Home Up Join MVPA! Flag Code 45th/Thunderbirds A Major Mess Sgt. Mess Pvt. Mess General Mess Mini MB



Major  Mess



I've got to quit building all these pits with military ranks - it's starting to get confusing which is which!

So here's the fourth shot at a trailered bbq pit and this one will be (hopefully) the last for a very long time.  I'm part of an internet bbq forum over at TexasBBQRub.com and have met a great bunch of guys and gals with a common thread between all of us.  That would be the love for low and slow cooking, ie: about 225*F with the meats rubbed and wood burned for smoke flavor.  As you may have read, I started out with my first attempt using an older M416 trailer I restored but couldn't bring myself to cut a tailgate in it.  Then I built Private Mess which was stolen, and then Sergeant Mess which is still on Active Duty with the Lonestar-MVPA historic military vehicle club.  That brings me to the building of "The Major".

Brent, a buddy I met on the forum had a 150 gallon propane tank in his backyard he built into an awesome smoker a while back.  Since he completed "Trinity", a monster of a trailered pit, he had no use for the one in the back yard.  I got a message he was interested in moving it out along with a smaller 4'x8' trailer he had for yet another project.  Needless to say, I jumped on the opportunity.  So, here's the story of the build of "A Major Mess".

06/11/2006 (Sunday - 10.00hrs/10.00hrs total)
Well, we got it mounted!  I met Brent at his place about 9am on what was to be a very hot Sunday.  He had already plucked the pit from his backyard with his tractor and had the pit out front just sitting on the little 4x8 trailer ready for us to attack it.  After pulling out a few tools to remove the old rotten wood and misc. hangers and just "looking" at it, we decided to just set it in place and see what needed to be done.  Brent said every time I fired up his Hypetherm PowerMax 600 Plasma cutter I had a grin on my face from ear-to-ear and was actually laughing as I made the cuts.  This tool is amazing in how clean and fast it cuts.  His is rated at continuous 5/8" or it can sever 7/8".

We originally had the firebox hanging off the tail, but the trailer was tail-heavy and that wouldn't work.  So we picked the pit up and moved it forward resting the firebox inside the trailer and the tongue weight was considerably heavier, but still manageable to roll it around by hand with one person.  Once we got it where we wanted, we began to center and level the pit on the trailer.  Once it was secured in place we began some neat modifications including the addition of a 2" drain nipple, cutting the baffle plate and welding in a fixed plate, the addition of two more tuning plates on new rails, and slide stops for the food racks.  This was also the first time I've used a wire-feed welding unit.  His MillerMatic 210 is a MIG system using Argon gas.  Talk about a clean, fast weld.  WOW.  Makes me never want to use a stick welder again.

About 7pm, it was time to call it a day.  We put some temporary lights on the trailer and I headed out to the inlaws place where I would finish the build there.  This time, the pit has several chains, a tongue lock and several hidden game cameras pointing to it so thieves beware!

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The pit in the backyard The little 4x8 trailer Me cutting off ramp rails with the plasma cutter Resting in place the first time First Smoke!  Actually from cutting the pit for the 2" drain
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Me welding the nose section in place with the Millermatic 210 Slide-in rack stops Welded baffle plate and angle iron rails for tuning plates Brent finishing the tuning plate supports Tuning plates in place with rails
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The addition of two more tuning plates Me grinding a high spot on one of the doors Inside with racks in place and double-stackers Good use of space with the double-stackers.  Plans are to add a second slide-in shelf Temporary lights on and ready to haul home to finish!

06/18/2006 (Sunday - 6.00hrs/16.00hrs total)
Today was figure out how to install the flooring so I could carry around wood for the firebox, coolers, chairs, the canopy etc.  I had purchased a 4x8 sheet of expanded metal and simply measured the shape I wanted.  Then taking a cheap pair of Harbor Freight bolt cutters, cut the expanded metal a snip at a time.  Once I had the final floor, I rested it in place and realized I needed some additional floor supports.  So, I added three or four more supports and can now stand on it with no sagging.  Next I measured under the pit belly to get the right size for the back of the flooring.  This will prevent stuff on the floor from falling off the 'back-side'.  Using the Harbor Freight cutters again, I snipped this section fairly quickly. 

Next up was the cutting of the angle iron supports for the belly expanded metal.  I welded a piece of angle as the major support for the floor expanded metal, then attached the vertical angle sections one by one.  All that remains now is to tack the floor down for good and the belly piece in place.  Well, I probably ought to put some expanded metal on the open sides of the trailer, but for now, this will work just fine.


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Expanded metal floor cut to fit Additional support welded in place The belly vertical piece ready to tack down


06/19/2006 (Monday - .50hrs/16.50hrs total)
Today was really just a measure and think how to fabricate the shelf.  I had a couple ideas including attaching an angle frame directly to the pit and then putting expanded metal in the frame for the shelf.  Based on Brent's experience, anything connected directly to the pit acts as a heat-sync and warms up to the pit temp, or about 225*F.  So, I looked at the next best option to NOT attach to the pit and came up with using the side rail of the trailer as the mounting point.  The side rail is 2" wide and I just happened to have some 1"x2" tubing that will work perfectly.  I'll simply cut three legs about 6" tall and weld them to the side rail.  Then, I'll take some 1-1/2" angle on each end for securing either expanded metal or a couple of sanded and varnished 2x8's in yellow pine.  The center will have some flat bar welded to the top.  All three supports will have carriage bolts running through the wood if I go that route.

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You can see the trailer side rail and how easy it will be The 1"x2" tubing mocked up

06/24/2006 (Saturday - 4.00hrs/20.50hrs total)
Today was fabricate the shelf legs and get the 2x8 shelf materials in place.  But first, I attached the 2" elbow and nipple for the ball valve drain (yet to be purchased).  Next, I took some 1x2 tubing and figured out the right height for the shelf legs, then cut the angle iron for the two end pieces along with the flat bar for the center support.  Once that was welded in place, I could place the 2x8's in the frame.  However, my plan was interrupted by the fact that I didn't have 15" available for the shelf without hanging past the fender.  So, I put one 2x8 in place, and ripped the other at 4" giving me a 12" shelf the width of the horizontal.  

Next was installing the 5/16" trailer safety chains and s-hooks.  For this I took a 1/4" thick u-bolt and ran the two loose ends of the chain thru the links, then held the u-bolt in place in the trailer a-frame and welded away.  A couple of s-hooks were added and one side pinched in a huge vice we have.

Finally, I cut some additional expanded metal to cover the front of the trailer as well as the long side.  Now I've got expanded metal giving me a complete box except the small area back by the firebox.  I haven't figured out what to do there yet.  I also placed some 1/8" plate on the tongue to get some more weight there, but really to see how I can fill in the nose section for the turkey fryer installation.

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Here's the 2" elbow and nipple Lining up the shelf supports Angle in place with one 2x8 Safety chains installed 12" shelf installed
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Expanded metal on all sides now I'll have to scab this into two pieces

06/25/2006 (Sunday - 2.00hrs/22.50hrs total)
Today was sort of slow.  I decided to repack the wheel bearings.  They were in pretty good shape as I took both sides apart so I didn't feel any need to replace bearing sets or seals.  I started by pulling off the dustcaps, cotterpin, nut and washer.  Once the outer bearings were out, I pulled off the hub assembly.  No scoring was noted so I cleaned the pin, nut and washer along with the outers in a kerosene bath, air dried them and repacked with grease.  The inner bearings I managed to squeeze fresh grease into the race, clean the dust seal lip and assembled it back.  

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All the 'stuff' ready to go Hub assembly off and parts cleaned Repacking Ready to reinstall Done!

06/26/2006 (Monday - 1.50hrs/24.00hrs total)
After work I hand-sanded the exterior frame, rails and sandblasted the wheels on both sides.  About 7pm I decided I ran out of daylight to get the priming done and have light for clean-up.  I'm thinking tomorrow after work I'll prime the frame exterior.

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On blocks and the frame sanded Rims sandblasted

06/27/2006 (Tuesday - 1.50hrs/25.50hrs total)
All I have to say is.....  I LOVE this primer!  It's very expensive at about $180 gallon, but it shoots so evenly, dries quickly and is rock hard and impervious to brake fluid and other chemicals.   After work, I headed over to Kaiserville and taped off the dust caps.  Next I mixed up about 32oz of primer and began to shoot the rims, then worked on the trailer.  By the time I was done with everything, I had some primer left over, so I started at the rims and worked the trailer until the gun was empty.  Total time including setup, shoot and clean-up was a whopping 1.50 hours.  I'll let this dry overnight and shoot paint tomorrow!   (now if i could just figure out which color i'll use....)

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Rims hit twice with primer Frame primed Man I love this primer! Tongue that will be filled in

06/28/2006 (Wednesday - 2.00hrs/27.50hrs total)
A great day at Kasierville!  Again, after work I headed over to Kaiserville and set up the gun to paint a coat of Olive Drab #24087 (Late Korea, early Vietnam era) on the wheels and exterior of the pit.  Mixing 28oz of paint and 4oz of Zylene, and shooting out of my 'quart pot' at 25psi, I didn't get any paint!  Oh no, what happened?  After some fiddling around, I realized the siphon tube to the exterior was clogged.  After cleaning it out, the gun ran like a champ.  I shot the whole exterior with the quart and have enough paint left over to shoot the expanded metal after it's cleaned and the trailer for a second coat after all the fabrication/welding is complete.  I cleaned up the gun, then started hand sanding the lumber for the shelf.  Once that was smooth, I applied a liberal coat of a polyurethane sealer for protection.  When that was done, I took a close look at the trailer paint and it really turned out nice.  There are a few 'light' spots, but I'll get that on the second round.

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The rims turned out very nice The trailer looks good too. Missed a few spots, but I planned on a second coat The shelf lumber sealed and drying

06/30/2006 (Friday - 1.00hrs/28.50hrs total)
I secured the trailer registration today along with picking up the rims to hopefully get tires tomorrow.


07/01/2006 (Saturday - 2.00hrs/30.50hrs total)
Today was whirlwind around town here and there!  First was several calls to locate trailer tires.  Seems that Carlisle is about the only tire manufacturer that supplies a large distributor network so I went over to Discount Tire and had them mount a set of 205/14's on my rims.  While they were doing that, I headed over to Cabela's and a travel trailer place to look at license plate holders and hitchlocks, neither of which I purchased.  I also made a stop by Wal-Mart to pick up a fire extinguisher, paper towel holder, smaller neck 12volt bulbs for the trailer lights, a license plate light and a set of wheel chocks.  After that, I headed over to Discount Tire to pick up my new tires, then back to pick up the trailer to get ready for Sunday.  I gave thought to mounting the shelf, but just ran out of daylight.

07/02/2006 (Sunday - 7.00hrs/37.50hrs total)
About 8:15am, I headed out in the rain pulling the trailer up to Brent's place to do some more fabrication on the pit.  I knew I hadn't wired the stop/tail lights yet, so I was a bit concerned about a traffic stop.  Yet I had no problems getting up there.  About 9am, it was still raining so Brent and I looked at his vacation pictures and had coffee with Irish Creme.  Around 10 or so, the rain let up and we secured his neighbors EZ-Up tent and now had a dry area to work.  First up, we attacked marking and cutting the 1/8" plate for the nose section.  That went fairly well, although we had to put two pieces up front since the one wasn't big enough.  Next, I welded a couple large washers, one on each side, to hold the safety chains when the trailer is parked.  After that, the sun started to peek out and Brent fired up his R2D2, aka: Weber Smokey Mountain and cooked some chicken breasts, sausage and fish.  While that was going on, I started to tack down all the remaining expanded metal in the trailer bed area.  What amazed me is the paint peeled as expected from the heat, but the primer was unblemished.  When they were done, we added a lip over the firebox door, a pin-locking mechanism, a air-intake blob of weld to keep the intake in place, and corrected the wobbly firebox door lever with washers on the inside and outside of the lever.  We had a great lunch of grilled chicken breasts and a beer and watched a bit of the F1 race then back to work.  We cut a piece of pipe to hold the fire extinguisher, but couldn't figure out where to mount it.  The smokestack cover was next using some round stock and tubing, and then it was time for cutting a few links out of the safety chain with the plasma cutter.  When all that was done, we picked up and I quick-wired the lights and they worked perfectly.  Overall, today was almost the end of the fabrication work I wanted to get done. 

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Welding the nose section in place Plasma cutter for firebox lock Firebox lip, lock, and door handle fix Welding the smokestack brackets Finished brackets
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Plasma cutting the smokestack top What a beautiful tool that plasma cutter is! The finished smokestack Cutting the extra links Ready for the haul home


07/03/2006 (Monday - 1.5hrs/39.00hrs total)
It's coming along nicely!  I figured I'd just go ahead and make the push to get some more done today and was pleased with the results for the little bit of time spent.  I made a few calls and located a caster wheel for the front nose jack.  Once I had that, I headed over to work on finishing up some of the details now that the Phase I fabrication work is completed.  I installed the yellow-pine shelf in the brackets with carriage bolts, then mounted the paper towel holder.  After that, I wrapped the wiring harness at the coupler with some plastic wrap loom material for protection.  As the wiring stands now, I'll still go back and clean up the installation.  Finally, I added the primered 'good luck' horseshoe that was common to many military vehicles from Texas.  About all that remains at this point is cleaning, prime and paint and then touch-ups here and there.  The rest is easy simple stuff.

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Almost done...

07/09/2006 (Sunday - 0.25hrs/39.25hrs total)
This was soooooo simple today.  Drive to Brent's place.  Pick up said ball-valve.  Drive home.  Install.  Done.

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Angled perfectly Looks like the welded nipple was just right



Remaining Work:

Phase I
50% done Sand/Prime & Paint trailer Olive Drab, Pit Black Reprime/repaint welded areas and new stuff
Purchase/install spare tire/rim  (fabricate mount)
Sand pit/firebox, prime and paint black
Phase II
On-board 5 gallons water in jerry can
Turkey fryer on nose section
Toolbox/ammo can for supplies
Second slide-in shelf
Lockdown mechanism for tuning plates
Flag and mounting
BBQ sign and mounting

Costs to Date:

06/11/2006 Pit and trailer  
06/16/2006 Expanded Metal (4x8 sheet) $ 53.76
06/19/2006 Shelf hardware (carriage bolts) $ 17.69
06/23/2006 Expanded Metal (4x8 sheet) / Angle iron $61.25
06/23/2006 Shelf wood, safety chain, 5' cable lock, 2" pipe fittings $ 66.45
06/26/2006 PPG's DPLF74 2-part red epoxy primer  $ 126.33

Wiring harness, two sets single filament bulbs for stop/tail

$ 15.35
06/30/2006 Trailer registration/tags $44.40
07/01/2006 Two Carlisle ST trailer rated tires $ 162.73
07/01/2006 Short neck bulbs for stop/tail lights $1.74
07/01/2006 License Plate light $ 3.97
07/01/2006 Fire Extinguisher $ 9.44
07/01/2006 Paper Towel holder $ 1.94
07/01/2006 Wheel Chocks $ 9.98
07/03/2006 Caster wheel for front nose jack $ 25.00
07/09/2006 2" ball valve $ 40.00
07/10/2006 Oven thermometer/digital thermometer $ 24.95

Some of my Favorite prep links:

Texas BBQ Rub Fantastic meat preparation rubs
Texas Pepper Jelly Super glazing jelly's
Gatorpit Custom Pits One of the finest pit makers



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