Cookstove! Nothing Is Easy.

We all know how the world works; nothing is ever as easy as it seems. Get out a pen and write this down:

“Nothing is ever as easy as it seems.”

That’s why I’ve always hated the smug jackoffs (like the folks on the cover of Mother Earth News) who use the phrase voluntary simplicity. You know who I’m talking about. The dude waving at the organic tomatoes that he grew using $10,000 worth of hydroponic wizardry or the happy retired couple standing in front of a massive log home that’s amid six acres of landscaping performed with a brand new Kubota diesel tractor. Sure they’re petting an heirloom breed chicken but a lot of work went into the damn chicken.

Doing things on your own on a farm/homestead/real life may be voluntary but there’s nothing simple about it. It’s messy, goofy, and complex. You know what’s simple? Simple is working in a cubicle as a drone. When you want something you buy it from China, you pick it out at WalMart, and you pay for it with Visa. That’s simple. Not a single brain cell killed in that entire process. No muss. No fuss.

What’s not simple are the goofy ideas that I chase; like putting a woodstove to use 80 years after it was built.


A woodstove is not a box in which you put a fire. It’s a box in which you put heat shields and the heat shields protect the box. This is due to thermodynamics or the Doppler effect or some other sciency way of saying “if the box gets too hot it’ll warp”. The heat shield can be brick… like the non-standard unobtainable ones my wood stove service repairman broke. (Full story: #1, #2, #3, #4.) Or it can be cast iron… based on a design that went away when rural electrification was still a thing;  like the ones in my “new” cookstove.

cookstove-firebox-01

Here’s today’s challenge. Identify the portion of the firebox that’s missing a heat shield. Then go to WalMart and see if they’ve got one on stock. Go ahead. I dare ya’!

cookstove-firebox-02

Apparently the previous owners were burning uranium pellets. Though it affected only one of eight shields.

cookstove-firebox-03

I couldn’t get a cast iron replacement so I got a welded steel facsimile. On the left is the identical part (from the other side of the firebox). It was used as a model. None of this is tight tolerance. It’s a firebox, not a piston ring.

cookstove-firebox-04

Here’s the replacement when it’s installed. It looks a little loose but all the parts are that way to allow room for expansion and contraction. I suspect steel, which is not as awesome as cast iron, will nonetheless last a very long time. While cast iron ought to last forever, steel might last a mere… lifetime.

cookstove-firebox-05

I’m still not done but I was pretty excited. I dug up an old camp coffee pot that has been hanging around forever. I put it on the assembled stove and imagined my glorious future. Also, this pot is not a percolator. What gives with that?

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About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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19 Responses to Cookstove! Nothing Is Easy.

  1. Wolfman says:

    I may actually take that advice. I’ll get a nice little slip of paper, and my nice fountain pen, and write that note, and laminate it with packing tape, and place it in my wallet. Which sounds like it may be more work than it has to be, but maybe that’s the point.

    • Ideally it would be universally recognized as the truth. Then we could use your slip of paper as shorthand for when the inanities or reality get ahead of a person. “You took all afternoon the change the fanbelt?”… that just sounds silly. So then you get to the root of the matter “the garage flooded, NAPA sold the wrong size, Carquest was sold out, I had to drive to the next town over to get the part, there was this stripped rusted bolt, that fell down a drain, after the garage lights went out, etc…”… that’s life.

      So maybe we could just print the phrase “nothing is ever easy as it seems” and hand over the card?

      • Wolfman says:

        I carry personal calling cards; just my name, email address, and phone number on them, with space to write a quick note. An archaic practice, to be sure, and I don’t give out very many. But perhaps the next time I need to order some more, I’ll order a box with that bit of wisdom printed on it. If I do, I’ll mail you some.

  2. Ray in Kentucky says:

    If the coffee pot is like some I have encountered, think of it as a drip coffee machine. Instead of an automatically regulated reservoir, some Luddite has to pour boiling water in the top. I mean if you can find a Luddite…….

    • I can be a Luddite and blog about it too. 🙂

      • Papa Pig says:

        I understand that hot boiling water makes it easier to pluck poultry. Since Bowling Pin may take things personally when you pack the pigs to the processing plant…

      • He’s a mite scrawny. I’d be happy to keep him all winter just because I like him (if he were smart enough to get out of the cold). But who knows what he’ll do when his buddies disappear? He might move back underneath my truck or he might fly to the neighbor’s place and become a horse or… maybe he’ll go wherever he went when I thought he was dead. He’s an odd duck.

  3. Gary W. Anthony, MSgt, USAF, Ret. says:

    I would have called around to the local High Schools and asked if they had a metal shop class that could cast ‘cast iron’. They’re always looking for projects that can be used for teaching.

    • High schools? They probably haven’t had a “casting iron” shop class since the Carter era. There’s no time left after the anti-bullying rally, the gender appreciation studies, and the poetry based math class.

  4. doubletrouble says:

    “Nothing is ever as easy as it seems.”
    And its collorary:
    “Everything takes longer than it should.”

    I always thought that those were Yankee aphorisms from back when.
    Still apply every time *I* head to the garage.

  5. Timbotoo says:

    For the coffee pot you first have to boil water and then let it drip through the ground coffee. “Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.”

    • That sucks. If you boil the water in the bottom, then pour it in the top won’t it leak all over hell before you get the top on the bottom again?

      This explains why my first experiment was weak. (More on that later.)

      • Mark Matis says:

        Most people have another pot they can use to boil the water. Didn’t realize life was that spartan in the ol’ homestead…
        }:-]

      • I’m not that desperate. I have both a pot to piss in AND a window to throw it out of.

      • saoirse says:

        ones we had were put together with the piece having the spout upside down, flame went on the end you have up,no lid needed then /assembled differently 1s we had-
        so when yer water boiled, you simply inverted it and it dripped through.
        today they’re a lotta money …so we went back to the old stove top percolater.
        2nd post on amazon explains it better.
        we had BIG ones for real cups of coffee, not espresso sized which is what these 1s are but method is the same–invert it.

  6. Phil B says:

    What you need to do is buy yourself some Insulating Refractory Cement and you can make your own linings for your wood stove and/or this cooker.

    I have a booklet on how to make a hear treatment forge and how to cast the linings. The “best quality” cement will withstand 5000 degrees f, the cheaper stuff 3000 degrees f.

    According to the booklet, these two companies supply the stuff:

    http://www.mcmaster.com/#refractory-cement/=zupokk

    http://www.budgetcastingsupply.com

    I’m sure that a man of your cunning, resourcefulness and sheer bloody mindedness can fabricate as many replacement firebricks as you need and swap them for bacon, services and other useful stuff.

    Equally, your extreme … errr … BUDGET MINDEDNESS will cause severe palpitations when you realise that you need to buy a 50 pound bag and that it will cost you $86-54 ….

    Decisions, eh? Spend $86-54 and be the hero and firebrick supplier of the district and unlimited bacon, nubile hotties and strong liquor OR keep the money ….. What’s it gonna be, big boy? >};o)

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