Franklin backyard smoker build

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Original poster
Jun 8, 2021
I’ve started work on a fairly close copy of Aaron Franklin’s backyard smoker. I came to appreciate Franklin’s emphasis on clean smoke through good airflow and fire management after my own frustration trying to smoke on a weber kettle and not getting the results I’ve come to know growing up with BBQ in Texas. I would have loved to order one of his pits, but since there’s what seems to be a multi-year wait list I started planning out my own build.

I work a day job as a 3D modeler / artist and love building things, so even though parts of this big project are a bit out of my comfort zone, I think it’ll be really fun and rewarding if I pull it off.

I joined my local makerspace for access to their metal shop and have been sourcing everything for a couple months. Here’s some info on what I’ve picked up so far :
  • Drove a few hours from Utah to Wyoming to get some rusty 20” x ¼” pipes in a field for $250 (way cheaper than the $1700+ cost to roll some steel locally! Steel prices are nuts right now). More than enough for my 40” cook chamber and 22” fire box. I cut and had a local shop roll one of the fire box pipes down to 18” ID for the inner fire box sleeve as semi-insulation.
  • Had a 20” elliptical head with a 2" straight flange made in Fort Worth, TX - $300 shipped. Cook chamber total length will be 47"
  • Got some 5” steel and cast iron casters from casterconnection that look identical to what I see on Franklin’s prototypes - $100
  • Four 2’x 2’ x ⅜” surplus steel plates for end caps and hinge plates - $240
  • -4.5” smoke stack pipe from scrap for - $8
  • -10ft of 2 3/8” pipe for legs. I think about - $90
  • -A couple ¾” #9 flattened expanded steel grates - $30?
  • A Tel-true 4" stem thermometer - $50

I still need a little bit of ¼” plate, some angle iron, some ½” round bar, some square bar etc. Not much left really. Looks like it’ll be just a bit over $1000 in material. I’ve seen Franklin’s costs about $4k after shipping so if I can make mine of remotely comparable quality, I’ll make out pretty good!

Random fun build clip where I strapped a grinder with a brush wheel to a dowel to get the chunkier rust out of the inside of the pipes. Let the oscillation do most of the work for me.

I've almost finished a 3D model of the smoker after many hours of grabbing screenshots and matching them to my 3D model as well as using known measurements to measure other parts. Really tedious! I still need to finish up the hinges some and triple check a few things but I think I'm close.

I've got a few questions I'll post soon and I'll keep ya'll up to date on the build!


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Good luck. Looking forward to seeing the progress. A pretty good review here.

Thanks! Yeah actually I'm taking some of Jeremy's notes and making tweaks accordingly. I think I want to add an extra outer flange to the cook door to hopefully prevent smoke leaking and add a hat on the smoke stack for shutting down if I need to. I've been debating how I might shut down the air intake side.. I like the idea of the holes there to act as a wind break, though I don't know how effective they really are for that.. but if I keep them I thought maybe I would cut out a plate I could throw over them with magnets or something if I need to shut down.

I've thought of trying different wheels but I like how the cast iron ones look.

Also thinking of making the firebox bolt on instead. 600+ pounds is daunting and I will have to move it a few times in the future. I'll show some pics of what I'm thinking soon.
Here's a shot of what I'm thinking for making the firebox bolt on. Rather than cut the firebox cap plate to the exact 20" diameter, I'll leave an extra ~1" flange for the upper bolts and add some bolts on the inside around the throat. I don't see why it wouldn't work ...and being able to move the 250 lb firebox separately would be really nice.


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A bit slow at the moment but should be picking up speed this weekend. I spent some more time getting my 3D model as accurate as possible. Cut and welded the base together, though I think I'm about to do another an inch wider. Looks like it's 19" instead of 18" lol. Wider wheel base is worth it. Also going to use 2.5" flat bar instead of 2". The original is cut out of a single plate and I don't want to bother with the cost of that. While I have a decent idea of what I'm doing with welds, there's a class this weekend at the makerspace so I'm doing that just to be sure. I'm learning a lot with this project!
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Regarding bolt on firebox leaking, if it does I'm confident I can add a bit of gasket between them to fix that. I do wonder how many bolts and what size I should use. I could go overkill - just makes it a bit more tedious to assemble / disassemble. Thinking of getting a bottle jack cart to help with that and the rest of the assembly.
makes sense. the more I think of it, im curious as to why you would want to take the FB apart from the CC? are you planning on selling this, thus making shipping easier?
makes sense. the more I think of it, im curious as to why you would want to take the FB apart from the CC? are you planning on selling this, thus making shipping easier?

I've been thinking of doing it just to have the option to make transport by myself more manageable / less risky. Just these pipes before they were cut were rather unwieldy. One of them was about 260 lbs so trying to load/unload something over double that is a bit daunting. I'm probably going to have to move across country soon, so making it easier to pack would be great too. Last time I moved we used a shipping cube and it's how we plan to move again. This might barely fit in one if all welded together - might not either. I don't think there would be problems functionally with bolting and it only costs some time. Would love to know if it has any common issues. If something does go wrong I could always weld it.
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Hey DoTheEyeThing! Nice build. Hey I think I just sent you a PM with some questions on your build but its hard to tell if it actually went through. Let me know if you don't get it. Thanks!
I think it's damn nearly done! First cook tomorrow - gonna try some ribs! \o/ I'm a noob but it feels like it's working beautifully. I've never been more proud of something I've made in my life lol. The oak fire smelled Incredible. More pics in the previous album link.


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Yes it is a work of Art!! Just think- Every time you fire it up you will get that Happy Feeling knowing You made it!! So Very Kool!! Make sure we see the ribs😁👍👍
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I went for 250 for quite a while and then upped it to 275 :) Had to pull them a bit sooner than I wanted as it was getting down to 40*f outside and everyone was getting tired lol. Can't rush BBQ though! They still turned out pretty good. Great clean smoke flavor. I learned a lot and have quite a few things I'll do different next cook.

Also a lady at the makerspace joined us and threw a mackerel on for fun - that turned out REALLY delicious and only took maybe an hour.


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