Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Operator Error

Every day is a landscape of new discovery here at the homestead.  Part of learning, in addition to doing things right, is doing things wrong and finding out what happens.  For the last few days, I thought something was wrong with  my woodstove.

Here's a primer (like I'm an expert - ha!  This time last year, I couldn't even keep the fire lit!).  About 11 months ago, not only did I figure out how to keep the fire lit, I learned how to keep it lit ALL the time, 24 x 7, more or less.  The key is the lever of the left side and it's buddy on the right side.  The left side lever is the damper.  When the damper is closed, everything goes through the catalytic part and the heat comes into the room instead of going up the chimney.  The right side lever is for air.  When it's open, the fire burns hot and fast.  When it's closed, with enough wood in the chamber, the fire simmers overnight and can roar back to life when I open the levers in the morning.  The goal is to keep the thermostat on top of the stove around 400 degrees.

For the last 2 days, the fire has burned out overnight and I've woken to a cold stove.  There's not enough time to get it up to temperature in the morning, so when I come home from work, I've started a new fire.  I was worried that I had broken the right side lever somehow and had begun to think about who to call.

What I realized this morning is that it was entirely operator error!  When I emptied out the ashes a few days ago (you can see the ash tray partway open in this shot), I must not have completely closed the bin.  So air was getting in there, making the fire burn hot, and negating the effect of closing the right lever.  You can see that in this picture the fire is really burning.  That's because of all the extra air I let in by opening the tray.

This is cool.  Now I know what happens if I don't close the ash tray completely.  Maybe the next time I make that mistake it won't be 2 days before I correct it.  (To defend myself a bit - it's not as obvious as it looks in the picture.  There's a locking lever that did appear to be locked!  I did not check it though.   I will next time!)


  1. Your red stove is still one of my favorite things to see in your pictures! If I had a stove, I'd want it to be RED!!

  2. Well, as long as we keep learning, I guess we're doing okay. Maybe I'm only fooling myself but I try to label things like that as "Things I learned today," rather than "Dumb stuff I did today." (Otherwise, it's too depressing to look at that long, long list of "Dumb stuff I did today!") :o)

  3. Live and learn! I really love that red stove!!

  4. Mama Pea - yeah, that's the ticket - things I learned today!

    Thanks Karen Sue and Penny! I like the stove color too!

  5. Our stove of like yours but blue and smaller. We still don't know what we are doing when it comes to making a fire. Thank you for the info. I think it may help us. :)

  6. I was reading the post you wrote the other day about "chesse on the brain" I love it! when teaching your self something new I think it can "take over" alot of your thinking, I would even dream about soapmaking in the begining. I love when people find something they can be passionate about. It's good for the soul, keep up the posts I enjoy reading them!

  7. Hey Jennifer - one important thing is the thermostat. It's not part of the stove, so you need to buy it if you don't have one. A wood stove is definitely a good thing to have!

    Christine - thanks, I'm enjoying writing the blog! It IS a great feeling, discovering something new. I wouldn't be surprised if I dream about it soon!