Acts of Manliness: How to Refurbish or Recondition a BBQ Smoker
So you want to recondition or refurbish your old smoker? So do I.
We’ve put together this walk through on how we worked on this old smoker and hopefully it will serve as a guide for any of you out there who are thinking about the same thing. I was given BBQ smoker by a friend of mine that needed some serious TLC as it had sat outside exposed to the elements for years. After setting forth a game plan, I engaged a buddy of mine at PowersGaming who has experience in doing this and we documented the process as a tutorial for all to see.
*Note: Some of you may ask “Why can’t I just use spray cans?” The answer to that is you will use waaaay too many and it won’t look as good.
What you need: (If you don’t have all of these tools ask your friends, all are good investments for future projects though).
Flexible (thin) 1 1/2″ putty knife
Orbital Sander (like here.)
10-12 Orbital Sand Paper pads (80 grit garnet stick on pads)
Regular Sand Paper
Paint: Rust-Oleum High Heat (we only needed 1 Qt)
Air Compressor (borrow it from a friend)
Spray Gun (Kobalt HVLP) ($50 or borrow it from a friend)
Wood (we used Red Oak)
Wood Stain (your choice, we went with Cherry and Pecan stain mixed)
Tarp, or Canvas Drop Cloth
First things first is that you need to remove all the hardware that can be removed from the smoker. We also removed the old rotting wood handles and shelf. Next you want to put down a drop cloth or tarp and put your smoker over that as you don’t want to get paint or any of the other garbage you’re removing from the smoker where you’re working.
Hardware removed. Notice the darker spots on the grill little dark circles here and there, that’s grease and oil. After you have scraped all the rough spots off, take a cloth or rag and some paint thinner and rub those spots to remove them as best possible as they will effect the paint bonding. Make sure to change rags often if it’s a mess.
Next you need to scrape the rough bits, loose rust, paint etc off the outside (inside as well if you’re bored.) But we’re not painting the inside. I’m using a 1 1/2 putty knife that is good and flexible.
Because of the age and deterioration of this smoker, we removed the rusted out door in the smoke box. (Sawzall pictured with metal cutting blade).
Cut a new piece to replace the rusted out part. Using metal shears to make this cut on some stainless.
Then we used a belt sander to smooth out the rough edges of the replacement piece.
Install the replacement piece screwing into the remaining good sheet metal.
Use a random orbital sander to sand down the grill – you’ll go through 10-12 pads.
You want to sand down the grill but don’t expose too metal because you need the paint to bond. Where the orbital sander doesn’t get, use regular sand paper to get between the cracks and crevices.
Here is what it looked like after sanding. We decided to move it into the shade so it doesn’t heat up in direct sunlight and work on cutting the replacement wood. This is a good time to blow off all that dust that you sanded off. Take an air compressor at 100psi and blow off the whole pit up close.
3 replacement pieces cut for the shelf, a center support, 3 handles (we made extras just in case). Then sanded them down.
Mounted and tested to verify it worked ok, drilled out the holes. In the middle we measured and installed our middle support piece. We countersunk the screws on this as well.
Next we drilled holes for the replacement handles and test fit them.
Last with the wood for now, we stained the wood, and then let it dry overnight. To stain, use a lint free cloth for best results.
Finally the painting
Don’t paint in direct sun when the metal is really hot; paint won’t have time to bond or stick b/c it’s drying too fast. Try for as low of a humidity day as well, some areas of the country that’s just not possible though.
Now mask off all the stuff you don’t want to paint. In this case we removed all the hardware with the exception of the temperature gauge. We masked that off with tape.
You need to mix your paint first with some thinner to thin it out: the suggested mix is 3 capfuls thinner to 1 qt of paint. The compressor you want to use about 55psi to blow the paint on so if you had turned it up to 100psi to blow off the dust earlier bring it back down.
The 1st coat should always be a “mist” or tack coat to help bond the remaining coats; from there on it should be thick enough to cover, but not be thick enough to run. You never want to hold the sprayer still when painting, always keep it moving across the surface. This will minimize any runs or buildup. To conserve paint, think first how you can paint one side of it, then come back and paint another getting the bits you may have missed; thinking 3-dimensionally on painting.
Once that first coat is on, give it a couple minutes and then apply a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th coats. The last coat will be a bit thicker as it will give it that satin look.
Here is what the smoker looked like after its final coat. Now you wait about a week for the paint to cure and bond to the metal.
Coming back to the wood pieces. The next day the stain was dry, it was time to sand again with light sand paper and then apply 2-3 coats of boat varnish to help water/weather proof the wood, and to give it more of a shine. Once you’ve completed a couple coats, its time to mount these pieces onto the smoker and put the remaining hardware back in place.
And now a final picture. Hardware is remounted. You want to build a light fire in this and bring the temperature to around 200 degrees to make sure the paint is bonded correctly. If you were to start your first fire up and jack it up to 500 or 600 degress you might see bubbling up of the paint. This is why you do a lower temperature fire just to help cure.
Think your finished? Not just yet. How about those grates you cook on? Time to clean them off.
After I got off the main grime with a plain old wire brush, it was time to break out the grinder and grind off the remaining stuff and the extra rust if any.
Now you coat the grates with oil (olive oil) on both sides and put in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour. Allow them to cool over night, put into the pit or smoker put another coat of olive oil on and build a fire and bring it up to 450, then let cool over night. Once complete you’ll have re-seasoned grates that your food won’t stick to.
And that’s it. Hope this helps, if you have any more questions just comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them.