Another new Okie Highland Owner!

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I have read a lot of folks leaving the exhaust wide open, yours appears closed ?
 
Do you cook with the firebox door wide open ?

If so, then that's increasing air flow into the cooker faster than it can exit, so back pressure will push smoke out the firebox.

If the firebox door is closed, and smoke is still backing out, then ya got a problem.

What's your goal ? Is it maximum air flow " or just better convection ?

But I gotta say, I don't like that grate level mod. It forces air/heat to make two 90* turns, and that's not a good thing. One 90* is enough.
 
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Do you cook with the firebox door wide open ?

If so, then that's increasing air flow into the cooker faster than it can exit, so back pressure will push smoke out the firebox.

If the firebox door is closed, and smoke is still backing out, then ya got a problem.

What's your goal ? Is it maximum air flow " or just better convection ?

But I gotta say, I don't like that grate level mod. It forces air/heat to make two 90* turns, and that's not a good thing. One 90* is enough.

The only time I smoke with firebox door wide open is when the joe is being an @sshole and acts starved of oxygen or when I really need to get the temp up. I like to keep the door closed and vent open. When it acts super happy I can actually close the intake vent 50%. The joe can go from super happy to acting starved at a turn of a dime though.

But when it starts choking on a new warmed up small split for whatever reason, I have no choice but to maximize the intake. I would say most of the time, the joe runs with the door closed, or slightly cracked. It's all so super dependent though.

My goal is consistancy--to not have to keep the fire door top lid open for the few times during a cook where the joe feels like it really needs help to get a split started (which I actually had to do more times than I liked last time I cooked), and not have to use the leaf blower to help it out. Granted, there were 6-8 MPH occaisional winds last time I cooked, but that shouldn't cause TOO severe of an effect.

Regarding the grate level mod, me neither. Yep, two 90 degree turns. I believe that I choked my own system with it, and instead of just taking it off, I decided to keep the grate-level exhaust design but to really get the damn draft going.
 
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This is 11 guage steel, slightly thicker than the okie job. I went and started cutting out the collector:
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Got it lightly held together with some ugly tack welds. I ran out of sunlight, so tomorrow I'm going to check for straightness, then button it up.
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It's a cute little collector.
 
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I finally found a solution for the stack. I really didn't want to go through all this effort to replace a 3" round stack with a 4" square stack. I'm sure the 4" square stack would probably solve the issue (especially with the stack lowering kit gone), but I really wanted to slightly overbuilt it to assure. Problem is, 5" steel tubing is not too common.

Luckily today, a metal shop owner had me drive to his house, and cut me 3' of some 4x6 1/8" steel he had laying around. What a damn gentlemen.

A 4x6 stack is going to look super awesome, and it should perform like a 5x5 would.

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It's better to go too large (as long as you're within reason) than to go too small. You can't enlarge a stack after it's welded on, but you can certainly reduce it w/ a damper.

I got a super cool idea for a damper too, so stay tuned for that.

It won't be a big box store smoker anymore!
 
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Following as I am curious to see how it comes out. I like your idea though and think it will improve your draw. I have COS also. Mine is the Chargriller Grand Champ XD. It was right for my budget. Would love a high end 1/4" smoker but not in my cards. my smoker has a grate level exhaust but the lowest point is just above the bottom grate. I wish they made it a bit lower. I tried messing around with lowering the uptake also and felt like it restricted my draw and the exhaust side temps increased a lot and I got smoke pushing out of the firebox door also so now I just run it as designed with a stack extension. Hope your project works out. I will be watching for updates!!

Don't worry about 1/4" too much. I mean, I've been spending some time in metal shops recently and even 12 guage steel is enough to knock out a bear. 12 guage should still have a super long life expectancy as long as it's cared for. Probably the same as your grand champ, which is probably mostly the same parts as an Okie Joe!

12 guage is .1046" Sounds small but definitely not flimsy nor is light weight.

11 guage is 1/8", .1250".

3 guage is 1/4", .250, and that has got to be serious. That's like, freight-shipping scary thick. Honestly, I'd be moooooooore than happy with 7 guage, 3/16"!

The grand champ looks like a great COS. What's the stack size on that? It looks like it actually may be larger than 3".

I know thickness is more for heat consistancy and what not, but I wouldn't mind even for a premium offset if it wasn't 1/4".
 
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Don't worry about 1/4" too much. I mean, I've been spending some time in metal shops recently and even 12 guage steel is enough to knock out a bear. 12 guage should still have a super long life expectancy as long as it's cared for. Probably the same as your grand champ, which is probably mostly the same parts as an Okie Joe!

12 guage is .1046" Sounds small but definitely not flimsy nor is light weight.

11 guage is 1/8", .1250".

3 guage is 1/4", .250, and that has got to be serious. That's like, freight-shipping scary thick. Honestly, I'd be moooooooore than happy with 7 guage, 3/16"!

The grand champ looks like a great COS. What's the stack size on that? It looks like it actually may be larger than 3".

I know thickness is more for heat consistancy and what not, but I wouldn't mind even for a premium offset if it wasn't 1/4".
Yeah the GC has a 5" stack and is basically at grate level. It was one of my deciding factors to get it. Yeah it is a great smoker and I am very happy with it. A bigger heavier duty smoker is just if $$$ wasn't an issue. Yeah it is a fairly solid built pit. I believe it weighs in at 250lbs.

I looked at used OKJ's on craigslist around here but people were asking to much for pits that were not in great shape. Home Depot offered free shipping to Hawaii and I got it for $600 which was right in my budget window.

I like how your collector is looking and that stack should be plenty enough to create some nice draw through your smoker. Looking forward to see the finished pictures!!

Sean
 
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Collector is done. I'll cut out the exhaust portion after it's mounted. I even backside welded it as well to assure it's sealed. Been 10 years since I last MIG'd

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I do want to confirm that this is the ideal location for the collector, correct? Right in the center happens to be right in the center of the grate as well.

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Ran out of gas today. Finally, after 10+ years of using the same bottle, lol.

I did have some progress though!

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Here's a mockup of what she'll look like (stack will be 4-5" shorter though):
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Done!
 

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A couple things to note:
1) There was 10-14 MPH wind speeds. I situated the Okie Joe in the best spot but still had some effect. The highest wind I have ever cooked in. It was also about 45F outside. Before you think this is an excuse, don't worry.
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2) You will see in the Meater chart that I purposely let the temp go lower in 10-15F incremenets to see how the cooker performed with increased draw as I worked down closer to 225F. My goal wasn't necessarily to hold it steady, but to see what it liked. Result: splits would catch regardless of the temp. Prior result: splits would smolder at 225 w/ stack lowering kit.
3) I left the exhaust stack (4x6) wide open the entire time. The only thing I adjusted with was the intake. Not ONE time did I have to leave the side door open. It was closed 100% of the cook, and usually about half-way adjusted.
4) At NO TIME EVER in the cook was smoldering occuring. The stack always produced invisible, thin, or medium blue smoke. All three baby!

Let me first say, oh my god. This cooker is transformed. But let's let the data speak:
Meater chart: Until the first line shows the entirity of the warm up period. This is dumping a full chute in and throwing a mini oak split on top. I left the top door open for about 30-60 seconds for an oak mini split to start. At this point, I was wondering if my efforts did anything since nothing appeared any different.

  • The first line at 28 minutes is throwing on an oak mini split. Looks like it leveled at 260F.

  • The second line is throwing on a mesquite mini split at 54 minutes. Looks like It kept it at around 250F average.

Note: At 70 minute mark the temp picked up again, but that's probably wind speed or more me adjusting the intake. No fuel (wood) was added.

  • Third line is me throwing on a HALF of a chery mini split at 90 mins. This is where I wanted to see how it performed around 225F. Looks like she's fine igniting at lower temps. Usually the Okie joe needs help at igniting at low temps. Not this one!

3.5 total mini splits for 2 hours. 220-240-ish average temp. I think this is the LEAST amount of wood I ever had to use, certainly not any more than usual. For the first time, it felt like the smoker didn't need my help much.

Notice something about this graph that I didn't expect: pretty straight curves. No large bell curves showing a battle. I mean, holy crap. I NEVER was able to get flat curves like this with my Okie Joe. Not only that, but long curves, averaging 30+ minutes per tending. Keep in mind it's cold here still with some wind, and I'm only using 8" long and 3" wide splits (see pic).

Also, I only added wood via the side door. Never the top door. That's how well the draw was. Take a look at the video.

I also noted that the intake setting has a near-immediate effect on combustion. It's absolutely awesome to adjust the intake, and see the effect right away. If you want more blue in your smoke, just close it some. Was awesome to see that.

Any questions, ask away. Next time I will probably see how the okie likes even larger splits. Larger splits = more run time. I ain't complaining with 30 minute intervals though. Previously it was 15 minute at best, with a leaf blower near-by.

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Just a TLDR of the above:

1) The smoker has superb draw now. I held a burning stick next to the intake. It pulls the fire inside of the firebox. The okalahoma joe never did this, certainly never did this w/ the restrictive stack lowering kit.

2) I did not find that I'm burning more wood, or that the smoker is running hotter than I'd like. Infact, curves have actualy smoothened and gotten wider, which was unexepected. Duration of a 8"x3" split is now 30 minutes @ 44F and some wind--minimal!

3) Smoldering never happened at any point. Usually the smoker is cranky for the first 2 hours, but not anymore. Infact, I was able to use the side access door to load splits, and never the top anymore. Splits would ignite within 5 seconds.

4) Splits had no problem igniting at 270F, 250F, or 225F within the first 90 minutes of starting the grill.

5) Temp amongst the grate I need to measure next time. I was using two different thermometers, so it was hard to say how the left vs the right was. I will say that it appears like it's within 10F at worst, with the firebox side being hotter. There are no issues with the exhaust area being hotter--that side was always 2F-10F cooler.

6) The intake adjustment has much more of an immediate effect on combustion. If you want more blue in your smoke, close it some, and see the effect within 5 seconds. Before, the Oklahoma joe wasn't responsive with the intake. It either needed everything it could get (door open) or when it gets to somewat of a happy place over a few hours, door closed and intake mostly open. It was really binary--you really didn't have any control on combustion quality.

For the first time, I am able to throw a split on, and walk away with full confidence that smoldering won't happen. I felt like I wasn't chained to the smoker, that it was able to operate itself. With the stack lowering kit + 3" exhaust extensions, I had to hang around, open the top firebox lid to add the split, poke and prod it, wait 1 minute for the split to ignite with the lid open, keep the side door wide open, and wait around until I was sure that it would continue to burn. A few times closing the firebox lid would cause smoldering. This would take several minutes, and sometimes a leaf blower needed to be used. This is what was causing me lots of greif and really initiated this mod. I had a feeling the draw simply sucked.
 
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