Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

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Nauglanch
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Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Nauglanch » March 3rd, 2018, 7:42 pm

First thanks for the gracious welcome! http://www.smokerbuilder.com/forums/vie ... =48&t=6437 This is my first contribution.

This will instruct you on how I resurrected and supercharged a Little Chief smoker. This would work equally as well for a Big Chief smoker.

My neighbor, who's known for his smoked salmon and other delicacies, recently gave me one of his extra Luhr Little Chief smokers. Yes! I've been hooked for a while - but mostly enjoying the process and results at a friend's house. Enabled!

Well after two batches of smoking and drying jerkey - she started tripping the GFCI! I'm an electrical guy - no biggie! Yes I found a wire touching. I also found very brittle cracked, and largely ruined insulation on the wires. While I was trying to re-orient them - one of them broke off of the round Chromalox element. No real way to re-attach - and it seemed and measured weak ( well below 250W ). I contacted smokehouse products, the current owner of the brand, and "that smoker is 40 years old and it's been a decade or two since that element has been available." Well darn!

Well the current model parts are $20 for the element and $20 for the plug. Cheaper than a new unit but I'd also ran across a hot plate hack. So for similar work I could juice it up and for less cost.

So I headed to WallyWorld, picked up a cheap $11 hot plate and here we go!

Similar builds parted out the donor hot plate - but when I disassembled the donor and it's clamshell design - it just screamed sandwiching the bottom shelf with the top and bottom of the hot plate. With appropriate cutouts of course.

The next part will be largely a pictorial essay with a few comments here and there.

This is the dead smoker with the donor hot plate:
20180303_113025 (Medium).jpg
Chisling off the old round element mount. Yes, It's a wood chisel. Use what you've got then sharpen it up!
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Scoping out the build. Where's it go? Use a sharpie and cut until it fits!
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So you sharpie it up with the calibrated eyeball as you go. Re-calibrating the eyeball as you go and re-trimming.
20180303_121434 (Medium).jpg
Note now that I've trimmed out the cutouts. It's near time to start hooking up the power cord. But a lot as transpired!

The thing here is to keep eyeballing, sharpie, cut, re-check. Looking for interference, places for wires to rub, clearances needed.

In this case pre-checking showed that while (1) the clamshell was nice, (2) the controls would line up in a reasonable enough spot. This also guided the placement and final cuts - the control needed to be essentially outside - but the clamshell pieces reasonably fit.

You'll also note two items. I found the WallyWorld clamshell design to be squirrly when not interlocked. So I took a cutout scrap, drilled a hole, and riveted it to the center to lock the hot plate in place. Good deal eh? Well, kinda. This mostly fixed it - but the hot plate halves would still rotate - and this could cause wiring issues as well as control knob shaft issues. So slightly down, down, to the left you'll see a rivet I drilled and popped all the way through from bottom to top. This locks the rotation. The central bolt pulls it tight and the rivet locks the rotation.

Now as noted cuts done and fixing to wire. The Little Chief used wire nuts - but at 1000 watts and in the "heat zone" I wanted crimp connectors. I complemented that with some heat shrink over each connection except ground. On that note the Wally World is a two wire so I re-used a 3 wire cord for safety.
20180303_142116 (Medium).jpg
Wiring is hooked up, crimped, heat shrinked. I love that crimper! Do yourself a favor and buy that set. Just do it and you'll be so happy you'll want to fax me a beer!
20180303_144104 (Medium).jpg
The bottom just clamshells on and tightens with the single bottom bolt. We dont see that. But I did use both the strain relief in the hot plate. And added a strain relief in the back of the smoker. No sharp edges. Nothing to pull loose. I didn't need to use a waterproof fitting on the smoker itself - but that was all I had. Works. Done.

So here's a top view showing the hot plate inside.
20180303_145626 (Medium).jpg
And a final view. Note the small cutout for the control knob. QED!
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This was a nce morning's work.

How does she run? Well like a 350 in a mini cooper! It's really a totally different smoker now. With some basic experimentation she's hard to get below 210 or so. Good for Low 'n Slow but not so good for colder smokes and jerkey. So I may need the router speed controller to drop the raw power down to 250-500 watts. And/or run one of my PID controllers. Well I've seen it down to 150-160 but that's on "1" and seems tenuous.

It's also hard to manage smoke - as with any high power element in a small(er) box - the element just isn't on long enough to maintain smoke in an electric. So I anticipate running an AMPS and for this a tube.

I'm pondering some heavy tiles on the bottom "drip tray" for thermal regulation. And maybe a cast iron skillet on top of this burner. For pellets, water, sands, pellets, whatever.

I'm typing this as the meat is thawing - so it'll be tomorrow that I'll give it a real run with smoke. She'll have a learnng curve but I'm confident she'll serve me well.

So if you've got an old smoker with no replacement parts - or just wanting to supercharge yours - well - here are some ideas.

Thanks for listening and I'll post some foodie pics tomorrow after 1st real smoke. And of course monitor and discuss. Love your thoughts, comments, sugestions.

Mike

P.S. On my computer all these pictures are normal/upright - also as taken by my camera. I did use Image Resize (from this form). I do not know why they're rotated by the site - nor how to solve that. Let me know and I'll fix that right away! [edit:} I think I understand the pictures. Since they zoom to correct orientation I tink the site is stacking them sideways - perhaps to conserve presentation room. Not sure. They zoom fine.
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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Weldun » March 3rd, 2018, 8:03 pm

That's cool, my first smoker was a little chief hand me down from the in laws 30 years ago. Wish I would have kept it.


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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Big T » March 4th, 2018, 12:35 am

Cool little project :beer:


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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Pete Mazz » March 4th, 2018, 4:59 am

:beer: :beer: :beer:


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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Nauglanch » March 4th, 2018, 9:18 pm

Playing around with it during the day - wide temperature swings. Centered about 210 to 215 - and in a stiff 60's breeze even. But it would shoot up to 280-300 and if opened drop to 150 and take minutes to start warming up. I think due to the shielded bi-metallic thermostat buried in the bottom.

I think it's too much power (can it be?) for the small chassis. And I hadn't acquired any heat sink tiles or such. In part I might lose the bottom rack if I had anything but a couple tiles in the drip dray.

So I got out the router speed controller - and the Kill-A-Watt meter.

I started running it at half - and it settled in at 180F or so with good stability. This is good as it means I can again use this Little Chief as it was originallly intended - 165F or so. And yet with good power and recovery as well.

I then cranked the controller up to max .... and noticed the watt meter didn't change. Nope. From half to full it stayed at 450 Watts (!) I am guessing it was going into a safe mode self limiting - perhaps being designed for "15 A" into an inductive load (Router) but not capable of that into a resistive load.

What that means is that with this router speed controler at least - I only have zero to half power - 500W OR a solid 1000 watts.

So until I can sort out a variable 500-1000 watts (maybe a different brand controller?) or break out one of my epoxy composite curing oven controllers (K-Type ,PIC) I'll have to run it in "original mode". That's not a bad thing. It's just not yet a traditional "low and slow" but a "way low and way slow" original mode.

First test run - just a couple of pork chops. Half power (500W) via router speed controller stabilized at 180F; AMNPS 6" tube for smoke.
20180304_180644 (Medium).jpg
My wife was famished and ate one before I could take a picture of both of them. Still looking tasty. And they were.
20180304_195246-1 (Medium).jpg
Still to look at - cast iron skillet or pan for buffer (if there is room between burner and drip tray) - and/or heavy tiles to go in the drip tray.

So all in all a good run and lessons learned.
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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Nauglanch » March 16th, 2018, 9:21 pm

To temper and also survive the higher wattage element I wanted to be able to use a cast iron pan instead of the thin chip pan.

An 8" pan is a good fit over the burner while leaving some room on the side if a plellet smoke tube is needed.

The 8" pan won't fit in the Little Chief door - so the opening must be enlarged and a new door made.

For working on an existing chasses as "nibbler" is a great way to cut out metal. It's a bit tedious but it doesn't bend the metal and will make sharp corners and mild curves.

I had a bit of a challenge in the lower side corners due to the new burner interfering with the nibbler. I used my sharp chisel and a mallet to crease and thin the aluminum finger (left by the nibbler). Then just work it back and forth until it snaps at the seam. Then sharpen the chisel again!

Whenever working with sheet metal always be very careful in handling and particularly to smooth and de-burr the edges. Plumbing cutting cloth is good for this.
20180316_175658 (Medium).jpg
All I had for a new door was a scrap section of rain diverter channel. Since it was painted black with non high temp paint I put that on the outside. Maybe I'll paint it.

I moved the pan handle cutout to line up with the thermostat cutout.
20180316_192913 (Medium).jpg
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Test run.
20180316_200614 (Medium).jpg
The door seals up nicely. Since the door stays up when opened I'll refrain from adding a knob.

At 55F, no wind outside, it reached 225 F inside at 450 watts on the router speed controller (max on the controller). Somewhat of a surprise getting that high (it was 180F max in a breezy 40F). But in range of low and slow - esp in warmer weather.

This weekend will be a good trial. I've a fattie rolled up for the Boy Scout Crossover ceremony, a rack of baby backs for the family, and a slab of bacon just finished curing. I'll need several runs for all that meat. So as I've known this will end up the small-job smoker. But for now this Little Chief will now smoke (normal) low and slow.
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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Big T » March 16th, 2018, 9:27 pm

:LG:


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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Dirtytires » March 17th, 2018, 12:00 am

Nice to get it back on line!



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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Nauglanch » March 17th, 2018, 8:06 pm

First run after the cast iron door mod. Apple wood smoke on a fatty and 3# of bacon. First time ever for me for both.
20180317_150948 (Medium).jpg
I brought a fatty log to the grill masters at the Boy Scout Crossover ceremony and it didn't last long. A slab of the bacon will be for leader breakfast next weekend at the Scout Skills campout.

Tomorrow i run the rest of the bacon 6# of a maple cure and a rack of baby back ribs.

It is amazing how fast one runs into capacity issues requiring multiple runs - even with what seems like a relatively small amount of meat! Bigger! More!
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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Big T » March 17th, 2018, 8:54 pm

:needfood: :needfood: :needfood: :needfood: :needfood:
:LG:


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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Rodcrafter » March 17th, 2018, 8:57 pm

Seems like a great problem to have.


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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Dirtytires » March 18th, 2018, 12:21 am

Yep...we start out slow and quickly outgrow our capacity. Or, do we just acquire more friends.



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Re: Resurrected Little Chief - Supercharged!

Post by Nauglanch » March 18th, 2018, 10:49 pm

Outgrow? Yup. the remainder 6# of the 10# slab of bacon required a run of it's own. No room or time for the baby backs and the wife had book club anyway. Tuesday and I don't think the ribs can wait past then! Well time for sauce recipe research.

Still working on some overt control over 450 to 1000 watts and I think that will be a heatermeter controlling and SSD rather than a fan. I have Ramp Soak PID controllers for composites but I always like (in the end) dedicated controllers. So I'll use PID next one of my ramp/soak composite curing controllers while build out the Heater meter and an companion SSSD for the 1000 watt element. Should be perfect..

And for capacity pondering what next. The "Mini" I think maybe too big and too heavy for the deck. Think the wife might not like the UDS so still pondering a cabinet of some sort. I previously was pondering a MES but was also admonished by friends that I had a Millermatic 175 and why the heck wasn't I using it.True! Some freebie resturaunt SS under cabinet fridges as possibilities.

So there I am. I think this hot rodded Little Chief will fill the gap, and for esp single meal smoking capacity, but I agree I should use the Millermatic and some project to build something rather than buy. After all I can consume lots of lubricant (beers, scotch), monitoring the Little Chief, while pondering the next build - Millermatic Style. Oh yeah, I do have access to Tig (no experience) and a plastma cutter. So some options. Thoughts?

In the meant time - the remainder 6+ # of the bacon. fully loading the Little Chief (Capacity!) Done. See Pic. And the ribs will wait.

The 18oz of bacon is going to the scout leaders, as will the 2nd half of the Fatty, for the Boy Scout New Skills campout this coming weekend. Should be fun. I teach knots and orienteering and will be cooking a Dutch Oven Ropa de Viejo for leaders as an example for the new scouts. Later, the Sanke keg conversion smoker but that won't be ready in time.

As a site note - thermometer hell! I was banking on the Polder. But it had a replacement sensor and It somewhat seemed "low". Well a ThermoPro and one of my other thermometers signalled the Polder seemed 13F or so lo (!)

Well right now I figure it's a tie. Polder and a meat thermometer generally agree. Another meat thermometer and the Thermo agree. I'm inclined to go with the other esp since the Polder sensor is not originoal. Tomorrow or Tuesday I'll verify against my Omega K kit. Bur URGH on inconsistent thermometers. So check them all and sort them out!

Thanks for thoughts and enjoy! Mike
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