I just want to note here that people wax nostalgic about woodstoves. I’ve never heard anyone go on and on about the old cast iron woodburning furnace in the basement (had one) or about the black Weber charcoal grill Dad had back in 1971, when every burger cooked on it tasted of lighter fluid. But show a picture of a woodburning cookstove, and people reminisce as if they took one to the high school prom, back when Buddy Holly was still touring county fairs and gymnasiums.
Go here to see what I mean:
The woodstove in the photo is the bigger version of my Suppertime Baker’s Choice Stove. (The Pioneer Maid.) I have cooked on half a dozen different old woodstoves, and none has been as easy to manage as this modern version. Nor do the old ones look much like my new one. Most have legs, rather than a plinth, and the few that have a plinth are fairly inexpensive versions from that manufacturer. Old stoves are nowhere near as airtight as this one. Usually there are gaps around the covers (the round plates on the top) and on the joints of the top seams. Old stoves won’t hold a fire overnight; if someone intends to heat with them, someone (and preferably not me) will have to get up in the night to add more wood.
I can shut down this stove so that the wood burns low and steady, or I can open up the vents and the flue so that I get a good hot fire in little time, necessary for baking. The top is polished steel, and while it is gradually darkening with heat and pots sitting on it, it is a good smooth surface, much better than the old cast iron tops or even the enamelled tops which chipped so easily.
It takes a fairly good sized piece of unsplit wood, while most older stoves need quartered rounds. Starting a fire in this stove is easy; it has such good airflow that even cold it takes just a page or two of newsprint, a little kindling, some light stovewood, and one match to get it going. Some mornings with the old stoves, I would feed tinder and kindling, blow on a spark, and spend a good hour getting enough of a flame to take a piece of wood.
It is still work to use it. While it draws well ands we have never had smoke come back through it, we do get a bit of ash floating out if we drop a large piece of wood in and the wood itself always has a tendency to shed a little bark. I do sweep up every day. I have to remember to get up and check the fire, add wood, adjust the airflow, and make sure that the pots of water on the back haven’t gone dry. (The large blue stockpot and the copper kettle sit full on the stove for tea water and washwater. I ladle water out as needed, but I have to remember to replace it.) We keep dry wood out in the shed off the kitchen, rather than stacking it in the kitchen. Wood in the kitchen is a hazard – sparks might jump from the stove; stovewood really must not be stored between stove and the next wall surface; and stacked wood in the house can encourage insect and rodent pests. I keep a small box of kindling at a safe distance from the firebox for the morning.
This is not the fancy old chrome and enamel stove that was once the heart’s desire of the farmwife; it is the hardworking, efficient version of what our grandparents used to have.