|Now the kids' bed is added, although I think that's a big pink bunny benefitting from the design, and not Ella. Theirs is the warmest spot, near the combustion unit, which doles out a considerable amount of heat through the night, too.|
|Hard to see through the lunch break, but I've borrowed a trick from Ernie and Erica Wisner's playbook for our stove. When buying the steel drum for our heat exchanger I got one with a removable lid and lid clamp, so I could open it from the top for inspection and cleaning. A little stove insulating cord in the lip of the lid keeps it air tight. Here you see Ella demonstrating the proper use of the stove once it's been shut down after a burn. The little black and silver fan at the back of the stove top, driven only by a heat differential between its solid base resting on the stove and cooler aerial radiator, is a must-have for tent dwelling. They are a a bit pricey, but so worth it. We got ours from Lehman's.|
I can't really explain the sense of self-satisfaction I got, and continue to get, from building an inexpensive wood stove from scratch that actually works and keeps my family warm. I didn't come to the project with any particular skill in this department, and no more experience than one (long) winter with ANY sort of wood stove. Rocket mass heaters burn very little wood - generally less than a quarter of what a typical box stove burns, and some claim as little as a tenth. The fuel feeds into the unit vertically, (the fire rocketing sideways through the burn chamber and up the heat riser) and has to be processed down to fairly slim pieces (mine doesn't want to burn anything larger than 3" across, and even that seems to be a chore), but overall the labor input seems very minor compared to the endless splitting of heavy, chunky wood of last winter. And the fuel requirements lend themselves very well to a coppicing woodlot scheme, which produces thin round fuel every few years on rotation, and which I'm currently developing on our land. The stove does look a bit like a burn barrel in your living room, but can be dressed up in any number of ways. Like I mentioned above, we plan to do a cob dragon sculpture around ours, which should hide a lot of the industrial look, but you could stack brick or stone around the parts you don't like for sure. Just keep in mind that you're adding thermal mass, for long term heat storage and release, and covering the quick radiant warmth you get from a lot of exposed steel. It wouldn't work very well in a tent in other words. But coupled with a well-insulated house, or a thermally-massive house, like adobe or cob, I can see a stove like this being a major boon to the owner-builder's comfort and work load. Weird and quirky, yes, but inexpensive and efficient, too, and utterly fantastic.
Special thanks to Andrew for his help with the materials gathering, layout, and pointers.