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Homemade Smoker Woes

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I need Help!
Everytime I try to smoke something, my burner stops working. I have bought several hot plates, and they all do the same thing, get hot and melt! Usually the wires under the burner get too hot and melt, or the thermostat never shuts off and the plate gets too hot. I thought I solved it by wiring the contact points to the outside of the smoker. It helped, but the plastic which holds the element eventually got too hot and melted. So....I then tore the hot plate down to just the bare element and wired a plug directly into it. I plugged it into a rheostat for control and was busy patting myself on the back when I realized the element would not stay at a consistant temp.
Does anyone know of an industrial strength element I could use? I am kind of a tightwad and I like using items from the scrap heap whenever possible.
Sorry this is so long! I have read a lot of posts on this site, and I would love to get past these problems and whip up some good Q!
post #2 of 22
Considered a gasser? Much easier to deal with, much cheaper to operate. Very easy to maintain temperature.
$.02 worth. icon_cool.gif
post #3 of 22
I don't know much about the electric . (here goes the but part) have you thought about gas I too like to get stuff for cheep or free, one I made uses a side burner from a gas grill and works great most are never used and on thash day they are setting out for the trash. Or someone will be along soon to help
post #4 of 22
Side burner from an old grill sounds like a good idea, they seldom get used and are generally like new when the grill dies.. Would not be a hard conversion.
post #5 of 22
Can you post a pic of your rig in this thread so we can see where you are going, and what you are dealing with?

Take care, have fun, and do good!


post #6 of 22
Is what we call Q-view & we love it .. the Q-view of your cooks. Also Q-view of your cooker will help those with the knowledge on electrics diagnose your issuePDT_Armataz_01_34.gif

I don't remember seeing you in roll call to welcome you so if you havent been there yet it would be nice if you would introduce yourself there also.

So, Welcome to the SMF the best BBQ site on the neticon_exclaim.gif
post #7 of 22
I beleive Cheech and a few others were using older style hotplates found at Yard sales or Salvation Army stores in their electric smokers at one point. There's also a electric heat source for the Brinkman electrics available for purchase (sorry) around $30.
post #8 of 22
Alot depends on your scrap heap and just how tight you are, or in other terms, what you have to work with.

First off, as you have maybe already discovered, there should not be any plastic inside the smoker, with the possible exception of maybe some kind of thermoset insulators, maybe.

I would also question any solder joints in a high temp setting opting for good solid mechanical connectors like lug screws or bolted connections and then the correct wire size and insulation type. (Reads as the bigger the better, you want your element getting hot, not your cord.)

Heating elements are everywhere, from the ones made and sold for electric smokers (about $40 and up) to hot plates and old electric stoves, and toaster ovens to electric dryers. The elements in your smoker need to be protected somewhat from like drippings that can cause failure and from being shorted out by contact with smoker components. Install a drip sheild over it and use some sort of insulated legs or stand offs under it. (Ceramic insulators scavenged or chunks of bricks) Depending on the type of element that you have come up with.

A rheostat regulates the current going to your element and needs to be sized to the element. The few smokers that I am familiar with are in the 1500w range. Other than reading the specs off of the device (element) and allowing a little more for saftey, I would guess that you would have to run it wide open and check the amp draw to determine the wattage so that you could get the right sized rheostat. (I still believe in bigger is better)

A thermostat is basically a switch that will turn the current on and off as it senses predetermined high and low ranges. Some thermostats will directly switch the line current to the load and some will need to use a relay switch and be powered by a differnt voltage than the element.

Things to look for?

Strip the guts out of an old electric stove and oven (If you dont want to turn the whole thing itself into a smoker)

Electric toaster ovens, hot plates, skillets, popcorn poppers, toasters, dryers, what ever you can find. Tearing them apart to see what makes them tic is half of the fun!

Tell us something about you smoker, size, shape, material so on.
post #9 of 22
here is a pic of mine hope it helps I cut a hole in the bottom of the smoker and I just took the hole thing and mounted it to the bottom put a skillet with the handle removed on the burner for wood
post #10 of 22
As Zapper said, you need to "remote" the heating element inside the smoker. The actual surface of the elements does not conduct, so a metal bracket could be fashioned.

There are thermos available that can attach to the side of the unit, or under a drip shield. The controls stripped off an electric oven with burner seems simplist and cheap.

One word of caution- perhaps using a "ground fault" interruptor unit would be a good idea, and don't forget to ground the case of the unit.

You'll of course need to calibrate such a setup using a good quality digital thermom, but once ya get the hang and quirks down, yer on yer way. As with ANYTHING home made, there's gonna be some tuning...
post #11 of 22
Be advised! Treat the surface of the element as an electrical conductor! Some Are! Most of the elements that are ment to be exposed do not conduct thru the surface it seems, but there are older types and bare Nicrome elements that are conductive at the surface and defects in a non conductive types are possible. My last element burnt out in about a sixty second arc! It sounded like I was welding at 500 amps and just as bright!
post #12 of 22
Heh...OK.. an "element" and the nichrome stuff are NOT the same. Nichrome is really SMALL compared to an element. An element is on a stove-top, most ovens, etc. It's about 1/4 inch in diameter. Nichrome would be found in toasters, hair dryers, etc. and is at most 1/8 inch round, or sometimes a flat ribbon type metal. I would not use that stuff.

I figgered this to be apparent. Well it is to me - so I messed up. Thanks for pointing that out.

I guess if you did not know this tho, DON'T be going and making a home built heater. Electricity has no respect.
post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info everyone! The rheostat is made for a soldering iron rated at 1500 watts, so I thought it would work well. I was afraid of stovetop elements because I thought they were 220 volts, am I wrong about that?
The replacement burners for Brinkman and others have no control, and I thought they were fairly low wattage, not good for cold winters in Nebraska!
It is not hard to find a cheap burner, I just have trouble finding a durable one.
Thanks again everyone!
post #14 of 22
Probably are 220. Find a free one and put 110 on it. Might be plenty hot enough. Might not be. Use two if necc. one for just heat, other for the smoke pan.
I'da bought/scrounged a gas burner by now tho.
post #15 of 22

burners are fixed resistance

The KW output would be reduced due to a lower voltage. If used outside I would go with a 20 amp GFCI receptacle for 110 volts or a GFCI breaker for 30 amps. Match the wattage potential with respect to resistance and applied voltage when choosing a rheostat.

What about using an electric skillet? I see them all of the time at garage sales. It may not get hot enough. I would recommend stainless steel.
post #16 of 22
220/240 stove burner voltage? I don't know for a fact, but I would guess it to be 110/120. I would think that it is just using one leg for half of the burners and the other leg for the other burners. The big broiler and oven elements might use both legs at the same time. I just don't know for a fact either way and it might vary on different equipment. It shouldn't hurt to put 120 through the element if it is meant for 240, it will just burn half as hot. But the other way....well who knows, maybe twice as hot, but only for a second!

There are a couple type of elements that I have seen. There are bare Nicrome (and other compositions) types where the wire is draped or wrapped and supported by a thermal and electrical insulator (like in a toaster) I have also seen bare Nicrome coiled inside of a glass tube in toaster ovens. I keep all of the Nicrome that I can find for odd ball projects. I have considered using a dryer heating element for a smoker heater (it is coiled Nicrome suspended inside of a sheet metal tube) I also have some heating elements out of a commercial conveyor oven that is the Nicrome in the glass tube arrangement (about three footers) The size box that I end up with may decide how I heat it.

The typical stove or Brinkman type element looks to be made of a Nicrome type wire inside of a tube that is packed with a high temp electrical insulator, kind of coaxial in cross section. It is this type of element that I dont trust as far as the surface becoming "electrically hot" or conductive. I know that a bare wire will be electrically hot, but thinking the closed tube type element wont be electrically hot has made my fingers tingle more than once. Nicrome in the open usually just melts in two and the circuit is opened, not much of a show. But when one of the tube or sealed type elements go (only seen it twice) it is a very bright arc with the associated buzzzz. What ever you choose, use more sense than mePDT_Armataz_01_11.gif

No, I am not an electrician, but I seen a guy play one on TV once. How hard can it be?

post #17 of 22
Next time I'm driven around I won't be looking at the grill but the stove atachment..
post #18 of 22
I would like to see a picture from a wider angle .This picture is so close you don't know what your looking at. It is like looking at a picture of it on the ground . I would like to see how it is conneted to the smoker. I happen to have (5) old grill frames with the side burner still attached that I acquired from roadside trash heaps for the garbage man. I love to scrounge parts and burners,shells of grills for burn pits. It is fun to me but my wife gives me hell for it. I rebuild grills and sell them in yardsales.
post #19 of 22
Chadpole I am working in the fields rite now and am taking a quick lunch so if you search snooping in a local junkyard you will see what I had to work with all I did was take the hole burner part just unscrewed the hole thing from the frame andplaced it on the bottom where the hole is and run some self taping screws in it to hold in place I had to get a plug and plug the hose that went to the grill burners it was that easy hope this helps and it works very well sorry I didn't have time to take different pics
post #20 of 22
That's fine cowboy, I just couldn't figure how you mounted it from your picture. I got the idea now.....appreciate it much.
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