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  1. #1
    Elite Member
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Knoxville, TN
    Bobcat CT225

    Default BBQ smoker modification

    My neighbor was given a BBQ/smoker in exchange for some work he did. The firebox has its air intake and damper on the side wall, close to the smoke chamber. What this means is that the air goes past one corner of the fire. That corner quickly burns out while the rest of the wood smolders. I volunteered to fix it for him, since is was a chance to be useful, and also a chance to get some welding practice in on somebody else's equipment. I'm a rookie enough welder that I would never volunteer to do anything where life or limb was involved, but a BBQ smoker... what's the worst that could happen? The 1/4" plate it was made of even gives me a pretty low chance of burning through.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-15-20-13-a

    Here's the firebox of the smoker.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-15-20-14-a

    Detail of the intake and damper. Fortunately, the original fabricator only used three small tack welds to hold the damper's track on, so they were pretty easy to grind out. What worked best was to cut mostly through the weld with an cutting wheel, then use a chisel and mallet to pry the track free.

    The lower-right-most weld was inaccessible to the grinder. I cut out the other two welds and then worked the chisel toward the third one. Fortunately, it gave way without bending the track itself.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-16-15-21-a

    Surface prep on one of the tracks.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-16-15-34-a

    I was tempted to try to weld the damper back on in place, but I decided that today was not the day to start trying to learn out-of-position welds. Especially on somebody else's project. So I lay the whole thing on its side and propped the door open. In this photo, I've used the soapstone pencil to mark where I need to grind away rust for the new welds. There is a removable piece of bar stock at the bottom-front of the firebox to keep the ash in. The air intake needed to clear it, so I took the bar out and used it as a spacer and straight-edge for placing the bottom track.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-16-16-01-a

    Because this is pretty rusty metal, I started out with 6011, because it's supposed to be good at blowing through rust. As usual, it looked terrible. The welds were fine, but I couldn't bear to let them go, so I went back over them with 7018. That's what you see above.

    Although the firebox is made from 1/4" plate, the track is only 1/8", or maybe 3/16. Getting the heat where it needed to go was a little trickier than when the metal is the same thickness. I had some issue with burning through or making a "keyhole" in the track. I went back and filled in afterwards, just for appearance's sake.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-16-16-01-a

    You can see one of the burned-out "keyholes" in the left-most weld above.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-16-16-33-a

    Next, it was time to drill the new intake holes. I used a hole saw with some old hydraulic fluid for lubrication. I didn't have a brush or squeeze bottle, so I just poured some into the cap of the jug and drizzled it on. The hydraulic fluid was nice; as soon as the smoking stopped, I knew it was time to put a little more on! Hole saws are hardly as sexy as plasma cutters or oxy-acetylene torches, but they do get the job done, even on thick metal like this.

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-16-16-45-a

    The finished job!

    BBQ smoker modification-2012-11-16-17-36-a

    Finally, I welded a plate back over the old air holes. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but it was getting dark. I was tempted to weld all the way around the plate, to make it airtight and also just to give myself some more practice. But I remembered how glad I was that the tracks were only tacked on, and decided to do the next guy who works on this smoker a favor.

  2. #2
    Veteran Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    north shore MA.


    good call on not over welding. You would have likly warped the heck out of it.
    Dan H.

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