Colorado fridge smoker build...

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Original poster
Nov 18, 2014
Aurora (Denver) Colorado
I couldn't figure out to move this thread from the "roll call" area so I just started a new thread here and re-posted the first post...

Hey folks...

My name is Pete and I'm located here in beautiful Aurora Colorado.  While I am new to the whole world of smoking (other than an odd chicken or rack of ribs here and there) I am an avid cook and consumer of all things tasty (meat or otherwise).

I joined the forum mainly to learn about all things smoking and to share my refrigerator>smoker conversion/build.  In the last few years I have reconnected with my father and we have begun a tradition of hunting once a year together.  Up until this year I have had most of the meat from our hunting (venison mostly) made into jerky and sausage by the meat processor.  This year I have decided take things into my own hands and learn the process myself.

I looked into smokers on the web and got recommendations from friends on what to buy.  After much research and a quick peek at CL, I found a great candidate fridge for conversion and decided to take that route.  I love fabrication of all kinds and am a tinkerer by nature so this seemed to be the best option for me.  So off I went to pick up my new/old GE fridge for 35 bucks.  I figured is was kismet anywho as the fridge came up as the third hit in the CL search and the posting was less than two hours old.  I arrived to pick up the fridge and the seller noticed my Coast Guard plates, turns out he was in basic just a year before me and we chatted for a good hour about our adventures.  I don't imagine there are a whole lot of "Coasties" around these parts so I considered it a sign that I made the right choice to build my own!

My plan in a nutshell:

Fridge: old medium size GE fridge.  It has mostly metal insides with the typical plastic door liner and trim around the outer/inner shell gap.

Heating element:  Re-purposed from my old rusted out electric smoker.  It works and looks to have enough power.  If it doesn't then it will be easy to replace.  I was able to get the internal temp up to 300 with little effort and time so I figure its a good start as I understand that most smoking happens at 250 and lower anywho...

Smoke:  After much consternation I decided to go with the Masterbuilt "cold smoke adapter kit" for smoke generation.  I wanted to be able keep the process as automated possible without the need to buy pellets/pucks/etc from a specific manufacturer.  I'm hoping the Masterbuilt unit will get me there.  I found many many options in this area but liked the cost of the Masterbuilt and 99% of reviewers seemed to like it a bunch.

Controller:  Well this is where I went a little overboard.  I love electrical/electronic goodgies and gadgets.  The more flashy lights, dials, switches, indicators n'stuff the better.  There seems to be no shortage of this sort of stuff for the smoking world so I went bananas.  I chose an Auber dual sensor PID controller (Model# SMD-100) and all the accoutrements.  Instead of using the "plug and play" unit, I took the build it up yourself route (new in November from what I understand) for two reasons.  One, I love to wire things up and this gave me the ability to do so along with the opportunity to add all the fancy switches and lights that I most likely wont need or use but love to have anyway.  Two, on the more practical side, I liked that doing it this way gives me to ability to go with a larger heating element (and larger SSR) if need be without having to replace the whole control system.

Venting and airflow:  I'm planning on going with the standard vent at the bottom and smoke stack (with damper) at the top setup to start.  That being said I have built into the control system the ability to control a fan.  I'm hoping that this will allow me to pull enough air through the smoker to be able to use it as a dehydrator as well as just a hot/cold smoker.  I'm not sure it will work but I will have fun finding out.

I suppose that is enough for now.  Attached are a few pics of the fridge before I started the conversion and where I am now.  I picked up the raw materials for fabricating the shelves, drip shield, and replacing the door liner yesterday.  I will work on that while I wait for the smoker, PID components, and smoke stack to arrive.  I'm also planning on putting the unit on casters to make it easy to move around and store as needed.

Would love to hear all your thoughts and suggestions.  Thanks for reading!


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Made a bit of progress this evening.  After a fun stroll through the scrap yard I decided on a design for a cool smoke stack. 

I saw some pictures in another thread of a similar design and really liked it.  So with what I found in the steel scrap yard I came up with a design along the same lines with my own twists...

Here are a few pics of the first part of the exhaust stack.  This will be the main vent from the cooking chamber into the exhaust collection chamber.

I'm no pro steel fabrication guy and I'm sure this will be evident in the pictures.  While not perfect by any standards, I'm pretty sure it should function as I hope.

I'm having fun honing my metal work skills in any case!

The first cuts to make the main vent...

My plan was to cut the ends off the piece of tubular stock that I found in the scrape yard and then join them together in order to create one longer tube.  Here is where my inexperience with steel became evident.  When I cut the ends off the stock it didn't hold its shape.  It took a little creative clamping to get things all lined back up to an acceptable point.

Nowhere near perfect but it'll work just fine I think...  The thin piece in the middle doesn't run the entire length of the finished tube.  It's there only to hole the shape of the overall piece as I found the it wanted to bend in at the center even after welded together at the center junction.

Tomorrow I will work on the round tubular collection chamber and the vertical stacks.  We will see how far I get.  This is by far the most intricate steel work I have ever done.  It's taking some time to not only do the actual work but to figure out exactly how to cut the pieces to correctly fit together.  As well as making sure that they are sufficiently aligned with one another to get a welding gap that my skills can deal with.

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I also came home to a surprise from the all powerful Amazon...

And there shall be smoke!

This is what I plan on using for smoke generation most of the time, even if "hot smoking".  Since the Auber PID controller I will be using can control the smoke generator I don't see the need to ever generate smoke inside the chamber itself using conventional methods.

In my search for an electric smoker generator I wasn't able to find a whole lot of good pics on how this particular unit works.  I had a pretty good idea but I like to know as much as I can about a product before I purchase it online.  Especially if I can't find it on Amazon or another reputable online seller.  I don't want to be stuck with something that wasn't what I thought it was with no way to easily return it.

To that end, below are a bunch of detailed pics of the "Masterbuilt cold smoke adapter kit".

Here are all the pieces just as they came out of the box.  The wood chip "tower" as I call it was actually shipped inside the main unit but I pulled it out and set it aside here so you could get a good look at it.

This shot is looking down from the top into the very bottom of the main unit with the chip tube removed.  You can clearly see the heating element at the bottom.

Here you can see the cap of the chip tube.

Here I have placed the chip tube inside the main unit with the chip tube cap in place.

Again the cap of the chip tube.

Here is the main smoke vent on the left hand side.  The vent diameter is 3".

Exciting shot from there rear!

This is the bottom of the chip tube with the chip screen partially slid off.

Here it is fully slid on ready to drop into the main smoke box.

Here the smoke tube as it is being placed in the main unit.

The unit comes with four adjustable feet that screw in the bottom.  I'm not sure if I will use them.  I depends on how I finally decide to attach the smoker unit to the main smoker.

Couple shots of the ash collection tray and fabrication "lubricant"...

I had an old bag of chips laying around and could resist firing it up!

Chips going in...

It took a minute or two to heat up but once there it put out what I would consider a good amount of smoke.  Of course I don't have much experience to gauge this on.  It sure did smell good though!

I also wanted to show you this.  I had read in several locations that when people had their electric smoker and this unit plugged into the same outlet or circuit that it would often blow their breaker.  This unit is rated at 1.25amps and a 1500watt heating element at full power will draw approximately 12.5amps for a total of 13.75amps load at 120volts.  So technically, while close to the limit, it should be fine.  That being said, if your house has old or substandard wiring, you are using a long small gauge extension cord, you aren't getting 120volts or better at the outlet, or there are other devices on that same circuit you could easily exceed 15amps.  Because that is what most household circuits are limited to (via a 15amp circuit breaker) and unless you have access to a 20amp circuit it isn't a surprise at all that some people are having problems powering both their smoker and this unit from the same outlet (or circuit).  The simple solution, of course is to find another outlet that is on a different circuit or "breaker" and you should be good.  You can also see that their 1.25amp rating is somewhat conservative as the unit pulls just under about 1.18amps under load.

I was also playing with the camera on my new phone.  Here is a quick video of the smoker in action...

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looking good. I have been interested in trying the master smoke generator you got but was leery with not much info or pics out there.

I highly recommend the Auberin 1800w dual controller. I have 1 on my 1st build and going to my second one with the same controller again.

I took it out of the original case and mounted it in a control box with extra switches and lights that I don't need . Having the dual temps makes a huuuuuuge difference.
Well after a long two days on the road to Billings Montana and back from Denver this weekend I got a chance to get a little bit done.  Between a little bit of work on Friday and a bit more tonight I made some good headway on the exhaust stack.  It's coming along pretty well and actually looking like what I had imagined in my head.

Here are a few pics of the progress...

Here I have the pieces dry fitted as best as I thought was necessary.

Here I have made my feeble attempt a decent looking weld.  I fear I have failed but they at the very least functional.

The vertical stack on the right was the one I did second.  You can see that I decided to do a much better job at prepping the weld area an consequently the weld came out a little better.

I was also able to get the hole cut out for the horizontal main chamber vent to be welded in.  No shot of that though.

what is the dimension of the smoke generator?
Here are a few measurements madman!

Height at the side...

Height at the front...

Width (measured at the front)

Depth (measured at the side)

Width (including lid handle)

Smoke outlet width and length extending out the side of the unit

Hope this helps!

Quick post of last night's progress before I hit the sack.  Almost completed the exhaust stack fabrication.  Only thing left to do is build up the stack covers and decide how I will be mounting it to the fridge.  I feel like I have a pretty good plan on how to do that part though.

Here it is with the main vent welded in and the two vertical stacks cut down to final height.

Couple more shots of the bulk of the welding completed...

I had some cold rolled bar stock laying around so I used that along with some flat stock to make the pieces for the dampers.

Holes drilled for the damper pivot rods.  I placed a piece of tape over the back hole to keep the rod from protruding too far or spinning while welding the plate in place.

To attach the plate to the pivot rod I drilled three holes in the damper plate and welded through those to the rod.  Worked just fine...

Here is a shot looking directly down at the three welds holding the plate in place.

Both dampers in place and working like a champ.  Can't decide just yet if I want to tie them together or leave them independently adjustable.  I also have to come up with a way of providing just enough friction to the rods to keep the dampers from rotating freely.  Shouldn't be too hard.

Happy T-day  y'all!

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