For those of you that haven’t used a woodstove this post will be about my woodstove and how I get her going. Hopefully, it will let you know what I do and don’t like about my stove and also provide the basics about the parts of a stove and how to get one running.
A woodstove is basically a metal box. They all have a vent where air comes in to burn and then the smoke is vented out the back through the stovepipe. There aren’t that many moving parts.
- A “valve” on the stovepipe that controls how much smoke (and heat) goes up and out.
- A “valve” on the front of the stove that controls how much air is allowed in. The more air you let in the faster your wood will burn. There are all sorts of vents. Some slide and some turn.
- The firebox. This is where you load the wood.
- A handle of some sort to lock the door of the stove closed.
This is my wood stove. It’s obviously a Nashua. This company is out of business now. This particular stove is a big, honking wood stove. It’s 32″ long * 22″ deep * 35″ tall. A nice feature is the window so you can see the fire burning. The knurled metal round things on each side of the Nashua sign are the vents that let air into the stove. You spin em just like a screw.
Spin em counterclockwise to loosen them and let more air in and spin them clockwise to let less air in. This is one of the front vents fully open. Notice the space between the back of the vent and the stove. That’s where the air rushes in that feeds the fire.
This is the other front vent fully closed. Notice how the back of this vent is snugged tight against the front of the stove. No space = no air = no fire.
This is the vent on the stovepipe. This vent controls how much smoke and heat go up the pipe and out. Imagine a metal pie plate attached to this thing on the inside of the stovepipe. The metal pie plate runs the same way as the handle. In this position the pie plate is turned vertically, just like the handle. This is the full open position.
This is the same vent fully closed. That pie plate that runs the same way as the handle is now perpendicular to the stovepipe (parallel to the floor) so in this position the pie plate is totally blocking the stovepipe. This would choke any fire burning in the stove.
This is the handle to the door of the stove. This is the locked position.
And you flip the handle counterclockwise to unlock the door and open it up.
A neat thing about my stove is that there is a built in fan. My stove is actually double-walled with an air chamber in the middle, outlets on the front and a fan and inlet on the back of the stove. It sucks air in the back, that gets warmed in the hollow channel and then gets blown out the front. This thing cranks!!
This is one of the outlets on the front of the stove. There is another one on the other side. When the stove is heated up and I plug the fan in it blows out hot, hot air at a high volume.
This is the fan on the back of the stove. It makes a bit of noise, but it’s not too bad. It really heats the house.
This is a looksie at the inside with the door flung open. Pardon the trash, but when you have a stove you start collecting stuff that burns well.
If I’m driving around and I see some fool citizen that pruned his trees, collected fallen brush and then tied them up and left them at curbside for the trash guys to pick up I sure as spit stop and throw the stuff in my car. It’s beautiful, like a little bundle of campfire that some fool put together all nice and pretty, tied it with a bow and left it for picking. I don’t get people. You’re gonna cut branches, bundle em, tie em and haul em out to the street for the town to pick up?? It makes no sense to me. Save all of our frigging tax $$’s and burn em on your own lawn or garden or haul em out back and dump em in the woods. Make a stick pile for wildlife. But I digress. Pallets burn well. Keep your eyes open for free pallets. My eyes are always open for foraging stuff.
This is my system. Building a fire is like cooking – everyone does it differently. Also like cooking, when you build a fire you want to have all of your ingredients together before you start the fire. All I do is crumple up a bunch of newspaper on the bottom of the stove. Don’t scrimp here. I use at least 1/2 an entire issue. Then I put a piece of wood running horizontally along the bottom of the stove. You can’t see the horizontal base log because it is totally covered by crumpled newspaper. Crumple up more newspaper on top.
Lean some wood on the first piece you put in there. Maybe a couple of smallish pieces leaning on the whole thing. More newspaper. Fire likes to run along the edges of stuff so the more edges (more little pieces and broken and splintered) the better. Really, you gotta act like you are building a blaze because you are. Plus, I always feel ashamed if it takes me more than one match to get a fire going. Any fire. Even if no one else is looking. I guess the moral is to build every fire like you only have one match.
Don’t light it yet. You need to make sure that the vent on the stovepipe is all the way open so make sure it’s pointed vertically and running parallel to the stovepipe. You also need to open the vents on the front of the stove all the way. When you first light the stove you want as much air as possible rushing through it.
Now after all the vents are open I light the paper, close the door and flip the handle to lock the door shut. I then walk away and leave it alone for 10-15 minutes.
Upon my return the fire is usually going.
At this point I’ll open the door slowly just an inch. If you open the door too fast you’ll get a back draft of smoke in your face and the room. So you open it an inch, wait a few seconds then open it slowly the rest of the way. I’ll bang all the wood down a bit and spread out the coals and then I’ll load it up. I pack it fairly tightly. Leaning wood works well. You don’t want to pack your wood in like you’re building a brick wall. You want some air spaces between the logs. Close the door.
Now I’ll turn the stove down a bit by turning the vent on the stovepipe diagonally so it isn’t fully open or fully closed. I’ll spin the vents on the front down a bit too. The secret here is the perfect balance between intake and exhaust so you get the maximum heat while burning your wood as slowly as possible. Don’t goof on me, but it really is like the Zen of burning. I mean once you get past that initial burst of heat when you first get it going you want to turn it down nice and low so that the pile of wood in there is just simmering slowly. Like cooking.
After a few hours when it’s time to load the stove again you have to open the vent on the stovepipe again before you open the door. Otherwise when you open the door the draft will be reversed and smoke will come into your face and room. It becomes habit – open vent on stovepipe, flip handle, open door an inch, wait a couple of seconds and then open door rest of way. Spread the coals out. Load it. Shut it. Lock it. Close the stovepipe vent down a bit again by turning it diagonally.
- The whole thing with a wood stove is air movement. You gotta get the air in your house moving around. I have two other fans that I sometimes use in addition to the built in one in the stove.
- Humid air holds more heat than hot air. Get a humidifier or put teapots on the stove top. I think humid air is better for humans to breath too.
- My stove is kind of big so it takes a while to heat up, stays warm a long time and burns a lot more wood than a smaller stove. It can burn for 12 hours on one load of wood. I’d rather have one small one at each end of the house, but then there are two fires to feed.
- I think having a stove is great. It’s a different kind of heat. It really feels warm, like the old fashioned radiators. I’ve never been a fan of forced hot air; there’s no radiant heating. It’s also a good backup to the forced hot water oil system. Even if the electric goes out the stove will still heat up a good 1/3 of the house.
- Another way to cook when your whatever else is on the fritz.
- I clean my own stovepipe. It’s not that big a deal. The brushes are cheap. You definitely don’t need to pay anyone unless you have a high or steep roof. It just takes a bit of serious monkeying to get it apart and really serious monkeying to put it back together. Make sure you wear crap clothes and spread a tarp out.
- Be careful with the ashes. They stay hot a long time and jeesh even if you think that they are out don’t ever empty them into a combustible container. Wood ash is high in potassium and it’s an alkaline like lime so I add it to my compost and directly on the garden (out of season cuz it will burn roots and plants). Wood ashes are also used to make lye to make soap. Do not burn shiny magazines or Sunday circulars. The inks used in shiny stuff is bad. Anytime you deal with wood ash, or any fine dust, make sure you wear a dust mask.
- Make sure you got the safety stuff – fire extinguisher and smoke and CO detectors.
- Build every fire like you only have one match. All that means is to make sure you got all of your kindling, fuel, paper and whatever else all together before you light it. Just like cooking, you don’t want to get halfway through cooking something and realize that you need to run out to the store.
- Every stove is different. They’re like women. You need to get to know one before you can handle her correctly. And with a stove learn that balance between intake and exhaust.
- Be leery of stovepipes that twist and turn. In my experience you are always fighting to get a good draft going.
- Having a woodstove is work.
- You know what else looks good to me are those soapstone stoves. They’re supposed to hold heat a long time.
- Not a fan of the pellet stove. They seem too specialized to me. I mean they work fine as long as you got electric and pellets.
I’d recommend that everyone get a wood stove.
By now you know the chant, ‘get outside everyday.’
This was my first skate of the season. Someone abandoned a fishing hole. Made me wish that I brought my traps and stopped for some shiners. Stuck the hockey stick in, hmmmm, about six inches. That’s pretty thick. The ice was really nice and smooth. Nice efficient way to travel. One kick and you can glide 6, 7 or 8 feet.
These guys had a fire and a bunch of traps set up. My buddy told me that they got a five and a seven pound bass. We skated around the whole perimeter of this lake. I love the rythym of skating, skiing and biking.