Ok, so I wanted to enter the electric smoker world for better temp control and less micro managing cooks, yes, so I could spend more time enjoying cooking rather that every minute watching temps, cook and fire (stick heat or stick smoke) or coals (or both), so I bought the MES 30 Sportsman Elite Analog from Cabela's Here :
Now after using and incoporating the use of the AMNPS Pellet Smoker, I found issues with temps above 200 degrees plus with the pellets getting burnt and ruining the color as well as the quality of the smoke, I tried to reposition the AMNPS away from the "S" bends in the element by moving it to the left side of the box, there was an improvement but it was not enough, well not enough for me.
So I thought about the issue and applying some common sense I thought the only way for me to cool the temps for the pellets in the box further was to position it below the heating element, so I go out to my Barn and sit in front of the Smoker with the box open just thinking of how I could pull this off, I wanted to do 2 things, I wanted the AMNPS repositioned below the element and I want fresh air for the AMNPS before being heated by the element as well, also I wanted to make sure of two other aspects I saw as a issue
1. I wanted the air to be available to the pellets, so this meant somehow getting the fresh intake air to pass by or be available to the AMNPS before super heating too much in the Box.
2. I did not like the idea of a hole in the middle of the bottom which would in all cases tend to rise up first, this happening would mean most of my oxygen for the pellets was just passing by and all that was left for the pellets was recirculated either by draft or by convection which mean oxygen levels would be seriously depleted for the pellets, the other benefit of changing the air intake habits would be to ensure that the very bottom of the box would be cooler overall, it would be the coolest part of the box in the end thereby accomplishing what I wanted for the AMNPS.
Another thing I noticed on this model using the plug controller like a Electric Skillet, is that the temp probe on these type of controllers is in the nose that most think is just a guide for the controller, it does function secondarily as a guide yes, but that nose in the center of the controller is where the temp probe is for the element, so this temperature at the nose is what the controller uses to sense temps and cycle, and being all the way in the bottom of the box, I was seeing temp differentials that were a direct result of this, it was over compensating the temps by trying to keep the very bottom regulated which led to serious temp swings mid and upper box from residual rising heat.
So all that said I saw that the element needed to be raised off the very bottom, air needed not to be able to just rise from the intake but rather be baffled / diffused and or directed in a sense so that it did not rise in the center but rather was spread out so it would flow to each wall and create a draft that would circulate and distribute air and the heat gained more evenly within the box, this will in fact reduce if not eliminate hot spots, and it would ensure again that oxygen for the pellets was not just rising up and not available in decent concentrations for the pellets (now even though I have not had extinguished pellet issues I wanted to be sure the pellets had the needed oxygen to burn correctly, not a force of air on them but rather a oxygen rich fresh draft whether by intake air or combined intake air and convection), I did not have pellet extinguishing issues because I placed my AMNPS just to the left above the air intake, where the water bowl would have been, so it got oxygen but still the temps from being above the element were ruining the smoke and charring the pellets reducing the smoke time and destroying the quality of smoke.
I am sorry to be so long winded here, just trying to be clea about the issues I see and have had to maybe help some others having the same issues.
Now there is a substantial difference between the design of the Analog versus the Electronic versions, the electronic versions have a chip chute, so they do not have a air intake in the center of the bottom like the Analog, rather, their intake air is supplied via the chip chute, but if anyone would like to know what they can do with that, this could easily be done in that box also, just a bit more engineering or changes to intake air ducting or intake air ports.
So all that said.......................here is my solution, and after completing this yesterday, I ran the smoker 250+ for 3 hours and when I opened the door to check the pellets, they were not charred, they were not blackened or discolored at all, and my smoke was Blue and thin as it should be as opposed to whiter with the previous configuration, and the temps were stable in the box !!!!! This was so exciting for me, I know it is silly, but I was really excited to see the results, that all the issues I had were rectified, it was simply amazing, it does not always work this way as we all know :)
So I start with removing the element, and I learned something there too, the screws to remove the element are kinda hard to get to as a result of the factory rack supports, there are 2 screws on the inside that actually allow you to remove the element from the Element Bracket, there are also 2 larger screws holding the Element Bracket to the Box wall ( both sets are phillips head, the outside bracket is phillips and flat, use a large driver to remove the outside as they are very tight from the factory), if you remove the bracket screws from the outside this allows the element and the element holding bracket to be removed with great ease and then the 2 phillips screws holding the element to the bracket are very easy as well :)
So remove the element and the bracket
Then where the two larger screws went in from the outside, if you look you will see a u-shaped channel that is spot electric welded to the outside wall, it is placed in between the two walls as a separator and a stabilizer, this way when tightened you do not squeeze the two walls together and it adds stabilization for the element and the bracket joining the thinner inside wall with the outer thicker steel wall providing much better support.
Once you have the Bracket and Element out, you will see the spacer, it has hole drilled in it, and if you look below the opening on the outside closely you will see the spot welds in the metal, it changes the texture of the steel a bit but is noticeable, so once I saw them (already realizing the spacer was secured is what led me to look for the spot electric welds), there are no spot welds on the thinner inside wall, only on the outside.
I took a large flathead screwdriver and held it up and against the wall driving it down in between the spacer and the outside wall separating the welds, one spot weld on each side
Once this was done the spacer comes out, and you will disfigure the metal a little doing this but I would not worry too much as you will see in the pics following, it will be plated anyway, but I did use a miniature pair of channel locks to straighten the metal edge around the rectangular hole that the bracket came out of where I separated the welds just for GP.
Now once you are here, this is the fun part LOL, as it is always a element of fear when you go chopping on a piece of equipment, visions of buying another and your wife shaking her head at you while you explain why you have to get another are circling in your head hehehe.
But actually this is not so bad in reality, I use a scroll saw with a bi-metal blade, just be careful to keep the scroll saw firmly on the wall as you cut, it cut both walls (inner and outer beautifully, but if you were to pull it off the wall just a fraction, it would seriously disfigure the inside wall, so be careful, some of you may have a Nibbling tool, that would make this very safe and easier most likely than the sabre saw, but I had no issues.
Ok.............so all you do is cut up inline with the opening for the bracket on the left and right, just a straight cut up on each side is all.
Now I raise this element maybe 2 inches approximately, I did not measure, but what I used as my stop was the rail on the rack support, the bracket is on the left wall looking at the smoker, and since my intention was to raise the element, when I began to cut I hit the very bottom rack support, but wanted to go a little higher with the element, so I grabbed the very bottom rack support wire on the left side wall with my mini channel locks and just wiggled back and forth and broke the weld removing just the very bottom wire rack support, for those that are concerned, you still have the top wire left and you can still load a rack on top of both top wires on the right and left side, so this does not ruin your chance of having a bottom rack for whatever reason.
Now, once I got the bottom wire rack support on the left side removed, I was able to come up another 5/8" to 3/4" on my cut, so I ran the saw up straight until I hit the top rack support wire, on both sides of the hole of course, then I sat and looked making sure I was happy with the new height of the element bracket, after staring at it for a few minutes I decided I was ok with it, plus I really wanted a bottom rack too for a drip pan or water pan etc, at least I still had that option :)
Ok so now to remove the flap of metal on each wall inside and out, I used a sheet metal bending tool to grab it after bending it straight out and just bent back and forth until it broke, I did this on the outer and inner wall, again those of you that have a nibbling tool, this will be a walk in the park, after removing these pieces, I cleaned it up a tad with a file making sure it was square on the top and sides, tight to the bracket, there is no seal here, so it needs to be relatively snug, if you do seal it, then if you replace the element you will have to break that seal and re-seal, keep your cut accurate as you go up and you will be golden on the sides, as for the top clean it up using the element bracket to check tolerances, just be careful when cleaning the top and removing that metal from inside and out, since you have cut to the top wire of the rack support, this means the bracket will come right to that wire on the inside, so for it to be fairly snug and square with the wire, some care needs to be taken that you do not go to far, otherwise large gaps and air leaking in around element bracket, again, it can be sealed with RTV and re-sealed again, RTV is very forgiving and never gets hard so not really a big deal unless you are a perfectionist like myself.
Ok So now the kinda harder part, kinda but not really
Now to place the Element Bracket in place and cut a plate for the outside to cover the hole and to maintain the double wall seal and strength of the outside wall, I had some .0050 Stainless stock laying around so I used that, you want to keep it fairly thin because the bracket is designed for the original wall thickness, there is a little play here bit only about a 1/8" max, so keep it thin, if you do not have stainless, then use the same thickness steel, maybe a little thinner would be fine, .0050 is a bit thicker than needed but I had it in scrap so it is all good.
Here is a pic of the plate on the outside
As you can see I have a few scratches but will tend to them later.
This plate is just a rectangle that will butt with the bottom of the Element Bracket, and if you want pretty then make it flush with the bottom as well, once riveted into place remove the bracket for the next fun part, not so bad, but we have to replace the spacer that we removed by breaking the spot welds, without this spacer the element is sure to be loose and the job a mess, so here we go.
I am sorry I do not have pics, for this part but I forgot and was in a flurry of trying to finish, but if you followed my instructions on breaking the spot welds and such, you already know its purpose and placement regarding the bracket so you should be good.
So looking at the wall separator / spacer, you will see it has the two holes for the Bracket mounting screws in it, this is how I got the holes drilled, the spacer is a piece of U-Shaped steel, with two holes, quite the nightmare to mark and drill accurately, so I cheated, since we already have the outside plate mounted, I placed the spacer, open side down and held it flush with the top of the installed outside plate, then I drilled a 1/8" hole center top thru the new outside plate and one side of the spacer, to make it easier, I held it in place and by doing that I knew where I needed the 1/8" hole for the outside plate, so I drilled that first, so I would not have to drill both, this way I had a pilot hole already and only had to drill the hole in the spacer, after that hold the spacer in place and drill the 1/8" hole just thru one side of the spacer, then use a rivet which I used or a appropriate self tapping screw to hold in place, this way your spacer is in place and stable for the next step :), here is a better pic I just went out and took so you can see the rivet, it is just holding the spacer in place for the next step
The 4 rivets on each corner are holding the plate on, the one rivet top center is the one holding the spacer in place, the two screws which are on either side of the top center rivet are the Bracket retaining screws you are about to drill holes for.
So now to the inside, now you have a hole on the inside and you can see that spacer, so find the drill bit that fits the holes on the spacer, hold it flush with the top of your outside plate, drill the 2 holes in the outside plate from the inside using the spacer you have positioned as a guide.
Once done drilling the two holes thru the outside plate, time to move inside the box
Here is a pic of the plate riveted in to give you a pic to ponder
Again sorry I was not as organized on the pics in this stage, I did get better, but that does not help now ........................
So you see the plate I installed on the inside, the reason I went long with this plate is the interior wall is thin and this was a way I could ensure a good seal and maximum support for the repair, here you see that the inside lip of the Element Bracket is on the outside of the inside wall, so you want your bracket in place with the plate pushed up under that lip fairly snug, not to tight or you will not be able to get the bracket out easily when needed, install this plate on the interior then after doing so go back outside to the outside plate and drill the holes for the screws from the outside in thru the spacer of course that will act as a guide, once you finish this you can put the Element Bracket Screws in from the outside and you are done raising the element, it will look like this
Now onto the next phase ...........................................I did this faster than I am typing all this out LOL
Next Phase is adjusting Air Intake Hole, we have done the Smoke Stack MOD here
http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/g/a/300398/mes-30-sportsman-elite-smoke-stack-mod/ ,allowing for more Exhaust Air but we cannot truly have more Exhaust Air without increasing the size if the Intake Port, bot Exhaust and Intake Ports were the same - 5/8" - 3/4"
So in the pic above you can see the little Intake Air Opening / Port, and to open it up without affecting the drip tray operation we have to open the hole to the front of the Box, so the rear end of the hole is still in the same place, this will ensure that any dripping will still go into the drip pan that slides in the front side under the bottom in the center.
Here s another pic
If you look closely you can see on the back side of the larger hole just a little piece of the original hole, so we have successfully made sure the hole did not extend further back to cause any issues with the Drip Pan Function, here is the puck cut out for further info
Again, here you can see the pilot bit so the hole was easy to cut being stabilized by the pilot bit, we can also see again that we included the original hole but kept the new part of the opening forward so no issues with Drip Pan Function, now we have fa much larger intake hole which when needed should suffice for plenty of airflow when the Smoke Stack is opened
Now onward to the Baffle / Diffuser to route or direct the air coming in to eliminate hotspots, and direct incoming fresh air to each wall in the box rather that just coming in and rising, this will also create a purposeful draft to each wall and thus improve air currents or convection in the box also improving Smoke Distribution
So I made a little raised plate to go over the intake hole, here are a couple of pics of the plate, it is just thin aluminum, maybe .0025 to .0030 thickness, nothing will be on it so strength is not an issue, if you do yours a bit different and have something sitting on it, just go with a thicker piece of metal, I like aluminum as it will not rust and is light weight
I bent these by hand with my sheet metal bending hand tool I used earlier, it is just a double offset on each corner raised about 1/2", some will ask why just 1/2", the reason is that it will create better flow out of the sides thus promoting the draft we want to eliminate the hot spots, increase circulation in the box therefore better smoke distribution.
Now, I did not ant this piece floating around and subject to moving, I want it consistent, in the same place every day, every time, so I made a guide of sorts for installing it so it will be in the same position
I used a 1/2" X 1/16" piece of flat aluminum I had lying around, you can get it cheap at lowes, so I cut little blocks and then 2 of them I fashioned in the back with angles so the Baffle / Diffuser remains seated in the same place, the two fonts pieces are just to keep it centered, then I drilled them 1/8" and riveted in place with the Baffle / Diffuser in place to assure a snug fit, pre-drilled the pieces and one by one help them in place and drill the base thru the existing hole in the piece used to guide and stabilize the Baffle / Diffuser, as shown here, the blocks in place on the floor of the Box
So now I can easily remove, but it will not move as it is centered over the Intake Hole, the Intake Hole is a little to the front of the plate but is necessary since we drilled the hole forward of the original, so now the Intake Hole is a bit off centered as a result, but we want to keep the plate as centered as we can so the Air Intake will be flowing in each direction to the 4 walls as even as possible.
Ok, Almost done, now for the AMNPS MOD which is the final part, AMNPS gets prosthetic legs !!!
Instead of using large bolts, I choose to use something smaller, so I broke out my tap and die set and checked the size of the holes in the mesh with a couple of taps, 6/32" tap was perfect. it tapped the hole with a couple of threads and did not distort the hole or remove too much metal tapping thereby ruining the strength of the prosthetic legs hehehe
So I picked uniform holes on each corner and tapped them, then before inserting the 6/32" SS Phillips Head Machine screws I put a lock washer and nut on, then I thread them in the hole and after threading in, I placed a nut on the inside top, this way they are locked in place and should never come loose, especially once I get it all smoked up, here are the finished pics
So in these you can see I have it in place, and as you can see to the left of the Baffle / Diffuser Plate is the AMNPS, but you can also note that the fresh air intake will be coming out of that left side of the plate feeding right to the AMNPS, and since it is routed it will not be a strong current, rather it will be traveling under the AMNPS since it is raised, but the AMNPS will never be short of fresh highly oxygenated air, not to mention it will also be much cooler since now it is located under the heating element on the left side subject to very little heat for three reasons
1. it is far left where the element produces little heat
2. because of the Baffle / Diffuser, fresh cool air will be constantly moving under and up from the base so much cooler than above the element
3. As you can see I am still using the Drip Shield, which will still function as a drip shield but more importantly, the little heat from the element that may be radiated downward will be stopped by the Drip Shield, so now it is a Drip / Heat Sheild
A couple more pics
And here it is without the bottom pan / rack, and here with my pan, I have to order one more rack but that will be about 10 dollars shipped so not concerned with that, but I bought 4 Brownie pans I am using for various reasons, so for the sake of seeing it somewhat complete here is a pic
And Last and not least, before I made all this permanent I tested it with a slightly different AMNPS Location, but this is a pic, I used it earlier to show the inside plate, but this pic is after 3 hours at 250+ temps, look at the pellets, there are not charred, not blackened and the pellets have only burned about 3 inches of the first row, this is a major improvement, but not only that, the temps were seriously stabilized, no more 30 degree swings, the Element cycled beautifully and held temps within about 10 degrees, so raising the element helped with the temp stabilization in my opinion by raising it, it was not subject to over cycling trying to keep the very bottom of the box at the set temp, rather now it is maintaining a much smaller temp swing and far less cycling, but the real icing on the cake for me was the pellets not being affected by the heat as they were, they were not blackened and or charred and the smoke stayed thin and blue for the entire test at 250+, I cut the element off and let it idle with just the AMNPS and it stayed lit and burned slow thin and blue for another 2 1/2 hours, I had to put it away so that is as far as I got to test it, but I see no reason it will not function the same on a cook, most of my cooks have been under 5 hours thus far, but gonna fix that soon with a Brisket !!!!
Here is the test pic, the AMNPS is on the baffle to support one side, I made little folded aluminum feet for the other side, but I had to test my Baffle / Diffuser MOD with the Element raised !!!
Look at that !!!!!! INCREDIBLE !!!!! At least in my opinion, I am a Happy little Smoker
Hope you all enjoy this MOD and I really hope it may bring about some hope for these issues for others or at least inspire more thought and even better MODS !
This is going to be one of the last MODS I have for this, this one has really satisfied all the issues I had thus far, cannot think of any others, maybe next I will get a Brake and make my own smoker hehehehe