A couple questions for all with tuning plates...

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by pinkmeat, Sep 29, 2008.

  1. pinkmeat

    pinkmeat Smoking Fanatic

    I am trying to get through the last couple hurdles building my horizontal drum smoker. Yesterday I made a baffle out of a sheet of aluminum and bolted it on using the existing bolts that connect the firebox to the main chamber, well great.

    For ease of use I was going to use 18" pieces of various width steel for tuning plates (everybody sells them), but I didn't take that into account while making my heat baffle, so it will need to be redone and made so that it will seamlessly connect with the tuning plates. I made it rounded slightly.

    This is where I am today after driving and thinking in the car a few hours. The entire reason I wanted to do tuning plates was so that I could get the most control of the temps across the pit, but also be able to get the most difference when I want it. This made me wonder, how big a difference in temps can you actually create? Is my original idea even plausible? Will the temp difference be usable, or do tuning plates just basically split hairs and even out the remaining temp difference that a baffle only setup would create???

    My point is that if the tuning plates aren't creating a great improvement, why go through the hassle of $$ to do it, but I need to hear that from those that have done it. Maybe the heat baffle is enough the make me happy....I dunno, but this project is starting to frustrate me now [​IMG]
  2. smokin' dick

    smokin' dick Smoking Fanatic

    I've got a CharBroil Silver Smoker. It is a cheap smoker with thin steel. Almost impossible to get good temps. Out of the box I had 60* to 70* difference end to end. Tried an aluminum baffle at the fire box.That just pushed the hot air further into the chamber, but still huge differences in temps. Changed the baffle to steel since there was an improvement. Here is the steel baffle.

    had a local metal fab guy make up some 1/4" thick tuning plate to my specs,
    5" wide x 16" long with some cutouts at the ends. Here is a shot of one of the plates. BTW, I paid the man with 3 racks of ribs.

    With all 5 of the plates in place, I space them 1/8", then 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" apart, and a water pan at the fire box end the temps across the chamber are almost even. I am a happy boy. Here are all the plates in place.

    I also made a charcoal basket to help with lump management. I would recommend you make one for yourself too.

    Don't give up yet. The challenge of making a functioning smoker out of a barrel and fighting physics by making heat go sideways has it's rewards.
    Delicious smoked meat!

    Call back if you have any more issues.
  3. capt dan

    capt dan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Smokin dick nailed it perfectly. I doubt you can do much more than that for these cheaper offsets. I'm sure he is 100% happier with the results. I did about the same to mine awhile back(though not nearly as nice of a job) and the difference was night and day. Add a good Lump and well seasoned meat, it's all gonna be good for sure![​IMG]

    Gotta slide ya some points on the great advice SD, and the perfect explanation of each mod.
  4. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Excellent answer SD!!

    If you do that PM, You'll be good to go! Thats the only thing i haven't finished on mine. The baffle is not enough alone.
  5. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Not much to add to SD's great post!

    I did about the same thing . . .

    without the end cutouts. Nice touch, by the way, SD..

    As far as your idea goes I imagine you could make quite a bit of temp differnce if you tried. Whether it is usable or not depends on what you are trying to cook.

    I want to go one step further and have one of these made

    out of 1/8" plate with 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", and 1" holes. Haven't gotten around to it yet though. My goal will be even temps. I'm not trying to create two different ranges.

    I would say you're on the right track if you want to be able to even out temps and create temp differences when you want them.

  6. smokin' dick

    smokin' dick Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks for the kudos boys! Dan, you are right. Before any of these mods I was really aggravated that I didn't spend the $1,500 on a Klose. Now I'm happy that I didn't spend the extra $1,300!!
  7. smok'n steve

    smok'n steve Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Nice Job Dick,

    I am with the Captain!
  8. smokebuzz

    smokebuzz Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    here is a pic of mine,had a minor grease fire on start up


    Mine runs half the length of the smoker, works great and will maintain temps within 5-10*, USEALLY
  9. pinkmeat

    pinkmeat Smoking Fanatic

    I just had to light a very small basket of coals in it. The lid was sitting in place (kind of balancing) since the hinges are off and I wanted to try my baffle to see what the temp differences are with the current setup. I stuck two thermo probes hanging in the top of the smoker through the holes on either end where the hinges are supposed to be. They are located approximately at 1/3 and 2/3 the way across the top of the drum for reference.

    Anyhow, there was about an 8-10deg difference in temp. If I am thinking correctly, the only way I could ever get that difference higher is to decrease the size of the baffle?

    It is CRAZY how much heat is redirected. I really had to see it to believe it. There also appears to be a nice draw, even without a smoke stack in place. Pretty cool stuff.
  10. pinkmeat

    pinkmeat Smoking Fanatic

    Would you try for me? [​IMG]

    I would like to be able to cook multiple things at multiple temps (not drastic, like 50deg) instead of multiple things by waiting longer to cook at a low temp.
  11. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Ask and you shall recieve!! [​IMG] Gives me an excuse to fire up the smoker. I won't be able to do it tommorow but hopefully Wednesday.

    What temp range did you have in mind -- like 300 for chicken and 250 for pork? I am thinking with a big open space next to the baffle and the rest of the plates jammed together there should be a pretty good temp difference.

    One caveat -- I am using propane so your mileage may differ with lump. But I will let you know what I find out.

  12. pinkmeat

    pinkmeat Smoking Fanatic

    Understood. I do use lump, and may do some all wood burns if I can coax somone into splitting a couple trees I have laying down, oh, and I wait another year to use it :)

    You nailed it...225-250 for pork, and 300+ for chicken is what I had in mind.
  13. triggermortis

    triggermortis Newbie

    all those tunin' plates look pretty clean. what do you guys do about the cleanup, they must get pretty nasty, even after one cook.
  14. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I just scrape the big stuff off with a putty knive and wipe 'em down with a paper towel.

    What's left on adds to the seasoning!!

  15. smokin' dick

    smokin' dick Smoking Fanatic

    What DD said. If you wash 'em. then you have to oil them. Just scrape and wipe.
  16. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    On my CG, I have found that carefully placed aluminum drip pans will get me to 5 to 7 degree differential across the cooking surface at 220 to 250.
  17. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well, I’m done with the temp difference testing and the results are . . . surprising.

    Here is the setup:

    The wind was blowing (naturally) so I broke out the wind break. The idea was to fire up the smoker with the burner at a constant rate and see if I could create a large (50 degree) temp difference by moving the tuning plates.

    I let the smoker come up to temp for 20 minutes at a setting that had given me around 300 degrees previously.

    During this warm up, my tuning plates were all in their normal position.

    At the end of the warm up, the temps were averaging 284 on the firebox side and 300 on the chimney side. I wasn’t too concerned with the exact temp since I was trying to determine the range I could create by rearranging the plates.

    I then removed some plates and created an opening at the stack end.

    I let the smoker go for 20 minutes to recover. At the end of this period the temps were averaging 310 firebox end and 350 stack end.

    I then removed some plates and created an opening at the firebox end.

    Again, I let the smoker go for 20 minutes and the temps were about 325 firebox end and 310 stack end.

    Out of curiosity, I removed the baffle but left the plates in at the stack end. In about 30 seconds after closing the lid, the Taylor thermo at the firebox end maxed out at 400 degrees!! So I turned down the burner to where it would just stay lit and open the lid to dump some heat. After playing with the regulator, I was able to get the temps to about 300 at the firebox end and 260ish at the stack end.

    It surprised me that I couldn’t get more of a difference without removing the baffle. But then since the smoker was empty, and is only 40 inches long, I guess it stands to reason that once the whole thing is warmed up, and the heat must travel to the stack end to escape, the temp difference will be somewhat limited. If I had removed the stack extension as well, that may have created lower grate level temps at the stack end.

    It seems like the best bet to create a large temp difference is to run it without a baffle for the hot side with plates at the stack end. I imagine with some big hunks of meat in there the temp range would be greater. Would it be enough to cook chicken and pork at the same time? Maybe if the chimney extension was removed as well.

    In fact if you just ran it like a stock SnP with no baffle, no plates and no chimney extension, you should get a huge temp difference. But I imagine you would still want to have the plates so you could even out the temps when you wanted to.

    Hope this helps.

  18. pinkmeat

    pinkmeat Smoking Fanatic

    Man. Thanks for your time and input. That's pretty freaking cool that you took the time to play around like that. Much appreciated!!

    I think I will lean towards a good steel baffle to start with, since that seems to do MOST of the work, but I probably need to install rails before I install the baffle so I am ready for tuning plates when the time comes.

    Thanks again Dave!
  19. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You're welcome!! Haven't smoked anything in awhile so it was a good excuse to fire up the smoker.

    Always willing to help out a fellow SMFer.

  20. dutch

    dutch Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Dave, what a great job of explaining what your goal is and descibing what the results are. Points for you, bro!

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