Cookstove! Crossed The Finish Line

I am sipping coffee and happier than a pig in shit. Why? Because this is the inaugural run of Betsy… my newly operational cook stove / garage heat source. I couldn’t be happier. It’s a genuine EMP proof, survivalist approved, zombie apocalypse endorsed, gluten free, dolphin safe, fully depreciated, homestead experienced, multi-purpose, cooking implement that heats the garage and also makes coffee. Plus it looks spiffy.

I spent $109 in parts and expect it to last forever. Win!

I’m new to cookstoves so I’m tinkering with it like it’s a nuclear reactor. Some initial results:

  • The tiny firebox takes a while to warm up but consumes much less wood than I expected.
  • When it’s first started a tiny bit of smoke escapes from the… OK what do you call those round things you open and close to peer into the stove? Anyway they heat up in a minute or two and then there isn’t even the tiniest wisp of smoke.
  • The chimney / black pipe I assembled is rock solid and probably I fretted too much over it. It stays cooler than I expected, which is fine with me.
  • It heats the garage but does so slowly. (The building is now 30 degrees warmer than ambient and still climbing.) I’m guessing I’ll need to start a fire an hour or two before I need to use the garage; which is about what I expected.
  • Despite (or due to) the slowly warming thermal mass it’s a very pleasant heat. It’s a nice place to sit and blog on my AlphaSmart Dana.
  • It’s on blocks so the floor is still cold. I might add a small fan in the future to distribute the heat better.
  • I’m going to need a nicer chair. (I earned it!)

I didn’t plan on using the cooking surface but it impresses me and now I’m considering the opportunities. The metal gets hot much faster than I expected. Immensely faster than the stove itself. I imagine I’ll be able to make coffee faster than I can warm the garage.

As for the coffee I scrounged an old drip coffee um… coffee “pot”? (I’m not sure what it is, since it doesn’t seem to percolate but it has… parts.) It’s an aluminium camping thing; probably meant for a Coleman gas stove. I got it for free and at that price it’s a steal. The first cup of coffee came fast but was weak. I need to move the pot around the surface to keep it from getting too hot. The second cup was a lot better. I may upgrade to a cooler looking cowboy style coffee pot (mostly because I like the little glass percolator bubble thing). Of course I could just walk to the house where the automatic coffee pot is perpetually maintained and ready to go.

Looking at that big iron cooking surface instigates an uncontrollable desire to whip up some bacon and eggs on an iron skillet. It’s almost an obsession.

The oven is at 250 degrees and climbing. Hmmm… do I sense cowboy baked beans in my future? With bacon of course. The oven’s temperature doesn’t seem to fluctuate much but there’s probably a lot more heat on the top than the bottom. The thermometer in the door is (as expected) unresponsive but the junk I rescued with the stove included a “portable” thermometer that’s certainly usable.

All told it works like a charm. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, it’s not like fire is new technology. I’m relieved. Given all the ways a homestead project can go wrong… this one didn’t.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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15 Responses to Cookstove! Crossed The Finish Line

  1. davefreer says:

    excellent! Now about fixing a cold-smoking chamber to the chimney… (seriously a daydream of mine, stuffed by the fact that good cold smoking temps are under 30 degrees C. The old houses they used to do it in were multi-story.

    • You want a smoker but you’re on your own with that. I love smoked meat but I’m more interested in the eating part of the equation. I dream of a walk in freezer. I read somewhere about people “hotwiring” standard air conditioners and building super insulated rooms; the two together creating a walk in freezer. Seems silly in August but brilliant in January.

  2. howard says:

    We always called the round plates in the top eyes. You should have a sliding draft plate in the back which routes the smoke and heat either directly up the chimney or around the oven first. Most cook stoves have one . It allow smoke to vent directly when starting the fire or when you just want to make coffee and not over heat the kitchen (garage). In the other position you get more heat out of the stove and the oven heats more evenly. To heat the building more quickly leave the oven door open.
    We use a drip pot all the time. You just have to figure out how much coffee to put in the top to get it the way you like. Your are supposed to heat the water in a kettle and pour it over the coffee in the top part so it drips through into the bottom.

  3. Ray says:

    Well done! Personally, I’d christen the stove with a large cast iron dutch oven full of beef and beans while a skillet corn bread worked it’s way to golden perfection (we hope) in the oven. Then once the cornbread is done, swap it out for a dutch oven peach cobbler. Hot fresh coffee on the side. But don’t let the coffee pot sit too long on the stove or you’ll burn it. You may have to invest in a good thermos or airpot to keep out in the garage.

    My last coffee machine died of old age after 10 years. So I went back to making it the old fashioned way. I use a 2 quart pitcher. Throw in the appropriate amount of grounds, pour boiling water over the top and let it steep for 3 to 4 minutes. Then pour the coffee through a filter right into my Stanley thermos with enough left over to fill my mug. Best tasting coffee I’ve had in a long time. I don’t think I’ll ever buy another drip coffee maker. Too much flavor lost. The thermos keeps the coffee hot for up to 8 hours with no problem.

    A question about the stove. Does your oven have adjustable baffles to control the temperature? Or do you just make a larger or smaller fire?


    • You sound like a hell of a cook. I’m not up to that level. My food never killed anyone but peach cobbler is out of my league. C’mon out and give my stove a workout!

      The oven has (I think) an adjustable baffle. There is a lever at the back of the stove that either allows heat/smoke/exhaust to exit above the oven or blocks it and (I think) sends everything to exit beneath the oven. It functions but I’m not sure how to use it.

      Also, the stove has a damper at the exit to the black pipe. This was common for decades on nearly all stoves but my main (more modern) stove does not have that. On my modern stove you control things by restricting air coming in to the firebox (and routing air through the reburn chamber) and that seems to do the job. So the damper is yet another lever on the new stove that comes with a learning curve.

      I can see I’ll have to spend many happy hours sitting in my garage doing nothing and cooking coffee.

      • Ray says:

        Well, I think I’m a better writer than a cook, hence the over the top description in my previous post. I do love to cook, but I’m not all that great at it. But I’m getting better. The one thing we have now is the internet for recipes. All you need is a desire to learn something new. This year I started making my own bread. Absolutely love doing it. Anyway, good luck with the new stove. We’ll be expecting an update in a month (evil grin)


  4. Ruth says:

    There are stove top fans you can buy, that don’t require any electrical connection and are powered just by the heat from the wood burning stove they’re sitting on. They’re not the cheapest things out there, but they work a treat. We’ve got two (one two blade and one 3 blade) and they move a nice amount of air. Might be worth looking into for your setup as they’d help the space warm up faster.

    • The garage isn’t off grid. A $10 AC fan will suffice. I’ll have to look through my stuff and see if I’ve got a fan to donate to the cause.

      I’ve had my doubts about the “thermal” non-electric fans. You’ve had good luck with yours?

      • P2 says:

        I’ve got one on my woodstove in the house. Works like a charm. A thermocouple motor drives the fan based on temp differential between the base and the cooling fins on the top. Kept my hovel at 72 the entire 8 days I went without power last winter at -25 and again for 4 in sept at 25 above. They’re a little spendy, but well worth the investment. And they don’t rely on a power source, so they’ll be there when ya really need em…..

      • Ruth says:

        Yup, had one for going on 5yrs now, the other for 4. They don’t move as much air as the motorized blower, but they do move alot of air.

  5. Pingback: Wood burning stove fans » Scary Yankee Chick

  6. Robert says:

    “an uncontrollable desire to whip up some bacon and eggs on an iron skillet. It’s almost an obsession.”
    It’s not an obsession- it’s being civilized.

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