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Unread 06-13-2009, 03:17 AM   #3354
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Join Date: 06-10-09
Location: ST LOUIS, MO
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Default Day 2 - Beginning with the Night Before

My head reeled with thoughts about what remained to be done on my Drum Smoker 1.0. I wanted to be ready for the weekend ahead, yet something back in the recesses of my 2-Martini nightcap mind, something I couldn't quite place, kept me from falling asleep. The weather forecast for the next 5 or so days included rain in each one of them. That would certainly dampen my efforts to be ready to fire up the Sumo Pig Smoker this weekend. Only a couple of days away ... What was it? Then it struck me. The lid. The damn misfit lid. What page or pages did I read in this BBQ Brethren thread that dealt with fitting a misfit lid? Two hundred and twenty-three pages; studied, analyzed, catergorized, consumed. But so much information. So many details. So many approaches, always with a slight variation. Who can remember? I could've been more methodical. I could've taken notes. But how was I to know I'd be the victim of a non-standard dimensioned drum. It was brand new. It was supposed to fit. Could I hack the top of the drum off like so many suggested? Should I turn it upside down and hack off the bottom? Who am I kidding? I've got a rusty hacksaw and a self-inflicted wound from the expanded metal. Cutting anything other than a juicy slice of slow cooked pork loin just wasn't likely to happen. Solution-less, I fell into an uneasy sleep.

Morning came too early as I fought away the fact that I had an employer who could care less about my BBQ problems and aspirations. Contrary to the weather forecast (I live in the midwest, where life is always contrary to the prevailing weather forecast), the storm was over, the sun was out. It was going to be a great day ... but I had to go to work. This would have been a great day to work on the Sumo Pig Smoker!

Coffee thermos in hand, I made one parting glance at my work-in-progress project before trudging off to work. Maybe I could squeeze in some time to quickly scan the volume of forum postings for a glimmer of hope, a solution to my misfitting lid problem. Did any of the postings have recommendations for someone as totally inept as me for fixing this project-stopping problem without using a welding torch, a (doesn't everyone own a steel metal drum ...) edge grinder, a Weber lid elonnnnger??? Years of schooling; a lifetime of arguably some very cool life experiences; above-average intelligence (well yeah, that's admittedly a somewhat biased opinion) -- where was the post about just whacking the holy heck out of the drum lid (or was it the kettle lid?) and I don't even own a sledge hammer. Maybe I could use a really heavy office stapler; or a Hollerith keypunch machine; or a PC Junior -- not much use for those things these days!

Arriving at work, I knew I had to rapidly, and ever so discreetly, wade through over 200 pages of Brethren postings in hopes of finding that all-important answer. Injections, mustard slathers, closely guarded rubs. None of it mattered if I couldn't finish my drum. You can't maintain a constant 220* for 10 hours on a Weber kettle or a Remco toaster oven.

Post by post I weeded thru the stories; the successes; the failures; the great new ideas; the ideas -- not so great. Fixing the misfitting lid - a litany of solutions, they were all there; some requiring the exacting knowledge of a mechanical engineer; some, the tool arsenal of McDonnell-Douglas (oh yeah, I remember, it's Boeing now); some, the fortuitous discovery of an old John Deere spare part waiting to be discovered in a friendly neighbor's storehouse of treasures barn. In the end, it all came down to this: rip-sawing, torching, grinding, chiseling, bending and smashing ... and all for the love of a juicy, smoked, succulent, secret filling inside, fattie. Not much of a decision when you come down to it -- at least not for me. I drove by Rolla School of Mines a few times in my life -- I'm sure I could drink as much, and as fast, as anyone attending school there -- but I never have had, nor do I have to this day, that kind of enviable aptitude. I've used a soldering gun a few times -- but had I gone to welding school, I'm certain I would've flunked (and probably injured myself in the process!). Grinding and chiseling: sounds like a lot of work -- and I'm over budget after dropping over a hundred dollars on parts and tools at Lowes yesterday. Sometimes life can be amazingly simple. The obvious path for me was bending and smashing. Primitive to be sure but, in my life experience, has had acceptable results more often than not.

Despite the ominous weather forecast, the sun burned bright. Even in the shade ou could fry a slab of bacon on the hood of your (insert vehicle of choice here). The local (dare I say overpaid, given their occasional-at-best accuracy) meteorolgists continued to guarantee more storms -- later in the day (just after work, I presumed). Looking ahead to a evening of pounding and slamming, and pulverizing my Weber lid into blissful submission beckoned me -- but like so many late night innings at Busch Stadium -- my victory threatened to be -- rain-delayed.

Time crawled as I silently cursed my decision not to take a day of overdue vacation time. Each nano-second found me checking my watch like someone who just can't keep from lifting the lid and checking the appearance and internal temperature of a competition-worthy boneless butt roast only 45 minutes into the cooking process.

At long last, as with all days in my life experience, this (work) day came to an end. As I drove home it occurred to me that my wife didn't even raise a complaint or eyebrow about the parts, the tools, or my time spent last night on the backyard patio. Life is good.

Hello my darling wife. Now -- first order of business. Rummaging through my scarely-ever-used toolbox I found what I was looking for. Sure, I owned a claw-hammer; a magnetic one too; even a heavy duty one I used to chip away faux-stone for a garden retaining wall; but, before I resorted to barbaric means, I sought -- and found -- a more elegant solution: I can't remember the last time I used it; or why I even owned it, for that matter; but there it was, a civilized, elegant, dare I say refined, approach to the problem -- a humble, un-pretentious, hardly-ever-considered for truly manly work, rubber mallet. So I thought, why not -- I can always bring out the heavy duty smashing and slamming tools later if I have to.

I chose the worse-for-wear lid from the two Webers I recently acquired figuring: If I screw this one up, I've stil got another I can persuade or pay someone more skilled than I to customize. And so I began, not without trepidation, to flatten the neatly rolled edge of the Weber lid with ... a rubber mallet. To my total amazement, and great relief, the soft metal of the kettle lid easily, and with very little coaxing, flattened against my solid, anvil-serving concrete patio. Around the circumfrence of the Weber lid, quickly ... skillfully, I tapped -- and smashed the kettle lip flush to the patio surface below. All the worry, all the concern, all the dread, and for what? This was child's-play. So easy, a caveman could do it. Head tilting and level to the ground, I scrutinized the hammered surface for slight imperfections. At last satisfied, I placed the newly-fashioned lid onto the waiting steel drum. Sevens. A perfect fit. Not even the slightest crevice for unwelcome air to pass through. But hey, says I -- let's go the Full Monty and bend the flat edge of the Weber lid evenly around the solid rolled edge of the waiting-to-be-Christened solid steel drum. A dicey move for someone as mechanically challenged as me -- yet my confidence urged me on. And once again I was rewarded. Snugging up the lid around the lip of the drum was as easy as scoring on prom night. With only but a minimum of effort, a civilized tool, and a gentle approach, the problem that haunted me the night before was laid to rest. Quickly, near effortlessly, another seeming challenge was overcome. Brethren pearls of wisdom echoed in my mind - "keep it simple." And simple it's been. Even me, mechanically challenged (that's putting it lightly), ill-equipped (instead of Sears, I spent all my extra change on booze, chasing women -- unsuccessfully, for the most part, and the latest kitchen and, yes, computer gizmos and gadgets that bent, broke, or became obsolete long before a reliable Craftsman or Stanley began to show early signs of wear (sorry for the lame commercial references -- it's just not my thing). The important thing about this rambling paragraph is that "You CAN do it!" It's easy ... it's gratifying ... it's fun ... (myself excluded) it's cheap ... and it's personal. Your very own "I built it myself" highly efficient, super capcity, ugly as sin, drum smoker.

And you can change or modify it any way you like. To my point, a modest and all-together unnecessary, yet chance to make it my own, modification yet remained. Quickly I eyeballed the placement of two shiny garage door handles to install onto my now nearly-complete (version 1.0) Sumo Pig Smoker. Dewalt and Unibit in hand, handles (and my modest, first customization is in place -- did I mention I purchased some honker motorcycle muffler extensions to use as exhausts for version 2.0?).

Plenty of daylight left (and, no rain happening or eminent). After a quick downsizing of the mounts for the upper grill (I knew that someday I would rely on that bulwark hacksaw). Then, down to the laundry room to cop a handful of Tide and a bucket of water. A thorough washing, rinsing, and air drying with my handy leaf-blower (Gee, I never realized how many useful and versatile tools I own!) and it's "seasoning time." My thoughts flashed back to the years of my early (well, maybe not so early) teens as I heavily smeared on globs of Crisco to the inside walls of the anticipating, virgin steel drum. And then, SHOWTIME!!!

First, I started a half-full chimney of brickets, then unscrewed the caps of the iron intake pipes, adjusting the ball valve to full open. Next, I dumped 10 pounds of Kingsford (that I was looking for an excuse to get rid of) into my fire ring and lowered it into the drum. Waiting for the coals in the chimney to flame and glow, I wire-brushed more of the grime and crud off of the less-than-shiny-new grills soon to be positioned on their mounting bolts. Coals glowing, I dumped the contents of the chimney into the center of the fire ring (sparks flew as I was reminded of the suggestion to employ a length of removeable stovepipe to funnel hot coals to the fire ring below). Proudly I put the lower, then upper grills in place and seated the custom-fitted lid on top of my creation. The seasoning, and the beginning, had just begun.

So yeah, I've read it a hundred times before ... and I don't aim to disappoint ... Where are the pictures???

It's 3:00 a.m. (St. Louis time) and the photos have been uploaded to my laptop (I'm on my desktop ... and did I mention, it's 3:00 a.m.???) so pictures will be posted with my next post. Meanwhile, I've got to get up early because, earlier, I slathered and rubbed a 12 pound pork loin and a 10 pound brisket for Sumo Pig Smoker's innaugural cook. (I should mention that during the seasoning I monitored the temps, and she held steady at 220* as long I liked ... then I let her rip to a blistering 500+ (buried the gauge) before shutter her down for the night).

So tomorrow morning (today, actually) will come early, and needless to say, I'm so pumped I'll probably have a hard time falling asleep (despite the assistance of a six-pack and an open half bottle of cheap red wine which I blame for any typos or misspellings in this post).

I'll post photos soon (did I fail to mention that Sumo Pig Smoker is fairly ugly?) along with some pron from todays first trial.

I'll be seeing y'all soon, wranglers!
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