sfprankster's (mis)adventures modding a 18.5" WSM

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by sfprankster, Sep 3, 2015.

  1. Since I was asked which mods I use on my 18.5" WSM in another thread and having an OCD tendency to change what works by design, into my own personalized version. I thought I would start a new thread describing my mods and what it takes to install them. I'll start with the mods I recommend the most.

    Well here we go... [​IMG]

    Gasket Kit

    Before I purchased my WSM, I did a little research into some of the common problems people had experienced when they began using the WSM. One of the most common problems, was the WSM ran hot, until it was well seasoned. The best method to offset this issue, was to install a gasket kit from bbqgaskets.com. It is an easy mod to install. It takes as little as 30 minutes. I installed this mod when my WSM was new, so the cleaning of the surface was minimal. I used Simple Green to clean the surface and let completely dry. I then spread the silicone around the lip where the lid rests. Once applied, I worked the gasket material around the body and into the edge, maintaining a flat surface for the lid to rest upon. Once both ends met, I cut the gasket material with a sharp hobby knife. FOR BEST RESULTS,  LET THE SILICONE CURE FOR A FULL 24 HOURS, BEFORE PLACING THE LID ONTO THE WSM BODY!


    For the front aluminum door, I pre-cut the gasket material before applying the silicone. I placed a short strip across the bottom, recessed portion of the door and around the opening. I cut 45 degree edges where the gasket material comes together on the WSM body, instead of stretching the material into a rounded shape. Not my cleanest work, but effective none the less.


    The hardest part of this particular mod is having to wait for the silicone gasket adhesive to cure for 24 hours before I could begin to season my WSM. 

    Last edited: Sep 3, 2015
  2.  Maverick ET- 733  Digital Thermometer

    Another mod I highly recommend for the WSM, is a quality digital thermometer. I have found the stock unit, mounted in the lid, to be off by as much as 20-50 degrees, when tested in ice water and boiling water. This discrepancy in temperature makes reproducing consistent results difficult. The Maverick ET-733 has dual probes, allowing you the luxury of a simultaneous readout of the chamber and meat temperatures. Due to poor instructions, this thermometer is confusing to initially set up. Once you understand the sequence of how to sync the receiver/transmitter and the settings, it is an indispensable tool. This particular thermometer comes with a transmitter, receiver and a pair of 3' probes.


    After reading several reviews of the ET-733, I have added a small piece of heat shrink tubing to the connection where the cable enters the probe. The 3' probes are a little on the short side. For measuring the chamber temperature, it is sufficient in length. For measuring the temperature of the meat, it can be a little too short and awkward to thread the probe through the silicone plug and into the meat. I have been using a 6' probe, I ordered as a spare/replacement, for this purpose.

    I ordered an extra pair of 6' probes, just in case. Of course, I haven't had any problems with the original probes. If I hadn't...
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2015
  3. Not sure if some consider this a mod, but seasoning my WSM has given great results from my first smoke. [​IMG]

    Seasoning the WSM

    Round 1

    Even though I installed a gasket kit onto my WSM before the first time I fired it up. I still followed a seasoning regiment to help with possible airflow issues I could experience.

    The first time I fired up my WSM, I used KBB only. All vents were set to wide open to produce the highest heat and let burn itself out. I wanted to burn off any residual chemicals/paint leftover from production. 


    Round 2

    I'm lucky enough to have a local butcher provide me with 10-12 lbs of trimmed brisket fat to initially season my WSM. I split this into half and made two runs with the fat to help seal up any air leaks and give my WSM a nice seasoning. For this seasoning run, I used only KBB and maintained the temperatures in the 225-250 range. 

    1 hour into the first seasoning. The brisket fat has taken on good coloring and I'm able to maintain the temperatures in the 225-250 range easily.

    Checking on the charcoal four hours into the first seasoning run. All looking well and no need to add more charcoal. The brisket fat has rendered off to a crispy texture.


    Round 3

    Once again, using only KBB, I ran a second run of the last 5-6 lbs of brisket fat another four hours. I maintainied the same temperature range of 225-250. Now my WSM has been well seasoned and is ready for some real food to be smoked.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2015
  4. A mod to make charcoal use more efficient. Or so I tell myself... [​IMG]

    Second Charcoal Grate

    I added a second charcoal grate to my WSM to keep the smaller pieces of charcoal in use for a longer period of time. By placing the grate at 90 degrees to the first, the holes where the charcoal can fall through has been reduced. I'm not sure how I save in charcoal with this mod, but I imagine it is a little. To keep the grates together, I used 8" eye bolts and 1" washers.The grate is readily available at most Home Depot. Lowes and other building supply stores. 


    The images show a smaller set of 4 "eye bolts that I originally installed. I have since changed them out for 8" versions. I found the 4" eye bolts to be too short. I had to rearrange the charcoal to create access to the rings, to be able to lift the grate out for ash cleaning. The larger 8" eye bolts also have a larger ring, for an easier finger fit to lift the grates.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2015
  5. A mod to avoid the ooooops, I dropped it syndrome... [​IMG]

    Upper Cooking Grate Mounts

    When I first built my WSM, I noticed that the upper cooking grate wasn't supported well. The small tabs just didn't seem to extend far enough out to fully support the grate. It took a small amount of effort to dislodge the grate and see it fall into the WSM. To keep from losing a low 'n slow smoked prize. I added a longer bolt and a few washers to extend the tabs slightly. This small amount doesn't affect removal/installation of the lower grate. The bolts and washers are readily available at most building supply and hardware stores. This is a quick to install mod that is very inexpensive. Is it necessary? That all depends on whether your ooooops gene is dominant or recessive... [​IMG]

    Built according to the instructions.

    With the addition of a longer bolt and a few washers. Once installed, the upper grate rests on the washers and is much more stable and less likely to fall.

    remmy700p likes this.
  6. A mod that allows easier access to replace the charcoal or wood chunks while smoking... [​IMG]

    Brinkman Water Pan

    The overall size of the Brinkman water pan I installed is slightly smaller and less depth than the original. This slight difference gives me more access through the aluminum door to the fire ring and charcoal area of my WSM, all without having to remove the body/chamber when in use. This decreases the chance of getting burned when I need to add charcoal or wood chunks during long smokes. This mod is one I consider as "plug 'n play" or "no tools required". Lift out the original water pan and this one drops right into place. Don't forget to cover the water pan with foil. This will make future cleanup a breeze. I ordered this on Amazon and if I remember correctly, it was under $13.


    Brinkman part #'s.

  7. All of the above mods were completed before I fired up my WSM for the first time. 

    Does it make my WSM more efficient or economical? That is for you to decide... [​IMG]  
  8. A mod idea taken after seeing an image of One eyed Jack's  WSM.

    ...or a how to save your back mod... [​IMG]

    Chamber Handles

    This is another simple mod to install requiring very few tools, only a screwdriver and a wrench. Since I didn't particularly want to drill any new holes through the WSM chamber/body and take a chance at marring the paint and causing a rust issue in the future. I measured the existing holes for the internal bracket that holds the cooking grates in place. I found a pair of universal garage door handles at my local Home Depot that matched the measurement(6") for just under $4.


    I removed a single screw at a time, making sure I didn't drop the screw into the charcoal and lose it into the vortex. [​IMG]  Once replaced, the handles are secure and allow a good grip when removing the chamber/body from the WSM. 

    areallynicegirl likes this.
  9. Well my oops gene is excessively dominate lol. I like seeing all the cool mods you did, you really did your homework!
    remmy700p likes this.
  10. Thanx!!

    Not too much needed on the WSM. Good design and the best bang for the buck!! 

    It's the BBQ Guru I've had my eyes on...  [​IMG]

    Overall, this is a minor number of mods for me... [​IMG]  

    My thread modding my  Prius. I may have gone a little overboard there. I just couldn't make myself drive a soccer mom-mobile... [​IMG]
  11. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Nice Mods! I've never had any problems controlling the temp with my 18, but I use a method of lighting the charcoal that most don't. Only took a few cooks to junk it up tight.

    I have added the silicone therm grommet, as mine was an older model, prior to that option.

    My next mod is to order the door from Cajun bandit. In my opinion it's the weakest link in the WSM design and not needed. My last smoke, even with the leaking door, was 18 hours and there was enough charcoal for another 8-10 hours.

    Handles, yes those would be nice. Not so much for when the smoker is hot, but just for general moving, especially when at camp and delegating the chores to kids!
  12. Thanx!!

    Most of the mods were around $10, so I figured why not... 

    From the first time I fired up my WSM, I never had any issue with maintaining  a steady temperature. The only reason I keep eyeing the BBQ Guru is for the "lazy" factor. The sales pitch of "set it and forget it" has a certain ring to it, like a siren's call... [​IMG]

    I looked into the Cajun Bandit when I first bought my WSM. I passed on it once I got through a few smokes. I have never had to add charcoal(yet) during any smoke. Like you said, after 16-18 hours, there's still enough to easily go another 8...
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015

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