Hello all, I'm Lou from Western MA. I've been reading SMF for a bit now, spurned by three things:
1. I cooked some ribs in the oven for most of the day on low heat awhile back and they came out "ok"
2. I had a leftover, cheap propane grill that was obsolete for grilling due to a clogged and hard to replace (read: rusted in) burner setup and a received a new grill as a gift before tearing into the old one to repair for grill duty.
3. Some years back, I worked in a BBQ restaurant in CT (I know what you're thinking) that did in fact smoke the meats they served, and I have yet to have BBQ anywhere that rivaled (admit I haven't been to some of the reputed BBQ states, but have been south on the eastern coast GA/FL, definitely haven't had anything in my new home state that would satisfy)
From number 1, I resolved to never spend as much time as I did on oven oven baked ribs (emphasis on method of cook not length of time here), which made number 2 in the list above dangerously useful (or so I thought).
I started out by figuring a way to utilize the sitting propane grill for a smoker. It appeared to seal up well enough around the outside (from the top), so I began tearing into the guts of the propane burner setup (angle grinder), and clearing that out of the way. I was provided a de-valved propane tank for use as a firebox courtesy of the place that fills the propane used on my new grill.
After cutting the door into my firebox/propane tank, I started dabbling in the 18-20 gauge steel used as shelves on the grill I was converting. I figured I could repurpose this metal into providing the pieces to seal the cooking chamber holes left by the removed propane burners, as well as provide the CC to FB connection (via a 3"x3" square welded tube). I swore extensively at welding the cheap (that's my excuse... probably just thin) metal into a square tube, and finally flipped the to-be-converted grill on its top to cut in the square for the firebox connection. I realized then that the "cooking chamber" I thought I was re-purposing left a significant amount to be desired as far as sealing goes, and bagged the grill idea. I realized I would never have achieved a well-enough seal, likely wrecked a few meats that I attempted to smoke in this method, and probably would have scarred by desire to smoke for some time.
Since I had already been looking around for advice on firebox to CC ratio sizes, and sizes for inlet to the CC, I realized no one was attempting what I planned (for good reason). But I also got a hint of some competition style and extremely impressive builds which brought upon my next inspiration for smoking meats and never again doing ribs in the oven (or "pulled pork" in the crock pot). Never again.
At this point, I obtained a 100 gal propane tank (again de-valved) for my use.
I was intrigued by the RF style horizontals, but also impressed by the simplicity of the UDGs. I saw some incredible vertical offset cabinet style builds also.
In the end, I settled of a vertical offset design (think RF firebox attached to a vertical CC) which would allow me to use both propane tanks.
So far I have $10 in propane tanks (0 for the 20 gal firebox, 10 for the 100 gal CC that I cut down to approximately 3x the 20 gal volume), and likely quite a bit in electricity to feed my MIG and angle grinder. The cutting wheels have also been falling like flies.
Enough smoker back story; I like good eating, good beer (...actually just beer), working on cars and cars that perform well on race tracks (purely amateur, just for fun). I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday than to tend a smoker's fire for hours on end and wrenching on cars (12 ounce curls in between).
Looking for some advice on my build, to include chimney length size (given vertical CC), and distance between FB inlet and first CC shelf (how close to the offset flame is too close?).
There will be more questions, especially when it comes to preparing and smoking the meats (will concentrate on ribs and boston butts for now; hopefully will feel confident in brisket in the near-ish future).
Thanks for having me and looking very much forward to this.
ETA: pictures of my "practice" attempt and build will follow.