Tools you like to use building smokers

Discussion in 'Reverse Flow' started by eashea, Jun 24, 2016.

  1. eashea

    eashea Newbie

    I have been looking at this site for about a year now and I am just about ready to start my build.  I grew up on a farm so I am fairly good at working with tools, having been around old farmers for years I have learned to listen to people that have been there and done that.  They usually can help you save time and errors.  I Think it would be nice to have a thread where ppl can come and see tricks or tools that guys are using to build their if you have any suggestions or tricks or pictures of your tools please feel free to share...thanks in advance.
  2. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Mr. Miggy......the MIG welder.

    Right angle grinder

    Lots of beer.

    oh and welcome to SMF
    wayne gray likes this.
  3. nwbhoss

    nwbhoss Smoking Fanatic

    Cut the doors for the cook chamber AFTER the firebox has Ben welded to the cook chamber!

    Being a guy who is in the process of building his first smoker and who has made a lot of mistakes I also feel a thread for the new guy with a few good hints on what to do and not to do would be great.
  4. smaloof

    smaloof Fire Starter

    Is that advise for all sizes? What your saying makes sense since welding on the fb will create a great deal of heat and torque on the cc. However, with all the builds I have been researching includes the doors being cut first. I'm making a reverse flow cc out of 250 gallon tank and offset fb. My plan was this:
    1. Cut top of doors. I'm making two seperate doors.
    2. Weld on hinges
    3. Cut out sides and weld on outer seals. Was planning to do one at a time so as not to over heat doors and create warpage.
    4. Burn out inside cc with a good fire
    5. Weld cc onto trailer
    6. Weld on fb
    Would like to hear your thoughts on this. I know enough to be dangerous (if that much) and a little timid on getting started worried about mistakes. I know they will come, but would like to minimize. Thank, Steve
  5. don powell

    don powell Newbie

    Go to you tube. Check out smoking with franklin series. There's several videos how to make a smoker.
  6. nwbhoss

    nwbhoss Smoking Fanatic

    First off I in the process of building my first smoker a 500 gallon reverse flow so I am by no means an expert on the subject but I have learned from the mistakes I have made. I cut my doors first and I was warned by guys here that I may run into trouble with the doors aligning when I cut the firebox opening so I took the advice given to me and tack welded the doors shut before cutting the firebox opening and once the FB was fully welded I cut the doors back open but I still got some misalignment of the doors specially right next to where the fire box and the door comes the closest together. It took a great deal of work to get aligned again.

    I was told it is best to cut the firebox opening and weld the firebox then cut the doors to ensure you get no movement when the doors are cut. That makes good sense to me. 

    If you cut the doors after the firebox and weld the hinges (and use a hinge that can come apart) you can remove the doors and weld on the outer seals from the inside of the door and have a nice clean look on the outside of the door with no welds showing. 

    There are various schools of thought on the "proper way" to build your smoker. Just pick what you feel most comfortable with and go for it! I like you worried about doing everything wrong the whole time but in the end the only person you have to impress is yourself just go for it and be happy with what you build! 

    One other mistake I made that you should try to avoid is making your doors too big. From the top of the tank measure down 3 or 4 inches to make the top cut. I made mine only about an inch from the top and my doors are much heavier than they need to be. I had not seen this site or the Feldons calculator or any of this stuff before I started so I my job harder on myself need be right out of the gate. 

    Good luck!
  7. ahumadora

    ahumadora Smoking Fanatic

    Heavy duty 9" grinder  with a 1/8" cut off disc (make sure to wear all the safety gear, they can get angry.)

    If you can get a plasma cutter they make short work of cutting the doors/ reverse flow plate.

     8" F clamps


    Correction pen with the fine metal tip for marking steel

    Tomorrow I am cutting the doors out on a 260 gallon smoker. I had the 1/4" plate ordered, but the steel yard sent me some really rusty plate so I rejected it.

     I will cut the doors and weld in the guides before I cut the end off the tank.    
  8. smokejumper

    smokejumper Smoking Fanatic

    DC stick welder

    Angle grinder

    50 ton press
    press brake

    engine hoist

    horizontal band saw

    vintage shop smith (drill press)

    oxy/acetylene cutting torch


    tape measure

    shop fridge (for beer)

    credit card
  9. pcjack

    pcjack Smoke Blower

    Just throwing in my 2 cents---

    Adding to the list of basic tools from above:
    Clamps / vise grips or magnetic holders
    Hand wire brush, slag hammer
    Good grinder with flap discs, cut discs, grind discs
    Steel wheel brush for grinder (highly recommend over flap disc)
    Full face protection - when using a grinder, small debris can get under your safety glasses and get in your eyes
    Doo-rag for head protection and non-burn welding clothing - OUCH!
    Small bottle jack for making parts come together in places where you start a weld and the parts want to warp or shift.

    Lessons learned:
    I built a 120G RF trailer smoker last month. Here's a few issues I had to work through:
    1) Because the reach to my open work space was limited to how far I could stretch my welder's power feed, I had to work in the sun a lot. I highly suggest using an EZ-UP for shade!
    2) Hindsight is 20/20 - I should have bought a couple of those stick on style bubble levels and pasted them on my trailer. A few times I had to spin my trailer a tad to be able to reach areas
    with the MIG gun. I found myself putting my trailer out of level and finding out AFTER I made welds that I was off on my racks, etc. Quick eye reference for level, for just a couple bucks. DUH!
    3) Don't carry extra steel stock and play with 3 or 4 ideas, cut steel and then accidentally mix them up with new stock. I accidentally welded wrong parts more than once and was off on measurements
    because of simple mistakes like that. Again - DUH!
    4) When going from heavy plate welds to small parts, don't forget to change the settings on the MIG. Holes in the thinner metals take more time to fill back in because you forget.
    5) Don't take your gloves off so fast, can't tell you how many times I grabbed hot parts without a glove because I forgot they were going to be hot! DUH!
    6) If you're building a cooker from a propane tank and plan to flip it over, plug holes and do surface prep BEFORE the flip. DUH!
    7) Put on latex or other throw away gloves before painting, removing the mess from your hands sucks! LOL
    8) Make sure you try and set your smoker on the trailer with the FB and all the goodies to make sure the tongue/tail weight is proper. I changed my FB design and threw this off, was tail heavy. DOH!

    Money saving ideas:
    Re-purpose whenever possible. I re used #9 expanded metal, took a while to surface prep but saved some decent dollars.
    I saved a lot of money using bed frame for angle iron. Bought king.queen bed frames at $3 a set and saved a lot of money in steel, but had to add time because you have to strip off the paint.
    I saved money by digging out a bunch of clothing racks from a dumpster at a storage unit, made great box frame for my cooking racks. Did not have to buy any box steel, but had to invest the time to
    flap disc off the powder coating.
    For my exhaust stack, I saved money on pipe by purchasing a used chrome semi exhaust stack - $30 for 2x 5" diameter pipe, about 50" tall. Cut to size, it looks nice!

    Time saving ideas:
    If you can afford it, send the unit out for sandblasting. Flap disc or wheel grinding off the paint sounds like an easy task, but it takes longer than you think. A lot longer..,,,
    Unless you have aircraft paint stripper, nothing I tried was worth the price and time to shortcut removing paint and primer. Sandblasting idea was very inviting after 6+ hours wasted.
    Grinder wire wheel works better than flap disc sanding and the wheel doesn't wear out like discs. Saves time and money in the long run.
    Always weld hinges on doors before cutting out whole door. This is even more true when you're dealing with 1/4 plate. It's very clumsy after it is cut.
    Some people waste time on putting a pretty 45 angle on door seal straps. Save yourself the aggravation. You're going to grind them flat and paint it anyway. Never will see the 45. lol
    I bought certain pieces on ebay to save time. Handles, cool touch springs, hinges, damper, exhaust stack cover, etc. Laser cut parts look very nice!
    I spent a LOT of time hunting for a used cylinder for a firebox on Craigslist, lots of aggravation, people waste your time. Pay the money and build a 1/4 plate box, they LAST plus they're easier to install, too!

    Hope this helps!
  10. smaloof

    smaloof Fire Starter

    PCJack, great post!

    The door to my firebox (1/4 inch) was cut out by a friend of mine who had a plasma cutter. I wanted to see how it worked so I cut my door out first. I welded on my hinges and the doors warped. dope!!!! Hindsight, I would have welded on reinforcement to the inside part of the door and tack welded the door shut then welded on hinges. 

    To correct this (door does not completely shut due to the door warping outward) I'm thinking about supporting the inside with a 6 inch post towards the hinges, turning my firebox so the door is on top, getting my door good and hot (torch), and placing some weights towards the end of my doors and leave it for a few days. Any other advice? a pic of how I am planning to do this is attached. 


  11. lancer

    lancer Smoking Fanatic

    Well, we have a working farm and between the boys and me we collect antique engines and generators, tractors and large military vehicles. I have a 5,800 square foot shop so........

    Lincoln Ranger 8 engine driven AC/DC welder

    Miller Dialarc 250 transformer AC/DC welders (x3)

    1-1/2 HP 20" drill press and a few smaller ones

    4-1/2, 6 and 9" angle grinders, maybe 6 (8?) altogether

    Three bench grinders, two with grinding wheels, one with wire wheels

    Cutting and welding torches

    6.5 HP air compressor, a contractor's gas engine wheelbarrow compressor and two smaller 2 HP ones. 

    A Schramm air compressor built from a big 4 cylinder Wisconsin engine.  Two cylinders run on gas and 2 are a 2 stage compressor-trailer mounted and a sandblasting workhorse.

    Large pressurized pot sandblaster, small one, too

    Three HVPL paint guns

    A pair of worm and chain drive industrial belt sanders (the locomotive looking Porter Cable ones).  They make short work of grinding seams flat or shaping edges.

    Stationary 6" belt, 12" disc sander

    4,000# engine crane

    4,000# gantry crane

    14" Quickie gas engine demolition saw with cutoff wheels

    9" Evolution metal cutting circular saw

    Porta-Band band saw

    Two carts of clamps and fixtures

    120 volt MIG welder for thin stuff

    Assorted portable drills up to a Hole Hawg

    A buddy's jump shear, 48" finger brake and magnetic base Mag-Drill

    I want to buy a good 240 Volt MIG or multi process unit but haven't made myself pull the trigger yet.  I stick weld almost everything.  My scratch start TIG has to get a lot better to just be ugly......

    And, like many of us, I have no where near enough time to make the smokers I want....... (or the ones the sons want).  I have three or four 120 gallon propane tanks and a trailer that had an industrial generator on it collecting dust and I started a stainless steel 35 gallon patio build three years ago and it's still not finished.  We're going to retire fairly soon though so I may actually get some stuff built.

  12. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Plasma cutter. Worth its weight in gold.
  13. lancer

    lancer Smoking Fanatic

    Good call.  I've only used one a few times but having one would be a nice addition to the shop.  That's part of why I'm looking at multi-process machines.

  14. pcjack

    pcjack Smoke Blower

    I just picked up a Hobart plasma cutter cheap, supposed to be delivered today. About to start a small smoker build with a 100# propane cylinder, so I will make good use of it.
    Hoping it works as it should, getting all giddy inside, thinking about how much time I am going to save with it.
  15. fire phil

    fire phil Smoke Blower

    Great thread. I am also plaining my first smoker build. I have been doing a lot of reading on SMF and loved all the input people have and give. My big fear is the doors to my CC. I am going to use a 250gal propane tank that is 1/4" steel going by the tag on it. I known it will beslow but plain on using a side grinder with cutting wheel. After top cut and top corners weild hinges and top flat plate. Then cut bottom cut and corners .Then weild bottom flat plate. then sides. After doors and guides are in. I will have FB build. Then cut tank for FB the put the two together.
  16. pcjack

    pcjack Smoke Blower

    May I make a suggestion on the door?  Draw your door/doors on the tank, then mark where the hinges get welded.  Cut those lines first, then give it a few to cool.  Then weld your hinges.

    After the welding, go have a beer or a meal.  Then go back and cut the no more than 1/3 bottom with a 1/8" thick grinder cut wheel, then move to a side and cut, then cut the 1/3 the top,

    then cut the opposing side, etc.  Jump around, allow ample time to cool.  Mine hardly warped at all.  I hear of horror stories where people say their doors warp.  I had no almost no issue

    with this.  I think my warp was 1/4" on the top left corner, that's it.  Not hard to fix.  Take your time.  I think I spent almost 2 hours cutting and allowing time for cooling on a 120g tank.

    I made a slideshow today on youtube of my build, when you look at my door cut, it is a tad misleading.  I used the grinder to trace out the door cut lines, so on the video it looks like I

    just about completely cut out my door first.  I did not, I traced the lines first, then marked and cut the hinges, tacked them in, then did my stagger cuts to avoid warp.  :eek:)  Pics of

    my build will be going up soon. 

    Good luck with your build and share pics.  I love watching people making their dreams come true and smoke some magic.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
    fire phil likes this.
  17. fire phil

    fire phil Smoke Blower

    Thanks PCJack. 1/8 cutting wheels is my plan . pulse I was thinking of running water over the tank as I cut to keep it from getting hot. That is a grate though of skipping around on the cutting. I plan on tacking a lot of time. As the old saying goes have more time than money. Pulse I wham to make the best I can. That is way I am asking a lot of questions and doing as much planing as I can be for I start my build. I plain to start a post of my build when I start it. again thanks for the input the people here at SMF are alsome.
  18. pcjack

    pcjack Smoke Blower

    Very welcome Phil.  It is the least I can do, because everybody here shares openly, I am more than happy to do the same!

    Saw your PM, I sent a reply.

    Wishing you many happy smokes!

  19. radioguy

    radioguy Smoking Fanatic

    Cut FB opening first, weld it to FB. I cut doors first, before reading much here. Now I have door gap and leaks to fix.

    Porta-band saw or reciprocating saw. I had a band saw already but I bought a "table" conversion from SWAG off road. That band saw is used all the time now.

    Feed that plasma cutter dry air, invest in a air dryer, it'll cut cleaner and consumables will last longer.


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