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My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Plywood and stuff

My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 6:58 pm

I just finished this a few onths ago. I did a real time build along on a few sites during the time it took to construct. I am copying it here by request.

My last homemade smoker lasted 15 years. It was a converted chest freezer I tipped on its side and it worked great for hot smoking but eventually rusted through because of the heat and moisture and salt inherent to the smoking process.

Being that I like to build things, I began building a new smoker from scratch. I searched online for big electric smokers to get a feel for what’s available and to find something to pattern mine after (never been ashamed to steal a good idea) Most of the smokers were too small for what I want but none of the big commercial units allowed for cold smoking. Part of the reason I want a new smoker is so I can smoke things like cheese, nuts, lox and other things that are cold smoked. Also the big commercial units cost around $4,000. I think the price is fair considering what you get but I would rather make my own.

This is an example of what out there.

http://store.cookshack.com/p-121-smarts ... sm160.aspx

I like it but it cant be used to cold smoke and it has too few racks. My smoker will sit outside year round so it has to be weatherproof. Since most of the meat smoking I do is in the winter in temps below freezing, I will insulate the smoker with 1 ½ thick foam board. I will use treated lumber for the legs since its going to sit outside year round. I will make it for hot smoking but will build a cold smoking adapter. I want ten racks and the extra height for smoking hot sticks and bacon sides. The inside smoking area I’m shooting for is 25” wide, 20” deep and 48” tall and will be lined with aliminum. Its going to have dual exhaust, and T-111 exterior siding and will be about 7 feet tall. The inner walls are going to be ½ inch thick plywood.

The back wall

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Fast forward to the completion of the structure. The upper opening is the smoking chamber. The lower is where the electric heating elements and pan filled with wood will go. each compartment will have its own door so I can add wood and adjust the heat without opening the upper area and letting all the heat out. The recessed areas are 1 ½ inches deep and will be filled with pink foam board (R-7.5).


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Here is the inner ceiling. I’m using 3 inch galvanized for the smoke stacks. I cut and bent tabs all the way around to attach it to the wood and to have a good seal.

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Testing to see if it fits.

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The space between the inner ceiling and the outer roof will be filled with insulation board. This was to test the fit to make sure I had the smoke stack holes in the right place.

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I don’t have a sheet metal break for making the bends in the aluminum lining so I improvised.

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The floor piece being tested for proper fit. My plan is to wrap all the exposed wood with aluminum. I will use aluminum nails to hold the aluminum lining in place to avoid rust.

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The racks for smoking will be supported by 3/4 inch poplar dowels. They will be supported by the hard maple strips on each side. I drilled a 7/8 inch hole about halfway through the maple and then split each one on my table saw. Each strip will be able to support 5 dowels.

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Once I finish lining the entire inside with aluminum, I will attach the maple rack supports.
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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 6:59 pm

I got the entire inside wrapped in aluminum and the maple rack supports installed. It was a bigger pain in the butt than I thought it would be.

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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:00 pm

With the interior done I focused on the outside. First the insulation. R 7.5 Pink foam board 1 1/2 thick.

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I caulked around the smoke stacks before insulating. I don’t want any leaks.

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Then the roof went on and more caulk.

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Next was the fascia and some paint.

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Then some tar paper.

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Then the metal roof and drip edge and some white silicone caulk over the aluminum nail heads to prevent any leaks.

Normally drip edge goes on before the tar paper and is covered by asphalt shingles that cover the nails holding the drip edge. The thin metal is not as robust as shingles so I used the drip edge to hold the thin roof metal down and to cover all the nails holding it in place. I put a large bead of silicone under each piece of drip edge before nailing it in place.

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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:01 pm

Since I don’t want rain and snow getting into the smoke stacks and since I cant find any caps for 3 inch ducting I made some from galvanized sheet.

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The rolled it and riveted the joint.

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Since I also can't find inline butterfly dampers for 3 inch ducting, I made my own from brass threaded rod and stainless hardware (no rust). It was pretty much a huge pain in the butt but it worked out ok.

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I started cutting the pieces of siding and painting the exterior corner trim. I hope to get that installed tomorrow so I can make the doors.
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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:02 pm

Got the siding on and the corner trim.

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And I spent some time working on the upper door. The face of the door will be two layers. 1. is half inch plywood and 2. is the same T-111 siding I've been using. It will also be insulated framed with 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 lumber.

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Then another layer of plywood to support the metal lining.

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I start the aluminum at the bottom and overlap all the joints like shingles on a roof so no moisture can get to the wood.

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Then the sides.

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Then the face. (all metal is held in place with aluminum nails)

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The top piece is the same as the bottom except it laps over all the other pieces.
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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:03 pm

With the top door completed, I began the bottom door. This is where I will load wood chips and adjust the heat without opening the big door and losing all the heat I built up. In order to have proper venting and air flow to the smoke stacks, I need a fresh air intake. I need to prevent unwanted intruders from entering the smoker (mice, wasps, etc) so I folded over the edges of metal window screen material and screwed to the inside face of the door and I added a set of hinges.

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The front of the door as a floor register vent that I can open and close to adjust the air flow. The white metal around the outside edge of the door is aluminum angle use for suspended ceilings. It was just the right size and color and material for this job. It covers the cut edge of the siding and the edge of the aluminum I wrapped the door with.

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Both doors get a weather-strip seal all around.

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To make moving the smoker easier, I added steel casters. I don’t want rubber casters that will take a flat spot after sitting plus the hard rubber caster will eventually rot from exposure to the outside.

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Then it was time to hang the doors.

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Just for grins (and because I would not be able to see myself) I set the timer on the camera and placed it inside the smoker to see how the door fits and looks from the inside. All seems well.

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Now I will add a side table, door latches and build the cold smoking adaptor box. This project seems to be never ending.
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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:04 pm

I added over-center catches to draw the door tight against the seal. The upper door gets two and the lower door gets one.

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Then drilled a hole for a heat probe. I will have one in the door and another digital remote version.

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Then I fired it up using two electric hot plates rated for 1000 watts each. I put a rack in to support the probe.

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The temp in my garage was 55F. It took over an hour to heat the inside to over 200F.

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Then I took the legs off my propane turkey cooker and placed it inside to see how propane would fair.

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And placed a heavy cast iron griddle used on Scout outings over the flame to act as a dissipater.

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In two minutes I was over 230F and I kept having to turn the burner down till it was just a faint flicker of a flame. This is no longer an electric smoker project. It is now a propane smoker project. This burner is rated at 45,000 BTU. I will shop for a lower rated burner and make accommodations for the hose to leave the smoker.


After learning of a product called the “A-maze-n-smoker “ I have also scrapped the idea of an external smoke box and flexible dryer vent hose to deliver smoke for cold smoking things like cheese. After reading about the product, I made a few of my own. It’s a perforated metal box that is 6 x 6 inches with a maze if metal strips that is filled with sawdust and let to smolder in the smoke house without generating heat. It’s a freaking awesome thing.

Here are the parts I cut out before assembly. I used aluminum.

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Then after cutting and bending.

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Then riveted together.

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The rivets act as legs to space it away from whatever it sits on so air can flow under it.

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Then I filled it with sawdust and lit each end through the hole I cut. The store bought version claims it will smoke for 8 hours if lit on only one end. I lit mine on both ends just to see how it would work. It produced a lot of smoke. I lit it at 5:30 pm.

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Here it is at 6:30

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7:30

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8:30

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When it was burned out, I knocked it upside down and rinsed it with water.

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I’m really impressed by this thing. He sells it for $32. I will make a few more for myself. If you’re in the market for a very cool cold smoking, smoke generator, I would highly recommend checking his product out at.

http://www.amazenproducts.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=12
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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:05 pm

Im adding a side table to the smoker because when I carry racks of things to smoke, out to smoker, I need my hands free to open the door. The table will make it easier. I want the table removable without tools so I can store it inside the smoker when I’m not using it. Because I’m working on the outside of the smoker and it’s a nice day, I bought several varieties of local made cheese to cold smoke (it was 55 degrees this afternoon)

But first I needed some sawdust. I cut down a sugar maple 2 years ago so I passed a piece of it through my table saw until I had enough sawdust to smoke the cheese.

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Then filled the smoke pan.

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I took a big pan of ice out to the smoker about an hour before I wanted to use it. Since this is essentially a big, insulated cooler, the ice dropped the temp inside from 55 to 44. Then I cut the cheese. I’m smoking Cheddar, Swiss, Pepper Jack, String cheese and Cheese curds.

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Then into the smoker with the sawdust pan.

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While working on the side table I peeked at the one hour mark. I can't believe how much smoke that little pan makes. That thing rocks!

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As I said, I want to remove the table without tools so I used a Dremmel tool to key-hole-slot the tops of all 4 holes.

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Then screwed in large screws but left them sticking out a little more than the thickness of the bracket.

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But enough about the table, its two hours later and the cheese is done. I emptied the sawdust pan to keep from choking and let the smoke clear.

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The almost finished product.

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I bagged it all separately and then placed all the bags in another gallon sized bag and put it in the fridge where it will sit for two weeks and we will enjoy when we have guests at Easter. Why? Everything I have read about smoking cheese says that if you try to eat the cheese right out of the smoker, it will taste like licking the bottom of an ash tray (I can only imagine what that would taste like) so the cheese has to mellow and absorb the smoke before it can be enjoyed……………………………… But being impatient, I sampled one of the cheese curds. Yup, ash tray, all the way. It was awful. If I had not read up on the subject, I would have thrown the whole lot in the trash, thinking I had done something wrong. It pays to study.

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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:06 pm

Back to working on the side table. I want a table that is easy to clean and removable without tools. I made a wooden frame that sits on the two shelf brackets and then covered it with plywood. Then I wraped it in aluminum. This is a heavier gauge than I used inside the smoker so it was a bit harder to bend.

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The sheetmetal edge was a bit too sharp for my tastes so I put an edge of aluminum strip that is an 1/8 x 1 1/2. I held it in place with stainless steel screws since it will be exposed to salt and the elements.

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When not in use, it fits nicely in the smoker.

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Re: My DIY vert. box propane smoker

Postby rancid crabtree » July 12th, 2011, 7:07 pm

I was able to find a propane burner that I think will work well for this project. It has 3 separate burner rings with adjustable settings. I found it at Northern tool for $40. I hope to have it in a few days.

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When I was going to use electric heat, I was content with the aluminum over wood smoke/heat chamber. Now that I will have open flame, (and the potential for flare ups) I have decided to line the lower chamber with ceramic tile. The biggest consideration is the temperature extremes. This smoker could be -10F one day and with me using it, 225F the next day. Because of this, I can’t line the chamber with ceramic using conventional methods. I have to allow for a large amount of thermal expansion. To account for this, I will loosely hold the tiles in place with a roofing product that is used for soffit and fascia. The Home Depot carries it under the name of “J” channel. Its made of aluminum. I will screw it to the side walls of the smoker.

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I used 12 inch by 12 inch tiles (.57 cents each). The tiles on the floor will not be in “j” channel and will be allowed to float.

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Completed. This might be overkill but I think its cheap insurance against burning this thing to the ground.

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I was going to use 16 inch tile so I bought a sample (.77 cents each) but ended up using the 12 inch. I will place the large 16 inch directly under the burner.

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Lining the door with ceramic proved to be a bigger challenge due to the air vent. I used an abrasive cut-off blade in my 7 inch circular saw to cut the openings.

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They will also be held in place with “J” channel.

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The ceramic lined bottom chamber.

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Once the burner arrives and I figure out where to run the propane line, I will have to cut a hole in a tile and the side of the smoker for the line to exit the smoker.

While I’m waiting, I painted a sign. My Son named my first smoker “Old Smokey” and insisted I paint a crescent moon on the door. I can think of no reason to break with tradition so this smoke will be dubbed “Old Smokey II” and also bear the crescent moon. While taking pictures, a neighbor stopped over to ask how I got a permit to put an outhouse on my property? After a bit of explaining, he understood.

Here is what “Old Smokey II” looks like so far.

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Now I'm just waiting on the UPS delivery man and the burner.
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