Category Archives: Cookstove Basics

Learning cookstove basics will show you why this method of cooking and heating is unlike any other. Learn all about the benefits and hazards of cookstoves here.

The Creosote Problem: Chimney Fires & Chimney Cleaning

The Creosote Problem - Cookstove Community

by Thomas J. Karsky

The combustion process when wood is burned is never complete. The smoke from a wood fire usually contains a dark brown or black substance which has an unpleasant odor. This tar-like substance is called creosote and is found almost anywhere in a wood heating system, from the top of the chimney to the stove or fireplace itself.

At temperatures below 250ºF creosote will condense on the surfaces of stove pipes or chimney flues. When the temperature gets below 150ºF the creosote deposit will be thick, sticky and similar to tar. Creosote consists primarily of methanol (wood alcohol) and acetic acid. The acid tends to trap carbon from smoke which dries and bakes inside pipes and flues. The flaky substance is very flammable.

Creosote is more of a problem with wood stoves than fireplace since the exhaust gases from stoves are cooler than those from the fireplaces.

The amount of creosote condensing on the surfaces of the system varies according to the density of the smoke and vapor from the fire (less smoke means less creosote), the temperature of the surface on which it is condensing (higher temperatures reduce chance of creosote condensation), and the type and dryness of wood being burned (Figure 1). Creosote may build up to a considerable thickness on the interior surface of the chimney and the draft opening may subsequently be reduced.

A serious fire may be ignited if creosote is allowed to build up. Most problems with creosote are due to poor chimneys with a low draft and cold walls. The low rate of burning when little heat is needed in the fall and spring months is another contributor to creosote buildup.

You can reduce the creosote problem several ways. Smoke density can be lowered somewhat in an airtight stove by using small amounts of wood and stoking more often or by using larger pieces of wood. Creosote formation can be limited by leaving the air inlet or stove door slightly open after adding wood to promote more rapid burning until the wood is mostly reduced to charcoal. Then close the inlet as desired.

The Creosote Problem - Figure 1 - Cookstove CommunityAllowing this extra air causes more complete combustion, lowers the potential creosote-forming gases, and generates additional heat to the surrounding area. Vapor in the flue gases may be controlled by using the driest wood possible and using only small pieces of wood during mild weather when combustion is relatively slow. The stack temperature can be raised by insulating the stove pipe connection so that it cools as little as possible before reaching the chimney. Using an insulated pipe also aids in increasing the stack temperature.

Draft can be increased by having as few bends as possible between the appliance and the chimney, having the proper height and diameter, keeping the chimney in good repair, and by having a separate flue for each appliance. Also use proper sized stove pipe. In a large chimney, draft can be increased by decreasing the flue size. This can be done by installing a new smaller flue or a stainless steel stove pipe liner.

In many air-tight stoves, a sealed overnight fire will deposit creosote even with dry hardwood. To dry the creosote always open the draft caps and let the fire burn hot for at least 5 minutes every morning and again before bedtime.

Opening the direct draft damper 20 to 30 minutes to dry the creosote in chimneys is a questionable practice. This should only be done in a new or clean chimney and should be done daily or every time you use the wood stove. Allowing hot flame in the chimney at intermittent times can result in a small chimney fire. The heat generated from these hot flames also may cause deterioration of the metal or crack mortar in the chimneys.

Be Prepared for a Chimney Fire. No wood burning system is 100% safe and fireproof. A safe installation and extra care help prevent fire, but accept the idea that there could be a fire, and be prepared to handle it. Chimney fires are most likely to occur during a very hot fire, as when cardboard or Christmas tree branches are burned or even when a stove burns normal wood but at a higher than normal rate.

Make certain everyone in the house is familiar with the warning signs of a chimney fire – sucking sounds, a loud roar and shaking pipes. Instruct everyone on what to do in case of fire. Practice fire drills and instruct all adults on how and when to use a fire extinguisher. Put the fire department phone number in an obvious place near the phone.

If you have a chimney fire:

• Call the fire department immediately.
• If all the stove pipe joints are tight and no other appliance is connected to the same flue, close all openings and draft controls if you have an air-tight stove. Close the stove pipe damper in a non-airtight stove.
• You can attempt to cut off the air supply to a fireplace by using a wet blanket or sheet metal to seal off the fireplace opening. Be careful since a strong draft can make this difficult and dangerous. Use only noncombustible materials.
• If you have a leaky stove or fireplace you may have to wait for the fire to burn out. • Get everyone out of the house, and put them to work watching for sparks or signs of fire on the roof or nearby. One adult should stay in the house to check the attic and upper floors for signs of fire.
• Discharge a class ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher or throw baking soda into the stove or fireplace if the chimney is not sound or there is a danger of the house or surroundings catching on fire. The chemical travels up the chimney and often extinguishes the flame.
• Throwing water in a stove will cause the metal to warp, but if it’s a choice between the house or the stove, use water.
• Check the chimney after a fire. A chimney fire can range from 2000º to 3000ºF which is hot enough to cause deterioration of metal or cause masonry to weaken. Metal chimneys can deteriorate after 2 or 3 fires.
• If a chimney fire occurs once, chances are that it will occur again. Find the cause.

A problem with frequent chimney fires is the possibility of the framing catching on fire. The ignition temperature of new house framing is about 500ºF. over a period of years, as this wood is repeatedly heated by chimney fires, the wood will ignite at a much lower temperature.

The Creosote Problem - Figure 2 - Cookstove CommunityChimney Cleaning. Chimneys need to be cleaned to remove creosote and soot deposits. This will prevent chimney fires and improve the draft as well. How often the chimney is cleaned depends on how frequently the wood burning appliance is used, how it is operated and the type of installation. Some authorities recommend cleaning the chimney after every third cord of wood is burned and most recommend at least once a year. Any time you observe excessive soot and creosote, the chimney should be cleaned. After you once have cleaned the chimney, you may want to check it after 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, etc., to determine how often your chimney needs to be cleaned.

You may have the chimney cleaned for you by professional chimney sweeps or you can clean if yourself. Costs for chimney sweeps vary with the job but usually amount to about $40. In addition to cleaning your chimney, a good chimney sweep can act as a safety inspector for your installation.

Chimneys are normally cleaned by mechanical means to scrape off any loose creosote build-up. Stiff wire chimney cleaning brushes are available at reasonable cost (Figure 2). They are constructed to match the size of the chimney flue and can be pushed through the chimney with extension rods or pipe or can be pulled with ropes on either end of the brush. You can attach a weight to the bottom of chimney so it can be pulled up with a rope. Other cleaning methods are to lower a burlap bag containing wire netting weighted with chains or rocks up and down the chimney or to use tire chains or wire netting without a bag (Figure 3). Don’t swing a length of heavy chain down the chimney. The impact can damage the flue lining.

Many people start chimney fires deliberately by building hot fires or by tossing in compounds designed to remove soot and creosote by controlled burns. Under some circumstances this practice maybe reasonable, but generally it is a risky way to keep a chimney clean. Any chimney fire could build into a house fire, but in addition a chimney fire causes wear on a chimney. The high temperatures increase corrosion rate of materials which can lead to cracks. Some of the compounds used in controlled burns have been known to explode in stoves.

Chemical chimney cleaners are commercially available. These are not intended for use in chimneys already containing heavy deposits of soot and creosote. Chemicals such as sodium chloride, or table salt, are sometimes used as a chimney cleaner. These chemicals combine with water released from a hot fire to form a weak acid that dissolves small amounts of creosote. Sodium chloride is corrosive to metal and is not recommended for metal chimneys. Cleaners that contain copper sulfate will coat any soot in the chimney and act as a catalyst to allow soot to burn away at lower than normal temperatures.

Chemical cleaners are intended to be used after chimneys are cleaned or when new. Use the chemicals as directed – approximately 1 ounce per week. If not used as directed, the chemicals can cause intense chimney fires that will result in rapid deterioration of the chimney. The only efficient and effective method of cleaning is to use a chimney brush, since the brush scrubs the entire surface uniformly

The Creosote Problem - Figure 3 - Cookstove CommunityCleaning the Chimney Yourself. If you plan to clean the chimney yourself, you will need to obtain some or all of the following tools and supplies:

• Drop cloth or other appropriate covering
• Trouble light or portable lantern
• Leather gloves
• Hand wire brush
• Hand scraper or stiff putty knife
• Hammer and screwdriver
• Heavy-duty vacuum cleaner
• Wisk broom and dustpan
• Metal bucket
• Small shovel
• Adjustable wrench
• Can of furnace cement
• Chimney brush
• Rope and a weight or extension rods.

Before starting to clean the chimney, be sure all doors and windows are shut to prevent any drafts. Remove the damper, if possible. Seal fireplace openings with a drop cloth and masking tape. You will need proper protective clothing, including a mask to cover your mouth and nose and glasses or goggles for your eyes. The material that collects in chimneys is of such a nature that you should avoid contact with it as much as possible. Wear good shoes with slip resistant soles and be careful when climbing on high, steep roofs to clean a chimney

When cleaning the chimney from the roof, the easiest method is to attach a line to the brush with a weight on the opposite end. This weight should be of such a size and shape that it cannot swing free into the tile liners and cause damage. The purpose of the weight is to pull the brush down into the chimney. A solid 15- to 20-pound weight is required to move the brush downward. This will depend on how tightly the brush fits and how dirty the chimney is.

Another method is to attach a rope at each end of the brush with a person at the top of the chimney and one at the bottom, taking turns pulling the rope. This method may be somewhat messy.

More effective is the use of rigid extensions such as a pipe or tubing with a flexible leader. This allows you to control and feel the scrubbing action of the brush in the chimney. This method is used by most professional chimney sweeps. Fiberglass rods are available for this purpose. If metal pipe is used, be careful of power lines above.

Lower the brush into the chimney being careful not to disturb any looses brick mortar or any device in the chimney. Cleaning can be accomplished by passing the brush through the chimney a number of times in the same direction or by raising and lowering the brush in short strokes in a scrubbing action. If your brush is too large, it will not reverse in the chimney and may even lock up.

Experience will tell you how many passes to make to get the chimney clean. Once this process is finished, remove the seal from the fireplace opening. Use a drop cloth in your working area. Slowly open the damper if you were unable to remove it, vacuum up debris from the bottom of the hearth, smoke shelf or catch pit. If you can’t open the damper you may have to drop a hose down the chimney to vacuum out the soot.

While cleaning masonry chimneys, check for cracks in the brick or masonry. Cracks allow cool air to come in, thus reducing the efficiency of the fireplace or wood stove and allowing creosote to form.

Stove pipes on the wood burner are critical to safety and require additional attention. When cleaning an inside flue, remove the connected sections. Be careful to protect the area from soot. Take sections outdoors and brush inside them with a hand wire brush or a flue or chimney brush that is the same diameter as the pipe. Remove all the soot and creosote build-up from the breech and the loose accumulation in the firebox. Stove pipes need to be cleaned regularly. Check pipes at least once every 2 or 3 months of stove operation.

After using your chimney brush, rinse it in a cleaning solution such as kerosene and store it away in a dry place. It is a valuable tool.


This information first appeared as CIS 480 and was part of the Wood as a Fuel Series.

About the Author: Thomas J. Karsky is an Extension Farm Safety Specialist and Professor at the University of Idaho.

The Pizza Oven Evolution

Pizza Oven Evolution - Cookstove Community

At Obadiah’s, wood cookstoves have been our bread and butter for many years. They’re a staple of life for those in the country and other remote locations, where electricity is sparse and hauling in bottles of LPG is both cumbersome and dangerous. Not only is a cookstove the best option for many folks, but having one offers them the potential for total self-sufficiency in both heating and cooking. There’s a great sense of freedom in knowing that you rely on no one but yourself for two of the most essential parts of daily life, and Obadiah’s is proud to have helped so many people realize their off-the-grid dreams.

But what about those in less rural locations, who don’t desire the lifestyle that often warrants a cookstove but are still interested in the unique qualities of cooking with a wood-fired oven? Is there a way to obtain the crisp, succulent quality of a meal cooked over the fire without a fireplace grill? As it turns out, yes!

Pizza ovens.

Today, many homes in North America have some kind of backyard entertainment area, be it a patio, a gazebo, a simple pergola-covered patch of stone or brickwork, or something similar. It’s a place for families and friends to converge, socialize, and often most importantly, share food. That’s where the pizza oven comes in, a massively popular centerpiece for any outdoor area that’s as easy to buy today as a new lawnmower.

Long before the words “pizza oven” became the common term for these cookers, they were usually referred to as a “masonry oven”, a cooking unit built with masonry bricks that became extremely common in Italy. While we might think of them as Italian-style today, the basic mechanics of the pizza oven have been employed throughout Europe for centuries, dating back to at least the Roman Republic. Here, the oven traps and radiates heat for an even cook, and with a front-loading design, that heat can be stored for lengthy periods of time without the need for an active fire. It’s one of the most tried and true methods of cooking, and there’s a reason so many restaurants and professional cooks still rely on it.

However, the pizza oven has evolved since the time of Caesar. In Italy, for example; although both regions of Italy use the basic tenets of the traditional oven design style (referred to as the “Pompeii”), there are a few differences in their execution. Northern Italian ovens from Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, etc., tend to have a taller dome than their Southern counterparts. This allows the oven to bake a more varied range of pizza styles, from New York-style to crisp, artisan-style, and hold temperatures that range from 500ºF to 1000ºF (the Pavesi wood and gas-fired pizza oven and the Pavesi rotating pizza oven are great examples of this). The Southern (Neapolitan) approach, by contrast, has an oven with a low dome and is built to work with very high heat, between 800ºF to 1000ºF. This heat creates a stronger top heat that bakes the Neapolitan-style pizza typical of Naples (the Acunto Neapolitan Pizza Oven, for example).

In the late 1940’s in the United States, many Americans sought to build their own brick ovens as they had seen them overseas, but found them commercially unavailable in their own country. Brick ovens require the expertise of a qualified mason to properly construct, however, as arches can be very tricky and domes even more so. That difficulty didn’t put a damper on the desire that many had for these ovens though, and as new masonry products and construction techniques grew in the 20th century, so did the ability for masonry ovens to be pre-cast and assembled on-site, or outright fully assembled and shipped to the customer.

Which brings us to today, a time when pizza ovens are widely available at remarkably cheap prices. Beware though: Those prices are not simply a sign of the times, but rather an indication of a saturated market which often means a general decrease in quality. Somewhere along the line we lost the essence of what made this oven special, with “pizza oven” morphing into a term that means “any outdoor oven that burns wood.” We even have electric pizza ovens that can sit on a kitchen counter, purportedly doing the same thing. The reality is that there are a lot of variables when you get up close and personal with many pizza ovens.

Fontana Pizza E Cucina Double Pizza Oven - Cookstove Community

Fontana Pizza E Cucina Double Pizza Oven

For example, check out the Fontana Pizza E Cucina Double. Ovens like this do not have much masonry in them, and therefore little thermo mass, which means they don’t bake the same way as other ovens. In fact, this is a hybrid wood fired pizza oven cookstove, but Obadiah’s classifies it as a wood-fired cook stove. Why? The dome is stainless steel and the bottom is masonry, much like many other pizza ovens today.

Other variations on the idea of a pizza oven have appeared too, like free standing wood-fired ovens that are outdoor rated, meaning they cannot be installed indoors save for a few exceptions (it must be connected to a Class A chimney to be safe and legal indoors, as shown below).

From these variations and others Obadiah’s has spent years whittling down the list of top-quality pizza oven providers to a select, reliable few. Manufacturers like Peter de Jong’s “Fired Up Kitchens” have installed more pizza ovens in more commercial locations than just about anyone, including the likes of top-rated restaurants and venues in downtown Chicago, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and even the Caribbean. That’s why we’ve been partners with Jong’s American arm, Forza Forni, for years, as well as designing and supplying chimney systems for them. They’re a quality line, and we’re proud to support them.

Most folks can’t just ship a pizza oven over from Italy, however, and that’s where importers like Grills’n Ovens come in. They have been helping us get the beautiful La Nordica line of cookstoves to our North American customers for years, but they primarily deal in ovens, such as the Portuguese Brick Pizza Oven. Check out the construction below!

This baking oven is made with actual brick, in Portugal, as part of a long local tradition. A typical Portuguese wood-fired pizza oven will experience discoloration on the front after awhile due to smoke, but this is actually seen as a point of pride as it indicates a frequently used stove. Obadiah’s is a huge fan of this model because at $1500 after shipping (to anywhere in North America!), this is the best buy for a real hand-made brick pizza oven.

Sopka Giove 8065 Wood Fired Cookstove - Cookstove Community

Sopka Giove 8065 Wood Fired Cookstove

The Italians don’t have a monopoly on pizza ovens, though. Founded in Lithuania and now based in Ohio, Sopka Inc. is well known for their outstanding cookstoves (which we’ve covered here), but that’s not all they can do. Sopka has been producing pizza ovens for the last several years, with great results. These ovens mix elegant exteriors with durable, highly functional interiors and come in a wide range of designs, from the highly versatile outdoor Cupola to the regal Giove with its massive oven. Sopka definitely brings the craftsmanship of their cookstoves to the world of pizza ovens, and Obadiah’s certainly recommends them.

If you’re looking for the best in wood cooking, Obadiah’s Woodstoves is the leader and has partnered with more top names than any other hearth heating company anywhere. Call us, and we will put you in touch with the proper experts, or recommend the best solutions and products for residential, or commercial installations. Obadiah’s is here to help you find the pizza oven you deserve, for the price you can afford.

Purchase Pizza Ovens:

Sopka Inc – Cupola Outdoor Oven
Sopka Inc – Cupolino 70 Modular Pizza Oven
Sopka Inc – Giove KTM 8065 Pizza Oven
Sopka Inc – Jolly KJE 6048 Outdoor Oven
Sopka Inc – Jolly KJE 8048 Outdoor Oven

Forno de Pizza FPS-30EI Di Napoli Oven
Forno de Pizza FPS-04EI Torino Oven
Forno de Pizza FPS-02EI Tuscan Oven

Outdoor Pizza Ovens by Grills’n Ovens

Imported Cookstoves: Why They Are Taking Over

Imported Cookstoves Taking Over - Cookstove Community

Cookstoves are part of a deeply rooted tradition in the United States, combining the peace of socializing around a flickering a fire and the partaking in delicious home cooking. It’s no wonder that we still have demand for these stoves here, a demand that has remained consistent for decades despite the growing popularity of electric and gas heating, and the ease of cooking with modern stoves. Cookstoves capture a basic desire in all of us for the simple life, and that’s why they are still with us.

Unfortunately, cookstove manufacturing in the U.S.A. has been on the decline, both in numbers and in quality, and while there are still several quality cookstove manufacturers in North America, they are mostly Anabaptist (Amish, Mennonite, Hutterites, etc) and live simple lives. These folks put a great deal of passion into their work, but they don’t have the most advanced manufacturing systems and as a result, their finished stoves are not always up to modern standards.

Other top-level U.S. stove manufacturers, like Hearthstone, realized years ago that looking to Europe for stoves to import may be a better option than starting from scratch. So Hearthstone decided to partner with Hergom, one of the largest Spanish stove manufacturers with a large presence in the European stove market as well. Today, not only does Hearthstone import cookstoves from Spain, but their European-style stoves also come from Spain, like the Bari, Tula, and Lima. These stoves are round, oval, and other eye-catching shapes that North American manufacturers seem to shy away from, given the boxy look of most stoves made in the U.S. and even Canada. This is why Obadiah’s has been in love with the styling of European stoves and has been providing them to our clients since 2001, when we introduced Astroflamm (later called “RIKA” in the North America market) with their great looking Esprit and Taurus cookstove models.

It’s also important to note the changing environment of the wood heating industry in the United States. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented new emission standards to combat growing issues with pollution caused by wood smoke, particularly in areas with inversion layers or other inherent difficulties with air quality. The EPA labeled cookstoves as “exempt” from the new standards, but they also more closely defined what qualifies as a cookstove, leading to fears about the future of cookstove manufacturing in this country. However, despite those fears, the regulations were slowly implemented with many accommodations for manufacturers and retailers who were still selling stoves that did not meet the new standard. The regulations themselves have not led to a decrease in manufacturing, but their existence speaks to a larger issue: Americans today, by and large, want clean-burning stoves, and the cleanest burning stoves on the market are the result of the best engineering. While the U.S. may set the bar for craftsmanship in other areas of producing, when it comes to cookstoves, it looks like we have been surpassed by many European countries. Let’s look at a few examples.

The Esse Ironheart

Obadiah’s realized there was a desire for import stoves all the way back in 2000 and actually helped Esse introduce the Ironheart to the USA; in fact, we were supposed to be the U.S. importer but our schedule at the time forced us to pass (we were busy jump-starting Wildfire Fighters). That decision ultimately led to a learning experience in how importing cookstoves can go wrong, as the current importer of the Esse Ironheart uses business practices that we simply can’t agree with or endorse. Be that as it may, from a technological standpoint, the Esse Ironheart is still worth noting.

Esse Ironheart by Obadiah's - Cookstove Community

The Esse Ironheart Cookstove.

The Ironheart hails from England, part of a line of cookstoves that has been in production since 1854. Esse is well known in their home country for being a reliable manufacturer, not only because they have a long history, but because they have adapted to modern technology over the years. They are a company that is willing to change with the times, and they are better for it.

You can read more about the greater details of the Esse Ironheart here, but the one aspect that truly sets it apart from most cookstoves being produced in the U.S. is the use of CNC machining during the manufacturing process. Essentially, this means that the welds on the Ironheart were all done robotically, ensuring precise quality in every stove that rolls out of the factory. Don’t get us wrong, we do appreciate the hand-crafted nature of many cookstoves, but over the years we have certainly run into our fair share of poor welds and lazy craftsmanship- even from stove lines that we otherwise trust. The folks behind Esse no doubt had similar experiences, and made the leap to CNC as soon as they could instead of fearing a change from the “traditional” methods of stove crafting. Manufacturing a product made of cast-iron and steel is tough and people make mistakes, but if you’re after absolute efficiency and want to be as certain as possible that you’ll get it, stoves like the Esse Ironheart are your best bet.

La Nordica Cookstoves

La Nordica, as you might easily guess from the name, calls Italy home. There’s a certain allure to having cooking products from a country famous for its food exports, but La Nordica doesn’t bank on national reputation. Instead, they have taken decades of manufacturing experience and poured it into a line of versatile cookstoves that would look perfect in both a luxurious modern home or a log cabin. Check them out below:

As you can see, La Nordica wasn’t afraid to branch out from the classic look of most cookstoves and go for something bold. There’s an undeniable tendency for manufacturers and designers in the U.S. to approach stoves with nostalgia, trying to re-capture the feeling of “the olden days” when cookstoves were more common. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but when everyone is doing it, the market becomes a bit stale and by catering to an older audience they lose the younger one. La Nordica cookstoves look new, modern. They draw your eye in from across the room even if you don’t know anything about cookstoves.

Looks would be worthless without a solid stove underneath, and thankfully La Nordica delivers there too. The craftsmanship is top-notch, using only the highest quality castings and decking out most of their models with many clever bells and whistles, all the while putting the “cook” back into cookstove with some of the finest ovens we’ve ever worked with. Check out our featured page on La Nordica to learn more.

J.A. Roby Cuisiniere

J.A. Roby Cuisiniere - Cookstove CommunityObadiah’s introduced the J.A. Roby Cuisiniere to the U.S. market in 2012, and while the Cuisiniere comes from Quebec, the province’s close ties to France are written all over the stove. Painted and sporting a rustic look not unlike the Boru Ellis, the Cuisiniere emits less than 2 grams per hours of particulate, making it by far the cleanest burning cookstove available in North America at the moment. It’s a true powerhouse, offering up to 100,000 BTUs/hr compared to the average 20-40,000 from many European stoves.

Originally, the Cuisiniere’s oven was heated solely from the side of the firebox, meaning you would have to rotate your food for proper cooking. However, Woody from Obadiah’s was part of J.A. Roby’s feedback and refinement process for the stove, which allowed us to see first-hand just how it was manufactured and offer input based on our experience with advanced stoves. As a result of J.A. Roby giving folks like us a chance to help, the Cuisiniere now circulates smoke around the oven for even cooking, and even though it is not done in a way that meets the EPA exemption for cookstoves, the stove far surpasses the more-important EPA emission requirements. The Cuisiniere also holds UL, ULC and Canadian emissions certifications, and we’re expecting it to be EPA-certified in the future. In the meantime, it’s so clear how clean burning the Cuisiniere is that even strictly-regulated areas like Washington State should allow it for installation. With increasingly heavy air-quality restrictions in the U.S., stoves like J.A. Roby’s Cuisiniere are clearly the future.

De Manincor Cookstoves

De Manincor Domina Wood Cookstove - Cookstove CommunityAs another Italian manufacturer, De Manincor focuses on creating cookstoves that embrace clean-burning technology. The line has a mostly modern look and feel, not unlike the La Nordica, but there is a tinge of old-world style that makes them stand on their own. The Domina, for example, is free-standing like many classic stoves, but has a face sleek enough to fit naturally in a 21st century living room.

The real feature of De Manincor stoves, however, is their Ecoplus system. The internal design of these cookstoves takes outside air and routes it first underneath the firebox, pre-heating it, then over the flame, where any remaining gas is burned off during combustion. By pre-heating secondary airflow, carbon monoxide levels are reduced to a minimum and efficiency is increased to upwards of 75%. The result is far cleaner smoke and reduced wood consumption, advantages that are paramount in the U.S. market today. That’s why Obadiah’s has been partnered with Wittus, De Manincor’s importer and one of the top importers of all fine European cookstoves. Wittus has been a reliable judge of quality when it comes to cookstoves from across the Atlantic, and models like the De Manincor are exemplary of that.

The De Manincor also comes in a wide variety of bold colors, as seen below with the wonderful Domino 8 Maxi line:

And don’t miss the rest of their Domino lineup:
De Manincor Domino Cookstove Line Up - Cookstove Community

Sopka Cookstoves

A little known manufacturer from Eastern Europe, Sopka has been quietly making cookstoves for years, the first of which was imported to the U.S. in 1999 and was actually one of Obadiah’s first European stove lines. While not as popular as its European counterparts, Sopka’s cookstoves are made with many of the same advanced manufacturing techniques, including robotic welding, and boast impressive efficiency ratings. Most of their models rate above 73%, with the Concept 2 Air and Mini Air models reaching an astounding 85% efficiency. It’s amazing to see how far Sopka has come since we were introduced to them, and if you’re after a UL-listed stove with an original design, these offer a lot of bang for your buck.

The Sopka North is one of Woody’s favorites, with a stainless steel design that will look great for many, many years, as well as advanced refractory in the firebox that allows the stove to burn cleanly and efficiently. We are also particular fans of the Magnum model, which features an innovative optional soapstone exterior. We’ve used other, American-made stoves that incorporate soapstone, but the material is included as little more than a covering shell. Sopka, in contrast, manufactures the soapstone directly onto the sides and underbelly of the Magnum, allowing the stove to retain heat for an impressively extended period of time while making cooking and baking even smoother. It’s progressive design decisions like this that get our attention, and we’re excited for Sopka’s future in North America.

The Razen Cookstove

The Razen Cookstove - Cookstove Community

The Razen Cookstove.

With its sleek, staineless steel body, the Razen cookstove by Firebelly sports a modern aesthetic that would be right at home in any high-end household. Firebelly, an England-based manufacturer, has a unique combination of progressive stove-making skills and an eye for beautiful, symmetrical looks. More importantly though, the Razen has an efficiency rating above 75%, meaning that even with the most restrictive emission standards found in parts of the U.S., you’re not likely to run into any legal issues during installation. The Razen is not available for import yet but it’s already one of Woody’s favorite cookstoves, so Obadiah’s is looking into it and hoping to make some headway in bringing this beautiful unit to the North American market where it will undoubtedly flourish.

The Heckla Wood Cookstove

Heckla Wood Cookstove - Cookstove CommunityThe Heckla wood cookstove from the Czech Republic is one of the most unique stoves we have ever encountered. With a freestanding slender design, the stove is five and a half feet in height, giving it a look that is more “modern appliance” than “traditional cookstove.” But this is more than an aesthetic gimmick: The Heckla has a 78% efficiency rating, is EPA-certified, and is one of just four cookstove lines approved under Washington State’s strict emission standards. It’s also a chef’s delight, with an oven that houses a rack, tray, and baking stone, and is thoroughly customizable with over thirty color tile options. The Heckla proves that you can think well outside the box of traditional stove design and deliver a product that’s highly satisfactory for everyone.

None of this is to say that imported cookstoves are inherently better; you can absolutely find quality stoves made in the USA and Obadiah’s still has a handful that we stand behind 100%. We’re simply saying that over the years we’ve noticed a disappointing trend with domestic cookstoves not keeping up with market demands for clean burns and reliability, while imported stoves are arriving in greater numbers with more satisfied customers. Many European manufacturers have also taken note of the fact that wood cookstoves are not just for Grandma and those living a more rustic lifestyle, but can actually be very sophisticated and rather glamorous- something that most North American manufacturers have not yet realized. Just check out these units from Pertinger, an Italian company specializing in tailor-made cookstoves:

Obadiah’s may be from the mountains of Montana, but this is where we’re headed with the level of products we are offering to our clients.

Cookstoves are currently exempt from EPA regulations… For now. But if a push for better, more consistent quality is not made that could all change, and why wouldn’t it if imported cookstoves can regularly meet emission standards not just here, but in dozens of other countries as well? Our hope is that manufacturers in the U.S. will learn from the Europeans and incorporate some of the amazing techniques we see in their stoves so that, in the end, we all win.

In the meantime, Woody’s gears are turning again. He has partnered with Jason Stewart of New Zealand’s “Intensifire” to work on clean burning combustion processes, and is also networking with other folks around the world who have ideas for unique clean-burning stoves. If you’re interested in working with Obadiah’s to create clean and efficient cookstoves in North America, we are certainly interested in hearing from you.

– Obadiah’s Woodstoves.

Antique Cookstoves: What to Know

Quaker Antique Cookstoves - Cookstove Community

You remember it: Going up to Grandma’s, the quaint cozy household, the smell of homemade cooking, and most importantly, the cookstove. Not only did that stove make countless delicious meals, it also cooked up a lifetime of fond memories with the family. Can you ever hope to recapture that?

Many folks try to reclaim that time in their life by hunting down antique cookstoves because, after all, few things can replace an old fashioned cooker. Right?

Not necessarily. Before you dive into the antique cookstoves market, you need to be aware of some of the basics behind this small and expensive niche.

Old does not always equal great.

Kitchen Stove - Cookstove CommunityMany cookstove manufacturers came and went in the 19th and 20th century; for some it was hard economic times, for others it was simply their poor craftsmanship leading to poor sales. Know the difference. Glenwood, Northwestern Stove Works, Rock Island Stove Co., and Clarion are among the most common brands to stand the test of time, and the true quality stoves were made mostly from cast iron, a material that will hold up for hundreds of years with good design and some basic maintenance. Mind the material you’re looking at in the stove, and note the company.

A rare stove means rare parts.

One member of the Cookstove Community recently approached us trying to identify an antique cookstove they had recently come into possession of. After a little research the brand was identified, but the company went out of business nearly 70 years ago. The stove body was in fine shape with little to no rust, an impressive feet for a piece of equipment that could be over a century old, but it was missing a few things: The base, ash door, skirt, and more. These parts were essential to the stove’s operation, and while the body may have been pretty, it was little more than scrap in light of the missing pieces. Cast iron stove parts were formed with specific molds from each manufacturer, and if that manufacturer is gone, you can bet the molds are too (it’s also worth noting that the same parts tend to fail on every unit in a given line of stoves, so finding those parts on another antique is also difficult). If you find an old stove that’s missing parts, you must be sure that you can track down those parts before purchase.

Don’t expect to heat your home.

Thanks to advances in heating technology, today a single stove can do just about everything from cooking meals to providing domestic hot water and, of course, offering up all the warmth you could ever want. But things weren’t always this way, and while you might remember Grandma’s cookstove being plenty warm, the reality is that it was built during a time when most people had multiple stoves in their household. This meant that the most efficient heaters were dedicated wood stoves, while cookstoves were built with one thing in mind: Cooking. In fact, most antique cookstoves top out at about 50% efficiency, well below what you could expect to achieve with a modern stove. If you’re considering going the antique route, don’t expect what you get to rival today’s standards of flexibility and heating.

Have your antique stove restored by professionals.

So you’ve just found an ancient stove amongst the piles of a yard sale. It’s tempting to think you could simply take it home, give it a good polish and a new paint job and be on your way. The reality, however, is that properly restoring an old stove to a functional state requires a significant amount of time, dedication, and know-how. Special materials and tools are used to restore the finish, parts will need to be replaced or recast, new welding may need to be done, and so on. No matter how “together” a stove may look, if it’s a true antique that hasn’t been used in decades or more, you will need professional help to get it back to working condition without risk of permanent damage. There are many stove restoration companies across the United States, particularly in the Northeast, and a quick search of your area will likely yield some results.

Consider a modern stove with antique style.

You might think all cookstoves on the market today feature a modern look, but that’s not entirely true. Several manufacturers make cookstoves with a decorative, old-fashioned look that disguises their modern, efficient insides. Elmira Stove Works produces the Fireview, a traditional looking steel stove with multiple warming ovens and a gas side burner, and Heartland produces the Oval, which is also traditionally designed with an overhead warming oven and the ability to provide domestic hot water. Heartland AGA makes a similar line as well, with their Sweetheart units.

Our own recommendation for a quality, classic stove comes in the form of the Margin Gem, by Margin Stoves. The Gem offers a cast iron cooking surface and porcelain exterior finish for a look that says traditional, with an internal reburn system that offers modern technological efficiency. It’s the perfect combination of old and new, and you can learn more here. You can also see more modern, antique-style cookstoves on our videos page.

We absolutely understand the appeal of antique cookstoves: You’re not just buying a piece of history, but the aesthetics of stoves that were made a hundred or more years ago are very special. The modern stoves mentioned above were built on the shoulders of those ancient manufacturers, and there’s something to be said for that. However, antiques are expensive, and our hope is that all users of wood heat with an eye towards the classics know what to expect from such high dollar items. Keeping the memory of your heritage alive with an antique is a labor of love, and as long as you begin your search with that in mind, you will find satisfaction.

IntensiFire: Clean-Burning Technology to Improve Your Stove

The Intensifire - Clean Burning Technology to Improve Your Stove - Cookstove Community

Jason Stewart knows a thing or two about wood heat. Twenty years ago, the New Zealand native found himself in a rented home, trying to keep warm with an old wood stove that produced more smoke than heat. It’s a relatable situation for many in North America, where those who rely on wood heat live mostly in rural areas and often rent rather than own a home. Wood stoves are common in Canada and the northern areas of the U.S., but are often poorly maintained or simply old and outdated.

Jason Stewart with Intensifire - Cookstove Community

Jason Stewart with the IntensiFire.

Jason wasn’t about to let his landlord keep him cold, however. With a background in engineering, over the course of the next year and a half Jason set about building his own wood stove to replace the one in his house, and it was this path of self-reliance that led him to thinking about more practical solutions to fixing old, poorly maintained stoves. Five years ago he landed on the idea of creating a combustion system that would intensify the combustion process, which not only produced more heat from less wood, but could also burn wet wood with no smoke! Jason also lowered his carbon monoxide output to next to nothing, a welcome side effect of the increased heat.

Jason saw the potential of this device immediately, developed a business around it, and the IntensiFire was born. But what is it, and how does it work?

The IntensiFire basically acts as an internal flue extension, enabling stove users to burn their downdraft. This adds a feature not common in older stoves, secondary combustion, which brings in a significant amount of additional heat as the gases from burning wood are ignited before they leave the firebox. The benefits of this are two-fold: By adding secondary combustion to a stove that previously had none, the heat of the burn increases, and burning a stove hot is extremely important when it comes to wood fires. It prevents the accumulation of creosote in the chimney, a highly flammable substance left over when the heated by-products of wood smoke hit a cool chimney. When creosote combusts it causes chimney fires, which in turn can cause warping and other damage to areas around the fireplace. At worst, a chimney fire can escape the chimney and turn into a house fire.

IntensiFire with Green Wood - Cookstove Community

The IntensiFire burning green wood.

There’s also a significant financial benefit to secondary combustion, as a firebox that gets hotter faster will more effectively burn damp wood (the IntensiFire can handle wood with up to 60% moisture content, burning it clean with zero smoke), so any wood that’s been somewhat exposed to the elements isn’t wasted with this system installed. Igniting these gases in the firebox also means that they are not being expelled into the atmosphere, which is particularly important when it comes to carbon monoxide. Reducing your carbon footprint is something that everyone in your neighborhood will be happy about, particularly if your area is prone to temperature inversions.

It’s added benefits like this that are close to Jason’s heart. He has a long, active history in the environmental community: In 2010, he was piloting the Ady Gil during anti-whaling operations in the Southern Ocean when the Japanese whaling vessel Shōnan Maru 2 rammed the ship unprovoked, causing catastrophic damage and forcing the crew to abandon ship. The entire incident was captured for the Discovery series “Whale Wars”, and Jason remains friends with the the Gil’s captain and noted activist Pete Bethune. He was also an engineer on Earthrace, a bio-diesel boat that circumnavigated the globe, demonstrating the feasibility of the fuel and promote environmental awareness.

That awareness of the environment is exactly what makes Jason’s work in the heating community important. Does the IntensiFire actually make good on it’s claims, though? According to the press Jason has received over the last few years, it certainly seems to.

Wood Stove Decathlon 2013 - Cookstove Community

Testing tent at the Wood Stove Decathlon – 2013.

In November 2013, the Wood Stove Decathlon took place in Washington D.C, organized by the Alliance for Green Heat and sponsored by the United States Forest Service, Maryland Wood Energy Coalition, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, among many others. The purpose of the contest was to challenge teams of designers to create the next generation of wood stoves with a focus on affordability, efficiency, and low emissions. Among the fourteen finalists? Jason Stewart with the IntensiFire. Jason ultimately took home second place for affordability and third in innovation, attracting attention from major media outlets such as Popular Mechanics, National Geographic, and Examiner. Perhaps most importantly though, was a letter Jason later received from Brookhaven National Laboratory, one of the United States’ official research facilities operated by the Department of Energy.

“In our testing your system was found to have the lowest CO emissions I have seen from a wood stove, approaching zero at times during the burn cycle,” wrote Dr. Thomas Butcher, head of the Energy Conversion Group at Brookhaven. “I would like to encourage you to continue your work with this technology.”

Obadiah's Woody Chain - Cookstove Community

Obadiah’s Woody Chain.

Throughout the IntensiFire’s history, Jason has always gone above and beyond to help his customers. He truly believes in his work, and would not only personally walk every customer through their installation process, but also repair a stove before doing so. Unfortunately, continuing that service on a massive scale in North America has never been feasible in terms of logistics or liability. Nevertheless, his spirit and ingenuity attracted the attention of Woody Chain from Obadiah’s Woodstoves & Alternative Energy.

Modifying an appliance that was engineered to burn a certain temperature presents challenges when the combustion temperature are increased dramatically by a system like the IntensiFire, so in the fall of 2015, Jason and Woody spent several months hashing out ideas on how to bring Jason’s concept of clean combustion to more wood stove users. Together, they produced four test units based on existing wood heaters, selected for Obadiah’s long-term business relations with the manufacturers (spreading out development costs and eliminating UL listing concerns). The chosen units were a converted Woodmaster LT90 Outdoor Wood Boiler, a Kitchen Queen Cookstove, a BIS Panorama zero clearance fireplace and a builder box Heatilator style zero clearance fireplace. Below are some pictures of what Jason and Woody came up with for the LT90:

The results?

Outdoor wood boilers are currently in the crosshairs of the EPA given how dirty they burn, so what better place to start? Jason and Obadiah’s have more testing to do on the LT90 before development can begin, but initial results show that this could easily be the best way to clean up thousands of outdoor wood boilers currently in use.

Meanwhile, the Heatilator and Kitchen Queen produced results that forced Obadiah’s to reconsider the one-size-fits-all approach that Jason has used in the past. The Heatilator’s fireplace became so hot during usage that parts of it glowed cherry red, and eventually the doors blew up! On top of that, the Kitchen Queen cookstove’s oven became super-heated and impossible to control, even after dozens of design changes. For now, both stoves have been put on the backburner.

The Panorama fireplace, however, proved promising with an IntensiFire installation, and it will be refined further.

Ultimately, all of these results demonstrated to Woody that the best way to bring the IntensiFire to North America is to manufacture kits specifically designed for the stove it is going into. Selling one-size-fits-all kits for the DIY crowd isn’t something Obadiah’s will ever been able to do, but producing individual kits for different stoves is an idea that Jason and Woody agree is worth pursuing. The Panorama test unit, for example, will eventually be sold under Obadiah’s line of hearth products as a stand-alone unit that is UL-tested and EPA-certified.

Jason would still like to one day bring his retrofit device for stoves to the States, but for now, he and Woody will be working together with manufacturers to clean up the North American stove market. They have started by following the EPA’s lead, focusing on creating retrofits for the biggest polluters in the most need of clean-up: Outdoor wood boilers. The two are also working together on a line of stoves and boilers for Obadiah’s Woodstoves, which incorporates the IntensiFire into the actual design of the stove to maintain a functional amount of space in the firebox. All this will take time and money to develop, test, manufacture and bring to market, so please stay tuned to the Cookstove Community and Obadiah’s Woodstoves for news on developments as they occur.

Jason’s dedication to the environment and his ingenuity, combined with Obadiah’s understanding of the market and ability to tap into it, make for a team that is set to finally do what’s needed to clean up stoves in North America.

Making the Most of Wood Ash

Making the Most of Wood Ash - Cookstove Community

Wood heat is messy. Limbs from the tree leave piles of debris everywhere, small pieces of the rounds fall off during splitting, bark crumbles off and gets all over the house when you bring it inside, and last but not least: There’s a pile of ash left in your stove after every burn. Most of us learn to accept all these little side-effects of heating with wood, the trade-off being quality, inexpensive warmth for our house. But what if there were a way to turn some of that mess into something useful?

Well, there is. Let’s talk about wood ash.

Wood Ash - Cookstove CommunityWood ash is far more useful than you might realize and, despite the mess it can make, you shouldn’t remove it from your stove after every burn. Ash acts as an insulator, giving the bottom of your firebox an additional layer to absorb and retain heat while your fire is burning. In addition, ash will help reflect heat back into the fire in much the same way that your firebrick does. That firebrick, however, has to be completely heated before it begins to reflect any heat and that process doesn’t take nearly as long with ash. By allowing ash to remain in the firebox, you’re also allowing the small coals produced by your fire to retain heat longer, leading to a hotter fire.

This is not to say you should never remove ash from your firebox. An inch of ash is usually enough to reflect heat, you should avoid allowing more than that to stay in your firebox when using it regularly, and always remove ash at the end of a burn season. Ash does have the ability to draw moisture, and by leaving it in an untouched firebox for months on end, you can actually rust out your stove.

When you do decide to remove ash, use a pail made of sheet metal with a bottom that does not touch the floor and place it on non-combustible surfaces (stone, brick, concrete, etc.). Due to ash being such a great insulator, it can retain heat for a surprisingly long time and you should always treat it as such. Ash particles are hazardous to inhale too, so make sure you wear a mask. However, once you remove the ash from your stove, you may not want to toss it.

Wood itself contains a number of elements such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, with many others in smaller quantities. When you burn wood, the nitrogen and sulfur turn to gas and leave up your chimney while calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other trace elements remain. These elements are the same used in liming, a process that neutralizes soils acidity.

What does that mean for your wood ash?

Ash in Garden - Cookstove CommunityHighly acidic soil makes it harder for plants to grow- everything from your garden to your yard will struggle if your area’s soil is too acidic. Adding a liming agent, such as wood ash, can help return your soil to a less-acidic state and facilitate stronger plants with better growth. Wood ash provides phosphorous, potassium, calcium, boron and other elements to the soil that growing plants crave. Hardwood ash in particular contains a higher percentage of nutrients than softwood ash (Doug Fir, Pine, etc.).

It’s important to note that not all soil needs this, and you should test yours before deciding to add ash. If your soil has a pH level greater than 7.0, you don’t need any ash. If you live in a dry area that sees relatively little rainfall, chances are your soil is alkaline and won’t benefit from a liming agent. But, if you live in an area of high rainfall, it’s very likely that applying some wood ash to your garden can be beneficial. Not only that, but sprinkling it across your lawn can also help facilitate that lush, green grass you’ve always wanted.

Wood ash also repels insects and pests like slugs and snails due to its ability to draw moisture (it essentially sucks the water out of their bodies), so even just sprinkling ash around the base of your plants can be beneficial. This should only be done occasionally, as overdoing it can actually harm your soil. Another use: The elements found in wood ash also help the microorganisms found in compost piles break down organic materials, so if you sprinkle ash onto a layer of compost, you’re helping it breakdown faster.

One of the reasons we love heating with wood is the way it allows us to connect with nature. It’s a rewarding connection, made all the more so when you realize that, right down to it’s very ashes, wood can improve our lives.

Domestic Hot Water and Wood Cookstoves: What To Know


Domestic Hot Water with Elmira Stove - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

A domestic hot water setup with an Elmira Cookstove.

Contents

Many folks who want to live the self-sufficient lifestyle know how to handle their food: Hunting, gardening, and building a fire. Mastering the methods behind each of those tasks means you’ll never have to worry about starving, no matter the situation. But what about water? Specifically, hot water?

We all know water is more important than food for survival, but we don’t often think of the huge role that hot water plays in our day-to-day life. We should, though, because heated water is essential to minimizing bacteria in cooking, cleaning, and bathing. Of course, anyone can throw a pot on top of a stove or over a fire, but if you’re living in an off-the-grid household, your hot water needs will be much greater than any stove-top pot can offer. So what’s the solution?

Domestic hot water via stove.

Many woodstoves and cookstoves offer an option (typically for an additional but reasonable cost) for domestic hot water installations. Here’s how it typically works:

Water Jacket to Storage Tank

Domestic Hot Water - passive - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Domestic Hot Water – Passive System.

A water jacket (also known as a “water coil”) is a block of steel that attaches to the back or side of your stove, and contains an entry and exit connection for piping. When water enters the block, it hits a chamber inside and slows down, allowing the water to become heated. This heated water is then forced out to your water storage tank, which is sitting above your stove.

The water jacket is connected by piping to the water storage tank. As cold water flows from the bottom of the storage tank and into the jacket, it becomes heated. That heated water is then sent back out through a separate pipe to the top of the storage tank, thus creating a tank full of hot water that can then be connected to where ever you need. This method relies on simple physics: Hot water rises, and cold water falls. As a result, no pump is necessary. This creates a thermoloop and is known as “thermosiphoning”, a passive system. You do need a specific valve to make thermosiphoning work, so make sure you use a brass swing valve. Do not use a check valve, especially one that is spring loaded, as it will not create enough pressure for the system to function. See this forum post for more information.

Domestic Hot Water - Pioneer Maid System - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

A passive system installation using a Pioneer Maid Cookstove.

Domestic Hot Water Installation - Cookstove Community

A thermosiphon setup.

For an example of a thermosiphoning set up, we have this installation from our friend Tim. Here, the tank on the left can be shut out of the system with valves, which helps to create hot water faster. To slow the creation of hot water, that tank can be activatied to allow longer burns before both tanks become overwhelmed with water that is too hot.

Note: Since this photo was submitted, the top of the second tank has been connected with hot water, and a tempering valve has been installed. You can read more about Tim’s installation in our forum on this post.

Keep in mind that some cookstoves can be ordered with a water reservoir in the form of a tank that fits onto the back of the stove. If a reservoir is not pressurized it cannot be connected to a domestic hot water system. They are fill and drain systems only, which means you fill it with a bucket and drain it into a bucket. If you buy a wood cookstove with a water reservoir and it is connected to a water coil when there is a fire in the firebox, there must also be water in the water reservoir, or it will melt. If you are going to use a water reservoir on a cookstove, it is best to look for one that has a water reservoir that is passively heated and can sit there empty until needed without a problem. This will eliminate many of the problems associated with the use of a reservoir when you have the luxury of turning a tap for hot water, but also need a back up source in case the power goes out. Hauling water to your stove in buckets is not easy, and it will seldom be used when it is easier to turn a knob for hot water. Over time the water will become stagnate or it will begin to boil and create steam, which can create mold and mildew in your home.

Pump System

Domestic Hot Water - active - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Domestic Hot Water – Active System.

A pump system, by contrast, is an active system. This method of generating domestic hot water relies on an electric pump to create the thermoloop and a heat activated sensor to activate the pump when the stove is hot.

An active system can potentially produce more hot water and, as long you have power, there is less chance of dangerous pressure levels from the water overheating (the result of an active system producing more water movemnt). However, an active system can become complicated quickly: In the event of a power failure, an active system’s electric pump will cease and potentially lead to dangerously high pressure in the water jacket and piping. With this danger in mind, you must also install a relief valve within two feet of the water jacket that is piped to a drain.

Obadiah’s firmly believes that a passive system is the best way to go in terms of simplicity, safety, and expense. There may be circumstances where a pump system is the best (or only) option, but the benefits of relying on simple physics instead of electronics when attempting to live the self-sufficient lifestyle cannot be overstated.

Domestic Hot Water - Gravity System - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

This diagram shows a typical passive installation (sometimes referred to as a “gravity” system) for domestic hot water.

Is Domestic Hot Water Right For You?

So now you know the basics. The real question is, should you use your stove for domestic hot water? Depending on your circumstance, heating this way can be hugely beneficial. With a passive system there is absolutely no reliance on electricity, which will ultimatley keep your heating costs down during the cold winter months.

Kitchen Queen Water Coils - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Water coils for a Kitchen Queen cookstove.

The key to using this type system is understanding that you cannot install valves to turn off the flow of water, or you will have an explosion when the water boils. When there is fire in the firebox of your stove, some of the BTUs will be going into the hot water tank, so you must have two ways to read the temperatures in the tank. If you don’t have a way to read the water inside the tank, you will need to install a temperature gauge on the inlet side of the thermoloop and on the hot side of the domestic hot water outlet on the tank, which will give you an idea of the temperature of the water going in and coming out of the tank. For example, if the water going into the tank on the thermoloop side is running at 220 degrees and the hot water coming out is 190 degrees, it means you have 20 degrees to go before the pop off valve will release and all your hot water goes down the drain.

The real catch with using your stove for domestic hot water is that it is a constant monitoring process.

Domestic Hot Water - Basic System Design - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Example of a hot water system layout using a Kitchen Queen.

You will want to make sure you don’t blow your valve and lose your hot water by bleeding off the BTUs inside the tank when you use hot water at the tap, laundry, or shower. If you have a family, you can rotate your turns at showers and do laundry and dishes throughout the day to periodically use accumulating hot water. Another trick to get the most out of this system is to also drain the hot water tank at night (take showers, etc.), so that it will refill by morning.

This system works if you’re on a ranch, homestead, or farm, and everyone is around during the day. If everyone is going different places all the time, it won’t work because no one can monitor the water temperature. If that’s the case, the system has to be automated with aquastats, pumps, and a diversion system to bleed off BTUs into the something like a hot tub. These systems can get complicated quickly and the price can get expensive, so make sure you can run it with a battery back-up in case of a power failure.

So, how does all of this look in real life? If you worry that a domestic hot water installation will be a mess, fret not! Below are a few photos of a properly installed system that’s been connected to radiant in-floor heating.

By using your stove to heat water for domestic use, you will be taking a huge step towards total self-sufficiency. For more information on domestic hot water via stove, please check out our videos on the subject. There are also several free resources available online to help you understand a bit more about this unique way to heat your water:

  • Kitchen Boiler Connections: A Selection of Practical Letters & Articles Relating to Water Backs & Range Boilers, Compiled from the Metal Worker
    • Hot Water Supply and Kitchen Boiler Connections – William Hutton
    •  
      Cookstove Community’s Woody Chain also offers a basic installation walkthrough on our forums, check it out here if you need some advice on what to do next!

      Obadiah’s Domestic Hot Water Kit

      Not sure what parts you need to begin the process of getting a domestic hot water setup? Fret not! Obadiah’s has put together a comprehensive kit with everything you need for your system. Here’s what’s included:

      First, select your boiler tank size:
      Part # Part Price
      GW 40 40 gallon Range Boiler Tank – Hot rock lined welded heavy gauge steel $475 (plus freight)
      GW 80 80 gallon Range Boiler Tank – Hot rock lined welded heavy gauge steel $745 (plus freight)
      Next, pick up Obadiah’s Domestic Hot Water Kit
      Part # Part Name Price
      36DT Dip Tube for hot Rock Range Boiler $35
      2K501 1.1 gallon Expansion Tank $59 (plus freight)
      34-BD 3/4″ NPT Boiler Drain $11
      T571 Stick Style Thermometer Gauge $33
      SV-150 150 PSI Safety Pressure Relief Valve 3/4″ NPT (2 units) $44
      H25-18 Gauge Style Pressure and Temp Gauge $30
      FV180/U 1/8″ NPT Auto Vent Valve $15
      AM101-1 3/4″ NPT Mixing Valve $103

      Total Price: $317.
       
      Need to add a pump? Just include these parts (either on-grid or off-grid, depending on your living situation):

      Domestic Hot Water Pump Parts (on-grid, 120 Volt AC System)
      Part # Part Price
       006B Taco DHW Circ Pump 120 Volt Sweat $323
       L6006A  Aquasat Controller well type with stem $168
      Domestic Hot Water Pump Parts (off-grid, 12 Volt DC System)*
      Part # Part Price
      C-12V Laing 12 Volt Circ Pump 3 gal per minute 1.9 amps 1/2″NPT $295
      12VRELAY 12 Volt Relay for Circ. Pump $23

      *Note: A 12 volt probe type thermostat is needed to activate the pump, installed to spec. based on system requirements.

      Please note that these are general prices and are subject to change; all prices are provided for estimate purposes only.

Cooking In Your Fireplace

Cooking with the Fireplace Conversion System - Cookstove Community

So you’ve been looking at cookstoves and are absolutely smitten with the idea of having one. How could you not be? The ability to cook your food in the same place that gives you heat without adding on any additional energy expenses is invaluable, especially in emergency situations. That, combined with the time-tested trustworthiness of many stove manufacturers, means you’ll be relying on it year-round for many years. Without question, a cookstove is a great investment. There’s just one problem:

You’ve got a fireplace, and nowhere to put a cookstove.

Some manufacturers offer zero-clearance stoves (and we even offer advice on how to do that yourself here), but that’s little consolation if you lack the space for even the basic dimensions of a cookstove. And there’s just no way for you to cook on your fireplace, which is built (albeit beautifully) into the wall of your home.

…Or is there?

Obadiah’s Woodstoves & Alternative Energy has been aware of the issues surrounding many fireplace installations for years, and we’ve come up with a solution: The Fireplace Conversion System. But before we get into the cooking features, there are a few other important issues this system resolves that you should know about.

An active fireplace can draw more heat than it gives off, leaving you with a room that is strangely colder than if you had never started a fire at all. This happens because a fire draws oxygen for combustion from the room, pulling it up and out the chimney. As this happens, the air that is drawn out of the room will be rapidly replaced by colder air, leaving you to huddle close to the fireplace just to get the little bit of radiant heat it puts out. A common answer to this problem is installing a glass barrier in front of the fireplace, which reduces the air being drawn in. However, no matter what you do, you can never completely stop air from being pulled out of the room without killing your fire.

Obadiah's Fireplace Conversion System - Cookstove Community

Obadiah’s fireplace conversion system pre-installation, with optional grate attachment.

This is where our Fireplace Conversion System comes in. Rather than installing a whole new surround and chimney, a process that would typically cost thousands of dollars, you just send Obadiah’s your fireplace’s measurements and we custom build a unit for you that will easily slide into your existing fireplace. The idea is to make the installation so painless that anyone can do it without having to hire a professional: All you need are a few tools, some patience, and a little bit of common sense. The unit works to improve your heating capabilities by absorbing most of the fire’s heat into the box, which it then redirects back out towards the room instead of allowing it to escape out the chimney. Maybe you appreciate your fireplace mostly for the ambience it offers, but with this system installed, you will actually be able to count on it for heat during an emergency. That, we feel, is something you can’t put a price on.

Obadiah's Fireplace Conversion System - Cookstove Community

The internal crane arm, left, holds a dutch oven.

The bonus to our Fireplace Conversion System, as we mentioned earlier, is the option to use it for cooking. The unit can be installed with a crane arm, allowing you to add a Dutch Oven and cook stews, roasts, casseroles, or anything else you can fit inside. The arm folds back into the firebox to stay out of your way when not in use, and when you need it, you simply rotate it out, hang your oven on it, and rotate it back in. Simple as that. In addition to the crane arm, you can also insert a height-adjustable grilling grate. This essentially turns your fireplace into a traditional grill on which you can cook steak, burgers, hot dogs, and all manner of meat. Check out the video below to see the cooking system in action:

Obadiah’s has been a dealer for fireplaces and wood heating systems for many, many years. In all that time doing business, we’ve always done our best to listen to what people need from their heating system and tried to help them achieve it. Our Fireplace Conversion System is really just the next step in that customer service: By allowing you to finally get real heat out of your fireplace while offering the ability to cook proper meals, this system turns your fireplace into an invaluable resource that you can rely on, no matter what.

– Obadiah’s Woodstoves & Alternative Energy.

Click here to see more about the Fireplace Conversion System with Obadiah’s Woody Chain

Firewood: Six Tips For Better Burning

Firewood Tips - Cookstove Community

If you’re new to wood heat, you might be tempted to just grab the nearest block of wood, throw it in the fire, and call it good for the day. But those of us who have lived season after season by the light of the fire know the most important aspect of wood heat: Firewood. Here are six tips to help you get the most out of your firewood and keep that fire burning bright and hot all winter long.

Use Dry Wood

Wood should be dry, plain and simple. Burning damp or green wood will result in lower fire temperatures, and if the temperature is below 250 degrees, gases released from the wood will liquefy on contact with the cooler sides of the chimney. The liquid will harden, and create creosote on the inside of your chimney. Creosote is your enemy: It’s foul, corrosive, and creates a serious fire hazard for home owners if left unchecked.

Green vs Seasoned Firewood - Cookstove Community

Green wood (left) and seasoned wood (right).

Properly seasoned firewood will go a long ways in reducing creosote. In general, 25% or less for moisture content is a good goal to aim for with your firewood. You can determine the dryness of your wood by checking the end grain for cracks, smacking the wood against another block of wood and listening for a “hollow” sound, or you can purchase a moisture meter. Many wood heat users find that allowing a year for firewood to become seasoned produces the best results, and while it requires patience and planning to gather firewood a year ahead of time, the result is often worth it.

You won’t be able to completely eliminate moisture from wood, but by reducing it, you’ll greatly improve your burn times and the health of your stove.

Store Your Firewood Properly

Firewood Shed - Cookstove CommunityThe best way to make sure your firewood becomes properly seasoned is to make sure it’s properly stored. After gathering the wood keep it stacked and sheltered, preferably outside, or in an area where air can move through it to aid in the drying process. You can throw a tarp over your stack to prevent snow from accumulating, but when there’s no precipitation it’s best to leave the stack uncovered.

Leaving your wood stacked in rounds will only add to the time it takes for moisture to leave the wood. This may not be an issue if you gather your wood an entire season before you intend to use it (allowing it ample time to dry out), but splitting your wood into blocks can greatly expedite the process. Also, try to elevate the bottom row of wood a few inches off the ground to prevent ground moisture from leaching into it.

Purchasing Firewood vs. Cutting Your Own

How you acquire firewood is an important decision. Do you buy it from a local dealer, or purchase a permit and gather it yourself? The obvious benefit of purchasing it is that it greatly simplifies the process- gathering firewood can be an intense, physical task requiring many tools and a bit of forestry knowledge . However, many people enjoy doing so for the feeling of self-sufficiency and quality control, and find the physical challenge of felling and bucking trees to be rewarding in itself. Plus, once you get the hang of it, gathering your own firewood can be significantly cheaper.

Firewood Cord - Cookstove CommunityIf you choose to purchase your firewood, you’ll find that it is typically sold in “cords”: A stack measuring four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long (4’ x 4’ x 8’). You won’t find many dealers selling firewood in 4’ pieces as a typical piece of firewood for woodstoves will measure about 16 inches, but the cord is the general rule of thumb and any volume of firewood for sale should relate to it. Try to avoid purchasing any firewood sold in volumes other than a cord, as the amount in a truckload or trailer load can be deceptive. Most importantly, *always* inspect the wood before buying it to make sure it is seasoned properly. Features like length, split, and cleanliness all add labor costs, so the price of available cords will vary.

If you would rather gather your own firewood, there are a number of things to consider. First and foremost, you will need to know the basics of operating a chainsaw and felling trees. Neither task should be taken lightly; each year tens of thousands of people are injured by improperly using a chainsaw and failing to understand correct felling methods. These issues can be easily avoided with a little bit of training and proper safety gear, so please educate yourself before going into the woods.

Chainsaw Use - Cookstove CommunityWhen collecting firewood from public land, you may need to purchase a permit from your local public land management organization (Department of Forestry or Natural Resources for state land, Forest Service for federal land). Permits will have their own set of rules unique to the forest you’re on, so please read it over carefully. Avoid cutting live trees and look for “snags” (dead trees), as these will have low moisture content and season faster. Before cutting, check the tree for signs of tree rot or wildlife habitat (cutting trees that offer shelter for wildlife, i.e. birds and small mammals, is harmful to a forest’s ecosystem). If you’re lucky, you might be able to gather the majority of your firewood from trees that have already fallen, but chances are you’ll need to knock down some standing trees to get the best wood.

Know Your Trees

The kinds of firewood available to you will vary based on where you live, but some wood is more efficient than others. First and foremost, wood can be divided into two classifications: Hardwood and softwood. Hardwoods are typically characterized by their broad leaves, and softwoods by the presence of cones. These characteristics have more to do with the label of “hard” or “soft” than the actual hardness of the wood, which varies greatly in each category. Hardwoods tend to be more expensive if you’re purchasing your firewood, but they are dense, and quality hardwood will give you great burn times. However, because of their density, hardwoods also take much longer to dry out and ignite. Softwoods will burn hot and fast, but with less density, and produce shorter burn times.

Oak Vs Doug Fir - Cookstove Community

Oak Wood (left) and Douglas Fir (right).

Keep in mind that none of this necessarily indicates one class is superior to the other; your preference will depend on what type of fire you’re trying to keep, as well as how abundant certain types of wood are in your area. When it comes to using hardwoods for fuel, the most popular species are oak, hard maple, and birch. For softwood, many people choose to use lodgepole, doug fir, cedar, and larch.

Splitting Wood

Splitting Maul - Cookstove Community

A splitting maul.

Unless you purchase your firewood pre-split you’ll be doing it yourself, and using the proper physical technique will save you not only time, but a lot of back pain as well. Always place your round on top of a short chopping block- this will provide resistance, unlike the ground, which will absorb the force of your swing. Use a splitting maul, not an ax; a maul’s wedge shape is less prone to getting stuck in the wood than the thin head of an ax. Keep in mind that heavier is not necessarily better when it comes to the maul, too. Speed and sharpness are much more important for splitting a round than mass, so look for maul that’s around six pounds or so. Look for cracks in the round and aim for one to make the split easier, but also keep an eye out for large knots that could slow the velocity of your follow through.

There are several different methods for swinging a maul, from lifting it overhead to going more over the shoulder. Which one you should use depends mostly on your body type and strength, so experiment until you find a method that feels comfortable and powerful to you. When you set up your swing, do *not* aim for the center of the round. Instead, bring your maul down at an angle near the edge of the round, where it tends to be weaker. Focus on your follow through and don’t let up your speed upon connecting with the wood, otherwise you risk bouncing off the round and potentially damaging your maul.

Don’t Over Fill Your Firebox

Fire needs three things: Fuel, heat, and oxygen. If you pack your firebox as full as possible, you will deprive your fire of much needed oxygen and waste a lot of time just trying to maintain a flame. Stack your wood in layers to about two-thirds the height of the firebox, crisscrossed, with a few pieces of kindling at the bottom. Using newspaper to light the kindling is a common route, though using paraffin wax fire starters are a fast, clean alternative. For an example, here’s Obadiah’s Woody Chain loading the firebox of an Esse Ironheart.

Wood heat is not always as simple as it sounds, but if you keep in mind the above basics of firewood use, you can be sure that you’re on the right track to getting the most out of your stove.

Choosing Your Cookstove

Choosing Your Cookstove - Cookstove Community

When you picture a cookstove, what do you see? An old, dusty piece of equipment from a time gone by? An oddly shaped woodstove? Or maybe just an ordinary old stove? Whether you’re looking for a new cookstove or just curious about what’s out there, there’s a whole world of designs and features to investigate. The following is a short list of cookstoves that demonstrate the kind of variety in visual and mechanical quality offered today, all of which we recommend to anyone choosing the cookstove life.

Vermont Bun Baker

Vermont Bun Baker - Cookstove CommunityThe Vermont Bun Baker takes the classic aesthetic of a cookstove and gives it an elegant, polished update. The Bun Baker is technically the same stove as the Australian “Baker’s Oven,” but Obadiah’s worked with the original manufacturer to add a soapstone cover around the stove, giving it its unique look (check out the conversion process in our videos). Its stacked design has the stove sitting below the firebox, which will heat up to 900 square feet, and also has a cook top space sizable enough for most cooking needs. The Bun Baker is a fine example of how an old design can be re-worked into something more modern and efficient (the soapstone adds an estimated four to five hours of heat to any burn), while retaining all of the craftsmanship of the original standby design.

Videos of the Vermont Bun Baker | The Vermont Bun Baker at Obadiah’s

The Kitchen Queen

Kitchen Queen Stainless Steel Doors - Cookstove CommunityLeave it to the Amish to create a staple of modern cookstoves that has held up for many years. The Kitchen Queen is one of the most popular stoves amongst folks here in the Cookstove Community, and the reasons are pretty clear: To begin with, The Queen has a huge oven making it perfect for larger undertakings like turkeys, roasts, and other meals where you need as much space as you can get. Most important, however, is that the Kitchen Queen is just well-engineered. Heat and smoke from the firebox is routed naturally around the oven, working with convection instead of against it, allowing the oven to heat quicker and more efficiently in the process. This also keeps the stove operating cleaner for much longer, making the Queen a long-lasting stove that provides for all the cooking needs you could have.

Videos of the Kitchen Queen | The Kitchen Queen at Obadiah’s

Esse Ironheart

The Esse is a British design, but it looks right at home here in the states. Its understated design belies the carefully crafted inner-workings: The Esse Ironheart is constructed with the latest in technology, everything from lasers to robots are used to ensure it remains a reliable and robust stove providing you with heat and hot food for decades. Esse Ironheart Cookstove - Cookstove CommunityWith its large firebox you have the freedom to use much larger pieces of wood, meaning there’s less restoking, while the cook top features some bells and whistles not typically found in other cookstoves. Two steel-finished hotplate covers sit on top of a large hob area, which uses designated heat zones for precise cooking control. The stove works to keep things clean as well, with vented extraction from the oven taking cooking odors up the flue and out of your home, and a sliding lever allowing for total control of the air wash- keeping the stove’s glass clean. The Esse Ironheart is a true testament to the quality of modern stoves, and we’ve been nothing short of amazed while using it.

Videos of the Esse Ironheart | The Esse Ironheart at Obadiah’s

J.A. Roby Mystere

JA Roby Mystere - Cookstove CommunityThe Mystere’s bold looks are like nothing else on the market- classic, yet artistically crafted. The embellishments combine with the huge viewing window on the firebox to form a stove that’s not just a heating appliance, but a visual centerpiece of any living space. It’s an efficient stove to boot (with EPA-certification), perfect for anyone looking to bake some pies or bread loaves while enjoying the beautiful view it offers. The Mystere’s design also allows a low clearance to combustibles, meaning that even if your home is already a bit snug, it will still fit right in.
 

J.A. Roby Mystere Cookstove at Obadiah’s

La Nordica Rosa Maiolica

La Nordica is a well-known Italian manufacturer that has only recently ventured to the states, and after getting our hands on the Rosa Maiolica, it’s safe to say we had no idea what we were missing.La Nordica Rosa Maiolica - Cookstove Community Like most European stoves, the Rosa is designed with rigorous international standards in mind, so you can be sure that when it comes to emissions and efficiency, the Rosa is at the top of the game. The cooktop is large enough to satisfy any cooking needs, as is the oven, and the firebox offers up a whopping 6500 square feet of heat. The Rosa is also, obviously, just gorgeous to look at: The high quality hinges, latches, paint, and overall aesthetic take the Rosa a whole level above most cookstoves. If you’re after a high-class stove, look no further than the La Nordica Rosa Maiolica.

Videos of La Nordica Rosa Maiolica | La Nordica Rosa Maiolica at Obadiah’s

As you can see, cookstoves today have a wide range of design and aesthetic influences- from the robust standbys by the Amish, workhorses from Britain, extravagance from Italy, and everything in between. Choosing a stove that best suits your needs is anything but an easy process, but if you still have any questions, just head on over to our forums and ask our friendly community, we’re always happy to help. Cookstoves have come a long ways in recent years, and they’re only just getting started.