The Cookstove Report (Fireplace Part XVII)
When we built the masonry alcove, I included conduit and an electrical box so that we could have electricity and light right at the stove. The light works well for illuminating what would otherwise be a shadowy brick closet. To keep readers oriented, I should mention that this alcove is back-to-back with the Rumford fireplace.
The entire alcove, including the floor, had to be complete before I could confidently fit up the stove pipe and fire the stove for the first time. The last place we laid the flagstone flooring was beneath the stove. Because the stove was already sitting in the alcove (and weighs maybe 1500 pounds), I used a car jack to lift the feet far enough off the ground to get the flagstones under them. To the left and right of the stove, I temporarily placed foam insulation to keep the stove from tipping within the alcove. I was glad to get the floor done and put the stove back on the ground, because this was not the most stable (or safe) configuration.
Fires are very easy to start in this stove, and although it is not 100.00% air tight, no smoke leaks out of the stove, because the flue is always pulling air from the stove. The cook top is hot enough to cook on within 20 minutes, but the oven takes a bit longer to come up to temperature. With the firebox loaded about 25% full, and the air inlet shut almost all the way down, the oven "wants" to stay about 375 to 425 degrees... wonderful! Open the air inlet too much, or put little pieces of really dry wood in the stove and the oven will shoot up to 600 degrees. Great for self-cleaning, but a little too hot for cookies and pies! Speaking of which, my wife has already cooked a some tasty pies in this oven.
In this final picture, I'm impressing my daughter with my culinary skills. She's patiently waiting in the wood storage area for me to finish cooking some frozen corn dogs for her. (A somewhat ironic choice for the first meal from our cook stove?) Home canned green beans are simmering on the cook top (compliments of my wife), and a pie (it was cooked a few days earlier in the pizza oven I think) is in the warming closet at the top of the oven.
Until we fired it up for the first time, I never realized how much cooking area these stoves have. You can place a pan (or your hand!) anywhere on the large stovetop and cook. A grocery bag full of wood is plenty enough to cook an entire meal with this stove. Unlike some stoves, this one is not designed to heat a house - in fact, it's so well insulated that you can safely place your hand on the side or back of the stove after it's been fired for the entire day. (But don't try touching the front doors or the cook top!) We have not yet figured out how to keep a fire going all night in the stove. The wood always burns up some time in the middle of the night. I suspect our flue has too much draft, because the fires burn hot even when the integral damper and air controls are shut all the way down. But, so far, we're really happy with the stove. It's another one of those products that has exceeded our expectations.