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Aluminum Steamer Trunk Saga

tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
268
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Joined Mar 8, 2016
This has taken a while. No big deal retired anyway with a sort of working POS small smoker anyway.

So the saga begins. Wife suggests converting an old aluminum steamer trunk into a propane smoker since I'm so PO'd at rewiring our electric Centro unit so much. An MES clone I believe.

Nice box about 16 x 24 x 40


Strip all the hardware, and remove the door. Cut the lip off the main box so wire racks can get in. Attach aluminum angle to support the shelves.


Try and find shelves of the right size. 23 !/2 x 16. Best I can find are 24 x 16. So built a homemade bending brake and bend each end a bit so they fit.



Shelves fit fine.

Next build a grate to separate firebox from coking chamber. Aluminum angle soldered together. Yes, soldered with a propane torch.


Then door sawed into 2 pieces. (sorry missed that pic.) Then soldered a bar where the doors would meet to seal against when gasket installed.


My burner. Turns out it is a little hot. More on that later.


Notice the thermocouple which will go to a safety valve in case the flame goes out. Safety first.

Thanks to GlenWillets for the idea to use the burner as the pilot. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/232758/digital-temp-mod

Started to build the carcass around the trunk.



A little charring when I had to repair the solder joints. No structural damage. This is about when I missed taking some pictures. Sorry. Saga continues though.

Insulated with 1 1/2 in of Rock wool insulation then 1/2 in. of silverboard. Then covered in 1/2 in. of fiber siding. Total R value of about 12. Doors too. A bit heavy but has good hinges.

All corners edged in walnut stained wood for aethetics.


Still need to stain the rafters but it has become too cold for that right now. No hurry since it's now at least functional. And an utility drawer under the fire box door where there is just a board at the moment to cut down on wind drafts.

It's controlled by a TA4 pid with a K type thermocouple and a solenoid to control the propane. There is a needle valve controlled bypass around the solenoid to maintain a low pilot like flame. Main line controlled by a safety valve with a thermocouple on the burner in case of flame blow out.

When I tested it, even after adjusting the needle valve down to minimum the low flame generated enough heat and the smoker is so well insulated that I could not maintain any temps lower than 300 F. So I used some aluminum tape to block some of the burner jets as a test. The whole outside ring to be exact. Then I could maintain 160 F easily. High temp silicone in the jets is a semi-permanent solution and the jets can be unplugged if I want in the future.

I can use my AMPNS for cold smoking, AMPNS or chunks (in a frying pan) for hot smoking or use just as an oven. I can maintain temps consistently from 160 F to 450 F but don't see ever using the higher temps. Maybe to crisp chicken skin. I can go from 160 to 350 in about 2-3 minutes if needed.

Fun project. There's 7 shelves at 16 x 23 1/2 for a total of 2632 sq. in. of cooking space. More than enough for the 2 of us.

Hope you enjoyed.
 

mike5051

Master of the Pit
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Joined Feb 7, 2015
I enjoyed your build very much!  


That is nice!

Mike
 

tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
268
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Joined Mar 8, 2016
Thanks for the points. Here's the last few until better weather.

Here's the controls on the side. Top left holds the temperature controller pid (myPIN TA4 and SSR). Top right holds the solenoid and the bypass needle valve. Bottom right has propane input to safety valve (hold button to start gas) and sparker to start. Flows through top right connection to solenoid/needle valve. Then back through top tight connection down to burner. I put a pipe in the wall to hold the thermocouple copper tube/wire? and the wire to the sparker. In case they need to be replaced, just thread through the pipe without having to do any major demolition.


Burner shield with holes beneath to feed air to burner. Note opening to the right with damper. For AMNPS in case it needs air, adjustable from nothing to 3"dia tube. Nothing actually works very well. Oh well, who knew.


Interior shot with a couple of shelves in.


Interior shot with the real reason I built it. "FOOD" !!

Turkey pastrami with turkey legs. And that'll be another thread.


Thanks again

Bruce
 

bdskelly

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Very unique build.  Point! b
 

tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
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Joined Mar 8, 2016
Thanks for the point. Unique, my wife calls it different, my son calls it the Tardis, hence my user name, the neighbors get samples so they don't care what I call it.

Thanks again.

Bruce
 

tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
268
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Joined Mar 8, 2016
My in-laws and wife immigrated from Switzerland in the 50's. We inherited 2 that my FIL built to protect their stuff on the boat when they came. My wife suggested I build a propane smoker and use an Amazing-in smoke generator when I retired to get me out of her hair. So I did.
 

tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
268
51
Joined Mar 8, 2016
Got them from Home Depot. Standard 4 x 4 PVC boxes, conduit (need to buy way too much but cheap), and fittings. Then drill, arrange parts, etc to make it all fit. Ran PVC pipe down the outside of the insulation for easy replacement of parts. Should not be a problem with the temps I run at <400 F.
 

sc226

Newbie
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Joined Mar 25, 2018
What type of solder did you use for aluminum angles? I've been thinking of making an aluminum smoker, but afraid to use any of the solder I've found because of the high zinc content.
 

Steve H

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Joined Feb 18, 2018
Did you actually solder these? Or did you use something like a low temperature aluminum welding rod that is flux cored?
 

tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
268
51
Joined Mar 8, 2016
I used this with a precise propane flame. Could use mapp gas as well.
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tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
268
51
Joined Mar 8, 2016
Note the only soldering I did was on the door frame between the top cook section and the lower heat section as well as the diffuser angle irons. The rack supports were done with aluminum pop rivets to avoid dissimilar metals corrosion. No soldered parts come close to touching food nor get hot enough to off gas fumes. Never use zinc in a firebox situation where temps can get really high until dissipated.
 

Hawging It

Master of the Pit
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Joined Jan 1, 2019
Guaranteed, you will have the only one. Truly unique. I think it's really SUPER COOL!
 

tardissmoker

Meat Mopper
268
51
Joined Mar 8, 2016
Thank you! It has served me well through cold smoking, sausage making, pork butts for pulling, chickens with a temp boost for crisp skin and even acting as a large second oven so my wife has space in the kitchen oven for her creations. I can dial down the temp to about 150 F in cool/cold temps or to 450F anytime by dropping nails in the burner holes or removing them. Just be sure you don't prevent the safety thermocouple from getting flame. Or no temp at all.
 

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