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Discussion Starter #1
My smoker bellows was not recovering like it should so I removed it from the can.There are 2 holes on the can side.The bottom hole was partialy blocked by creosote.
The upper hole ( intake?) seems to have a black rubber flap on the inside which has either stuck to the inside or become stiff from the heat.Don't really want to force it as I don't have a replacement in hand.
This was a replacement from about 5 yrs ago and has paid for itself many times over.Hoping to put off purchasing a new one until I see a vendor at a club meeting or need enough to qualify for free shipping.

Thoughts?
 

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I dont think mine has a dedicated intake, it just sucks air back in from the vent. Try taping over the intake, cleaning up the output and seeing how the bellows work.
 

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their is a spring inside the bellows. That over time can loose its spring.
 

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Two 8-frame Langstroth hives
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The bottom hole was partialy blocked by creosote.
Are you sure it is creosote? Not a damaged valve?

Sounds like you have a decent safe smoker with separate intake valve and discharge port. I think there should be a valve on each hole on the bellows - the top one to let air in, the bottom to let air out and into the can. This is a safety feature so that embers will not be sucked out of the can, and start a fire either inside the bellows, or on the ground. Is the bottom outlet hole aligned with the hole on the can?

If you are crafty, you may be able to make DIY valves with rubber and a stable gun on the appropriate side. The smoker will also work if you block the top (intake hole) and leave the bottom hole always open, though you will loose the safety feature.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Once I cleared the lower hole of creosote,the bellows(spring included) worked fine.
If I block the output,the bellows will not reinflate.
Apparently,when the air is drawn in through the lower hole,some smoke is pulled from the combustion chamber and eventually creosote builds up.
From years of wood stove use,I have learned that creosote buildup is a result of lower temps as the gaseous tars and resins condense on a cooler surface.

Just wondering what the upper hole is for if not for an intake.Maybe its the backside of a spring holder.
Do all bellows have what looks like 2 holes on the can side?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Honeyeater,didn't see your post at first.

"bottom outlet hole aligned with the hole on the can?"
Yes

The blockage had the appearance of creosote and was attached around the edges of the hole.

I have read some articles about the evolution of the present day smoker and your comments about a"safety feature" ring a bell.
 

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Two 8-frame Langstroth hives
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It doesn’t sound right that you have creosote on the bellows.
Mine is 4 years old and don’t have any build up of creosote on the bellows’ hole. Do you use a grate inside the can? There shouldn’t be anything burning in the bottom inch of the can, under the grate otherwise it can be sucked out and start a fire.
I live in a high bushfire risk area and the smoker is something that I fastidiously keep maintained.
 

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The reason your bellows were not returning well is because the top hole, the inlet hole, was blocked when the flap that served as the valve got stuck.

The bellows have a lot to do with the performance of a smoker, so I make my own bellows. I make my bellows bigger than bought ones, my bellows have around twice the volume of a Dadant bellows, so to get a fast return I have 2 inlet holes in addition to the outlet hole, as shown in this pic. Both inlet holes are valved on the inside with a bit of the same vinyl used for the bellows.



When fitted to the smoker looks like this



Only having a one hole bellows hugely negatively affects the performance of the smoker. It is a real shame that to save a few cents, manufacturers even make one hole bellows. In my view, the smoker is the tool that a beekeeper has in his hand all day, every day. Along with his hive tool it is the most important thing he has. Why skimp on it?
I want a smker that will puff up a storm, as I want, and quickly. For that, you need a decent bellows. Below is a video of my smoker in action.

 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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OT, I always knew you were a blow hard, the video proves it.:) Really cool idea! My bellows needs to be replaced and I am anxious now to try out your improved version.
 
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Discussion Starter #12
I knew there had to be an"oldtimer" here who had actually seen the inside of a bellows. Thanks!

Thinking back over the last season,the plugged intake has been giving me issues lighting the smoker recently.Nothing major,just taking longer to get to full smoke.I attributed it to beekeeper haste or maybe damp fuel. What was actually happening was that for every puff forcing fire up through the fuel,the bellows recovery would suck some air in reverse through the can,dampening the flame. Looks like a rebuild this winter.
 

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OT, I always knew you were a blow hard, the video proves it.:) Really cool idea! My bellows needs to be replaced and I am anxious now to try out your improved version.
LOL :). When you do, if you have a nice valved hole or two for the air inlet, the bellows can return to open easily, so you don't need that strong of a spring. Which makes it easy on the hand muscles, the bellows can be squeezed easily, but still bounce back quickly (y)
And, trap for new players, if you do go more than one inlet hole, be sure to keep them low enough on the bellows that they will not be where you will be putting you fingers, or they will be a nuisance.

Thinking back over the last season,the plugged intake has been giving me issues lighting the smoker recently.Nothing major,just taking longer to get to full smoke.I attributed it to beekeeper haste or maybe damp fuel. What was actually happening was that for every puff forcing fire up through the fuel,the bellows recovery would suck some air in reverse through the can,dampening the flame. Looks like a rebuild this winter.
That's exactly what happens Jack.
The other thing to keep an eye on is the air flow through the actual smoker. The inlet hole at the bottom of the smoker gradually gets blocked with creosote, and so does the outlet hole in the lid. Just giving both of those a good cleanout can make a very pleasing difference into a failing smoker. The bottom, or inlet hole can be hard to get at because the bellows block good access, plus most smokers have some kind of tube there. Sometimes it's easiest to unscrew and remove the bellows to give good access to that hole, and also clean out the bottom of the inside of the smoker under the grate.
 

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For smoker below aficionados, here is a thread on it on my local forum

 

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Not to say, "mine's bigger", but I built a bellows for blacksmithing last year. The intake hole should indeed be large enough, the flap valve over it has to work properly, and the output passage should be clear. The bellow diaphragm should seal the air chamber except for the intake and the output passage. The hinge and the spring should work properly.

Oldtimer's oversize bellows is about the size we use on the Africanized honeybee smokers, and he's dead right about the importance of a good smoker. I've had to "fake it" with a clay pot full of pine needles and a dead bird's wing or a paper fan a time or two, and I much prefer a bellows smoker.
 
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