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My Vertical Reverse Flow Smoker

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 


I've mentioned this smoker and posted a few pics of it, but I haven't given a full-on description and detailing yet.


I built it for a buddy of mine who is on a BBQ team here in Memphis. He assisted me in doing the grunt work, grinding, chipping, cutting with the saw, etc. I did all the welding, torch cutting, fitting, planning, etc.


It is not finished yet, but it is cooking. We began on 8/29, and had it in a competition on 10/3. We literally worked until 1:30am the night prior to his meat check in. He placed 3rd in chicken out of 40 or so. Ribs, not so well, but they were good to me.


When we started talking about it, I told him to find or sketch a design he liked, and he found this online.

It is a vertical smoker with false walls. The smoke is supposed to travel up btwn the false wall and outer wall, then down into the cook chamber, then out of the low mounted stacks. I had doubts, but whatever. Lets do it.


I started rounding up material. I figured we'd need a sheet of 3/16" plate to build it out of. I changed the dimensions and material thickness on this design to save $, weight, and waste as little material as possible. I cut it down from 66" tall to 60", and I ordered a piece plate 3/16"x5'x12'. 3/16" plat is 7.66 lbs per sq ft. That sheet alone weighed 459.6 lbs, and I had use for nearly every shred of it.


Right away, I told him we need to mount it to a trailer, because we are looking at a 600 lbs beast once it's finished. He agreed. So I started planning that out, too.


I work int he steel business, but only had a tiny 80 amp stick welder at home... That wasn't going to cut it. The welders I use at work take entirely too much juice to be plugged into my house, so I wasn't borrowing one. This may come as a shocker to you guys, but I went straight to HARBOR FREIGHT and bought the 170 amp MIG/Fluxcore welder for $184.99. That's anther topic. Just know, I'm very experienced as a welder, and I am totally pleased with my purchase, and it's performance.


So I rounded up some scrap at work...

And we built the trailer.

It's HSS3"x2"x1/4", (HSS stands for "hollow structural steel", or tube steel".


Then I had my shop cut and bend the plate for the smoker.

Then he took off like a rocket from there.




These are my "Throttle Body" exhaust dampers. They work good, and look neato, but do not 100% shut off the flow... alterations are in the works.




We are taking a break for a month or so, and picking up again in November. It wore us out pretty good.


The trailer is very well balanced, having only about 100lbs of tongue weight. We intend to add tables and storage space on the trailer, so that is subject to change.


The stacks are 4" pipe, dual.


The air vents, I recently learned, need to be lowered, so i have an idea to duct the air down under the fire grate with tubing. Opinions would be great on that...


My buddy plans on mounting a fan to feed air fire when it's activated by the thermostat, which is pretty pricey. It is not here yet, so she's naturally aspirated for now.


Tell me what you think, please. I need some good constructive criticism.


Thanks for looking.

post #2 of 11

I like the looks of that. I keep thinking about starting a build but then I realize how many hours it will take and I stop thinking about it :hit:

post #3 of 11

That looks awesome, and portable.


Just curious, are you going to use any insulation on the smoker walls to help retain heat?  That would probably double the weight of the the thing.  How much weight can that trailer hold?

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
I would only add insulation if it were absolutely necessary. I chose 3/16" plate because it has ample structural integrity to be both the skin and the frame at the same time. I also believe it is thick enough to work well without insulation.
If I had to add insulation, it'd mean adding framing for it, too.

At it's current "naturally aspirated" condition, it reportedly held temperature pretty well once the whole thing got hot.

We have to rethink and revise our gaskets on the doors, as they leaked a bit more then we intended.
She isn't exactly the Toyota Prius of smokers as far as fuel economy, but it is ask much bigger than most real efficient ones that I've seen.

Do you think insulation would improve it's performance?
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Also, I believe it had a 1,750# axle and spring set. The trailer and smoker are probably approaching 900 to 1000# at the moment.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

As far as the portability goes, in all my google searches, I did not see very many stand-alone vertical smokers on trailers. I saw some attached to the end of offsets, but not by themselves. I may have the first ever set up this way... at least from what I've seen.

post #7 of 11
What BBQ Team is your Buddy on. I'm from Memphis, living in Mississippi now I cook Competition BBQ. Know most of the Memphis Teams.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
He is on a team called "We Hongree"
post #9 of 11
Maybe I'll see him next year I cook The Variety Club, and Goat Days.
post #10 of 11
Originally Posted by ironmanjking View Post

The smoke is supposed to travel up btwn the false wall and outer wall, then down into the cook chamber, then out of the low mounted stacks. I had doubts, but whatever. Lets do it.



I'm planning a vertical build myself and question the 'vertical reverse flow'.  It makes total sense for offset smokers, I'm not sold on how well it will work in this orientation.  Hot smokey air to travel down before exiting?  Seems like you'd get a bunch of stagnate smoke build up vs a continuos flow of it.  It's a smoker, I realize how silly that last part may sound .. but the idea of fresh smoke flowing over the meat sounds better than the same smoke for awhile.  ...... I may be over thinking it.

post #11 of 11


I have built a bunch of vertical smokers and pretty much all of them are reverse flow.


When you have a vertical area over 3' tall it is hard to keep even temps top to bottom, so reverse flow works well.


Mine are all insulated for cooking inside kitchens, which makes them very efficient.

The air inside a smoker is dynamic so it won't go stale.


Post smoke pics/details of your plans so we can help eliminate some of the problems before you start welding.


Good luck

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