Beer Keg Build... (failure, and need advice) WINNER WINNER... all fixed (10/6/13)

Discussion in 'Other Builds' started by jckdanls 07, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    ok... so my wife's son has an empty beer keg and wanted to make it into a vertical smoker... We were hoping it would turn out kinda like the Mini WSM I built... the difference would be that you can't take the middle section off to tend to the coals....

    being in a hurry for it, I started wacking on it.. cut the top off around the ring and then cut another 1/4" off the ring so the top would fit down inside so the grease would run back inside instead of down the outside... The problem here is.. the kegs been dropped or beat up and was out of round (oval shaped).. so when I set the top back on it didn't seal worth a crap (big gaps on opposite sides)... didn't get any pics of the gaps... but here's a couple to show where I cut the lid

    SO now I'm thinking about the intake vent and how to go about it... I found a 1 1/4"m X 1"f reducer and thought.. hhmmm.. If I cut a hole for a 1" street elbow to go through and screw into the reducer (that will be welded on with the 1 1/4" part sticking up) It sticks up about an inch or so to act as an ash blocker (to stop the ashes from blocking the air vent).. my only problem was that the reducer was galvanized.. so off to the stores I go looking for this same reducer in black pipe... welp... nobody had it.. so now what.. I said dahell with it they have a 1 1/4 x 3/4... I'll try this since he's in a hurry for it... I'm thinking 3/4" should be enough... I mean hell.. when I use my Mini the intake vent is only about a 1/4 open.. so 3/4" pipe will be plenty of air... a few pics of that....

    made a charcoal basket that stands about 2" above the pipe reducer that was welded in the bottom...

    Then I made the heat sync/diffuser with 1/4" plate.. it has about a 1/2-3/4" gap around the edges....

    and then the grates (2)

    For the top vent (exhaust) I just used the existing hole for the tap... it's 2" in diameter.. made a cap for it to close it down when down cooking...

    put a couple handles on it to carry it around...

    OK.. so got it all done and fired it up for seasoning and test run.... let it get up to about 210` and started to close down the intake to get it to settle around 225`... temp kept going up so i kept closing it down... so now i have the intake fully closed and the temps are still going up... scratching my head I said "dahells going on here".. so I starting thinking the gaps in the lid is letting air in.. so I stuffed aluminum foil in the gaps all around the lid... waited and waited for temps to come down (using the Mav. ET 732)... so i started closing the top vent some... temps finally started to go down... by the time they got back down in a comfortable range (225`-240` for me)... the coals went out... since I was getting ready to go on vacation I went ahead and gave the smoker to it's owner (as I said earlier he was in a hurry for it).... he didn't really mess with it until I got back and got a chance to go over to his house and show him how to use it...

    So we went over yesterday for a cookout and the inaugural smoke with the beer keg... It was a total failure.. could never get it up to temp/// well... let me rephrase that... it came up to 220` so we put some ribs on... it was all downhill from there.. temps would never recover (180` was the highest we could get....

    luckily he has an MES 30.. we fired that up and transferred the ribs over to that... I let the beer keg keep going to play with it and see what would happen... when empty the temps finally came back up... so we put 2 half racks (had to cut 2 racks in half so they would fit) of ribs back on the keg.. instead of all 4 halves... to see if maybe it was to full and restricting air flow.... welp.... temps never came back up again... so by this time were an hour and a half or so into the cook... dinner was to be served at 7pm so we didn't have time to keep playing around... took them back off and back into the MES and we just finished them up there... I know.. no pics never happened... but in my defense I was to damn busy trying to get smokers working right and get food done by 7...

    So final thoughts are ? Intake to small ? need to make bigger gap (1" or so) around the heat sync/diffuser (it's the same gap as what I have on the Mini) ? need exhaust stack to be taller ? or maybe.... D. All the above ?

    The dimensions of the keg are 15"diameter by 16" tall.... If I didn't explain something very well or you are confused on some of my explanations please ask me to clarify for you so we can get this straightened out... he really wants to keep it pretty much like it is... for the COOL factor... LOL...

    ok.. so I am open to suggestions to get this thing working right... I have faith in my SMF brethren's to stir me in the right directions....
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Is the bottom of the basket made from expanded metal like the side are ???  Raise up the basket ???    The heat diffuser plate holds too much heat in where the coals are....   raise it up, drill holes in it....  get a pizza pan from w-mrt that has holes in it already....  Don't give up now....  you will have bad dreams for a month or 2.......
  3. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Keith first off...VERY VERY COOL!

    I'd consider a couple of things.

    1) I know your mini you don't let the drippings go to the coals but I'd suggest drilling holes in the diffuser. It'll still be a great diffuser but allow higher temps but imo most importantly give more flavor by letting the drippings go to the coals.

    2) I'd put in a 2nd 3/4 in across from the other one..maybe a couple nipples in the bottom that can be capped off similar to a uds so that you can crank the temps up for chicken etc...
  4. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Keith, that's a funny looking smokehouse!:biggrin:

    I don't know much about builds but you said temps came up empty and went down with the ribs in it. That sounds like the ribs were blocking the airflow. Maybe a bigger intake or an exhaust stack like you mentioned to increase draft.
    Sounds like this might be a lot of trial and error until you get it right.
  5. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    DaveO... the basket is all expanded metal.. it is about 2"s above intake already... the difuser plate is about an inch above the coal basket (on my mini the plate is right on top of the coals and works great without holes)... I'm kinda leaning towards not enough air intake... I tried to use the calculator to determine what size intake I would need... but I can't figure out how to use it....

    FW.. I was trying to keep it simple for the owner to operate (not the sharpest knife in the drawer)... I was kinda thinking I was gonna be in trouble with just a 3/4" intake... really wanted a 1"

    Dave... The smokehouse might be back to the front burner.. the house deal fell threw... my theory was that the mini doesn't have a stack and when using it the intake is only open about a 1/4 to run at 225`.. so i was thinking that the keg would work fine with the lil short stack it has on it... but your right.. gonna be some trial and error....

    Is there any way to use the calc. to tell me what size intake I need ?
  6. nice build. Stack a little higher would help. But your main problem is you are starving for air. FUEL AND AIR MAKE HEAT. Then you have to be able to control the heat.

    Happy smoken.

  7. jtupper

    jtupper Fire Starter

    Take this for What it is worth....I have very little expirence for building smokers other than a few smoke houses and UDS systems, but I feel I am pretty good at math and the physics required for this kind of project. I took the time to calculate a few things out and agree with everyone else you are starving your fire. I am suprised honestly you get up to temperature at all the way this thing sits but here we go.....

    I am estimating what you have for split firebox/cook area but I think you may be off a little bit. assuming a 16" diameter of the keg this should be the spit:

    Firebox = 4" Tall @ 15" diameter (706.8sq in)
    Cooking Area 12" Tall @ 15"diameter (2119.5in)
    This Makes your Firebox roughly 1/3 the size of your cooking area as per needed.

    On to your Exahust vent. The 2" opening is fine for what you are doing. Exaust should be around 5% of your firebox volume. This equates to roughly 35.34sq in. That would be around a 11.25" chiminey, but since the cooker is a cylinder style, you count the cooking chamber as well. That means 12-11.25=.75". I would just round up to at least 1.5" if not 2" as you can always cut it down if it becomes an issue(i don't think it will).

    On to your air intake. I don't personally like the air intake for the bottom of the kettle. If it were me, I would put multiple intakes around the outside similar to the idea of a UDS. Couple of reasons for this. First of all, I don't think you have nearly enough intake. Intake is around .003 x firebox volume. You need 2.12sq in. Currently you are at .4416sq in of air intake. Second of all I think gravity and ash will hurt you in the long run even though there is a screen over your inlet. After some more figuring you are looking at the following options:
    .75" @ 5 inlets
    1" @ 3 inlets
    1.5" @ 2 inlets
    I would suggest no less than 2 inlets personally.

    Just to make everything easier to see if you choose to go with this method here are your deminsions:

    Firebox: 4" x 15"
    Cooking Chamber: 12" x 15"
    Chimeny: 2" x 2"
    Inlets : 3 - 1" diameter

    I would start here and see what kind of figures you are geting. Then if it is still not where you want it, I would start to look at the diffuser plate and tune it to your liking. Like I said, I dont have a lot of building expirence, but this is what I would do if it were my situation. Let me know if you have any questions. Good Luck
  8. jtupper

    jtupper Fire Starter

    BTW being an avid homebrewer, I love the idea here and really hope you get it going. Your son is pretty luckyJarren
  9. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Jarren... I really appreciate the time and effort you put into running the numbers... for the most part you are correct on the FB/CC sizes... I just can't fathom that it would need that much air for the intake... 3, 1" pipes for the intakes.... ? ... but again thanks for running the numbers....
  10. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Keith a smokey Joe gold has four 3/4" holes to put it in perspective... and I use all of them to get my mini up to temp before dialing it back for chickens. That's why I'd do the vents similar to how people set up their UDS and put a couple of 3/4" nipples that you can cap off plus another valve.

    It's really how many vents it needs for proper operation Imo. Sure most of the time it won't need them all.... I get that
  11. jtupper

    jtupper Fire Starter

    I understand you are skeptical and it does look like a lot. Here are some more points you may be interested in. You do have a small advantage since your cooking chamber technically part of the firebox. Also with the chamber directly above the flame you will get some direct heat, hence your diffusion plate idea.

    What I will say, personally, I would rather have too much air intake as FWI said. you can always cap or shut down excess air as you come to temp. This is a lot easier than trying to cut additional intakes once you are cooking. (imagine that senario!) Also keep in mind, calculators are based of general guidelines to give you a ball park figure. A calculator is not set up for your elevation, location, humidity, weather or the like. I see by your local you are in FL so im sure snowy weather and below freezing temperatures are not a problem. But then again you probably dont have the perfect spot on smoking weather year round either?

    I would still up the size of my intakes and the ammount that I had. Black Nat Gas pipe is cheap. Drill out the keg around the side about 1.5" up from the bottom and buy some end caps to go on as well. I really think it will help what you are trying to do.


    edit: if you want to go with just the one intake, you could go with a forced air system but it would take some playing around with to get it set right. Basically like an aquarium pump or similar to force air into the fire box. You can even buy PID systems like this to control a fan for you if that is in your budget. I still would personally go with more inlets as it would be overall cheaper.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  12. dewetha

    dewetha Smoking Fanatic

    crazy question but how much ash is falling into the air intake?
  13. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    I'm assuming he put a can with holes drilled in the sides over the air intake like on his Smokey Joe Silver for his mini.
  14. jtupper

    jtupper Fire Starter

    This keeps weighing on me cause I really want to see this thing work!

    How bout just one intake that is a 1.5" x 1.5" square with a flap cover? Could even put it on the bottom if ya want!

    That would give you 2.25sq in

    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  15. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    thanks everybody for the wisdom... as I said.. I really wanted at least 1" intake but couldn't find the reducer I was looking for so i settled with 3/4" which i really doubted was going to work... I'm going to go ahead and get the smoker back and put an additional 1" vent along with the existing 3/4".... (when I get time, work is really busy at the moment)...
  16. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    ok then.. had a chance today to make some changes... took the 3/4" vent out and put in a 1"... cut a little bit off the difuser plate... fired it up and it came up to temp nicely.... BUT.... for the first couple of hours I couldn't control it... temps were all over the place... so now I'm starting to get disgusted... closed the valve all the way down and temps still going up slowly.... so I started thinking that the foil I stuffed down in around the lid to seal it wasn't doing it's job... HHMMMM... what else can i do.... AH HAAAAAA.... silver metal tape... I put the metal tape all the way around the lid and sealed it up tight.....

    CHAAAAA CHINGGGGG... that was the ticket... temps came down quickly.. so I opened the valve about half way and it settled right at 225` for a couple of hours.... I played around with a stack for the exhaust vent (set it on for a while, took it off for a while, no difference).... ok then... lets open this valve all the way and let it run full throttle to see how high temps will get.... topped out at 350`...

    So it ran for a total of 7 hours on half a basket of lump before temps started to fall off....

    Now I need to find a way to make a tight seal just by setting the lid on.... can't keep taping it up all the time.... thinking maybe some kind of gasket and pop rivet it around the inside of the bottom half and let the lid sit on top of it... all of y'alls ideas were great... now lets get this thing sealed up....
  17. jtupper

    jtupper Fire Starter

    Fiberglass insulation rope like for an oven door can easily be found at Lowes or HD. about 12$ and one should be enough for you. Check out some UDS threads and you will see what I am talking about
  18. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    OK THEN... I made up a fiberglass rope holder and installed both the holder and the rope.... This was exactly what I was hoping for... works perfect... sealed up the lid when set on top of the smoker.... fired it up for a "hope this works run" today and it worked like a champ... a few pics of what I did....

    I took a piece of 1 x 1 x 1/8" and trimmed one side down to about a 1/2" ( so 1/2" rope would sit in it snuggly).. then made relief cuts every inch or so, so that I could bend it around the inside of the lip at the top of the smoker... welded it on with stainless rods (keg is stainless) and

    then I laid the fiberglass rope down in this newly created channel... (did not used the glue, as i want to be able to take it out and change if ever necessary)

    So here's how i fire it up...

    A ring of unlit with a little hole in the middle for lit coals... ( I only let the coals in the chimney get about half lit... let it come up to temps slowly)

    here's my charcoal chimney rig... just stick the map torch up threw expanded metal to light the charcoal...

    set the 1/4" difuser plate in... evenly gapped around the edges

    first rack ... (you can see the rope gasket in both of these pics)

    second rack

    tried to get a pic of the top sitting down in the gasket... hard to see...

    So here we are 15 minutes after dumping coals in...

    So it works great now... reacts very quick to adjustments... thanks for all the tips and ideas... this site SOOOOOOO ROCKS...
  19. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    will try something this weekend on it....

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