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The first fire of fall October 11, 2006

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.

In a previous post, Laura described how we’ve been restoring an old pot belly stove to use as an additional heating source in our family room.

At the time of her posting we had the wall bricked and the stove refinished and sitting in place, but we lacked a critical component – we didn’t have chimney. As one who once lit a fire in a fireplace without opening the damper, I can tell you that having a good, unobstructed path for the smoke to leave the interior of the house is important.

So, this past Saturday morning – after a week’s worth of research via the Internet and talking with people at various stores – I set out to buy the supplies I’d need to construct a chimney for our new stove. Of course my first stop was Rural King, a great store for everything a homesteader could need.

I bought the pieces that I thought we’d need – single-walled stovepipe to connect the stove to the wall-thimble (the hole in the brick wall), a double-walled Tee pipe to turn the chimney skyward, double-walled chimney pipe to channel the smoke several feet above the roof line, and a chimney cap to keep the rainwater out of the chimney, among other odds and ends to help secure everything in place.

On Saturday afternoon, I gathered all the supplies and set out to construct our new chimney. It was actually a lot easier than I had anticipated. Several hours after starting the project, everything was in place!

So then it was the time of truth. The only way tell if a chimney will work, whether it will draw the smoke from its source into the great outdoors, is to build a fire. It was then that I realized that you have to have a certain amount of confidence in your own abilities to light a fire inside your home when you’re the one who designed and built the chimney. Would it draw? I don’t know. Would it completely fall apart with the addition of heat? Maybe. Would it adequately contain the heat and not transfer it to the flammable carpet, subfloor, or exterior wall? I hope so. Did I take all the necessary steps for this to work? Only one way to tell.


So, late Saturday afternoon, we assembled around the pot bellied stove and placed a small amount of wood in the fire chamber. We used some of the red oak I’ve been cutting – the really large tree that fell this past spring (almost 4 foot in diameter at its base). Benjamin did the honors of lighting the first fire.

I forgot to mention that one of the things I procured at Rural King was a new fire extinguisher. Every home should have at least one, even if you’re not intentionally setting fire to something.

Anyway, after a few minutes, the blaze grew large enough to create the draw. It worked! That night, we all sat around our new heat source, with the windows open and fans running. It was hot; but at least we got to test out our new stove.

It’ll get a better test in the coming nights; it’s supposed to get down to 32 degrees tomorrow night. I can’t wait!



1. Michael York - October 12, 2006

Congratulations Joe,
There’s a special feeling to put your hands to a task and see it come to fruition. There is also something wonderful about that fire, whether it’s in the fireplace, camp ring, or woodstove; it creates an atmosphere that makes you feel not only physical warmth, but spiritual warmth. I love being with my wife and kids around our fireplace or campfire.

2. Joe - October 12, 2006

Thanks! You’re absolutely right about the feeling you get after accomplishing something a bit out of your comfort zone. By day, I’m a software consultant so doing work around the old homestead is very rewarding.

I’m especially looking forward to fighting the chill of winter with this pot bellied stove. It’s very reminiscent of one that my great grandmother had as her only source of heat. She burned coal; we’ll stay with wood, though.

We had our second fire last night. It’s still too early (and warm) for fires in our little slice of creation, but I’m trying to thoroughly test the stove before it begins to get too cold. It worked well. But I did notice a small amount of smoke coming from the pipe seams when I stoked it too much. Nothing that a few sheet metal screws and some stovepipe sealant can’t fix though.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the blog. My wife and I read a number of homesteading-type blogs on a regular basis. Feel free to post a link to yours if you have one.

3. Becky - October 13, 2006

I, too, remember sitting around Mama’s heater and just feeling the warmth and love. There is nothing that warms you quicker when you are cold than standing next to the heater and holding your hands out. You almost thaw out instantly. I’m sure that as this winter progresses, you will have an opportunity to test this theory often.

I spent many nights just sitting near that heater and reading a good book. It really takes you back to a simpler way of life. What a joy!

I applaud your family for getting back to the basics and the way you are raising your children.

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