Vertical Air Tank Build

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Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:54 am

There are a lot of firsts in this build. I am new to smoking (been using my weber 22.5 kettle for the past couple of months), this is my first smoker build, and my first time welding (borrowed my father in-law's hobart 140 and teaching myself from youtube vids). I was planning to get a drum and do a basic UDS build, when my dad suggested I use his old non-working 60 gal air compressor for my project. I am trying to keep it simple to build and simple to use. So I decided to keep it vertical and model it after a UDS, but with a door instead of a lid. The tank is approximately 48" tall by 19.5" in diameter.

Here are a couple of pics of what I started with:

Compressor Tank Before.jpg


Compressor Tank Before 2.jpg


After disassembly and clean-up at the car wash, I cut a door opening of 17"x 26". I have used 1/8" x 1 1/4" bar to make a 3/4" overlap inside of door opening on all four sides and 3/4" overlap on three sides of the outside of the door. I still need to finish the welds on the outside door laps and clean up all the welds. I have 1/8 x 1/2 gaskets going on the inside overlaps and 1/4 x 1/2 gaskets going on the overlaps attached to the door exterior. I used the spring handle from a HF chipping hammer and a piece of rebar for the door handle. I am using 3 inch exhaust pipe for the single intake and single chimney. So far I have only got the exhaust chimney attached (it is 18" tall). I have a muffler shop doing a couple of bends for me today so that I can get the intake welded up over the weekend. The intake will be directly centered on the bottom of the tank, so I am utilizing a removable bottom section that I can clean out when ash falls in (kind of like a trap in a sink drain). The intake will make two 90 degree bends and come up the side of the cooking chamber similar to most UDS intakes. Hopeful I can minimize ash falling in the intake by installing a 1" collar on the inside and utilizing an ash pan on my charcoal basket. I should have a couple of teardrop damper blades for the intake and exhaust pipes coming in the mail today as well. Do you think the single 3" intake and exhaust will be sufficient to get it up to decent temps?

I put some locking 4" swivel casters on it for now, but once complete and after I do a couple of cooks on it to verify it works as planned I will build a cart around it to accommodate some larger tires and side tables. I have a couple of pieces of rebar welded in parallel at the top of the cooking chamber to give the option of hanging meat. I also still need to tack weld some adjustable shelving rails to the inside of the cook chamber for holding my grates. I will probably start out by using some Weber 18.5" cooking grates, but I would like to make some custom sized grates later on. I plan to put a couple of toggle clamps on this evening to act as my door latches and force the door to close completely. Then hopefully I can do an initial firing tonight to cook off as much paint off as possible and see what kind of temps to expect with the setup. I am hopeful that I can get it functionally complete by Sunday night, and work on cleaning up welds, painting it, and other final touches before the next weekend.

Here is what I have gotten done so far:
Smoker Build 1.jpg


Smoker Build 2.jpg


Smoker Build 3.jpg


I will try to give an update as I get closer to completion and some final pics up when it is done. Please feel free to offer suggestions or advice, as I am new to all of this.
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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby OldUsedParts » Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:26 am

Looks great to me but I am certainly not a builder, however, we have several here that are very good at it. Welcome to the Forum and thanks for the Post :tup: :salut:
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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:05 pm

On my lunch break I picked up my intake pipe and removable trap piece I had my local muffler shop bend and weld up for me. Hopefully you can see from the attached picture what I am envisioning. The right side will mate up with a short pipe I will weld to the bottom of the tank, and the left side will be the intake running up the side of the tank with a damper blade on top. The straight pipe running up the side of the tank will be welded into place. The bottom U-shaped trap is removable for cleaning out ash if needed. I also wanted to do it this way in case I found I needed additional flow. This way I could enlarge the single opening at the bottom of the tank and replace the removable trap with a T joint allowing me to add an additional 3" pipe running up the other side of the tank effectively doubling the intake volume if needed.

Intake Pipe Trap.jpg
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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:46 pm

So I got the toggle latches installed tonight and got ready to fire up the smoker for an initial burn to get rid of paint and see what kind of temp to expect at full throttle. I have not yet installed the intake pipe and just left the 3 inch hole on the bottom wide open. I am still needing to clean up some of the tack welds on the door so it will close completely flush, so I figured I might have some issues with it sealing. I loaded up the charcoal basket half full (threw in a couple of chunks of wood to produce some smoke to check for leaks), loaded and fired up my charcoal chimney, dumped it onto the half full basket after the coals were white hot, and shut the door. I ran my digital thermo probe in through the bung on the top of the chamber, draped it over one of the rebar rods, and let it dangle about 8-10 inches from the top of the chamber close to center.

10 min after shutting the door it was up to 400 degrees. 30 min after shutting the door I was up to 540 degrees. It peaked at about 570-575 degrees (hard to tell since my thermo maxes at 572 and just displays HHH) after 40 min. As I am writing this it is over 1 hour after shutting the door and it is sitting right at 550 degrees. I cannot perceive any smoke leaking around the door and when I put my hand close to the intake I can feel major suction.

In my extremely limited experience, I am concluding that this all means I should have plenty of air volume on tap to reach any temp reasonably needed, it is well sealed (although I will still be adding the gaskets I already purchased around the door), and the shape of the chamber/size of exhaust & intake/height of chimney produce an extremely good draft. If I am incorrect in my conclusions or am missing something in my observations, please let me know.

IMG_20170818_214923.jpg

IMG_20170818_213858.jpg

IMG_20170818_221643.jpg
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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Sat Aug 19, 2017 8:18 am

I really thought the burn in would help me get rid of the paint. Stayed above 500 degrees for about 3 hours. It only discolored around the bottom, but otherwise unharmed. Any suggestions on stripping all the paint?

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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby bsooner75 » Sat Aug 19, 2017 10:45 am

I've become kinda partial to blue smokers :)


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Re: RE: Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:19 pm

bsooner75 wrote:I've become kinda partial to blue smokers :)


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Honey-do's kept me busy most of the day, but got in a little time to work on the smoker today. I was able to get the intake pipe attached. And had to add in a spacer to each of the feet to raise the height a few inches as the muffler shop made the connector pipe taller than I requested (should have measured when I picked it up). Hopefully can work on it more tomorrow afternoon.Image

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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby bsooner75 » Sun Aug 20, 2017 7:49 am

Ready for blast off!

Can't wait to see some meat in it.


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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:26 am

I was able to work a little on the smoker project yesterday afternoon. I finished welding the intake supports and got the damper blades installed on the intake and exhaust pipes. I couldn't resist firing it up last night to see how a lower temp burn would go now that I had control with the dampers. I left the exhaust wide open and attempted to regulate temp with the intake damper only. It must be pulling in a lot of air through the door, because I couldn't get the temp down below 300 degrees and hardly below 350 even with the intake almost completely closed. So, next up on the list is installing the gaskets in the doors before next test fire.

I am hopefully picking up a disc blade today that I can modify to be a diffuser plate and water pan holder. Grill grates were ordered and should be here by Wednesday. I am hopeful to have everything finished up except paint by Friday. I think I am going to just selectively paint the bare metal portions and wait on stripping and painting the whole thing until I get a few cooks out of it. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can get an inaugural pork butt going late Friday night.
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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:26 pm

Haven't been able to find a suitable disc blade yet. But went ahead and fired it up tonight after the door gaskets are installed and used a pizza pan as temporary diffuser. I put in a few bricks on the pan to temporarily add some mass in the chamber too. This time started only 12 briquettes in the chimney before adding to basket. Success! Have been able to maintain temp around 225-230 with minimal effort for past 4 hours.

I only filled the basket about 1/3 full. Just checked coals after 4 hours and still have quite a bit left. Seems to be very efficient at low temps. I think my early temperature troubles were due to a combination of starting too many coals in the chimney and the door not sealing. Feeling much better about the build after tonight's test.

Can't wait to get some meat going in it this weekend.Image

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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:28 pm

Also need to think of a permanent solution for where to sit or hang digital thermometer unit. C-clamp vice grips are working for now. Ideas?

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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:17 pm

Update w/ Gasket Review (Lavalock vs. Fireblack):

So, I decided to do one last hot burn last night before I tried cooking in it to make sure I got rid of any paint from the shelving rails and brackets before cooking in it(sanded most of it off, but some residual paint left on the backsides of the rails I could not access). I figured if the exterior paint didn't come off with this firing, I would just paint over the blue.

Well it got way hot! I dumped in my fired up coals from a full chimney into my empty charcoal basket, then added about half a basket of charcoal over the top of the coals already fired up. Left the door open until all coals were fired up before sealing things up. I removed my thermometer in advance, as I knew it would be getting above the max 600 degree reading and did not want to damage it. I will say that the original blue paint is some hardy stuff. It only discolored a little more on the lower 1/3 where the coals are, but otherwise came away unscathed. However, one of my lower gaskets did not fare so well.

I installed 1/8" x 1/2" Fireblack self-stick gaskets on the interior cooker body overlaps and 1/4" x 1/2" Lavalock Grey self-stick gaskets on the exterior door overlaps. It appears that the adhesive for the lower Lavalock grey gasket installed on the door melted and stuck to the body of the smoker. So when I opened the door a couple of hours after cranking the fire up to check how many coals were left, the lower part of the door was stuck closed and took a fair amount of effort to open. The gasket just pulled apart into multiple pieces as the door opened. Obviously, the lower part of the door was closest to the fire and exposed to the most heat. However, the lower Fireblack gasket on the interior would have been exposed to at least as much heat if not more and did not seemed to be harmed at all. I do not ever intend to heat the smoker up that hot again, so I will just replace the lower piece with more of the same gasket I have on hand and should not have any problems. But will note for the future that the Fireblack gasket seemed better suited to the higher temperature areas nearer your firebox.

So tonight, I will be finishing the build project up (still plan to build a cart with side tables later) by painting the entire smoker black and reinstalling the lower gasket. Then Friday, I will finally get a pork butt and maybe some sausage smoking up in this thing. Completed pictures with food to come.
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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Sun Aug 27, 2017 11:55 pm

As promised, here are some pics of the finished smoker:

Finished Smoker.jpg


Smoker Patio.jpg


Got a pork butt started at about 9 pm Friday night. My buddy dropped by and threw on some sausage he brought while we hung out. I used a local rub on the butt from Stanely's BBQ out of Tyler. The smoker took a little tending to maintain 225 degrees for the first couple of hours. However, when I brought it up and tried maintaining 250 degrees it was much happier. It would go 3+ hours at 250 without needing any adjustment. Everything was going great until it started raining at about 7:30 am, so I pulled it out and finished it in the oven. It was delicious!

Meat on Smoker.jpg


Smoked Pork Butt.jpg


Pulled Pork.jpg


Can't wait until next weekend. I'm going to try a brisket, some ribs, and another butt.
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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby bsooner75 » Mon Aug 28, 2017 1:34 am

Lookin good!


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Re: Vertical Air Tank Build

Postby DrJekyll » Sun Sep 03, 2017 11:56 am

Got my disc blade cleaned up, drilled, and water/drip pan support welded up = completed diffuser. Installed it last night and did a quick cook on some ribs to see how it would affect operation of smoker. I tested at different temps between 225 and 325. It seemed easier to control lower temps with the diffuser in place. Also, prior to the diffuser I had 40 degree difference in temps between top and bottom grates - after the diffuser, difference was less than 10 degrees and sometimes as little as 1 degree. Only bad thing is that I think it used charcoal a little faster with the diffuser in place. But this could also be due to testing different temps and opening door more than usual.

On a side note for those thinking of using a disc blade as a diffuser, they are made of very hard steel. Drilling holes in the disc is very difficult and will ruin good bits very quickly if you do not take your time keeping speed low and use oil to cool.

I am doing my first brisket tonight with a pork butt and some ribs tomorrow. Will find out how efficient with charcoal it is with the diffuser in place after this 12+ hour cook. I will try to take some detailed pics and do a final wrap-up post afterwards.ImageImage

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