Bell Fabrications of Tulsa, OK Super Patio Rig of My Dreams !!!

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Hi Smoking Meat Forums,

I'm writing you from the Centennial State of Colorado.  I've been in touch with Craig Bell (super nice fellow) of Bell Fabrications in Tulsa, OK.

My dream rig is still in my imagination but I'm sensing that Craig Bell has everybody beat on quality and price.  I've been scouring the internet for 6 months.  I'm using a Texas Original Pits Pearsall 16" single door smoker.  It's 1/4" thick and it's been decent but I've been having to babysit it more than I like since I have to look after the kids.  The Texas Original Pearsall has temp swings and iffy drafting in our thin mountain air here at 5400 feet above sea level.  I've cooked on it for a while and I'm wondering about taking it to the next level.  I talked to Craig 3 times this week and here's what I'm envisioning for a dream patio cooker:

1) 3/8" inch thick 24" x 72" cook chamber
2) Reverse Flow Baffle Plate 54" inches long (18 inch gap from the end)
3) Super Insulated Firebox with 1/2" inch thick inner wall, 2.0" inch thick insulation in middle, and then another 1/2" inch thick outer wall (3.0 inches total wall thickness) !!
4) 8" OD x 24" tall smokestack on firebox side since it's reverse flow
5) 4 Custom made reinforced steel wheels with 2 axles and "T" arm to give leverage when moving

He says the rig will weigh over 1500 pounds and I'll probably need the help of 3 of my buddies to move it.  Here's a battery of 3 questions for Smoking Meat Forum:

1) Is a 3 inches total wall thickness Super Firebox overkill ?  My goal is to put a stick or 2 into the firebox and not have to worry for 2+ hours so I can watch the kids while still using my Maverick to alert me as needed.  With the 3/8" cook chamber wall thickness, I'm also hoping it'll stay in the 225-275 range for 2-3 hours on minimal fuel.
2) I've read so much about smoke stack flow dynamics.  Is 8" OD x 24" also too much?  Craig Bell said it was about as big as he would recommend.  He added that 8" will dissipate a lot of heat and that any wider would cool the rig down too much.  He also said any longer than 24" would lead to a buildup of smoke.
3) Most important question: how do I "sell" this to my wife?  Even with maximum customization, Craig Bell's prices are LESS THAN HALF the cost of the big name competitors like Klose, Lang, and Gator.  I can see BBQ smoking being my life's hobby and handing this rig down to my son.  I also like to reward an honest entrepreneur like Craig Bell with my business.

In any case, thanks for reading.  I anxiously await some great input from the people in the know!!

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my 2 cents.

1./  Way over kill on the firebox .   I use 1/4" steel, 2"mineral wool then #16 sheetmetal for my insulated verticals and can touch the outside while running and use regular paint on the outside without burning.      

Line the inside of firebox with firebrick if you are so worried about it.   Save your $ 

2./ 18" seems a large gap to me, I would  shorten between 12-18" 

3./ I use 8" (200mm) on my 500 gallon smokers.  

4./ Don't tell the wife. She can find out when it arrives.   If that doesn't work out try going to Cuba for a new wife. I have been to dozens of countries and Cuba has some great looking girls that run on the smell of a greasy rag.  ;)
The FB does sound like a little overkill. I would think that 3/8" inside with 1/4" outside would be enough. Craig does a wonderful job and I'm sure you will be pleased. I surely have enjoyed mine.
Thanks fellas!

Ahumadora, I'll keep Cuba in mind!  

Joe Black, this far out from purchase, how has the steel held together on your Bell rig?  I know Craig's mostly a traditional flow builder.  Did you go reverse flow or traditional flow with tuning plates?

My Texas Original Pits was bought because it was an absolute steal on store clearance for 40% off.  It's 1/4 inch and I do like the upright smoker which lets me have a lot of versatility.  The Que is good and since I got my current rig, friends and neighbors have said that my Que has gone to the "next level."

I'm back and forth in my head about whether to upgrade to a Bell this summer.  His rigs look great, but I worry about whether there'd be too much duplication of what my current rig can do.  Craig says he can do reverse flow, but it's not necessarily his strong suit.  He says most of his work is traditional flow with a baffle plate.

I had the first talk with my wife today and she thinks my dream cooker is too much. Pulling my Bell Fab back to 60"x 24 inch 3/8" thick CC and 24x24 1/2" thick FB, will still put me into $1300-1700 territory depending on how many extras I put on there.  Another wildcard is I've found some used Lang's going for $1500 on Craigslist.

To the SMF community: is reverse flow qualitatively that much better to justify being $1500 poorer and possibly in the dog house with my boss (wife)?!?  To folks that have cooked on both, is reverse flow worth this big of a shake up ?  If the Que is truly superior on reverse flow, then I'll forge ahead :)
So here goes the latest update. I had a heart-to-heart with my boss (wife) and she definitely put the breaks on Super cooker. That being said, she warmed to the idea of having reverse flow to complement the traditional flow cooker I already have.

I talked to Craig Bell again today and, as always, he was a good sport. I explained to him my concerns about traditional versus reverse flow. Based on input from others, we came up with a compromise: 2 stacks and an adjustable system of plates. Thus, if I want to go traditional, I just need to open the far stack and do the gradually widening spaces with the plates. If I want to go reverse flow, I can do that by overlapping them on purpose, leaving a gap from the end, and opening the near-side stack. Voila! Best of both worlds.

I politely asked Craig Bell to send a price over to me. Here are the new specs I requested (you'll notice how much the pipe dream has shrunk literally and figuratively):

1) 3/8" inch cook chamber on 24 x 48 patio rig
2) Insulated 1/4" inch inner wall, 2.0" inch insulation, 1/4" inch outer wall SQUARE firebox measuring 20x20
3) Special tuning/reverse flow baffle plate system mentioned above
4) Twin 8" x 24" inch smoke stacks on opposite ends allowing switching between traditional and reverse flow at will; the stacks will be huge but I want to hedge my bets drafting the thin Colorado mountain air out here!
5) T arm with 4 steel wagon wheels
6) 2 thermometer probe ports
7) 2" inch ball drain valve
8) Drilled port for digital stoker, likely a flame boss unit.  

Thoughts? Concerns ? I think I'll be hundreds richer and my wife will be happier with pulling my pipe dream back a bit. BTW, does anyone know how large a hole to drill for those BBQ Guru or Flame Boss digital stokers? Are they worth it? There's an appeal of throwing a few sticks on and letting the app do its thing on days when I'm watching the kids.
I only use my smoker for backyard cooking and I am at 1100 ft elevation. Our winters are not severe here. With all that, my smoker is a traditional flow. The CC is 24"x48" and 1/4" thick. The FB is round with a flat warming plate on top. It's 5/16" thick and 22"x24". With my weather, etc. it is not insulated and I have no problems at all with holding heat or heat recovery. I had Craig add a small air damper at the top of the FB end. This helps direct the heat and smoke into the CC. My CC has a baffle turning down a little at the entrance from the FB. From there I have a Horizon type convection plate to help even out the heat distribution. I really don't care about RF since my needs are 100% backyard. If you want the advantage of converting from traditional to RF, I think the idea of sliding plates together should work well. The only other option would be to use a convection plate similar to mine and have another plate to cover the holes when you want to go RF.

Good luck with your build and please tell Craig, I said hello. Thanks, Joe
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