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Air Leak? in VC Vigilant 1977

Post in 'Vermont Castings & CDW Dutchwest older Models' started by Kenster, Feb 4, 2011.

  1. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    With temps from mid teen lows to low 30s highs for past several days I've been burning pretty much 'round the clock. Last night it was all loaded up for the overnight burn. I was letting it rage on in vertical burn for a while to get the new load lit. I decided to turn off all the lights and have a look for leaks.

    Almost right away I noticed a significant one on the back. There is a piece that lies between the angled back of the stove and the oval connector to the flue. A clear line of "light" was visible along the bottom half of where this piece connects to the stove back. A very small gap also exists on the opposite side. I could not tell, because of the heat shield, if there is also a gap running along the back. Here is a picture. The area in question is within the thin white circle. The gap runs from the center screw down toward the back.

    [​IMG]

    I assume that this is merely a case of needing some stove cement? The rest of the stove looks to be in good shape. It burns very well and I've never felt like it was overheating or burning too much wood when I have it closed up at night for the overnight burn. So, I have a couple of questions.

    1) Is this gap, which is on the 'exhaust' side of the system inherently dangerous? I have a pretty good fire going right now. I struck a match and held it next to this gap and the flame was sucked into the gap, if that means anything to you. Obviously it's sucking air out of the room but I assume this goes right up the flue. Cooling of the flue with this room temperature air should be minimal. I wouldn't expect it to have much of an effect on the burning of the wood and production of heat. Am I wrong?

    2) Repair: I have never had to seal gaps with stove cement before. Do I have to disassemble the parts to be recemented or can I use the regular caulking method of just forcing the cement into the gap?

    By the way, though the stove could use a little dressing, it is not NEARLY as rusty looking as this pic makes it out to be. Blame most of that on the iPhone flash.

    Thanks!

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  2. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    There should be a gasket all around that seam, not furnace cement. You need to be able to take that on and off to clean the back of the stove. A leak there won't cause your stove to overfire because it is downstream of the combustion zone, but it will lower flue temps and rob you of some draft. It should be as airtight as the rest of the gaskets.
  3. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Now I'm wondering if the Sweeps that were here in the Fall failed to reassemble it properly, though I really can't swear that they took it apart to begin with. One guy was on the roof with the brush and the other guy, the bossman, was inside cleaning it out.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure they did not take it apart. Now, there was a guy who came years ago when my Dad-in-law lived here that took the whole flue down for some reason.
    Maybe he did not reassemble it right. The recent sweep boss said that the flue was upside down, and pointed out how the seams were facing down instead of up.

    I bought a complete gasket set last year when I wanted to change out the griddle gasket. Not sure if the gasket in question is in that kit or not.
  4. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    It is a thought, but there would be absolutely no reason to take that piece off of your stove to clean the chimney. Sounds to me like the gasket has just gone kaput and you need to replace it. Not a difficult job in the least bit, but sometimes the screws are a little stubborn.

    I would not be too concerned about it right now if the stove is performing well. Save it for after the burning season.

    Always great to see someone else running one of the old girls. Was beginnning to think Battenkiller and I were the only ones left.
  5. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, Remkel. This stove has always facinated me. It was new when installed when this house was built in 1985. Originally my in-laws' home. They've passed on and my
    Bride and live here now. My dad-in-law always took great pride in keeping the main room at 80 degrees with his wood stove. He couldn't understand why we wore cutoffs and T-shirts in the dead of winter when we visited. In hindsight, I realize now that he knew nothing really about the stove. He kept it in full vertical mode all the time. The fire was always roaring and just eating up the wood.

    When we moved out here about five years ago I found the owner's manual and started studying how the stove worked. A couple of years ago I discovered this website and thus began my real education regarding not only the stove but the proper care and feeding thereof. With our three and a half acres of very thick heavy woods - 95% oak and hickory with a little bit of huge cedars, I decided there would always be plenty of wood. Then I discovered scrounging and got a rep for it with friends. Now I have access to two ranches totaling close to 800 acres with all the standing and down oak and hickory I could ever use in twenty lifetimes -- all mine for the taking.

    So, as you can see, one thing led to another..... Just like this story..... Yes, I love the Vigilant and it's nice to see there are several owners here on the board.
  6. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    I'd change it ASAP if it was my stove. No safety issues or anything, but might as well make the stove perform at peak efficiency. It's a real easy job, plus you can use the time while it is apart to remove the top baffle plate and vacuum out the secondary combustion chamber. Plus, the local VC repair guru told me that most cracked or warped firebacks are caused by excessive buildup of fly ash inside the baffles in the secondary chamber. The fly ash acts as a pretty good insulator, raising firebox temps too high and lowering the temp inside the secondary combustion chamber, thereby reducing the efficiency of the secondary burn.

    I'll bet a case of good beer the stove will run better and hold higher flue temps in downdraft mode... which is what these stoves are all about IMHO. All last year, the best I could get my flue temp to hold stable was about 275ºF in downdraft mode. After a thorough cleaning, the flue temp easily stabilizes at 325º-375º, the stove stays hotter, burn is longer, and consumption of wood has dropped by about 10% based on last year's usage. It was almost like buying a new stove to me.
  7. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Battenkiller, off the top of your head, do you know what size gasket? 5/16 or 3/16 or something else.

    If it's gasket material I have on hand I may give it a try when it warms up a bit so I can let the stove go cold for a while.

    When I had the flue cleaned in November they also did a really good job of cleaning out the stove, including the secondary chamber. Also, every time I remove a few inches of ash from the firebox I rake out the chamber with a long, wide flat stick so I don't think it's very bad at this time. Still, when I get it open I'll give it a good cleaning again.
  8. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Don't know- I usually go to the stove shop and they hand me the gasket I need- but if I was a guessing man i would say 5/16. (I may be proven wrong).

    Battenkiller sent me the repair manual for a complete tear down. I would be happy to send it to you if you send me an IM with an e-mail address.
  9. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Remkel and Battenkiller.... another question. I can see that some of the cement caulking in a couple of the joints is missing. At least externally. I don't think there is an open air gap. To fix this or any other gap, do you just squeeze the fireplace cement up in there like regular caulking, then just smooth out the excess? I have no desire to dismantle the thing. In all other aspects it's in great operating condition.

    Remkel, I sent you a PM with my email address. Thanks.
  10. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

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    It's easiest to get stove cement in a caulking tube and inject it into the seams. Prolly need to go to haerth retailer for this, moost hardware type stores don't have it.
  11. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    you can inject the stove cement as a stop gap, but usually when I see a lot of cement has deteriorated I tear it down and reseal it. this usually occurs every few years.

    I agree the caulking tube is the best alternative. I recently was in a pinch to cement the gap at my pipe. The hardware store was out of the caulking tubes and I had to by a small "tub" of cement- what a freaking mess! Make certain you dampen the area before applying and have a sponge or damp cloth on hand to clean up and excess.

    When you fire up the stove again, bring the heat up slowly so the cement can cure.
  12. skinanbones

    skinanbones Member

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    actually the correct gasket for that flu collar is the rutland 1/8 to 3/16 gasket. It is a little harder to find but it's the nicest for that, the 5/16 will work you may need to use a longer bolt and check it once in a while to make sure it stays tight
  13. Ryk

    Ryk New Member

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    could i please get a copy of the complete tear down of VC vigilant 1977 if you still have it?
  14. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    I just got it back.....if you send me an e-mail in a PM I would be happy to forward it on to you.

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