Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

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Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby Dirty Dawg » Tue Apr 26, 2016 3:47 pm

After spending far too long debating the merits of any number of offset smoker manufacturers and models, I finally pulled the trigger on a Yoder Loaded Wichita. Yes, there were aspects of other smokers I preferred but this one ticked most of the boxes and had the shortest delivery window at 6-7 weeks where other manufacturers were 18 weeks and beyond. In addition, I'm really intrigued by their heat management system and was throughly impressed with their materials and welds (having been a machinist/welder many moons ago.)

So, if others of you have advice please fire away. The good news is I've got plenty of time to make my backyard ready for the new addition and lay in some wood too.

Can't wait.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby ChileFarmer » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:05 pm

Congratulations on the new smoker. You know we gonna be looking for some nice cook photos soon. CF :D
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby Okie Sawbones » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:48 pm

:tup: These are nice smokers! I think you will be very happy with your choice. Congrats! :cheers:
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby CaptJack » Tue Apr 26, 2016 7:21 pm

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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby Dirty Dawg » Tue Apr 26, 2016 7:52 pm

Thanks y'all. I had some pretty specific needs and really did research my options before making the decision to go with Yoder. I think I'll be very happy.

And I'm pretty handy with a camera so pictures will certainly follow once my baby gets here.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Fri Sep 30, 2016 6:47 pm

I also "pulled the hammer" on a Yoder Loaded Wichita, and while its old-fashioned aesthetics are beautiful to look at, I found out very quickly that it is a finicky beast that isn't designed to flow very well. The guys over at Yoder say "there are always trade-offs" in design choices, but they made some dumb choices on their pipe smokers that make fire management a real pain in the tookus.

I'd love to hear the experiences of other owners to see if I'm in the minority on this, but I have already seen other owners post questions about why they have to leave the fire door open most of the time to prevent their logs from smoldering heavy smoke, and I have had the same experience.

Here is why this happens (in my opinion). The firebox is mounted high on the cooker (above the center line) and before the heat can get into the cooker it has to fight past a welded deflector plate as well as the heat management plate, both of which force the heated air downward instead of allowing it to flow naturally upward. This is a bad thing because heated air needs to rise in order to create flow. Since the side door is so tall and its upper vent is so high on the door, when you close the door an interesting thing happens: fresh air is pulled into the bottom vent hole, and heat is forced out the top vent hole. This causes the fire to die down because it doesn't get enough fresh air. It needs fresh air from both vents in order to have enough oxygen to keep the fire blazing. As a result, we cook with the side door partially open a good deal of the time, which results in heat and smoke pouring out of the firebox, which equates to wasted firewood because that heat is not moving in the direction of the food. This cooker will actually flow backwards when there is enough wind moving toward the smokestack end.

Yoder Wichita Side View from official specification (fire movement added):
Image

I have raised this issue with the Yoder folks and they told me outright that in order to get the best out of this smoker, each time I cook I will have to position the cooker so the firebox end is facing the wind. If the wind changes, I will have to keep moving the cooker around so it can take advantage of the wind, and flow better. I find that unacceptable. The Yoder folks are also quick to point out that the problem is with the "owner" because they have not learned the characteristics of their cooker. Hogwash. It's a design flaw, and we shouldn't have to jump through hoops to keep the fire burning. They claim that the key to working a fire with the Wichita (and probably their other non-pellet smokers too) is to create a massive coal bed first, usually with at least 2 charcoal chimneys full of lump charcoal, and then put a log on top of the coals. Then, after the size of the coal bed starts to dwindle (and it will) you need to add more coals if you want your fire to continue without smoldering.

I believe they could fix the problem with a minor design change, after which they'd be in line with just about every other smoker design I've seen where flow is naturally moving from lowest point to highest point. For example, in the illustration below, moving the firebox down and lowering the intake vents as low as possible should create plenty of airflow without resorting to wind pressure or, if you can believe they also suggested I use an electric fan gadget to deal with the flow issues. I refuse to use a BBQ Guru on my stick burner!

Example of a redesigned firebox for better flow:
Image

Here is the firebox end of a Yoder Loaded Wichita after only a couple months of cooking. The only area that is not showing signs of heat flowing outwards is the lower vent area.
Image

Here is a good view of how far the firebox is mounted above the opening into the cooker. It seems obvious which way heat is going to move when you open the side door, because the top of the side door is higher than the opening into the cooker.
Image

I am interested in testing a different kind of door venting that might allow my cooker to flow better without changing anything else. As a test, I was thinking of cutting some sheet metal to fit the firebox side opening with a vent at the very bottom, something like the image below. A hinged flap could be used open/close the vent. This design wouldn't help the issue of heat pouring out when you open the door, but maybe it would allow enough fresh air to enter the vent to keep the logs burning with the door closed.
Image

All that aside, Yoder is also having some quality issues right now and I have to believe it's because their business volume exploded recently with the popularity of their pellet cookers. I have had so many issues with my Yoder Loaded Wichita since it arrived it has really tainted my experience. Allow me to share:

1. They sent me the wrong cover. OK, no big deal they sent a replacement. However, each time they send me a replacement part, I have to repackage the other one and take it to a FedEx location for return, and these large parts will not fit in any of the FedEx drop boxes around town because they are only intended for use with small packages.
2. The smoke stack had a leak in the weld. Grease dripped from the weld on the very first cook. Replacement sent, original returned (heavy box).
3. Replacement smoke stack was all banged up with gouges and scratches. Replacement sent, 1st replacement returned.
4. A weld between the firebox and the cooker leaked grease on the first cook. Yoder said "within tolerance" and will not fix. I'm still angry about that one.
5. The cooker lid and the firebox lid have gaps that allow copious amounts of smoke to billow out during cooking (4 credit cards can slide under one corner). Yoder said "within tolerance" and will not fix. I have since applied nomex gasket material on my own dime.
6. The grease bucket with the Yoder logo is made in China. 'Nuff said.
7. The thumbscrew for the log lighter was not supplied. Sent via regular mail.
8. The upper Tel-Tru gauge became hazy after the first cook and got worse on each cook. It wasn't moisture, it actually looks like smoke got under the lens somehow. Replacement sent, and I still have to return the original.
9. The expanded metal grate for the firebox has openings too large to contain the coals. The first time I cooked on it, all of my coals ended up on the firebox floor. To solve this, I ordered a heavy-duty grate from Yoder and now I use both grates overlapping each other to reduced the hole size and keep my coals where I want them.
10. This is just a gripe, but the new Wichitas have a removable smoke stack whereas the older ones didn't. I would be OK with that except for the fact that the current covers they offer do not have a sleeve for the smokestack, which forces me to remove the smokestack and turn it upside down each and every time I finish cooking and put the cover on. YUCK! I am not buying their explanation that customers asked for this feature. It was done purely to make shipping easier.
11. The firebox end of the heat management plate does not conform to the round walls of the cooker body, so it leaves wide gaps on the sides that allow flames to scorch whatever is on that end of the cooker. Yoder had no comment on this issue. I have since put heavy duty foil in the gaps as a temporary solution.

Deep breath. Now, I'm not a quitter. Despite my bad experience, I have been cooking on this rig every weekend and I have turned out some very good BBQ. I am getting ready to do some St. Louis ribs and some sausage tomorrow, and I will do it with a smile.

Oh, one more thing. The Yoder folks also recommended I try cooking without the heat management plate to see if the unit flows better without it. I have done that, and I do believe I had an easier time without it, but it certainly wasn't a cure-all for the flow issues. Smoke was still coming out of the upper vent at times when the door was closed.
Last edited by slamkeys on Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby Okie Sawbones » Sat Oct 01, 2016 8:34 am

Man that sucks. Yoder used to be a solid brand.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Mon Oct 03, 2016 5:50 pm

I tested a makeshift door over the weekend using a pizza pan, and the fire actually got more intense with the pizza pan in place, and the temperature even went above 250F before I noticed. There was no air-deprivation or smoldering like when the Yoder door is closed. The lowered vent opening below the pizza pan did seem to help.

On the contrary, when I had the Yoder door closed with the vent wide open, I actually saw the fresh air pulling into the lower vent hole (I could see smoke inside the firebox drafting inward) while smoke and hot air was billowing out of the top vent hole. I can hold my hand over the lower vent hole and it stays cool. I cannot keep my hand over the upper vent hole because too much heat is coming out of it.

I believe Yoder's advice of having a huge coal bed for better fire management is a smokescreen (pun intended). My experience has been that the large coal bed does nothing more than conceal the fact that heat is escaping the firebox via the upper vent hole by reducing the amount of visible smoke to almost none. The fact is that heat is still escaping but it's far more difficult to tell because of the clean burning coal-heavy fire that produces almost no smoke.

Notice the fire/smoke line on the inside of the Yoder door - it falls below the upper vent opening making it obvious why heat escapes there.
Image

I returned the cloudy Tel-Tru gauge today at the Fedex location during my lunch break. Notice in the photo is has brown spots forming below the glass (mildew?), and a milky haze, even a hair-like thing on the right. It doesn't look bad when you are looking straight at it, but from an angle it was getting harder to read.
Image
This is how it looked at night:
Image

The second Yoder cover they sent me was a huge letdown. They completely changed the design to a more complicated, contoured, over-engineered design using a lightweight material with no sleeve for the smokestack. The first one they sent me, which I'm assuming is the "old" version, is twice as heavy, made of non-porous vinyl, and provided a sleeve for the smokestack.

Even though this is not the right cover for the Loaded Wichita (it didn't have a pocket for the door counter-weight) you can see how its design was good for water runoff and shedding debris. It also had a simple drawstring on the bottom hem. The huge logo and the sleeve for the smokestack just made it look "right" for a smoker
Image

The replacement cover was an over-engineered brain fart. Whoever thought it was a good idea to make the cover conform to the horizontal surfaces must not have to leave their cooker out in the weather. Water and debris collect on the shelf areas for no reason. What was wrong with a draping, traditional cover? I think this falls under the category, "If it ain't broke, then don't fix it." I really hate having to turn my smokestack down just to put this ridiculous cover on.

This cover also replaces the drawstring with 4 snaps, and they are a real pain to use. Only 1 of the 4 actually snapped together correctly when I got it, and I had to take a ball peen hammer to 2 of them just so they would semi-close. Add to that the back side of the cover doesn't even hang low enough to cover the wagon wheel like the front side does. The Yoder guys told me to go ahead and contact support about the snaps, but at this point I have support fatigue and I'm resigned to living with the cover. For a price of $140.00 plus tax I expected better. The first cover was nice - too bad it was for the standard Wichita without the counter weight.
Image

The new cover doesn't hang low enough on the back side as shown here. I guess they didn't think anyone would look back here. Compare this view to the previous photo where the cover hangs almost to the ground on the front. You can't pull it down on the back side either because the pocket for the door counter-weight holds it in precisely that position.
Image
Last edited by slamkeys on Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:21 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby FireWood » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:09 pm

Seems like, you've had a few obstacles to deal with Slamsky, sorry to hear. I have one on order supposedly ships in 3 weeks.
I really like the large firebox grate you have, did you make that or order it from Yoder. I was contemplating a charcoal basket, but for 149.00 that seems steep.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Wed Oct 12, 2016 11:47 pm

The charcoal grate is available from Yoder but they don't advertise it. Herb over at the Yoder forums told me this:

"The reinforced burn grate for the Wichita is not something that we sell on a regular basis. Your dealer may contact their dealer representative at the company, and get the information required to order this item. If your dealer doesn't want to order the item for you, please contact us at 877.409.6337, option 2."

The thing is heavy. I wish they had used slightly smaller rods and put them closer together, but I like the fact that it has so much mass it becomes like a heating element after the coals sit on it for a while. I paid $85.00 and I think they shipped it to the dealer with one of his regular orders so I didn't even have to pay for shipping - I just had to drive over to his store to pick it up.

The charcoal basket is also a beast. I may pull mine out soon and do another overnight cook to see how it does with some big lump charcoal this time.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:51 am

I had a real breakthrough with the Wichita last weekend when the wind was causing it to flow backwards again. I installed a makeshift smokestack deflector, and a makeshift fire door and she burned beautifully all day.

This was the first time I could really just throw a log on the fire and walk away without having to babysit the firebox every 5 minutes. My fire door was made of 2/3 of a large foil pan that just happened to fit perfectly inside the flanges around the door opening. I cut it to length so the bottom of it would rest on the lower part of the firebox lip, and I held it in place with the weight of a poker leaning against it. At first I tried it with no vent flap, but it wasn't getting quite enough air so I cut a good vent flap and opened it up a little - perfect. It burned at 225F and never let any smoke out of the fire door. I used the top door to add logs, and they never smoldered and died like they do when you close the Yoder fire door with its tiny butterfly vent wide open.

Image

From inside the firebox, you can see just how much of an airway I was using to keep this fire burning. There's no way the Yoder butterfly vent can supply this much air. You can also see the level where the smoke hits the inside of the foil pan and can't escape. The bottom of the foil pan is clean because nothing but fresh air is being drawn in there, since it is very low on the firebox.
Image

The makeshift fire door was a major improvement. The smokestack deflector was no slouch either. I used the remaining 1/3 of the foil pan for the smokestack deflector. I had a pretty constant wind blowing toward the smokestack end all day, and the smoker was flowing backwards constantly. After I installed this deflector, it created a kind of venturi effect, and actually helped draw smoke out of the stack when the wind was blowing over it.
Image

And there you have it. For $1.99 worth of tin foil pan you can turn the finicky, smoldering Yoder Wichita into a smoking marvel. I guess this is what the Yoder folks mean when they say you need to "learn your cooker." I hope they're taking notes.
Image
Last edited by slamkeys on Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Thu Oct 13, 2016 1:07 am

The proof is in the pudding:
Image
Last edited by slamkeys on Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby RWBTEX » Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:08 pm

Very interesting read Slamkeys and nice and ingenious ways to make it work. I had the same issues with my last two smokers but in both cases I had to make a larger stack in order to get them to draft properly, now my current one will draft regardless of wind direction, went from a puny choked down 3 3/4 flute to a 6" ala Jambo style and it made all the difference. Also had to modify the inlet too as the heat was way to hot at the inlet, around 100 to 125 difference from other end. I think these companies just build with the minimal cost and maximum profit in mind rather that good engineering that works. I see many many welders build solid great looking smokers that just don't work worth crap because they have no clue about airflow and the dynamics that go one in a smoker. Those Yoders are built solid too like a tank but every thing you pointed out is spot on. Good luck man.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby RWBTEX » Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:14 pm

Here is am idea to try if you have not yet based on your experiment, try to block the top hole with the door closed and see if it will draft any good with your stack wide open, just curious on my end.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Sun Oct 16, 2016 4:27 pm

I thought about a larger smokestack, but that kind of mod would be difficult to implement without some cutting and welding. There really isn't any harm in making the smokestack larger because you can always throttle it down if it is flowing too hard, but most pit masters say to leave the smokestack wide open and throttle air flow with the firebox damper, which is normally what I do.

I really think the major flaw on the Yoders is the firebox being mounted too high, and the butterfly vent being too high on the door. In my experiments, the height of the firebox wasn't necessarily fatal to air flow as long as the intake vent is extremely low, and large enough to allow enough air volume into the box. I also believe the factory butterfly vent is too small, but the fact that it is so high in the design makes it impossible to test that theory because air is only entering through the bottom hole in practice - the upper hole is flowing outward with heat. Perhaps it would be large enough if both holes were flowing inward at the same time.

If I could get Yoder to custom-build a smoker for me, knowing what I know now, I would ask for a larger smokestack, a lower firebox, and a different kind of intake vent that doesn't have to occupy the upper area of the fire door.

Here's an example of how you can implement a vent on the lower half of the firebox using a similar butterfly design. The cheap offset smokers have these fireboxes where the upper and lower pieces are basically each half of the pipe, so they have no choice but to put the vent holes in the lower half. As luck would have it, the lower half just happens to be the best place for the vent.
Image

Maybe I could reuse the original Yoder door, but cover the upper vent hole and make a single-opening design with a much larger vent:
Image
Last edited by slamkeys on Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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