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Addertooth

Kamado K7 Restoration

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19 May 2015: Post note to readers who have come across this thread and plan restore their own Kamado brand cookers.  Feel free to post your efforts in this thread.  This thread was started to follow the refurbishment and upgrades done on my Kamado K7, but has since its inception has grown to include the more general topic of repair of all of Richard Johnson's family of Kamado products.  I will not consider it thread Hijacking for you to post your efforts here, and in a way it makes good sense.  This saves people from having to search around to find repair methods for some of the more common modes of failure which can occur with this type of cooker.

Topics which have been covered (thus far) include are: Stuck upper damper, Replacement of upper threaded mechanism (also called the spider), sagging dome lift springs, Cracks minor and major, Tiling/Retiling, Firebox replacements and restoral, Stucco removal and sources of materials and parts.  Be sure to post pictures of your K-Series Kamado with year of production, as I am building a library of features which appeared across the years of manufacture. 

 

(Beginning of original post)

I found an older Kamado K7 #7 on Craig's List. The pictures posted showed a Kamado which had some serious, but resolvable problems. The top damper had frozen threads, which made it impossible to make adjustments. There were some cracks in the refractory cement, in various places. This Kamado was one of the Sacramento era units, which were made before the company spiraled downward with it's choice of materials. The cracks are largely superficial, and the Kamado survived being dismantled for transportation (including removal of the lid). In short, it seems to have good bones, which is an important characteristic for any rebuild. The seller had many of the optional items available (at extra cost), so the stainless upper rack, upper grill surface, wire charcoal basket and lower rack were picked up as well. He also tossed in the adapter plate to connect a stoker to it.
To remove the dome, there are 3 bolts which secure the bands to the lower body. They are drilled through the band and lower shell and rust had them seized up (zink plated steel bolts). One came off with an electric impact, but the other two resisted. Even with PB blaster, they would not pop free. I finally got tough with one of the 3/8-16 X 3" bolts, and managed to snap it in half. The last one had to be sawed off with a Makita 4.5 inch right angle grinder.
There were two additional set of nuts and bolts which provide tension to the band; unlike the other bolts they were stainless and removed without incident.
The lid lifting springs were locked in place while the lid was raised about 2 inches from blocks placed between the lid and body (to facilitate lifting).
I attempted to pull the firebox, but ash and charcoal bits filled the very narrow crevice between the firebox and the inner walls of the lower half of the grill. It was effectively glued in place. The plan had been to lighten the lower half as much as possible for transport, but we had just enough people to lever it into the back of the SUV in spite of the additional weight of the 3 inch thick firebox.
As said earlier, all of the components arrived back home without incident. I ran out and purchased new stainless hardware to replace the broken/rusted/cut bolts, and began the process of putting it all back together. Once carefully aligned, the new bolts went back into the band/case holes with a light tap from a soft faced hammer. The through-bolts and the band bolts were torqued back up, and the unit was effectively back together in the same condition it was purchased in, minus the rusty bolts. The spider (the threaded assembly which raises and lowers the top damper) was coated with PB blaster late in the evening so it can start to work it's magic. Hopefully, a couple of days will see the threads for the upper damper become less stubborn.
One of positive things about this Kamado is, it was manufactured without the problematic "falling off" tiles this model was known for. I am considering adding tiles, if the right thinset with elastomer can be found. The stucco finish will need to be stripped away first with a wirebrush, and it is quite baked on at this time. The stucco shows clear discoloration above the firebox, which shielded the lower portion of the body from the heat. The original fire grate and firebox appear in good condition, which can be problematic on some of the earlier Kamados made with refractory cement.
Next, some pictures.

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Promised pictures:

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The Kamado when new in 2003

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The Kamado condition when picked up

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The firebox and grate look pretty good for Refractory Cement over a decade old.

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Aligning the bands and attaching the lid after arrival.

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Resting with Big Joe and Joe Junior after it's road trip.

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Why the K7/#7?  Quite frankly, they have the most checkered reputation in the entire Kamado market.  However, once restored and tiled, they have the same lines and looks of some of the nicer Kamados (Rocket, Komodo Kamado).  Refractory cement is in some respects easier to repair than some ceramics.  The sections tend to be thicker and provide a lot of bonding surface.  The remains of the existing parts can frequently be used to create a sand-mold for casting replacement parts.  And lastly, you can find examples of them fairly cheaply.  Not everyone is handy enough to fix them.  Finally, Galaxyoutdoor does have some maintenance and repair parts available, even though the actual manufacturer is no longer in existence.  If the spider cannot be repaired, a $60 kit is available to fully replace the spider.  Some cutting of the refractory cement is required to install the kit.  And, what the heck, I need something to do while the briskets and butts are cooking ;)

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After struggling to get the three band bolts off, stainless akorn nuts were put over the bolt threads to help keep smoke and moisture from clogging the threads.  Hopefully, this will make it easier to remove the lower band (should it ever need to be done again).  The bolts still need to be replaced on the dome.  I do not have to explain why zink plated bolts are less than ideal for the inside of a Kamado. 

There was some question in another post, what the original firebox should look like.  Four pictures of the firebox options are attached.  One is of the refractory cement firegrate, it is about 1.5 inches thick.  The second is of the firebox without a grate.  The third is the firebox with the cast refractory grate.  The fourth is the firebox with the optional stainless wire firegrate / charcoal basket.

The Kamado is in decent shape, the original handle (which has "KAMADO" on it) is in great shape.  So many of these ceramic handles were over tightened and hopelessly cracked.

Many of these older units have a problem with the lower damper no longer fitting flush (which causes them to leak air).  This one appears to fit flush and seals decently.

As for the second tweak done on the Kamado; the springs in the metal tubes help lift the lid.  However, over the years the springs have compressed.  The lid would not stay up unless the "dogs" on the tubes were screwed down to lock the lid up. I thought if something was added to the bottom of the spring tubes to compress the springs, the lid would stay up. As a test of the solution, my finger was slid up in the tubes, and the springs were pushed up 1 inch.  With the pressure from my finger the lid stayed up.  Two rubber stoppers which were 1 inch wide and 1 inch tall were added to the bottom of the spring assembly.  Now the lid stays up, thanks to the pre-loading of the springs. The springs were lubricated while they were pulled, to help quiet the "screen door screech" which was made every time the lid was lifted. The screech is less now. The could be quieted further by wrapping them in heat-shrink tubing or felt.  PB blaster continues to be sprayed upon the stuck threads of the upper damper twice a day to free it. Thus far, no movement.   A 3/4-10 die is on it's way to clear the rust off the threads on the threaded rod for the top damper.  A 3/4-10 tap is on hand to clean up the spider, once the upper damper can be rotated and removed.  If it can't be freed, the $59 spider kit will be ordered from GalaxyOutdoor and replace the existing rusted mechanism. As said earlier, it will require cutting into the dome's refractory cement to use the kit.  I want to fully explore all my options before this step is taken.

For those who are wondering what that rusty rectangular plate is, just above the firebox, it was for the optional gas burner (early version) which was inserted through the hole the plate covers. 

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Part-way through this, and it is time for a minor rant.  The original purchaser paid extra for stainless steel bands.  They now show (very) minor surface rust.  The majority of the nuts and bolts appear to be zink plated carbon steel.  I think most purchasers would normally expect if they pony up the extra cost for stainless bands, they would get stainless hardware to match.  For those who know the history of the company, they can only smile and nod at this point.

As a sub note, I tried taking a torch to the seized upper damper threads; still no joy.  Tomorrow the 3/4-10 die is scheduled to arrive.  After cleaning up the threads, a lock nut and jam nut will be put on the upper damper threaded shaft.  Perhaps with some cautious wrench action, it can be freed.  I am a little scared to get too macho with it.  The spider is just tubular steel with steel rod (the rod is cast into the dome) supporting the "floating spider".  Too much force will bend the tubes, or crack the dome. 

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i have a K-7 and thought that the steel plate above the firebox was a repair by a former owner . but i see your K has the same steel plate one bolt holding plates inside and out ... any thoughts as to why ?   post-4716-0-19196400-1416435641_thumb.jp

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If there ever were numbers on the plate, they have faded out to infamy.  However, the original purchaser actually had the gas attachment, it was one of the goodies he tried to sell me at an extra cost.  It had a similar sized set of plates which secured the gas burner in place.   Later versions ran the gas up from the lower damper, but in 2003, the mid-gas burner was the product being sold.  Being an evil charcoal-purist, I passed on the gas gizmo.  He also had the meat hanger, and the hanging rack attachment, but neither of those interested me.  He has a second (tiled) K7, so he wasn't too broken up about keeping some of his optional items.  The tiled one, which appears in the picture below, was won from Richard Johnson, back when "Kamado" was hosting BBQ competitions in Sacramento in the early 2000s.  The Stucco K7 I purchased from him was the "unloved" one of the two.  He never takes his tiled K7 above 400F, to preserve it's function.  He uses the #1 sized Kamado for his searing station. 

In a way, he is a hero.  The only man I know of, who got a K7 for free from RJ, without waiting and got all the parts.  He really ought to play the lottery.

I will try the easy off, after I have cleaned the threads with a die.  If I get it moving I don't want it to get hung up further down the all-thread. 

Ignore the text above the picture, it is from his Craigslist add.

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Marauders,

BTW, it is great you sent a picture of your wire charcoal basket, it appears to be one of the later ones from Galaxy.  The early ones had less volume, but it had the flat-top handles for supporting a diffuser at a lower level. This allowed you to use your lower rack to hold a third grate for 3-level smoking.  Oh, and does your lid stay up without having to turn the two clamping dogs on the tubular spring assembly?

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yes i bought the ss firebox from galaxy the original one was in too many pieces to restore.. and yes i have to use the screws to keep it up.. would like to have the springs loaded like original . your post on keeping it below  400.. is good advice.... i developed a crack after using it for a couple of high heat cooks... kiln cement by amaco has worked really well to stop and repair the crack !

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The 3/4-10 die came in.  It took about an hour to slowly rethread the upper damper shaft all the way up to the spider.  The classic method of working forward and backward with the die, and gaining a quarter turn with each iteration.  After going all the way up the threads once, the die was turned around, so the non-tapered end was started on the thread to clean the threads all the way up to the spider.  Then a fine wire brush was taken to the threads immediately below the spider.  A lock nut and jam nut was threaded onto the damper shaft and wedged together.  A large wrench was put on the nuts, and with a mighty heave.... nothing happened, it would not budge.  A torch was taken to the spider nut again, but made no differences as well.  Easy-off was liberally applied to the spider, and threads of the upper damper. The easy-off was allowed to soften things for an hour.   In spite of the mechanical advantage of a long-handled wrench on the nuts, it still refused to move.  The lock nut/jam nut combination was removed (with nearly tragic results when the wrench slipped off the nuts and banged into the dome).  This evening, one more round of easy-off, followed by some torch action, as a last attempt to free this bad boy before a more complex method is tried.  Last ditch will be cryogenic cooling of the upper damper shaft while heating the spider nut with a torch.  If that does not free it, the only option will be to cut the spider out and replace it with a new spider. 

 

 

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Taking care of the spider cracks is on my wish list.  The method which will be used to address them will involve drilling the ends of the cracks to a half-inch depth, then taking a narrow piping bit in a dremel tool to widen the full length of the crack (to a shallow 1/8th inch depth), and filling it in with refractory cement with a bit of fluoric acid mixed in to improve bonding.  When you put a radius (the drilled hole) at the end of a crack, you tend to discourage it  spreading in the future. 

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Another approach to loading the springs would be to stick a piece of 1 inch wooden dowel at the bottom of the springs.  I went with rubber stoppers to help dampen the screeching noise the springs make when the lid is raised and lowered.  One inch of lift gets the lid to stay up (just barely).  A total of two stoppers per spring (2 inches of compression) may end up being inserted to make the lid pressed open more securely.

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