want to build a small CHEAP vertical, reverse flow cabinet style smoker

Discussion in 'Other Builds' started by ranjer59, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. I'd love some insight from the more seasoned members.  I have seen several builds on this and other sites- and they all have their relative pro's and con's.

    My biggest question:  Why - with almost unanimity- are they all "insulated"?  I'm probably 100 percent of base but - but if you live in a climate like North Central Texas, you are not dealing with overcoming some seriously low ambient temps.  

    Most of these builds use 14 /16 gauge sheet metal sandwich with a 1" or thicker insulation wrap...even going to the extreme of filling in their tubing with pcs of the same stuff.

    Is this really necessary?

    I'm very limited in my budget- it's practically non-existent and I see a way to cut the cost WAY down- but I don't want to lose functionality.   I might be up for insulating and  skinning a firebox- that make sense to me- but the cooking chamber too?  Metal- even scrap- is pretty expensive.

    I'm even questioning the "need" for a reverse flow setup in the cabinet... I have and love my UDS and MiniWsm- they are not insulated and they are very skimpy on fuel- miserly even.  Why would a smallish, no frills, cabinet smoker not work like a champ.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. trippy

    trippy Smoke Blower

    What do you mean limited budget? That's a pretty vague term. Are you limited to 100$ or limited to 1500$ To me limited budget on a smoker is going to keep you to the UDS. But with some shopping around you might find something like I found at a auction for 17.50$. I have posted that build here as vertical pellet smoker. I do have some money into it with the Stainless Steel grills and the Pellet Pro hopper. I could have done something cheaper like some expanded steel. Its more about what you want for a finished product.. I used a 1/4 fender off a semi that was SS spent time hammering it down flat for a drip plate.  The build was not technically difficult work. Some marks with  a sharpie... some cuts with jigsaw.... Drilling a few holes and popping rivets.

    As for the vertical smokers that are all steel and insulated. Its more about controlling temp and making your fire management as easy as possible. Without the insulation your fire will cause heat swings easier with wind, humidity and rain. The insulation will help with long over night cooks keeping the temp more stable. Many of these are using a fire pit in the bottom of the smoker.  It will come down to how much you plan on sitting next to your cooker. Pellets are burning wood and using a PID to manage the feed to control temp. Jerry is making a combo pellet wood system that you can set and forget. (Very expensive smoker and very nice one as well!)

    As a limited budget you need to look at a lot of options and decide what you want in a smoker. Do you want a lot of cooking space? Do you want to have precise heat control? How much will you be tending to it?

    You could look at old fridge build or a commercial hot box conversion. Some here have talked about converting even ovens. When it comes down to a smoker, you can almost adapt anything into doing the job. I have seen cement well casings turned into smoke pits. The limit to anything is your imagination and finding your inner McGyver.
  3. Thanks for the reply- I knew I was being a bit vague when I mentioned  "limited budget".  It may not be realistic- but I'd not want to put more than $200.00 into it.  I could probably go a 100.00 more. Think of this as a self imposed spending limit and work from that. Setting a bar that low forces you to make the best of your choices and it's challenging to me - in a fun way.  

    This more of an exercise in creativity -and something to do- it's not a need.  I have several cookers- kettle, MiniWsm, UDS- they are all great- I just feel the hankering to "build something" and get that very cool feeling that comes from it.

    I don't have an unlimited amount of cash- or a working metal shop with access to the best cutting, welding and lifting equipment (VERY envious of those of you who might be in that boat).  What I do have is a good imagination, some decent mechanical skills and TIME.

    I have 3 Stainless steel racks from a home oven- they are a fine size and will build around those..

    I'm thinking the whole thing should be designed like a rectangular UDS...just with 3 racks and 2 doors- and a thick (1/2"?) plate between the firebox and cooking chamber.  I want the set and forget aspects of the UDS... I cook hot and fast so overnight cooks are not called for.

    This is where it gets complicated- and thus the questions.  Insulated or not? (the uds isn't and it works great). Reverse flow or not? this one is trickier.. my uds only has one grate- it's pretty high over the coal basket - I don't use a diverter.   What I build won't be more than about 36" tall and will use the mentioned 3 racks - a diverter is a "must have" in my head.  Do I use the separator plate - put a hole in it - cover with a baffle.  Or pipe the smoke up the sides or back in false walls?  (more money, more work)

    I will ponder on it further... I welcome any and all suggestions :) 
  4. trippy

    trippy Smoke Blower

    Trying to keep to a 200$ budget and get insulated... Well then here is what I suggest... Find a local auction company that will be selling old school items and restaurant items. When the schools upgrade their kitchens or they close down a restaurant the items are often sent to auction. Getting a insulated cabinet is likely there for a few bucks. If its late item in auction better because most have gone home by then. But still that's going to be your cheapest insulated cabinet. Likely all metal too. Now it might be aluminum inside and out or mix of Stainless and aluminum. This is about your only way to get a insulated box and keep the price down. The idea of building insulated vertical smoker is gone long before 200$ because the cost of insulation is more then that. Finding a old refrigerator is another option. Perhaps craigslist or talk to the local trash drop site to keep an eye out for one. This could be another good option for insulated box. I have seen some fantastic refrigerator smokers.

    Now beyond that your going to be working with a wood frame and that's really a one note smoker. IMO you can only do low low heats in wood frame smoke houses. They should be lined with metal and have a heat barrier between the hot area and wood. Not everyone subscribes to this idea and they do what they like. I personally have burned wood for too long to feel comfortable putting some food in a wooden box and lighting a fire in it. Perhaps they are cheap enough that they are easier to replace then build a metal smoke box.

    UDS is easy to modify. You can add a extra rack to it. Pellet Pro makes a pellet hopper add on for it. I have seen people add another barrel to the top laying sideways for a larger grill setup. Now you could do something like this with a jigsaw, "L" brackets and some aluminum tape to seal it off.  This will not be insulated but it will be functionable for adding to the UDS.

    Those that build insulated smokers have quite a bit of time and money invested into their smoker. The smoker has a sizeable value too. Heck the paint to cover it likely got well into 100$ range. The building a smoker gives everyone a satisfaction I made this. The better its done,, the more one gets impressed by it. When its a 3' well casing with some rods thrown over the top and a makeshift 2 sheets of tin top.. You show your friends the smoker you built.. they say yea lets move along. But it works for a smoker just fine.

    I built mine for more capacity and the easy of longer smoke times with less watching the process. I have a offset 1/4" steel smoker that does great. I have made modifications to it for better even heat control. Its one of those I have to watch it every hour or so to make sure the temp is holding steady. In the fall it becomes much harder to run due to the cool mornings of 40 degrees heating up to 80s by mid day. You have to start with a big fire and end with a smolder. If it gets to raining then its a total new game to play. This is one of the many reasons I did my insulated pellet smoker. I posted it up for others to grab inspiration from. My biggest problems was that there was little on the web of others doing this. I had to adapt ideas from refrigerator builds and adjust those ideas for my build. The last thing I wanted to do was cut a massive hole in the side of a insulated box to cover it back up with scab patch. The biggest cost I had was the stainless steel grates.. Thats where the cost of any smoker is... If it has stainless in it the price is going to be high!
  5. A Very good read Trippy!  Thanks for taking the time with me. You are quite correct.  I need to widen my search  and lower my expectations a bit if I'm to stick to that tiny sum .  I do watch Craig's list pretty intently BUT I see where there are a couple of restaurant supply re-sellers pretty close to me.  I need to pay them a visit to see if they have anything I can work with.

    I have looked at the prices of the various materials, hardware, insulation and such - and it was eye opening .  

    So- maybe fully insulated is not possible (maybe just the firebox)  and I have to pass on the reverse flow  That's why I questioned if they were actually needed or "just nice to have".

    if they are "just nice to have" then I'm rethinking my position and now leaning toward a smallish, rectangular non-insulated, non reverse flow cooker that is well sealed, 2 doors (fb and cc) that can meter the air intake to squeeze  the most out of a maze of Kingsford.   In other words- a rectangular UDS with 2 doors and 3 racks... and a diffuser plate from hell (because of the 3 racks squeezed into a short vertical.)

    I like to do  the hot and fast cooks- only time my cookers see 225 is on the way to 300.  I don't mind if its a 4, 5 or 6 hour cook- as long as the temp is stable and the smoke is thin blue.  I don't care to do overnight cooks or babysit a fire.  I don't cook competitions or cater - so it can be pretty compact..  Since I have to start somewhere- I have 3 good SS oven racks as a starting point- surely I can build around their sizes to come up with a cheap, good cooking unit

    I too take pride in cooking on what I built- and it does not have to be the biggest, baddest, powder coated, fuel sipping beast on the block... and it won't be.. but it will be mine- whatever it is[​IMG]  
  6. ironmanjking

    ironmanjking Newbie

    What tools and skills do you have on hand?
    I bought a sheet of 3/16" plate, 5'x 12' for $149 last month.
  7. At home- I have some saws, angle grinder, couple of drills.   yep- pretty meager- I know.

    At work though I have access to plasma cutter, a shear that will do 1/16", small brake that will do about the same, arc and mig, forklifts. Sounds good- except I have no welding skills- getting my buds to do it is spotty.  Hell, they don't want to hang around after hours and do my project - and working on my stuff during normal hours would get me a  trip to the woodshed :) 

    I have *re-thunk" my goals- I think that what I really am shooting for is a "sqare uds" for all practical purposes.  24 x 24 x 36 tall - 16ga or 11ga single wall- no insulation - no reverse flow- separate door for firebox and cooking chamber.   3 racks with 5 or 6 heights to choose from spaced every 4 inches or so.  One of my buddies says he has about 125.00 of insulation he would lay on me gratis.  IF he comes thru, I might reconsider going double skin/insulated... but I think I will pass on the reverse flow.
  8. stagsmoker

    stagsmoker Fire Starter

    Here's mine and I have less than $100 in it.
  9. trippy

    trippy Smoke Blower

    Stag now that makes the UDS look purdy... I guess you could call it the UBS Ugly Box Smoker lol... It only needs to work everything else doesn't matter much.
  10. Very nice- that's what I'm talking about. Being creative. Have you done any cooks on it?
  11. robbie dean

    robbie dean Newbie

    I am not seasoned but I was in the same boat. I actually used the oven box out of an old electric range to make a reverse flow smoker. The insulation was already cut to fit. I just used 14 guage to build the outer shell.
    I went back this week and added the warming drawer from the range to make a place for storage.
  12. robbie dean

    robbie dean Newbie

    I am not seasoned but I was in the same boat. I actually used the oven box out of an old electric range to make a reverse flow smoker. The insulation was already cut to fit. I just used 14 guage to build the outer shell.
    I went back this week and added the warming drawer from the range to make a place for storage.
  13. trippy

    trippy Smoke Blower

    Kudo's on your build. I like it! That has to be one of the best stove builds I have seen so far. Very nice guy! Very nice!
    robbie dean likes this.
  14. robbie dean

    robbie dean Newbie

    Thanks Trippy! I didn't know there were others.....gonna go have a looky at some of the pics.
  15. stagsmoker

    stagsmoker Fire Starter

    Seasoned it today thinkin about runnin some jerky thru it this weekend. Plus painting it

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