Thinking about a Plywood MES40 clone

Discussion in 'Smoker Builds' started by jsimpson, May 12, 2011.

  1. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Holy Shhhht !

    3/4" Oak plywood!   You're not fooling around!!!

    When I had my cabinet shop, my 3/4" Oak cost me about $50 per sheet (Wholesale !), and that was 10 years ago.

    Mine was plain slice Red Oak, and it looks like yours is Rotary cut, and maybe it's white Oak, but even so it still must have cost a good buck!!!

    You're bringing memories back---cutting dadoes, rabbets & plows like you just did used to be my cup of tea !!!!

    I gotta watch this one!!!



  2. jsimpson

    jsimpson Fire Starter


    Welcome aboard! It was starting to seem like I was talking to myself here.

    The oak ply was about $45/sheet. I could have gone a little less with birch, but for another $10 a sheet I decided to go with the oak. I'm always skeptical buying plywood at Home Depot/Lowes, especially the cheaper stuff that seems to have bad delamination problems.

    I glued up the carcass last night and it went pretty well. Always good to dry fit so there aren't any surprises when the glue goes down. I installed some supports for the Harbor Freight casters - can't beat $20 for all 4 - and now it's starting to take shape.

    Next up will be door hardware.

  3. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looks good to me!

    Some of us don't need welding involved to get us excited.   [​IMG]

  4. jsimpson

    jsimpson Fire Starter

    OK, I'm going to keep updating this even though it seems like it's just me and the BearCarver. Made some more progress last night & this evening. Got the door mounted and used some more of the leftover maple to make a door jamb/sealer all the way around the opening. Hopefully this will keep things fairly airtight, but if not a little silicone should seal things up decently. Also installed one of the two Destaco clamps (Harbor Freight again) to help seal the door. I'll probably put another one at the lower end of the door, mounted to the side, but it will make clearance tight getting from the garage to the patio so I'll wait on that one.

    Next up is to line the lower half with ceramic tile, cut some ventilation holes and start installing the propane burner.

    We're getting close now!

  5. smokingohiobutcher

    smokingohiobutcher Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Wow!  Primo Oak Smoker going on here! Looks fantastic! Love the ceramic tile idea.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I'm still here!

    Looking real good!

    Maybe some cheap weatherstripping for air sealing???


  7. garyinmd

    garyinmd Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    JSimpson, been watching the whole time, looks great. Some of us just like lurking in the background.
  8. jsimpson

    jsimpson Fire Starter

    Sorry for the crappy pics. I'm not a big camera person, and the pics are real washed out looking. I have a lot of lighting in the garage, plus white walls and white insulation in the garage door, so I guess that messes with the camera settings.

    As for the door seal, I'll see if it's an issue or not. It's hard to tell from the photos, but the door gap is about 1/8" all around and the door sits pretty flush against the inner strips - almost no gap at all, especially when the toggle clamp is down. Right now I'm thinking this will probably be plenty airtight, since it needs to vent some anyways and the amount of air going out the door will be minimal compared to the airflow in/out the vent holes.

    I'm not real impressed with the door hinges, but I guess they will do for now. Most of the hinges for an inset door are the european style, meaning all the hardware goes inside for a clean appearance. That is exactly the opposite of what I wanted, so had to look around a bit to find something that would be entirely outside the smoke chamber and not interfere with the door seal. I bought them online and didn't pay enough attention to the size - I was thinking they were about twice the size of what I ended up getting. If it doesn't work out I'll probably swap them out for some gate hinges or something more substantial.

    Also, I can't take credit for the ceramic tile idea. I saw it on here when looking at some other smokehouse builds and it seemed like cheap and easy fire insurance.
  9. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    Hey..I'm watching too..I am a HUGE woodworker.  I've built a grandfather clock, tables, chairs..etc etc.

    Anyway..your build is looking great..I just have one concern..even with Oak....that door, once this unit gets some use going....with the heat, and moisture, I am worried about the door warping and not sealing well.  What about putting some type of "stiffeners" on the inside of the door..maybe metal angle iron on the edges..just to keep the edges from warping at all??? Just a thought.

  10. jsimpson

    jsimpson Fire Starter


    Good point about the warping. I am concerned about that possibility as well, but didn't want to put too much added weight onto the door unless really necessary. I've seen some othe plywood smoker builds posted on here and wondered about warping. I've bought Home Depot plywood that warped before it even came off the table saw, and at leat that hasn't happened yet. I'm thinking about putting a coat of poly on the outside to provide some protection from the elements. Even though it will reside under a covered patio (roof over the top and house walls on 3 sides) I would still like to try and keep moisture out as much as possible.I think I'll see how it goes and adjust if needed.

    Also received my burner today. It's a shining example of Chinese craptastic manufacturing - all cast iron of such poor quality that I think if I dropped it from 6 inches it would shatter into 50 pieces. Still, it does seem to work so I can't complain too much. One nice thing is that this burner is compact - about 9" x 9" and only 5" or so high. At 15,000btus, I think it might just fit the bill perfectly. I fired it up and let it run for an hour or so with the cast iron skillet on top to hopefully burn off some of the lead paint and other goodies!

    Next up will be the ceramic tiles for the lower half, then she'll be about ready for a test run.

  11. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    why did you choose a burner over an electric element?  You could make one REALLY nice and DEADLY accurate smoker using a simple PID setup to control a heating element.  Don't get me wrong I like using flames as much as anybody..but I've never seen anything come CLOSE to a "set and forget" smoker that wasn't an electric controlled with a PID.

  12. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looks like it is coming around.  [​IMG]

    Damn nice looking shop you have there...[​IMG]
  13. jsimpson

    jsimpson Fire Starter

    Simple answer - because I don't know anything about PID controllers. I'm familiar enough with basic wiring, but when I start looking at some of the PID controllers, elements, etc., I really have no idea what I'm looking for. I'm not set in stone on the propane burner, though, so if someone wants to school me on PID / electric elements I'm listening.
  14. jsimpson

    jsimpson Fire Starter

    Thank you sir. One of my other interests is tools - specifically old tools. Most of my favorites are older than me, and I'm pushing 50. I bought a phase converter years ago and always keep my eyes out for old three-phase machines on the cheap that just need a little TLC.
  15. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    I went through the same exact thing as you...I knew NOTHING about PIDS a little over a year ago...and then I did a bunch of research, asked alot of questions, and got it all figured out.  If you wanna go that route I can certainly help you with any questions you may have, and what to order..and how to wire it up.  It really is pretty easy. 

    If you want...go to my profile and search some of my old threads and posts..and you'll get a TON of info on PIDS.

  16. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    here is a basic diagram of wiring up a PID.....over on the right, you can see it has a female plug in "receptacle"...but you CAN hardwire in a heating element in place of that plug in.

  17. jsimpson

    jsimpson Fire Starter


    Thank you very much for the info on PID's. I did spend a little time reading up on your posts as well as some others, and now I think I have a much better understanding of what is involved. Someone posted near the beginning of this thread to look at, which I did at first but didn't really know what I was looking at. Looking at your schematic, I can see where I really only need the PID, a relay and a thermocouple to control the heating element. Since I already have the propane burner, I'm going to try that first, but I'm already thinking about upgrading to the PID controller. I even have a spare 1000w hotplate that I could wire the PID onto to see how I like it.

    For now, here's the status. I installed the ceramic tiles using screws and washers (stainless washers, non-plated screws) for removability. Fortunately, I bought one extra tile and that's exactly how many I broke trying to notch the lower left one for the propane hose. Ended up using a grinder and had a nice semi-circular notch in about 15 minutes on the second one (first was scored with a dremel then hit with a hammer which shattered the whole tile).


    Also cut two vent holes in the top as well as a large opening on the left for air intake as well as propane hose/future wiring. If it looks like I'll need to regulate the air intake I may add another vent as well as some sort of aluminum plate to fine tune airflow.
  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looking good JS.

    Keep her coming!

  19. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic it...with that ceramic tile in there it may take a bit to come up to temp..but once it's there, it should be rock solid for you.  Can't wait to see how it does on your first fireup.


  20. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    also..not to throw more info at you than you want..but you CAN control your burner with a PID control as well.  I haven't actually done it..but have thought about it seriously for some time now. It is relatively's easier to show in diagram form, than trying to here it is:


Share This Page