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Gibson Fridge Conversion

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

I started the conversion of a 1949 Gibson refrigerator. I'm hoping I will be able to use if for smoking in the garage this Winter. I'm planning to mount two electric stove burners in the bottom, one for smoke generation and one for heat.



So far I've removed the inner shell and the door insulation. The fridge is insulated with fiberglass and there was no tar on the inner shell, so the insulation stayed in pretty good shape. I see no particular reason to replace it. The door insulation was a brown fibrous fluff that very much reminded me of the treated wood fiber that's used as mulch in hydroseeding. It burned very easily, So I pulled that out. Here's the first interior pic.



I think I will use J-channel mounted to the inside to hold the racks up. I'm still not sure where I'll get racks though. I'm not having any luck finding ready made racks and I'm not a welder.

post #2 of 27
Thread Starter 

How good is "furnace tape" (aluminum foil tape) for patching the small holes left behind by removing the plastic rack holders? I was thinking of using it on both the inside and outside of the inner shell. If it isn't good enough, what else is good for patching small holes.

post #3 of 27

i use cake cooling racks and place them on wood dowling....

easy to clean and can pop in the dishwasher



post #4 of 27
Jus a suggestion. You can go to any big box store and buy L brackets for racking. 4 for $2.35. And for small holes get what they call Blind pop rivets. They will not let smoke leak out. And I am positive they carry them large enough to hold brackets also just ivet from outside for smooth finish.
post #5 of 27
Heres what I did. Might help you
post #6 of 27
And for holes closer together
post #7 of 27
For a nicer look your metal could be put on inside pop rivet through outside in.
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Creator Savant View Post

Heres what I did. Might help you

I thought about using L brackets, but if I don't find exactly the right width racks in a short enough depth (23-1/2" X 13") I'll have to do something like the dowel rods and cooling racks. Then I'll want a continuous shelf to slide the racks on. Like this


post #9 of 27
Yes I agree. The channel method would be more versatile. You can get those pieces from most metal roofing manufactures for around $10.50 a ten footer. I have one close to me actually make me some custom parts for my smoker for $30. And usually they can put a hem in to keep metal from being sharp.
post #10 of 27

just get some angel iron, 1"x1"x1/8"

post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by madman mike View Post

just get some angel iron, 1"x1"x1/8"


Is that cheaper than J-channel? It seems like it would add more weight and make the smoker more top heavy, but I would do it if it was cheaper. I plan on making this fridge fairly portable, with wheels and a handle mounted to the back so I can tip it back and roll it around.

post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 

I got the inner shell cleaned up and cut the holes for the burners, the indirect smoke entry, and the smoke vent. Then I made lines for locating the shelves and I covered all the little holes from the old fridge shelves with aluminum foil tape inside and out. If anyone sees me doing anything that will obviously cause me problems in the future, I sure would appreciate hearing about it now. Here's a couple of pics of the inner shell ready for shelf addition of the rack hardware (still not sure what that will be).



post #13 of 27

that tape will peel off eventually and is easy to puncture. Some thinner sheet , 22g, can be attached to the back with a small metal screw through the tub ton attach the patch on the back of the tub and the hitemp rtv silicon adhesive you will need for the build to seal it up as best as possible. on the outside edges of the metal patch, only need 2 screws to hold a metal patch.


For the old shelving rack holes place the new shelving racks over top and seal with silicone from the back over the holes to ensure they are sealed well.


the right angle steel bracket you put in for the shelves to sit on don't add that much weight. You can have them built out of 20g cold rolled steel, or buy some at home depot and cut them to fit.

H. Paulin - Papc (1/8x1)x48Angle Stock - 142-122 - Home Depot Canada




the shelves I like to use 3/8 steel round with 3/4" expanded metal.



Edited by madman mike - 9/7/15 at 12:28am
post #14 of 27

you could easily out 7 shelves in that, the bottom one would be from your drip pan and the very top one would also double for hanging sausages. You can gut a couple of 3/4" - 1" wood dowel.

post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by madman mike View Post

you could easily out 7 shelves in that, the bottom one would be from your drip pan and the very top one would also double for hanging sausages. You can gut a couple of 3/4" - 1" wood dowel.

I plan to use the hole in the back at the bottom for adding chips to the chip pan, so setting the drip pan that low won't work when I'm direct smoking, but it will work fine when I'm indirect smoking, so I'll add the extra rails. But I still haven't heard whether angle steel would be cheaper than J-channel or why you have a problem with J-channel. The foil tape has held up very well on the smokestack of a woodstove that I have, so I think it will be a long time before it fails in a smoker. I don't plan on poking the walls of the smoker with sharp objects, so I'll give the foil tape a try, since it's already in place. I'll report on how it performs. I'm really hoping to find premade 23-3/4" X 13" shelves with 1/4" edges and 1/4" girder down the center and then 13" X 1/8" wires. That's looking not so doable.

post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 

I haven't been able to find premade shelf racks, so I decided to borrow a stick welder, learn how to weld, and make my own. If I was only going to make one shelf, I would have tried to freestyle it, but since I need to make six shelves all the same, I built a jig from nuts, bolts and an old washing machine top. I heated 5/16" round bar with a propane torch until red hot and then bent the bar around the corner bolts until the side bolts could be inserted.



The finished racks will be 23-3/4" X 12", which probably doesn't require a center brace, but considering how weak my welding skills are, I figured that I needed the practice and the shelves need to compensate for bad welds. The jig came in handy as a welding table.



The 3/4" expanded metal came in 24" X 24" sheets from Home Depot. I used a sabre saw to cut one in half and then the really tedious welding started. Here's the first shelf. Only five more to go.



It needs a little grinding, but I'm pretty happy with it.

post #17 of 27
Those look great!
Your right about not beading the center piece but it doesn't hurt and you get more to weld!
post #18 of 27
Thread Starter 

With the help of some good guys on welding web, I managed to get some shelves welded well enough.



post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 

It took me a few months to get back to it, but I reassembled it, rigged up some rudimentary controls, and primed it. My wife will eventually paint it, but we both agreed it was time to try it out, so I cooked some brats in it today. They were delicious but I'm getting ahead of myself. I rigged both burners to 220V. I used a cast iron frying pan on the smaller left burner for the chip pan. I coated the racks with canola oil and baked them at 350 degF for 3 hours. It smelled bad for a while but then the off smells went away. Then I burned some chips to learn the settings and decided it was time to smoke some meat.



Here is the primed result.



And here is the interior.



I am really crunched for time, so now that I have it where I can cook with it, I'll probably cook one rack of spareribs in it one time just to get the methodology down. I have a family reunion coming up and I'll be smoking spareribs for it, so I don't want to risk a full load until I'm comfortable with it.

post #20 of 27
Looks pretty damn sweet. Great job, gives me hope for mine that I'm starting in a little over a week and a half. I got some old oven racks btw they measured 23 inches across I believe. Wish I'd seen this sooner.
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