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Start of my brick smoker build

Chris B.

Newbie
15
43
Joined Apr 30, 2018
Hi there, everybody. Long-time meat smoker (on assorted cookers, most recently a cheap-but-effective Charbroil offset) and forum lurker, but now a member.

Something I've long wanted to do, and have just started, is to build a brick smoker. So with about 1,000 bricks left over from a home addition, I decided to go after it. I'm posting the first few pix here to share the project and also to get some ideas and input from others with brick pit experience. I've searched the web high and low, and there's not much out there for projects like this. So mostly I'm using experience and intuition to design and build it. Oh, it's my first brick project, too! Had one lesson from my mason. After that, it's just practice, and knowing how to read a mason's rule. The base is about done; next comes the countertop, then the smoker body on the top left and an enclosed grill on the top right, and all the metalwork (doors, racks, etc).

UPDATE: Brick pit Part II
Well, it took three months, but my brick pit is complete! (Photos 18 and on).

When we left off, I had finished the lower portion, and was about to pour the concrete countertop and start constructing the top, which consists of the smoke chamber on the left and the Tuscan grill on the right. Those are capped off with a concrete countertop, poured in place (1200 lbs!). Then I designed and built the chimneys (including a damper system for the smoker), fabricated the doors for the fire box and smoke box (including forging the hinges and handles), and built wooden doors (with forged hinges) for the dry storage under the Tuscan grill. Lastly, I fabricated racks for both cookers - expanded metal for the smoker and 1/4 inch rod for the grill (with forged Italianesque handles) I finished it in late July and have had one good smoking on it plus half a dozen excellent steaks on the Tuscan grill. Both sides work like a charm!

The unit features four different brick patters: standard running bond, English garden bond, Flemish bond, and basketweave decorative panels at each end. Those were made in forms, then attached with thinset and mortar piped in around the edges.

You may note that there's no vent in the firebox door. I opted to just leave the door cracked a bit when cooking rather than hack a hole in the 1/4 inch steel. If I can find someone with a CNC plasma cutter or water jet, I may still do a vent.
 

Attachments

  • 1. The plan.jpg
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  • 3. Pad ready to pour.jpg
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  • 4. Pad done.JPG
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  • 6. fire box.jpg
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  • 7 back bricks.jpg
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  • 9 back complete.jpg
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  • 10 front 1.jpg
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  • 12 front 3.jpg
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  • 14 arch form detail.jpg
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  • 15 front done 1.jpg
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  • 16 forms removed.jpg
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  • 17 storage.jpg
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  • 18 Basketweave form.jpg
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  • 20 basketweave installed.jpg
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  • 23 locating the cookers.jpg
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  • 24 string poles.jpg
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  • 25 string pole detail.jpg
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  • 26 four courses done.jpg
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  • 27 Tuscan grill arch form.jpg
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  • 28 next, the smoker box.jpg
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  • 29 concrete block and angle iron rack supports.jpg
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  • 30 bricks cover the blocks.jpg
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  • 31 chimney time.jpg
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  • 32 foam form guides the bricks.jpg
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  • 33 finished Tuscan grill.jpg
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  • 34 angle iron door frame.jpg
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  • 35 Smoker chimney got flagstone top and shoulders.jpg
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  • 37 custom old-world style grate.jpg
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  • 38 first steaks!.jpg
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  • 42 smoker grates.jpg
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  • 43 building the smokebox doors.jpg
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  • 44 latch mechanism.jpg
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  • 47 first fire.jpg
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  • 48 first ribs.jpg
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  • 50 wood doors.jpg
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  • 51 hand-forged hinges.jpg
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  • 52 more hinges.jpg
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  • 53 tuning plates between firebox and smokebox.jpg
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  • 54 Firebox latch detail.jpg
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  • 55 smokebox doors.jpg
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  • 56 brick decoration.jpg
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  • 57 two brick patterns.jpg
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  • 58 back view.jpg
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  • 58 back view.jpg
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  • 59 English Garden bond.jpg
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  • 60 finished product.jpg
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  • 61 finished product 2.jpg
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Last edited:

SmokinAl

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Wow, you are quite a craftsman!
Can't wait to see the finish of this!
Al
 

tag0401

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Looks like this is going to be nice. Welcome from SC
 

SonnyE

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Beautiful!
I'd say that is cast in stone... o_O
Looks great!
When is the Inaugural Ball planned for?:)
 

Geebs

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Looks awesome so far. Cant wait to see the final product!
 

bdskelly

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Welcome. That’s an awesome project! B
 

gmc2003

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That's really impressive. Looking forward to seeing it complete and in action.

Chris
 

gary s

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Very, Very nice, If you need more practice I know a backyard in East Texas that could use one :D

Gary
 

FadDadAZ

Newbie
1
0
Joined Nov 11, 2021
Wow! This is beautiful! Really well done. I've been researching and scheming to build a vertical brick smoker for a couple of years now. When I first started researching it was on a whim... I hadn't ever seen a vertical brick smoker but I knew there had to be something out there... it just makes sense to me after looking at offset smokers, pit smokers, barrel smokers, etc. Vertical brick smoker seems like the perfect combination of all of the smoking methods.

Anyway, when I first started researching there seemed to be little out there in the way of examples. I definitely hadn't found your beautiful build back then. Now that I'm getting ready to start my build and had planned on a fairly straight up and down design with a fire box door at bottom with the smoker doors just above that. Now I see your design and now I want to modify mine a bit. I really like the look created by separating the fire box and the smoker with that concrete counter layer. I also like how you paired that and the fireplace structure together... it's really nice symetry and gives me an idea of how to do something similar with our smoker and wood burning stove that will be on the other end of our backyard kitchen ...

A couple questions:
1. Did you fabricate your own doors or have someone do that for you? Where did you get the interior locking mechanisms?
2. How well has the cinder block done in retaining heat? I can't tell for sure but did you use firebrick at all at the bottom? IT looks as though you didn't but wasn't sure.

Anything you'd change or do differently with your build?
 

Chris B.

Newbie
Thread starter
15
43
Joined Apr 30, 2018
Wow! This is beautiful! Really well done. I've been researching and scheming to build a vertical brick smoker for a couple of years now. When I first started researching it was on a whim... I hadn't ever seen a vertical brick smoker but I knew there had to be something out there... it just makes sense to me after looking at offset smokers, pit smokers, barrel smokers, etc. Vertical brick smoker seems like the perfect combination of all of the smoking methods.

Anyway, when I first started researching there seemed to be little out there in the way of examples. I definitely hadn't found your beautiful build back then. Now that I'm getting ready to start my build and had planned on a fairly straight up and down design with a fire box door at bottom with the smoker doors just above that. Now I see your design and now I want to modify mine a bit. I really like the look created by separating the fire box and the smoker with that concrete counter layer. I also like how you paired that and the fireplace structure together... it's really nice symetry and gives me an idea of how to do something similar with our smoker and wood burning stove that will be on the other end of our backyard kitchen ...

A couple questions:
1. Did you fabricate your own doors or have someone do that for you? Where did you get the interior locking mechanisms?
2. How well has the cinder block done in retaining heat? I can't tell for sure but did you use firebrick at all at the bottom? IT looks as though you didn't but wasn't sure.

Anything you'd change or do differently with your build?
Hi there, FadDad, and thanks for the kind words. Here are my answers:
1. Fabricated the doors and all other metal parts myself, even the handles and hinges. Not that I couldn't buy them, but when I DIY, I l try to DEM (do everything myself). Same with the latch for the smoke chamber, which is a pivot with two rods that go up and into holes in the top and bottom of the door frame.
2. I did put firebrick in the floor of the firebox and the floor of the grill. I also use a few loose firebricks to support my log grate, but no firebrick on the sides. The cinderblock has held up fine. Now, a lot of heat does come through the block when it's cooking good - if I could do it again, I might fill the holes in the block with perlite to insulate them.
3. Anything I'd do differently? Yes! I used angle iron to support the door openings, and when the iron heats up, it expands and has caused several cracks. You only see them when the smoker heats up; then the gaps grow to maybe 16th or 8th of an inch. No big deal, and hasn't affected the structural integrity, but if I do it again I'll try to let the iron "float" so it can grow on length without pushing on the bricks or blocks.

One thing that you don't see in the photos above is how I control heat. I though I could just put 4 in. by 12 in. steel plates over the hole between the fire and the meat, but that doesn't work - the heat just goes straight up and tends to burn the meat that's over it. So I put a sheet of steel on short legs in the bottom of the smoke chamber, over the hole, that is a few inches smaller than the overall size of the bottom of the chamber, to diffuse the heat. It comes up, hits the plate, and has to go around it and up the sides of the chamber. It seems to help even out the heat. I also use a large water pan - a cake pan - on the bottom rack to also help diffuse the heat.

The door thermometer looks cool but is useless. When it says 200F, I know the chamber is at about 250F. But the bottom shelf might be 225F and the top might be 275F. For the first two years, I cooked with several digital thermometers monitoring the heat everywhere. Over time I figured out how one stick of wood would affect the temp and how long it lasted ... now I just cook by time and feel (which is much more fun and doesn't require a bunch of wires coming out of the thing).

Lastly, I put wire mesh at the top of the chimney to keep squirrels from building a nest in it, a problem in Chicago in the winter!

Good luck! If you have more questions or need more pix, email me at [email protected].
 

JLeonard

Master of the Pit
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Joined Apr 17, 2020
WOW! That is a thing of beauty! And functional too.
Jim
 

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