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Monday, February 22, 2016

R2Z Detour: Once There was a Thought...

In the beginning, there was a thought, and that thought grew into an idea, which became a project. And that was good.  We here at Woodstock Soapstone are always creating, tinkering and thinking outside the firebox. 

There are a lot of old woodstoves still in service that predate EPA regulations.   These are hefty stoves, made of cast iron or welded from plate steel and lined with firebrick.  Many are well over 30 years old, and might last another 30 years if the firebricks are periodically replaced and appropriate parts and gaskets maintained.  
Warner Stove

In our race to zero emissions, we thought we would take a side trip, a detour if you like, and look at a situation that is painful to us.  How can we get these old pre-EPA-regulation stoves that are still being used, to burn with more heat and lower emissions? These old stoves are not efficient, or clean burning.  
Warner Stove

Other people have (obviously) thought about this problem. In fact, in 2014, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency had a retrofit design challenge to encourage development of retrofit pollution reduction devices for woodstoves.

Retrofit stove pipe catalysts have been available since the early 80's, but the concept has never been fully developed.  One of the simplest catalytic retrofits is a catalytic damper that pivots in and out of the exhaust stream (below) in an effort to reduce emissions.

Catalytic Retrofit
Similarly, others have tried to extract more heat from the stovepipe by inserting a heat exchanger downstream of the flue collar.  Some heat exchangers merely relied on convection, while others used a fan.   
Heat Exchanger

 We are in the very early stages of developing a retrofit stovepipe device that would increase efficiency and produce a cleaner burn in older wood stoves. We are eager to use today’s technology and improved materials to create a device that both increases heat output and reduces emissions.

We are in the early stages of getting baseline data for how some of these older stoves actually perform.  We have already started to fiddle around in the lab and some of the early signs are encouraging, though there are some difficult hurdles we will have to get over before we can even think about a commercially viable retrofit solution.

Consistent with our other recent projects, our goal will be a device that is simple, effective, and affordable.

We are considering making the data and development of this project publicly accessible.  Many of our customers are engineers, and we can use all of the thoughtful input we can get.   Again, we are very early in the project, but stayed tuned for the next chapter in this newest adventure here at Woodstock Soapstone.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Visit to the Factory

A recent visitor to our factory graced our facebook page with a beautiful collage of pictures taken during a tour.  You can view the page here. We are thrilled our visitors shared their pictures.  We thought we would take a moment to share them with you, and hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

If you are in the area, we invite you to stop in and visit our showroom, explore the stoves we have on display, and take a tour of our factory.  Our showroom/factory hours are 9:00 to 5:00, Monday thru Saturday.  No appointment is needed.  Our fabricators, welders, and other employees are busy in the factory until 3:30, Monday thru Friday, but they do not mind a visit from you. 

Ideal Steel Hybrid with Maple Leaf Design
When you first enter our factory area, you may come across an Ideal Steel Hybrid stove (or two, three or more) that are in the inspection phase.  Before your stove is shipped, it gets thoroughly inspected to make sure everything is working as it should.  This particular stove has the maple leaf design (NAT006) on it. 

Front of Ideal Steel Hybrid
Looks like these folks are getting a close up view of the front of the Ideal Steel and the ash pan.

Absolute Steel in Black with Metallic Mahogany, Prairie Wheat Pattern
Sitting near the Ideal Steel Stoves, waiting for inspection, is our newest stove, the Absolute Steel Hybrid.  This one is black, and has the Prairie Wheat pattern in Metallic Mahogany.  We have been building Absolute Steel beta stoves for test purposes.  We should have comments and results regarding UL clearance and other information for our new Absolute Steel Stoves posted soon.

Ideal Steel Andirons
As you walk towards the rear of our factory, you will go through the area where our Fireview, Keystone and Palladian stoves are made.   This picture shows some of our Ideal Steel Andirons which are lined up, waiting to be installed into a stove or shipped to a customer.

Fireview ready for shipment
Moving along through the Fireview section, we find a Fireview stove which is complete, waiting to be crated for shipment.

Section of our Factory

Section of our Factory
For over 38 years we have been building stoves and warming homes. From cast iron, soapstone, tubular steel, flat sheets of metal, designer art work, with fewer emissions and greater fuel efficiency, our engineers and employees never stop creating and designing.  We all work hard to bring the best product we can to our customers.

We enjoy having folks come to our showroom, and to see first hand what we do and how we do it. We are open 9-5 Monday thru Saturday.  You may have a factory tour any time we are open, with no special arrangements needed ahead of time.  Keep in mind that the shop is active until 3:30 in the afternoon, Monday thru Friday.  We hope to see you soon!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Baby It’s Cold Outside! Optimize Your Wood Stove Experience

The temperatures have dropped and it is freezing outside!  At least it is where we are.  This is when it is especially important to optimize your wood stove, to get maximum heat and enjoyment for minimal wood usage.

To really get the utmost benefits from your Woodstock Soapstone Stove, it is important to make sure the following maintenance and precautions have been done: 
  • The pipe needs to be clean.
  • Chimney cap (if you have one) needs to be free from obstruction.
  • Combustor needs to be clean.  Vacuum all sides.  If you have a stainless steel combustor, you can spray the combustor with a solution of 50% distilled water and 50% white vinegar.  Let it drain, then rinse well with clear distilled water and let dry completely before putting the combustor back into your stove.  Using the vinegar solution may help to clean baked on fly ash.  You can learn more about cleaning your Progress Hybrid combustor here, the Fireview combustor cleaning information is here, and the instructions for cleaning your combustor if you have a Keystone or Palladian stove is here.
  • The ash pan should be clean, and the bottom of the stove should not have too much ash.  
  • Wood should be dry.  For the best heat output from your stove, wood should be well seasoned. Most wood will take one to two years split and stacked, and covered on the top (tarp or other protection) to dry properly.  If your wood is not dry, you will find much of the heat your stove is generating will be absorbed by burning off the moisture in your wood.  If your wood is not as dry as you would like, mix it with kiln dried, or with compressed wood chip logs (available at most hardware stores, lumber yards or home/garden centers in the heating season), or you may need to leave your air setting open a bit more for more heat in the firebox.   
  • Check your gaskets (when the stove is not hot).  If you think your stove is getting too hot, check your gaskets for leaks.  This is a primary cause for your stove to overfire.  The paper test is an easy test to check the door gaskets.  Simply take a strip of regular paper, put it into the side of the door.  Close the door.  If you can easily slide the paper out, you need new door gaskets, or perhaps you need to adjust the door latch.
Progress Hybrid

Now that your stove is in prime condition, and your wood is in good condition, it is time to sit back and enjoy the dancing flame show that only a Woodstock Soapstone Stove can give.

Pour your favorite beverage, or perhaps put a pot of cider on the top of your stove (a little cinnamon never hurts) and you can enjoy a tasty beverage and wonderful smells while you watch your light show.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What's Cooking?

When there is a major storm in the forecast, it means many of us may loose our electricity.  This is when it is very, very nice to have a Woodstock Soapstone Stove.  Water can be heated on a wood stove, but I can also cook dinner on my wood stove.  This is a wonderful thing, especially when the power is out.

We have heard from some of our amazing customers about how fabulous it is to be able to create meals on their Woodstock Soapstone Stoves, and we thought we would share two of our recipes and a few quotes from our customers. 

Keep in mind there may be times it will be necessary to elevate your Dutch oven to protect the contents from becoming too hot, or to allow the contents to cook evenly, such as when baking/cooking bread.  A metal or cast iron trivet works well for this, just make sure you do not have rubber or plastic feet on anything you place on top of a hot wood stove.

Starting with soup; we have a recipe for Homemade Vegetable Soup.

Homemade Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

  • Vegetables (turnips, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, beans, peas, corn, etc.), cut into pieces or chunks
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 6 or more baby carrots, cut into chunks or pieces
  • 1 large onion, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small can whole kernel corn (fresh is even better)
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 5 cups water
  • Meat, (beef, chicken or pork – optional)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons or 4 cubes vegetable bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can stewed or diced tomatoes with juice
  • Leftover rice, noodles, broccoli or whatever’s in the fridge 
Place all of the vegetables in large pot and add the bouillon and water. If adding meat, cooked is better, but if it is raw, brown in butter first, then add to pot.

Add remaining ingredients, and simmer for at least 3 hours.  We usually cook our soups 4 to 5 hours. Check liquid level every now and then.  Otherwise, let it simmer.  I usually put it toward the back of the wood stove as well, where it’s hotter.  If it seems to be getting too hot, move it to the front.

Serve with fresh bread for an unbelievably good meal and just the right thing for a cold winter night. Yields 3 to 4 servings.

Now for the bread.  To bake bread on the top of a wood stove, you need to heat up a cast iron or heavy metal dutch oven.  One that has a tightly sealing lid.  You need to keep the heat and the moisture in the container with the dough.  Grease your cooking pot with some Crisco or butter and get it nice and hot, about 15 minutes on the top of a hot stove.  I like to make Beer Bread.  This is a very dense, hearty type of bread.  The Beer provides the yeast and the ingredient list is short.  If you’re using self-rising flour, you only need three ingredients.  If you’re using flour that is not self-rising, simply add one teaspoon of salt and 3 teaspoons of baking powder.  I recommend using a beer that has not been overly pasteurized, too much pasteurization of the beer kills the yeast

Beer Bread
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • If you're using regular flour - add one teaspoon of salt and 3 teaspoons of baking powder to the flower before adding the beer and sugar to the flour.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and flour.  Add beer and continue to mix. Batter will be sticky. When all of the ingredients are throughly combined, put into a 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (use your on-the-stove thermometer) for 50 for 60 minutes.  The top will be crunchy, and the insides will be soft. Serve topped with butter or cheese spread.

We hope you enjoy these two recipes for cooking on your wood stove.   We would love to hear about your experiences with your Woodstock Soapstone Wood Stoves.  Check out our facebook page here.  We invite you to post your pictures, and your stories of how you survive without power. 

Here are a few comments we have received about cooking on your Woodstock Soapstone Stove:

“…During the ice storm of this year- my Keystone kept the house quite warm- and…kept our bellies full! I made stove- top pizzas right on the Keystone! Everything was defrosting in my freezer- so out came the dough and a few essentials- onto the stove for 20 minutes and voila pizza for everyone!...” Wilmot, NH

“… we were without power for 12 days. While our neighbors ate cold meals and survived freezing temps, (and pipes), ….we stayed reasonably warm and enjoyed pot roast, beef stew, baked potatoes and hot soups thanks to our Fireview.” Jaffrey, NH

If you want to read more about cooking on our stoves, click here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Oops! We Stand Corrected!

A welcome correction (0.5 g/hr emissions!) is more good news.

We initially reported a weighted average emission (the number the EPA reports) of 0.7 g/hr.  An error was made.  Our weighted average emission is actually 0.5 g/hr.

This is, of course, very good news!  Results of individual runs and weighted averages are in the chart below.