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Re: 1977 Vermont Castings Vigilant Stove

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Posted by jane on December 16, 2008 at 09:36:40 from (

In Reply to: 1977 Vermont Castings Vigilant Stove posted by DigitalMat on July 03, 2004 at 06:43:17:

I'll post a quick overview for you and the others who seem to be missing directions. We heated with one of these when I was a kid. They are a bit cranky, but with practice they aren't too bad.

From the pictue, it looks like your handle has gotten broken. You might want to contact Vermont Castings and see if you can get a replacement. It is vital to the stove. That handle works both the front doors and the damper. When not in use, there is a little hole in the left front leg that it sits in. That keeps it handy so it doesn't get lost and it stays cool there.

Stick that little handle in the damper. It is located on the left side, near the top and back. With the top open, flip the lever back and forth and watch the damper open and close. In the closed position, the damper is up, blocking the stovepipe. When it is blocking the stovepipe, the exhaust is forced through the little hole in the bottom back left side of the firebox and it goes through a series of baffles up to the stovepipe. This makes the fire smolder instead of roar, and makes the wood last longer. When the damper is up, the smoke leaves directly through the stovepipe and the fire roars.

Start the fire with the damper open. This stove is finiky to get burning. Start with plenty of kindling and dry wood. Think like a boy scout and lay a fire in the bottom. Put a couple of small sticks, the size of your arm, in the bottom to create a draft under your fire, then lay newspaper and kindling on top. It is usually a good idea to roll up a newpaper and light it, then stick it up the stovepipe to warm it. When it is burned down to your fingers, stick it in your laid fire to start it. A cold stovepipe doesn't draw well and this stove isn't known for drawing well either. Build up to larger, dry wood until you have a good fire going and coals in the bottom. When it is really going well and there is a good bed of coals, close it up. Add progressively larger wood and get it going well, then turn down the damper so it begins to route through the baffles. Don't do it too soon, or your fire will just go out.

This stove, like most air-tights, is known for creosote buildup in the stove pipe and you can get a chimney fire pretty easily. Count on cleaning your stovepipe several times a winter. We'd let the stove go out on a warmish day and let it cool. Then we'd tie a length of chain onto a rope and run it up and down the pipe from the roof several times, and vaccum out the stove and the baffles carefully. Make sure you've cleaned out all ashes and coals carefully, or you'll catch the shop vac on fire. Once it is clean, put a thin layer of ashes back in the stove, as it doesn't burn well when its absolutely clean. You'll need to clean ashes every day too.

The top door of that stove is actually a griddle. If you keep it good and clean, you can fry pancakes and english muffins right on the stove. You can keep a pot of soup simmering on it all day too. Keep fire wood stacked around it to warm and dry, as it doesn't like cold or damp wood, just don't put it too close and burn your house down. The stove had optional warming racks for each side and mitten dryers on the back which were quite useful too. I think it came with two dryers that pulled up and out. The warming racks had a couple more.

Once you get it going, it will put out steady heat for 24 hours with little more than adding wood every few hours. You'll have to clean ashes in the morning, but then you can just keep adding wood without doing anything else. Make sure you have a metal container for the hot ashes. We heated 900 square feet with one of these, with no problems.

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