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Tejas Smoker Project

After seeing my brother-in-law's smoker, I had to have one. Actually building this bad boy is waiting for some big ole sheets of steel and a Mig welder. I have a Tig, but don't fancy this as being a Tig project!

This page is a blog for the project that will eventually get cleaned up when I can see where I'm going. Right now it is just some rough notes.

Bob's Smoker Features and Specs

It's Gotta Look Like the State of Texas!

1/4" Steel Plate Construction, 3/8" Fire Box

Trailer Mounted

Pull Out Trays (Brother in Law's Suggestion)

Cutaway View: That green is the baffle between the firebox and the smoke box...

Each square = 1 foot...

Cutting and Bending

The plan is to make the smoker from 1/4" plate, although some suggest 1/8" is plenty strong enough and much easier to work with. I'll think that over. At least the firebox needs to be 1/4" so it doesn't get eaten away. The thicker metal also provides more thermal mass which promotes better temperature control. The first issue one has to consider on the project is how to cut out and bend the metal to shape before welding it? The cutting part is not too bad. My Esab plasma cutter is perfect for the task. I will simply borrow an LCD projector from work one weekend, project a map onto the plate, mark it out with soapstone, and voila, ready for plasma cutting. The more difficult task will be bending the curved side pieces. After consulting the Internet and everyone who would put up with my silly questions, the following methods presented themselves.

Method #1: Plate Rolling

The experts favor finding a local shop that has a plate roller of sufficient capacity. Bring them a template made from wood and they can match it pretty easily. This is likely my best shot.

Method #2: Heat and Hammer

The old school recommends a big ole rosebud tip on the oxyacetylene torch and a sledge hammer. This can be done says my welding instructor, but will be a lot of work. Moreover, it will be hard to keep everything straight. It will be necessary to tack weld as we go as a way of holding the metal straight. Variations involve using come alongs and other such tools to help bend the metal into shape, welding as we go.

Method #3: Heat Shrinking

One group on a sculpture board liked the idea of heat shrinking. If you heat a band with the rosebud, then hit it with a garden hose, the metal will shrink and bend. Put the shrink bands close together and you get a tighter curve. Further apart means looser. The method is intriguing, but it sounds hard to control without a lot of practice.

Method #4: Hydraulic Press Brake

I saw some hydraulic press projects and got the bright idea that maybe this could be done with a press. In fact, it takes a press brake that uses a die for bending. It could be done, but the recommended capacity was 50 tons. It would be cool to have a 50 ton press sitting around, and they are available for purchase, but man, sounds pretty tough!

Method #5: Cut Grooves/Slots, Bend, and Fill Grooves/Slots

I've seen this done with wood where it worked very well, but it hadn't occurred to me to try it with metal. You can either cut full width grooves that don't go all the way through but weaken the metal so its easy to bend or you can cut slots like a dashed line ----------- that go all the way through and still weaken the metal. The former is best handled by and abrasive tool, but it sounds hard to keep the depth right. The latter would be easy with a plasma cutter. Probably some way to rig up a jig that would start/stop the cutter to make the slots regular. Once you've bent the metal, you fill in the slots with the welder, grind it smooth, and go on down the road. This is probably the best approach to do at home.

Method #6: Lots of Straight Sections

My welding teacher's first take on this was just to use a lot of square sections. I commented that I thought the aesthetics would be poor and he switched to the plate roll scheme. Still, its something to consider on the list of possibilities. You could probably combine methods 5 and 6 to good effect as well.

Smoker Resources (If you want ideas and resources to build your own design smoker)


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