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Wood stove help needed
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Barbara    Posted 01-23-2005 at 07:31:19       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Sorry...I got too wordy on the title of my "Just Dreaming" note and the wood stove help part didn't show up... reposted more directly here.

Good morning to all. Back in September I wrote a note that I was a fish out of water, dreaming of living in the country and not sure how to. Several of you graciously replied very supportive and inspiring replies to basically "just do it", for which I am very grateful.

Well, we've been busy packin' and movin', and here we are in WA, living on a small lake on some land and I cried when I first saw it to think I could live in a place so beautiful. God has blessed us more than I can imagine. In spite of the rain and the of winter, our 11 yr old son is so excited to be here, even though he misses his friends in CA. He's not too sure he likes all these grey skies though. I tried to reassure him that when you don't live in a desert, grey skies are just part of winter.

Well, I have a question for anyone who knows wood stoves. The house we are renting has a Lopi Answer wood stove. I have lit fireplaces before with not too much trouble, but this thing has this sealed door and this draft vent thing with an open/close slide-in/out knob, and even though I have read the manual, we are still having trouble getting it lit and especially keeping it lit. A big problem is all the smoke it often causes (even if the door is shut) especially when we have to relight it, sometimes four or five times. We have a huge wood pile out back, unfortunately most of it is wet and it is raining so often it won't really dry out. We brought some onto the back covered deck, which we found leaks and it still gets wet. However, we had problems even with the dry wood we had.

When I read the manual, it seems pretty complicated with all these wood types (I have no idea what kind of wood we have) and degrees of heat (we put an oven thermometer on top like the book said and even though at one point it looked so hot my husband was worried and tossed some water on it, it registered about 350 degrees, which I later checked in the manual and found that it is only a low burn (which they don't recommend) and an intese burn is about 750 degrees I think. How you would get it that hot in that small box I have no idea. We are a bit worried that the glass will blow out from the heat (that happened twice with a glass fireplace door we had years ago).

Part of the problem in starting it I think is the box is so small it is hard to get the wood properly positioned. The book says to put a small log on each side of the box with paper and kindling in the middle and a bigger log over the top. My attempts at that so totally filled the house with smoke it was hard to breath. My husband has had the best success with teepee-style fires, but often those don't stay lit long either and sometimes cause a good deal of smoke too. He thinks the problem is insufficent dry kindling.

The manual also says that when you have it going, if you almost close the draft knob (to like 3/16ths of an inch, I think - there are no measurement marks on it so I've no idea how you tell when you've got it closed just right) and that assuming you've done everything else right, the thing will do a low burn overnight and still have coals in the morning. Haven't been able to get that right either.

Any of you who have experience at this sort of thing and know any tricks or tips, we would surely appreciate it.

Thanks again for a lovely web site. Barbara

Bernie in MA    Posted 01-23-2005 at 12:55:10       [Reply]  [No Email]
I have to build a new fire in my shop every day that I use it in the winter. I use tarpaper to get it started. It's a real thin black material used under siding or roofing.

I put a small stick across the stove just behind the draft holes with the end on some ashes so the air can get under the center. Fold a piece of tarpaper 4x6" like a tent, light one end keeping your fingers outside and letting the flames go up the inside, and place it at right angles to the stick extending into the stove so the air will flow under the cross stick and thru the "tent". Put small twigs or kindling over the t-paper with the ends resting on the stick, which keeps the t-paper from getting mashed flat. Add bigger small dry wood as the fire gets bigger. I practically never have to rebuild my fire using this method.

bob    Posted 01-23-2005 at 10:51:11       [Reply]  [No Email]
try and take a piece of paper and light and hold up inside by stack as it warms you will see it draw then light your fire and keep damper open untill fire has a body to it Don,t know what size logs you have but might want to splitt them at first

Gunner    Posted 01-23-2005 at 09:58:23       [Reply]  [No Email]
Might try cracking the door open slightly to let the thing breath but not so much to fill the room w/ smoke.

What size is that stove? Might want to split the wood if the stove is really small....

3/16" pull on a lever? At this point, I'd wad that book/manual up and use it for kindlin-

My first woodstove too    Posted 01-23-2005 at 09:36:26       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Hey Barbara,

I just moved out to the boonies too and this is my first winter and first woodstove. It took me a few tries to get this woodfire thing down (so far, no house fire!).

1. It sounds like there's something wrong in your chimney. Have you had it inspected and cleaned? If not, do so. The draw problem might be an indication of a blockage.

2. Getting a fire started, I have discovered in my science geeky way, has little to do with flame and more to do with temperature. For instance, you might have obvious flame and a cold stove still, if you shut the damper the flame will go out.

According to my firebox thermometer, the burnzone is between 200 and 600 degrees (Farenheit). Colder and you're just making creosote, hotter and your overfiring your box. So when I build a fire I will leave the damper open until I get good combustion temperatures in the BOX as opposed to just on the wood. Then I open my catalytic converter and close my damper.

3. The design your directions suggested is good. I like to put the combustibles between two pieces of wood and cover it with another. Lately I've been cheating and using firestarters (those compressed wood fiber wafers - not the logs, the starters). Further, in my science geeky way, I found that craftpaper works better than newspaper because it is just a little denser and burns longer.

4.Clean out your ashpan and box regularly. Too much crud in there hinders your process I have found. Indeed, opening the ash drawer slightly does increase the draw on your fire BUT it is contraindicated because if you forget and leave it to long it will quickly lead to overfiring of your stove. In my mind, since my book of directions says not to do it, I figure if I burn down my house doing it Vermont Castings will not be liable!

Love woodstove heat. It cannot be beat! I've got used to running around in 75degree heat in tshirts in the dead of winter.

Hope this helps.

deadcarp-bingo    Posted 01-23-2005 at 12:16:12       [Reply]  [No Email]
i'd strongly suspect the chimney or stvepipe. we have a trash burner & if i even wrinkle up 1 sheet of newspaper, that thing will draw enough to roar. maybe a birdnest. use a mirrr t look up r rattle a chain inside t clean it.:)

Gunner    Posted 01-23-2005 at 09:14:53       [Reply]  [No Email]
Welcome to the Pacific Northwest - Grey skies? Naw, that's just Gods AC

steve19438    Posted 01-23-2005 at 08:07:18       [Reply]  [Send Email]
if you have a door under the firebox to remove ashes leave it carcked open a bit, helps with the draft.

Bkeepr    Posted 01-23-2005 at 08:01:20       [Reply]  [No Email]
What the guys below have said is all correct, but I'll add a couple of things.

I'd check when the last time the chimney was cleaned, as a dirty chimney will reduce the draft and cause your fire to burn slower (cooler) and go out.

One thing I always did when starting my woodstove was "warm up" the flue before lighting the kindling. Lay out the start of your fire, then loosly crumple 1-2 sheets of newspaper on top of the pile. Light that first and let it burn for a little bit (maybe 20 or 30 seconds) to get the draft headed in the right direction and then light your kindling. The newspaper burns easily and hot, just not very is perfect for getting the draft started.

Second thing I'd suggest is that perhaps your wood is too large (at least for as wet as it is), or else you're adding the large stuff prematurely. You must have a good-burning fire going to get the biggest logs going. And if you add too many large logs to a too-small fire, they will go out without catching. So get a good hot fire going using small-ish wood/branches (no more than 1-3 inches in diameter) and once the stove is really burning well feed in gradually larger wood, mixed in with the smaller stuff to keep it all burning hot.

Fire-building is equal parts art and science. The science is that a fire needs air, fuel, and heat to exist...all three. By adding large amounts of cold, wet, wood too fast you remove the heat and put your fire out. That sounds to me like what you're doing. So keep to the smaller wood with lots of surface area until you learn the art part.

Good luck,
Tom A

Steve/TN    Posted 01-23-2005 at 07:45:39       [Reply]  [No Email]
You need;
1. Dry kindling is a must.
2. Dry wood is a must.
3. Draft is a must. experiment with your draft control.
4. I start with paper with twigs on top.
5. Light paper with twigs on top.
6. As twigs begin to burn, add small dry sticks(slowly).
7 As sticks begin to catch on fire, add larger sticks of dry wood and then regular size wood.(dry)
8. This should be #1; make sure your chimney is clean.
9. If you have trouble keeping your wood dry, buy one of those cheap plastic tarps and keep some of it covered.
10. Don't be afraid to ask neighbors for help.
11. I don't know why I numbered this.
12. Come back and ask more questions if this doesn't work.

Ayuh...    Posted 01-23-2005 at 08:12:50       [Reply]  [No Email]
Start small...

The 'advice' in the manual is right as far as the two medium chunks, one on either side...But the part about putting another chunk on top is just silly...

Put in the two chunks with space (4-5 inches) between them...Crumple two sheets of newsprint (not too tightly) and place them in between the two chunks inside the stove...Place small dry twigs across and then cross those with some more small twigs...Then you can add a couple (not too many) peices of small splits criss-crossing the criss-crossed twigs...Light the paper with a match making sure that the draft door and damper (if equipped) are both fully open...I have an ash door that I also open when lighting to add even more airflow...The twigs should light and then light the small splits...As the small splits light, add a few more maintaining the criss-cross...There HAS to be at least some space between the pieces, or you will smother the fire and get the smoke you are describing...

As stated...#1 is to make sure that chimney is clean...You do NOT want to experience a chimney fire...Trust me...A clean chimney is also a must for a proper draft...

Once the wood you have in is sufficiently lit, you can add chunks the size of the first two you put in...Use the chunks on the outside as perches for the chunks you add...Keep all draft and dampers open till you have run through the first set of chunks and there is a bed of coals sufficient to instantly ignite a dry chunk when placed on top...Then you can start experimenting on damping down, banking and maintaining a bed of coals till morning...

Way easier to show you how than to write it down...

Come one over and you can play with my fire...It has been full bore for a couple weeks and has only been out once since November...

We have a heat-wave today...All the way up to +7 now...Big difference frrom yesterday AM when it was -20 LOL

Salmoneye, Who Never Has Enough Wood

Vic in Kenefick    Posted 01-23-2005 at 07:37:44       [Reply]  [No Email]
Oh yea and when you get the wood burner up and running place a tea kettel or pot of water on top of the stove to put some humidity in the air this will help stop nose bleeds, also slightly open a window so there will be some fresh air in the house and allow the fire to burn better.

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