ever heard of RF to begin with.   I pulled the tank out of the boneyard on February 22, and cooked on it for the first time April 7.  Not too bad a time frame, but all my lunch hours, several slow afternoons and some after 4:00 pm work got it done it pretty good time.  Not sure what I am gonna do during lunch now that I completed my project. I have $1000 total into it, $200 of that is the new tires for the trailer, $60 in temp gauges, $40 for LED trailer lights.  Quite a bit of my 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 angle was left from a previous job around the mill, so that would have cost another $60-90 if we didn't have that ($30 a 20' stick).   


Rabbithutch, I thought about that, but I liked the look of mounting the firebox outside of the frame of the trailer.  As far as my sink and prep area, I am looking into getting a stainless top made to fit on top of the open area in front of my wood storage area.  It is 22 1/2 x 40 inside dimensions.  I should be able to put a small 15 x 15 sink or something similiar in size and still have 18- 20" of prep space.  It's in my head, just not on there yet.  Also in the front of the trailer I am mounting a cage for my propane tank and a burner as well to use for fish frys, sauce pans, charcoal chimney, etc.  Hopefully by weeks end I'll have that done. 


post #17 of 45

Thanks, Bruno!


I was just curious as to how you came to the decision about placement of the RF on the trailer.


Look forward to seeing more pics.

post #18 of 45
Thread Starter 

I cooked on it for the 3rd time this past weekend.  I had 2 goals this weekend, 1 was to work on my ribs for comps, trying a bit of a glazing technique and the other was to play with the intakes and damper to see if I could dial her in to 250 pretty consistently.  Dialing her in was no problem.  Moved both intakes to 1/4 open and same with the damper.  Held 250 for pretty much the enitre 5 hour cook.  One modification I will be trying before the coming weekend is putting a divider in my charcoal / wood basket.  Maybe about 2/3 of the current size, to see if I can get a longer cook out of a 20# bag of Kingsford blue.  Using the minion method along with wood, I am only getting a good 5 hour cook right now, but when I pour the 20# bag in my box, it only covers about 3" depth all around.  My thinking is if I shrink the size by 1/3, I can get a depth of about 5-6 inches and extend my cook time to somewhere between 6-8 hours.  That is the plan, now let's see if it works.  As far as the ribs, this was the first time I have ever cooked them over a water pan, I was looking to keep a bit more moisture in them and try to prevent the leathery texture to the outer layer of meat.  I seem to always get that on my 3-2-1 Spares.  This time not so much.  The water pan seemed to do the trick with both the outer layer and the moistness.  I used honey, brown sugar and Parkay squeeze when I foiled to help with a glazing on my ribs, turned out good, but still not what I'm looking for.  Keep on working on those.  While I had the smoker going, I used the heat wisely by throwing on some burgers, links, chicken breasts, a couple bacon wrapped stuffed chicken breasts and some comp chicken halves as well.  2 weeks to the next local comp, Hardin County Music Festival in Kountze, Texas.  I sure do love practice cookin', I get to eat all my mistakes!



Edited by bruno994 - 4/30/12 at 8:55pm
post #19 of 45
Thread Starter 

Completed a few more tasks this past week in my continuing effort to finish my build.  Number 1 was the modification I mentioned in my previous post (temporary, if it works, it will be a permanent mod) to my charcoal / wood basket.  I wired in a divider to take 1/3 area out of the bottom of my box.  The basket itself is 21" deep x 20" wide X 16" high.  I put the divider in to make the depth 14".  I just have it wired in for now, since I did not get a practice run this past weekend, my next cook on it will be in a comp this weekend.  This way if it seems to not be allowing me enough heat, I can simply pull the basket out, undo the wire and get back to cooking fairly easy enough.  Heat should not be a problem though.


post #20 of 45
Thread Starter 

Another idea I used on this build that I got from a few other builds on this forum and also from Gator Pits of Texas (in Houston) are locks for all doors on a trailer build.  The last thing I want is for my firebox door or chamber door to bounce open going 70 MPH down the highway and see my charcoal basket and ash pan or cooking grate flying at another vehicle.  So on both of these doors I welded some pieces of 1/4 x 1 1/4 flat bar with 1/4" holes drilled.  I purchased my locking spring pins at Tractor Supply and now I don't worry about things bouncing open.  480


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