I have posted this in some other threads, but since it is getting close to finished I thought I would make a dedicated thread.
A few years ago, after having a couple gas grills, I was introduced to the chimney starter at a friends BBQ. The ease and quickness of starting coals with a chimney eliminated the only real roadblock I had with charcoal cooking as I had never had good luck getting the coals going consistently and in a timely enough manner in my previous attempts while camping or picnicking.
About 2.5 years ago, my wife bought me my first Kettle (22.5 OTG) and from that day for the next year or so, it sat beside my Wal-mart special SS gas grill as it rotted away, never to be used again. The gasser would eventually be sold in a garage sale at a bargain basement price just to get it out of the way of my Kettle.
I had moderate success turning out steaks and pork chops while grilling on the Kettle but it wasn't until I figure out how to configure it for smoking that I really began to love that little guy. The food, the process, the smell, the satisfaction!
I had never done cooking on it for more than a handful of people though with large cuts like butts and briskets. Once I tried ribs on it I started to realize I was going to need something bigger if I ever wanted to make ribs for a decent sized party.
Thus began the search for a smoker with enough grate space but a small enough footprint to not monopolize my new grill space we had made when we did a patio cover and patio extension. (see link to patio discussion
I knew I wanted to learn an offset, so I began looking for a vertical offset. As I looked for local fabricators to minimize shipping costs, I stumbled across Lone Star Grillz and really dug their designs for the vertical smokers. I didn't love the price tag or the potential shipping prices from Houston! :O I was just getting into this game and never dreamed the prices of some of these rigs. To the back burner this went and I started looking at WSM's and UDS's but never liked the idea of rack-trapped food. I had borrowed an ECB for a while and just learned that, IME, it was a pain in the ass.
A few months ago, another new Brethren member, bvbull200
, who I know from a new era GTO forum we are members of, found a NB Bandera for a steal and in need of some TLC. He posted about it on the GTO forum and it caught my eye. It was the style I was looking for and at a low price of entry. We both searched CL for a while and found some decent candidates but all required a bit more TLC than I was equipped to handle since I have no welding equipment. I also found a nice custom smoker in a similar style but with a bit smaller firebox but without the grill top on the firebox side and a shallower smokebox. It was nice, just didn't have everything I wanted.
That same day I looked at the custom one above, I stumbled across a CL ad for a local fabricator (AJ's Custom Cookers
). I checked out the pics of stuff he had done and like what I saw, so I shot him an email describing what I wanted and what my budget was. He emailed back and said we could work within or around my budget and get me exactly what I want, so we met up, and worked up this design based on the features I liked from the rigs I had been looking at for about half to 2/3rds of the cost. I did decide to go with 3/16" plate instead of 1/4" and that was a nice chunk of the savings. I'm in Texas...that's all the thermal mass I need, right!!!! :)
The build is 3.5 weeks in from the sketch and down payment and looking at another 1.5 to go.
The pics below show the sketch we worked up together and then the progress pics he posted up last night.
I am super excited as you can guess and have been spending WAY too much time on this site trying to learn as much as I can about cooking on an offset since I have NEVER experienced it. I am thankful for the experience that everyone has shared on this forum and I think it has given me a good foundation to start from once this bad boy gets picked up next weekend!!!
He told me no more pics until it is finished...the tease!
The small shelf on the outside of the smokebox and the holes for temp probes will be on the non-firebox side, it was just shown on that side so he didn't have to draw the other side elevation.