Building my own.

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Original poster
Jul 5, 2007
New York's southern tier
Hi, my name's Charlie, and I'm getting ready to build a small (20" Dia. x 28") upright electric smoker.

Since I am not going to be working from plans; I thought I would post here to get some help, and document a (hopefully) good build along the way.

I'll be starting out with a 20" Dia. x 28" aluminum core that I bought @ scrap value, from the co. I worked for before I retired. I also have an element array from an electric clothes drier, which I will try to modify.

Since I've never built one before I will need some help with the heat requirements specs. of a unit this size. I'm thinking 1500watts. Comments welcome.

The drier array is about 5000w when run @ 220v. this is a double coil unit. A single coil would, I think, @ 220v, be about 2500w. And it is my understanding that a single coil @ 120v would be somewhere between 1250w and 1660w. If there's an electrician out there that has a better understanding of this, please don't let me make the wrong kind of smoke.

If this fails I can swap out an electric hotplate or smoker element to replace my failed attempt.

I'll try to post pictures of what I've got so far , and I welcome any comments or advice that you may have.


Hey Bluesman...that dryer element might be a little overkill for that size tube your using ?? what about using a simple 500 or 1000 watt hotplate which is already to go and fully adjustable .02 worth
I agree with T-Bone on that one, run at full blast, the hot plate in my smoker allows the temp to get just below 225 max. The thing I'm worried about on your setup is the conductive heat loss you're gonna have with the aluminum, That baby's gonna heat up and the breeze is gonna take all your heat away if I'm guessing right. If you try insulating it with, say, a ceramic core that will fit right inside the aluminum, you wouldn't have that problem. I don't have the funds to experiment like that so I couldn't tell you definately. And I'm no physics major so I could be completely wrong. Experiment with it and post pics. I wanna see how this turns out for you.

As far as the power draw of your dryer coils, I'd need to know the resistance or the amperage draw of the coils. It's nearly impossible to know how much power you'll draw knowing just the voltage input. But with this calculator I found at You're looking at 9.68 Ohms for your resistivity. with that in mind, we'll take the voltage input and drop it to 120 V, that gives you 743 W. And thats without chopping the heating element in half. I have no idea how many BTU's that will give you, but hopefully I've given you some tools to get on the right track for making the right smoke.
Brennan, you are absolutly right about the thermal conductivity of the aluminum core. I'll have to consider what to use as insulation. I'm thinking some kind of quilted pad type insulation (external), but I really don't know whats avalable. I believe a trip to Loews is in order.

After considering advice given here (much appreciated) and with the help of Brennan's link to an easy way to do Ohm's law (my brain thanks you), I've deceided to scrap the idea of using the drier coils, and go with a more conventional approach.

I've ordered an electric conversion element. (You ever click on "submit order" then run to the window to see if the UPS guy is there yet) This should save some headaches.


1,500 watt electric heating element lets you convert Brinkman or Cook'N Cajun charcoal water smoker with open bottom to an electric unit. Allows for consistent smoking temperatures and carefree operation. Unit heats up to 210°F-220°F. Mounting plate for heater has a 15-1/2" diameter. Chip pan and instructions included.
NOTE: Item is not compatible with Brinkman Gourmet grill.

I'll still use the coil reflector as the base, (it fits so nice) after I strip out the elements, insulaters, other unnecessaries and patch up a few holes.

Let's see...still need grills. I've got some expanded metal out in the garage with codwebs and dust. Getting out the pressure washer as soon as I stop typing. Also, I need to figure out how big a door I'll need to charge the wood chip tray. Which makes me think about some kind of cover for the tray, so the grease/juices does't drip into it and start the chips/chunks flameing, or stop the smoke process.

There's more to this than I thought, I guess that's why they call it a project.

Well, for now, thanks for checking out my post and for all the helpfull info. I'll get back as soon as I have some pictures.

Bluezman, before you patch the holes in the reflector, remember you will need air flow in your smoker. Will probably need something for legs to allow air to get under the reflector to work properly. Just a thought.
Hello Regor, Thanks for the info. Although, I've already seen that setup, I have to pass on the trash can. I really don't like the idea of cooking in an all galvanized container. I looked for an aluminum one a while back, but could not find one locally.

Shortone, I'm working on those legs 'till my element gets here. I'm also working on the racks. It almost looks like someone's making something.
Some pics:




I've discovered that the reflector has a thin coat galvanizing on it. I've used my angle grinder to remove most of it, then put it in the oven to drive off whatever was left. BIG MISTAKE!

Zinc melts at close to 800*, but the oven only goes to 550*. Even though the tempture is below the melting point, it still has the ability to activate any fumes left in the pores of the metal and drive them off.

My mistake was beleiving that the range hood (turned on full blast) would remove these harmfull fumes from my house.

I didn't take into consideration that these fumes could be denser than air and sink to the floor where they would start to build up.

If you want to know what zinc poisoning is like; imagine hitting yourself in between the eyes with a ballpeen hammer....hard! Now shrug of the pain. Feeling a bit dull witted?

I've gotten a wiff of galvanizeing on occation when welding, but this was different; I had that thing in the oven for 3 1/2 hrs.

I've recovered quite well....I just have trouble remembering who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing. So, I guess that means I'm fully recovered.

Needless to say: I've thrown that piece of crap out.

I'm now waiting for some parts for my plasma cutter so I can make a whole new base out of BRAND NEW 11 ga. steel.


Wow - wouldn't have thought about coatings. Chalk that one up to "lessons learned" :)
Something to remember about electrical things -

ALL electrical components are made with a certain amount of smoke inside them, how much depends on the size of the component. If you ever let that smoke out of the component it is no good any more.

Old locomotive electrician wisdom.

Be careful.
Well, my heating element arrived today, and guess what the mounting plate is coated with....zinc! It's galvanized. I just can't get away from that stuff.

I'm going to build a new base anyway, so I'll mount the coil directly to it without the plate.
just to let you know, I had one of those same conversion units on my ol ecb and never had any troubles with the zinc coating causing troubles, however the unit didn't last as long as I wanted......but then again I'm much more happy with my mes now anyway!!!!
That's a nice price there Kulley. Did it last?

That looks alot like the electric heat thingy that came with my ECB All-In-One. Haven't tried it yet it's around here somewhere. I just really liked charcoal so that's all I used.
I've been quite busy latey, seems that as soon as people know you're retired; they have work for you.

At any rate, I've finished the top rack, and seasond it in the oven then wraped it in plastic wrap ... I don't want it rusting before I even get to use it.

Most of the base is finished, but needs to be assembled. I'll post pix of it as soon as I get it together.

I've started on the lid. It still needs venting and a handle.

I'll post back when I have more.





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