By Gaylen Duskey |
I appreciate my forefathers greatly. I learned that appreciation when I
tried to be like them.
Last fall I bought a wood stove - not just any wood stove mind you but a
Woodstock Soapstone stove. I bought it because I knew natural gas rates
would rise again and that having a wood stove would be a great hedge against
those price increases.
And I was right about that because natural gas rates went up - I think - 40
per cent. I'm really not sure what kind of saving I am making yet because
the gas company keeps estimating my bill based on my gas usage from last
year. But my guess is the wood stove will save me some money - or at least
offset the amount of the rise in rates.
But the money aspect of things has become something of a secondary issue.
The big issue has been my attempt at mastering a wood stove, which at times
has been feeble.
I mentioned earlier the stove was a soapstone stove and that is significant
since it is not cast iron and therefore it has a whole different set of
For instance soapstone does not heat up as quickly as iron but it stays hot
a lot longer. That, I found, is important.
The stove is equipped with a catalytic combustor, which "burns" smoke
creating more heat and cleaning the smoke exhausted out the pipe. By the way
the combustor works like a jewel but I am getting ahead of myself.
They sent this stovetop thermometer, which you are supposed to lay on top of
the stove then watch it until it is 500 degrees. Then you are to engage the
I thought it was easy enough but I could barely get the thermometer on top
the stove to register 500 . so I didn't engage the combustor. It was, I
felt, a waste of money and I called the company.
After explaining my dilemma - having a combustor I couldn't use because I
couldn't get the stove hot enough - the company representative chuckled a
bit and said that the stove - since it is soapstone and doesn't react like
cast iron - is about half the temperature of the inside of the firebox. So
in other words I had been misreading things and had the firebox up to about
The stove worked great with the only little problem I noticed was that you
wanted to keep it running hot. If you allowed it to cool down outside wind
could blow down the chimney and create a poof of smoke inside the house.
One night we were out someplace and the stove cooled. And the wind blew. And
when we got home we were greeted by smoke . enough to cure ham.
I opened the doors and windows and turned on the ceiling fans while nursing
the firebox back up to a nice warm working temperature.
I had left the firebox door unlocked to allow a little more air in and
things looked real promising when "wham!" the door flew open and flames shot
out of the stove. And smoke, of course, followed.
"Wow," I thought, "we must have one heckuva front blowing through here now."
But when I looked outside the trees were still. Yet the curtains were
blowing in and wind was rolling in through all the doors and windows.
"Strange front," I thought, "since it seems to be coming from all
As I started up stairs to tell people what a weird front it was I heard the
roar of the attic fan . that had been turned on to get the smoke out of the
house quicker. I learned that is one of the things you just don't do.
But the worst lesson I had to learn was that all wood is not the same.
Sure I knew you don't burn pine or cedar or stuff like that because of the
rapid creosote buildup.
But the rest . hey, hardwoods burn longer and hotter than softwoods was
about all you needed to know. Right?
We bought a load of lumber that had been "seasoned" by being stored in a
shed for a couple of years. Besides we got it for a cheaper price since they
did not have to cut it.
And, it would burn hotter.
Wrong. It barely burned at all. It didn't have a hot flame and it did not
build up a decent coal bed. About all it did was to smolder and smoke . lots
of foul-smelling, acrid smoke.
The first load had been great. The second load was a disaster. We tried
mixing and matching the lumber from the different loads but all that did was
make good wood burn not so good.
After smoking up our lungs, hair, skin, clothing, furniture and assuring
that the house will get a nice painting on the inside in the spring we threw
in the towel Friday morning an grabbed the tongs and pulled the smoldering
wood out of the stove and took it out to the yard. All in all we ended up
with five pieces during the day and added two more in the evening. But we
got the fire going good with the good wood we did have.
The supply of that good wood is running low but we are supposed to get
another truckload of "hickory, oak, maple and some cherry" Monday.
Maybe the new wood will cure all the problems and we can get the house - and
ourselves - "de-smoked" in short order.
The old wood . the miserable stuff that won't burn? What about it?
Our intention is to get a chipper and turn it into mulch. Maybe as a ground
cover it will have some purpose because as a firewood, it doesn't.