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Vertical Direct Smoker build...Is this plan solid?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,


I've searched the forums, read hundreds of posts, gathered tons of info, made a plan, registered here, done the intro in roll call & now it's time to get down to business. This is my first build, so any and all input is appreciated. At the end of this post will be a pic of what I'm looking to achieve.


The Rules:


1. Build on a limited budget. I have taken inventory of the materials I have on hand and have based the smoker size on this inventory. I

    will only buy something if I absolutely need to.

2. This is to be a vertical direct smoker (not reverse flow).

3. Have fun and learn.


The Build Plan:


1. The overall size of the smoker will be 24"W x 24"L x 36"H.

2. The cook chamber will be 24"W x 24"L x 26"H.

3. The firebox will be 24"W x 24"L x 10"H.

4. The construction will be 1/8" plate steel for the entire interior (cook chamber & fire box), framed with 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 1/8" wall

    tubing, insulated with 1 1/2" thick Roxul and skinned with 1/8" plate steel.

5. The plate between the firebox and cook chamber will be 1/8" plate steel as a minimum. If I have 1/4" plate, I will use that. I do not

    plan to have a built in drip/water pan, but will use disposable aluminum pans for this. If I have enough material, I may incorporate a

    built in pan.


The Questions:


1. Are my cook chamber to firebox ratio adequate? I've read that for a VDS, around 25% for the firebox is good.

2. What would be a good firebox intake size? I was thinking of a slot type that is 3"H x 12"W centered on the side.

3. What size and length should my chimney be? I have tons of square tubing (5x5 & 6x6).

4. Should the chimney be right on the top or exit out the back at the top (I hope that makes sense)?



Thanks in advance for any and all input. This is the style I'm wanting to build.


post #2 of 13
From what I can tell, a vertical direct smoker is the same thing as an UDS... only a lot more expensive... Except for the 2 doors that open... They cook great.... have won cooking comps... and they burn very little fuel....
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Yes they are very similar in principle to a UDS. I do need it to be insulated though in order to cook in the winter. It gets -30C here. This build will be near free since I have most of the materials that are leftovers from other jobs. I just need some confirmation/answers to my questions first.

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
No one can tell me what my chimney length should be or if my intake size is adaquate or overkill? Someone must know. Thanks in advance.
post #5 of 13
As far as I know, there are no "hard and fast" rules for a vertical smoker.... Like a Weber kettle, air in and air out using totally adjustable rotating discs.. the consumer tweaks until satisfied...
With the UDS, folks have found a minimum air inlet size and openings... exhaust is usually evenly distributed around the top of the side wall...

Vertical smokers like you are speaking... A SWAG is in order....
post #6 of 13

I like the idea of your build.  IF I ever find myself hip deep in free steel, I'd like to mimic your design- except for double wall/insulating.  I live in North Texas- doesn't get too cold and in the summer the first 100degrees are free :)


On the vertical smoker, everything I've read has basically said that the whole shebang is chimney- you just need to get the smoke out. Placement is up to you - Top Centered, Top Rear or on the back of the smoker- all work. I'm sure somone will tell you that a particular position is superior but...

Take the UDS-which you are basically styling it after- it's extremely simple:  intake, fire basket, exhaust with a suggested distance from fire to first cooking grate.  water pans, diffusers, etc are completely optional.


I don't know why your build would have to be much different.  A TON of uds run on (3) 3/4" holes for intake.  (each hole is about .44 sq") The intakes are all open only on startup- closing down 2 of them & running on *part* of one as the desired temp is achieved. Having a relatively huge intake like yours is not a "bad thing"- but at 36 sq" you might find it mostly closed most of the time :)  

Basic UDS exhaust is usually  a 2" bung (which is a bit over 3 sq") if using the flat lid and whatver the daisywheel is if you are using a kettle dome lid.  In the case of the uds, exhaust is always wide open during the cook. Some folk have added more sq" to exhaust... but UDS carefully meter air INTAKE... you can only really exhaust what you let in.  Extra length (stacks) on uds look cool but can affect the draft.  I would think that your design would be similarly affected. 


I'm not a builder- and what I typed may be way off base.


Good luck... I'm looking foward to seeing your progress!

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone, it took a month of spare time, but I'm finally done. Going to season it tonight and smoke Sunday supper. Here's a quick rundown. I started with my single wall (3/32" thickness), homemade propane job that was 24"W x 24"D x 36"H.


I removed the propane setup, plugged all the holes and made a firebox area. The new cook chamber is a 24" cube with 3 racks, 7" apart. The firebox and cook chamber are separated with a piece of 3/16" plate with a 1" gap from the inner wall on each side. This will also be where i place my disposable drip pans. The entire smoker is framed out with 1 1/2" x 1/8" wall tubing, insulated with 1 1/2" Roxul, and skinned with 3/32" plate. Being that I was using materials I had on hand, I had to seam the outer skin together as the plate I had was 20" and 6" wide.


I decided to put glass in the door so I could see whats happening in there. I figured the heat loss would be less than opening the door. It's dual pane out of a self cleaning oven and I used high temp gasket maker (rated for 500F) for sealing the glass to the door. The construction is, door with lip for glass, gasket, glass, gasket, 3/4" solid square bar ring, gasket, glass, gasket and 3/4" solid square bar ring tack welded in each corner.


The coal bin is 19"W x 19"D x 5"H and is made from 1" square tubing and some expanded metal I had, the new cook racks are also made from the same material. The ash pan is 21" square and 2"H, with a square block on the backside to act as a stopper so the pan is centered under the coal bin.


I will be using 2 digital thermometers for telling the temperature and will just close the probe wires in the door. I also made adjustable feet for the front and wheels for the rear. It takes two guys to move, but it wheels around easily enough like a fridge on a dolly. Anyway, here are the build pics...I don't have any pics of the original cabinet.



Here's a rough material list.

- existing cabinet

- 50' of 1 1/2" tubing

- 28' of 1" tubing

- 11' of 3/4" square bar

- 10 sq.ft. expanded metal

- 34 sq.ft. 3/32" plate

- one 24" x 22" x 3/16" plate

- 10' of 1 1/2" angle (door glass frame and tracks for coal bin)

- 2 panes of oven door glass

- 3 tubes of high temp gasket maker

- 3 packages of 5/8" x 72" rope gaskets (i couldn't find a place locally that had it in spools)


















post #8 of 13

A cool looking build!  That's a heavy beast to be rocking back on two wheels like a dolly- be careful.   I'm looking forward to you telling /showing use how good it cooks.


I will admit to being sort of confused by glass doors in smokers- I think all I would see is ....smoke.  I've got a really nice kitchen oven- it has a glass AND a light I can turn on- and I'll be damned if I can really see much about what is baking- I have to open the door to get a good peek.


I'm in the process of putting together a 24x 24 x 48 tall direct vertical.  Like you- 3 shelves  7" apart (not copying- just thought that was a good distance).  Not doing insulated (I will probably kick myself) but single wall- NO frame - all 3/16 construction- seam welded.  I might get it finished up this weekend  /crosses fingers.


good looking rig, sir.

post #9 of 13

Great job!

post #10 of 13

Nice build!  Did you ditch the oven window yet?  I would think you would lose a lot of heat through it.  I'm curious to hear your findings on that.

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
I've done a few turkeys, a couple of roasts and a few tenderloins (both beef and pork) and I have no regrets about the glass in the door. Yes there is some heat loss but nothing that is significant, plus I can see what's going on inside. After the smoke I clean the glass with a razor and it's good as new. At 320*F I can touch the glass and it is warm but not hot at all. Keeping the temperature steady is quite easy by adjusting the bottom damper with the top one wide open. It does take a while to warm up in -30*C, about an hour to get to 230*F. Because of the plate of 3/16" steel between the firebox and cook chamber, heat recovery is pretty quick.

I do plan on redoing the door seals in the spring. The glue that came in the kit is terrible and the gasket started coming off. I ended up screwing the gasket in place, but at each of the screws I have a leak. In hindsight I should have put the gaskets on the doors instead of the cabinet itself. Overall I'm happy with how this build turned out.

As far as rolling it around goes...the smoker sits in one spot outside beside my bbq. The wheels were just to get it moved to where it now sits. It may move once more if my wife gets her wish and the yard gets redone.
post #12 of 13
Originally Posted by freakincage View Post

I do plan on redoing the door seals in the spring. The glue that came in the kit is terrible and the gasket started coming off. I ended up screwing the gasket in place, but at each of the screws I have a leak. In hindsight I should have put the gaskets on the doors instead of the cabinet itself. Overall I'm happy with how this build turned out.


As an alternative consider this stuff: 



I swapped it out on my smoker from the same rope type gasket you have in place and it has worked great.  I used adhesive vs the glue and I've had not issues for a year now.  The rope gasket started pealing off of the first season.  Just make sure you've got a good clean surface and this stuff will stick.

post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

Just an update.


It's been almost a year since I built "Rosie"...Yes, I named her "Rosie, and I really don't have any complaints.


The only other thing I don't like about it is that the door gaskets are on the cabinet itself. When this set fails, and they will, I will put the gaskets on the doors. The biggest issue with the gaskets being on the cabinet is that when I pull the coal bin out to add more fuel, the heat from it is too much for the seal directly above it and it wears out very quickly.


The glass door idea was and still is a good one and the heat loss through the glass is fairly minimal. Well, the loss is greater now because I broke the outer pane. I had the coal bin pulled out, went to get more charcoal from the garage, got distracted for a few minutes and when I came back the heat from the bin had shattered the outer pane. I must have been gone for more than "just a few minutes". Even with the outer pane missing, heat control is still very easy and my heat is consistent...even in -30 Celsius. In that temperature it just takes longer to preheat. The glass does allow me to see whats happening in there and I'm easily able to read the thermometers on each rack, the glass has to be cleaned after every smoke though.


I cook with Rosie every chance I get and I haven't had a bad smoke yet.


I also want to give a huge thank you to all of you that post recipes, give tips and tricks and just simply make this forum a great resource for those who are well seasoned (yes I'm punny) and to those who are just starting out.

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