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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, equipment and outdoor cookin' . ** Other cooking techniques are welcomed for when your cookin' in the kitchen. Post your hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures, but stay on topic and watch for that hijacking.


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Old 09-28-2017, 06:05 AM   #1
bbqpitsmoker
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Default Yoder Wichita: My solution to its airflow/drafting issues

I am a Yoder Wichita customer, and have regularly experienced a range of issues related to how the pit drafts with symptoms including:

1. Smoke flowing backwards out of firebox intake damper instead of out of the stack

2. Inability to close the firebox door and maintain thin blue smoke out of the stack - within seconds of closing the door I typically get thick white smoke

3. Excessive fuel usage - The only option to achieve reasonable combustion and smoke quality has been to leave the firebox door open, and this approach wastes a lot of fuel via heat loss through the open firebox door.

4. The pit is in no way relaxing to use. Because of the insufficient draft the fire will regularly smoulder and even go out, which leaves soot on the food. I had regularly needed to come back every 15 mins or so to shift logs around to get them to burn, and occasionally even re-light a fire with kindling when the fire went out.

5. At times when the firebox door was left open to achieve combustion and the fire burned the logs down to coals, the large gaps in the expanded steel grate allows the coals to fall through the grate to the bottom of the firebox, and more than once I came back to a pit that was still reading a temp of 250F and upon opening the firebox found an empty charcoal grate with all the coals fallen through and then needed to build the fire again mid cook.


Similar to a few other forum members I decided to take on the challenge of trying to get the pit working the way I wanted it to, and am sharing my solution in the hope that it helps other Wichita customers be happier with their pit. Credit goes to the significant research done by Slamkeys - this research helped shape my thinking and approach here.


My goals/constraints for the modifications were:

1. The modifications need to be easily reversible in case I decide to sell the pit
2. No interest in cutting into the pit based on goal 1, but also in case the modification didn't work and I didn't want to be left in a worse position than I am now with an expensive pit.
3. I initially started off trying to get the pit working with the heat management plate installed but gave up. I found it limited the airflow too much, and to get the pit drafting to my liking would probably require cutting a new firebox air intake per Slamkeys approach previously posted here.
4. Conscious that one valid outcome is selling this pit and buying a different brand, so any solution needed to be cheap in terms of $ and also my time.
5. Didn't want to have to arrange for the pit to leave my house.


Modifications:

1. Completely block the upper firebox damper with a small flat piece of stainless steel sheet balanced between the door latch and the damper adjustment handle. This upper damper hole is far too high, and significantly contributes to the drafting issues.

2. Use the existing charcoal grate as a platform, for an additional surface to prevent coal prematurely falling through to the firebox floor. I initially used a sheet of perforated (not expanded) steel with something like quarter inch round holes evenly spaced throughout it, and after seeing how much of a positive difference it made I ended up having a charcoal basket fabricated that had a similar base to it. I use the basket for all fuels including log splits as well as charcoal. As well as the smaller holes on the base of the basket stopping coal falling through to prematurely lose the coal bed, the basket runs only half the width of the firebox so it helps me with the goal of running a small hot fire, as well as leaving room next to the basket to pre-heat splits (I have tried running cold splits as well and worked fine).

3. Replaced the chimney stack - A great feature of the Wichita is that the chimney stack is removable without any tools - it literally slides out. I did a bunch of research on drafting in smoker pits as well as wood burning stoves, and the thing that I saw again and again was people referring to the stack as the piece of the puzzle that generates the draft. Can't recall where but someone referred to the stack as the engine that pulls the air through the pit. I measured the stack as being approx 4" diameter, and 20" long, so had a replacement stack fabricated at 4" diameter and 40" long to 'increase the engine horsepower'.


The modifications listed above have left me significantly happier with the pit. I have used it in high wind blowing in various directions, and the smoke flows out the stack and doesn't reverse direction. The fuel burns steadily and at a slower rate. I easily achieve thin blue smoke and even shimmering vapor with the firebox door shut (and even remembering that the top intake damper is blocked), and can leave the pit for far longer without babysitting.

I previously had to start the pit with 2 charcoal baskets to achieve reasonable performance, and now I can start the pit without any charcoal at all.

My most recent fire lighting workflow in a car analogy was a standing start quarter mile sprint to see how hot I could quickly get it and maintain thin blue smoke:

No charcoal. Stacked a few small pieces of kindling with about 5 coke can width splits in the shape of a # above the kindling. Firebox door shut with top damper hole blocked. Lit the kindling and shut the top lid to the firebox. Within 25 minutes the pit went from ambient temperature to 350f on the temp gauge on the left of the firebox with a roaring fire and thin blue smoke out the stack.
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Old 09-28-2017, 06:23 AM   #2
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It's nice that you were able to get the Wichita to work for you. It would be ironic if the fixes that Yoder comes up with matched what you did on your own. I'm a little surprised you were able to double the length of the smoke stack, which was basically a guess, and got it to perform so well. I've heard that even a quarter inch one way or another can make a difference. If the stack is too long, the smoke has a chance to cool before it can escape and it begins to flow back into the pit. Anyway, you did a great job at working the problem. I lack the skill and knowledge to address the problem so I would have sold it or hoped Yoder would come through with a much overdo fix.
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Old 09-28-2017, 10:10 AM   #3
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So when are you going to permanently fix the door
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Old 09-28-2017, 10:34 AM   #4
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Well done. Sad it had to come to this but nice to see you find a way to be happy with your cooker.
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Old 09-28-2017, 11:38 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JokerBroker View Post
It's nice that you were able to get the Wichita to work for you. It would be ironic if the fixes that Yoder comes up with matched what you did on your own. I'm a little surprised you were able to double the length of the smoke stack, which was basically a guess, and got it to perform so well. I've heard that even a quarter inch one way or another can make a difference. If the stack is too long, the smoke has a chance to cool before it can escape and it begins to flow back into the pit. Anyway, you did a great job at working the problem. I lack the skill and knowledge to address the problem so I would have sold it or hoped Yoder would come through with a much overdo fix.
Just a 0.250" variance from any given length of a smoke stack won't make much of a difference. Besides, what is required for any column of air to be cooled to the point of lowering in the stack is dependent of constantly changing variables, not the least of which is humidity.
Any presence of air which is warmer than ambient will be less dense and will rise, but the rate can indeed slow.
Fortunately, there is, relatively speaking, considerable leeway in the length of a properly working stack or fireplace chimney, otherwise a calculation could be made for the perfect working length, but then the atmosphere surrounding the stack would be required to remain constant.
Stack length can be too short as well as too long to be effective for any given heat range and stack diameter, but the workable length component between the two will typically be greater than 0.250 for something as large as any smoker is sure to be. Doubling the length of the stack, if the original length was even partially effective, may very well have a dramatic influence on flow and velocity.
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Old 09-28-2017, 12:11 PM   #6
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0.250" never seemed significant to me either which is why it struck me when Aaron Franklin said it does at around the 12:00 minute mark of the video below. After listening to it again however, I think he was referring the placement of the smoke stack rather than its length. He does discuss the importance of length around the 19:40 mark.

The link seems to come and go in my post. I don't know if there is a rule against posting YouTube videos or if it is a glitch. The video is called BBQ with Franklin - The Pits

BBQ With Franklin - The Pits - YouTube
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Old 09-28-2017, 08:12 PM   #7
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So when are you going to permanently fix the door
Do you mean so i dont have to use the stainless steel plate to block the damper? If so yep totally want to do that. Plan is to get a replacement damper wheel fabricated with the top hole missing to just bolt on to the door with existing hardware. Hopefully won’t cost too much.
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Old 09-28-2017, 09:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbqpitsmoker View Post
Plan is to get a replacement damper wheel fabricated with the top hole missing to just bolt on to the door with existing hardware. Hopefully won’t cost too much.
I would hold off until you see the fix Yoder has come up with. It sounds like it isn't far off since current builds are starting to include the modification. With any luck, you might get it for free.
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Old 09-28-2017, 10:04 PM   #9
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$2,000+ for a smoker that simply does not work. This would be my fix. I would be irate. Not sure why people continue to tolerate Yoder and come up with excuses for them. Even the $150 Char Broil guys don't have to come up with as many mods and excuses.
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Old 09-28-2017, 10:12 PM   #10
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Is everyone who owns one of these pitts having trouble? I mean it is Oz, even the toilets swirl backwards when you flush :)

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Old 09-29-2017, 01:21 AM   #11
bbqpitsmoker
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Silly me should have occured to me- the fire isn’t smouldering and going out because of drafting issues; its just them pesky kangaroos and koalas sneaking up and blowing out the fire........
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Old 09-29-2017, 02:02 AM   #12
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Can we get pics? I'm building a pit right now with almost the same dimensions as the Wichita except stack size. But I'm stumped on what to do with my air intake design.
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Old 09-29-2017, 05:33 AM   #13
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Can we get pics? I'm building a pit right now with almost the same dimensions as the Wichita except stack size. But I'm stumped on what to do with my air intake design.
Glad to be any help I can be, however if you are looking for an air intake to use for inspiration (copy) I would suggest/plead/beg you not to copy that of the Wichita. From all accounts the horizon 20” pit has virtually identical dimensions and the air intake damper actually works without being modified. Personally though my favourite air intake is on the LSG offsets. It is a common sense design and mechanism and sits so low down on the firebox that it would really help to promote a natural draft.
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Old 09-29-2017, 07:13 AM   #14
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Slamkeys is the thorn in Yoder side! He has written on this site and others and he has professional grade mods on his Wichita. Slamkeys, where are you amigo?!?
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Old 09-29-2017, 07:25 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbqpitsmoker View Post
Do you mean so i dont have to use the stainless steel plate to block the damper? If so yep totally want to do that. Plan is to get a replacement damper wheel fabricated with the top hole missing to just bolt on to the door with existing hardware. Hopefully won’t cost too much.
You could have a piece of metal cut to fit the opening, same thickness. Then welded into the opening instead of a whole new wheel. Welded from the inside, you shouldn't even notice it once done. Just a thought.
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