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BK And Lady BK Go To Woodstock

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Battenkiller, Sep 12, 2010.

  1. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Lady BK and I took a drive out to Woodstock to see what all the fuss was about. It was a perfectly gorgeous day for a drive in the country. It is drop-dead beautiful from our house right through Vermont and into New Hampshire, so we needed little extra inducement for travel that way. Factor in that we had a good chance of meeting the legendary Backwoods Savage, plus a chance to replenish our depleted liquor stores (no sales tax in NH), and we were on the road by 10 AM.


    When we got there they were serving the pig, so we grabbed a couple plates and a beer and got that out of the way. De-licious! They had a pretty decent old-time fiddler playing off to the side, which lent a nice country flavor to the event. When we were satisfied, we headed into the showroom to check out the stoves. Neither one of us had ever seen a Woodstock stove in the flesh because they only sell direct and none of our acquaintances burn in a Woodstock. I was not prepared for how beautiful they look in real life. Stunning, really.

    We went into the workshop and were impressed with the size of the facility. Extremely well organized, with separate workstations for each operation of assembly. I was directed to a burning Fireview to check it out in action. It was 2 PM, but there was still three or four partially consumed splits in the stove from the morning firing. I am a nerd, so I brought along my IR thermometer to check out the stove temps. The top was still at over 500ºF six hours after the stove was lit. Temps were remarkably even all around the stove as well. I was unable to find a 100º difference between any two places on the outside, and a scan of all the surfaces produced an average temp of 475º. That was with the air set around 2. A bit later they opened it up to a little over 2 (max is 4) to get some flames, and you could really feel the heat pour off it, even in the cavernous space that the stove sat in.

    Next stop was to visit Frankenstove. Butch from R&D took the time to describe what was going on with it, and what they hoped to achieve. The prototype is expected sometime during the next year, with a possible release date prior to next burn season. But these guys aren't rushing this baby. They really want to get this right, so there will be no doubt about it meeting any new EPA standard. In fact, they are realistically trying to achieve efficiency in the 90% range! Toward this goal, they have a very impressive array of gizmos and gadgets (sensors, probes, meters, computers, etc.) attached to it, reinforcing the "Frankenstein" appearance of the stove.

    The stove sits on a scale at all times. It is loaded with wood of known moisture content, and as the burn proceeds, CO, CO2, VOCs and particulate matter are all measured in real time. This is compared with the decreasing weight of the stove as the wood is burned. This enables them to get a true measure of the stove's efficiency, since anything that wasn't water in the wood and didn't go up the flue or appear as ash at the bottom must be assumed to have been completely burned into water and carbon dioxide. From this information, they are able to estimate the actual BTUs being produced at any given stage of the burn, based upon the known energy potential of the dry weight of the wood. Expected on this 3 cu.ft. stove when they are done with it... a whopping 75-80,000 BTUs.


    I went out there to get the hard facts from the horse's mouth, and I didn't leave disappointed. A few interesting things that I learned:


    - Moisture doesn't hurt a cat. In fact, Tom told me that they actually took unseasoned wood and rolled it around in the snow before filling the stove up. No damage at all. This was good news, since most of the water that comes from a burn is actually coming from combustion itself and cannot be avoided. It's not water that kills a cat, it's the potassium contained in the fly ash that passes through the combustor. The solution? Zap the stuff at high temps right before it hits the cat.

    They were told of several metals that might do this, but none could withstand the intense heat for long. Finally, they came upon a high-temp alloy made of iron, nickle and chrome that was available in a mesh, and now the fly ash will encounter this super-heated screen and be relieved of its potassium before it can damage the cat. They are also replacing the old-style ceramic cats with stainless because they found the ceramic surfaces lose their 3-D micro-texture over time or when over-fired, and will no longer effectively hold the oxygen molecules in place. The metal surface eliminates this. Plus, there will be greater surface area for the gases to pass over, further increasing the efficiency of the units.

    - Even with the air wide open, stoves run out of oxygen at some point in the burn path. They had suspected this for a while, so they started to look at CO emissions (a major lost fuel source). They found out that when they introduced air into the stove in excess of what the the draft was pulling in, the CO emissions dropped like a stone. Increased burn efficiency is the result.

    - The EPA stoves with secondary air tubes are only efficient at high outputs. A cat stove is efficient at low output. The cat on the new stove won't do much at all, since the secondary air will do the job most of the time. It will only be needed when the emissions are higher during low-output burns. Best of both worlds.


    Finally, there was the burning of the mortgage, and what place more suitable than in the new stove. With little fanfare, Tom opened the side door on Frankenstove and dropped it in. I caught the event on my iPhone:


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  2. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like you had a great time. Finally we get a look at the frankenstove. Did you get any other closer shots?

    I find it hard to believe that water doesn't damage the cat. I've read many article's and stove manuals that all state wet wood leads to thermo shock which will eventually lead to crumbling. Maybe he was talking about the life of the coatings on the cat? Glad to hear they are going to the s/s cats, are they installing them in all their stoves or just the new one?

    Did you buy a stove?
  3. branchburner

    branchburner Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, nice video. But don't you need to burn a second mortgage in order to get secondary combustion?

    I too was impressed by the even but powerful quality of heat that their Fireview in the shop threw, and how clean the glass was. My old $100 Fireview is pre-airwash, and has no cat/baffle assembly anyway, so it's a very different animal. Now I'm debating whether to bother putting new guts in it, because it will still have no airwash. (Plus I have no place to use the stove right now.)

    The info you noted on cats is very interesting, especially about the water. I suppose that means a bit of wetness is ok, but only as long as the moisture doesn't cool the fire so much the cat won't work? Makes it sound like damp wood may be worse in non-cat stoves, which need higher temps to burn smoke.

    I recently came across this very detailed presentation by the VP of BK, which fellow cat fans may also find of interest:
    http://www.chc-hpba.org/images/Renewable Heat Symposium.pdf

    After my visit on Friday, I pondered a question on my drive home: what else can this new stove do? Can it stack wood? And how much wood would a Woodstock stack if a Woodstock could stack wood? I suppose a Woodstock would stack all the wood it could stack if a Woodstock could stack wood.
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I just wanna know who won the drawing ?
  5. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    If I had known the new stove was going to be steel, I might have waited. When are they doing a 5 cu ft steel stove? And rotate the box so you can go NS?
  6. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Well, it wasn't you or me. :lol:

    At the end of the event, we all piled into the showroom where a young lass pulled the winning ticket out of a Woodstock stove box. It was so stuffed with tickets that Tom actually had a hard time turning it over to mix up the entries. To randomize things even further, Tom asked the young lady to pick one of the six sides of the box. When she decided on a face, he put that side up and cut a flap in it for her to reach her hand in. To the improvised drum roll we all provided, she reached in, grabbed one, and handed the lucky ticket to Tom to read. He looked at it very carefully, then slowly read out, "Daniel..." "That's me", I almost yelled out. "I'm Daniel". Then he pronounced the winner's last name, and it wasn't mine. :roll: So I half won the stove of my choice. Maybe they'll give me the lower half (AKA "The Legs").

    Todd, don't hold me to it on the cat issue, I'm sure other opinions exist. All I'm sure of is that Tom said they dumped a load of wet wood in there and it didn't hurt anything. I think he was referring to the actually cat life when he spoke of the potassium. Obviously, splashing water on a raging hot cat is going to cause some permanent damage. I thought I'd get a bunch of points when I showed Tom how smart I was by knowing that the fatal potassium was coming from the fly ash, but no job offer ensued. Not sure I could do a 2 1/2 hour commute anyway, but it'd be a real fun place to work. ;-)

    I tried to get pics of the secondary manifold, but all I could see was my own beautiful reflection in the glass. Yes, it does slope down, cutting off the capacity a bit, but this is a pretty big stove. I had a feeling that their 3 cu.ft. quote didn't include the upper combustion portion at all. Plus, you can see in the video how little wood they had in there. I scanned a 600ºF reading off the front glass (they really like the "scan" function on my IR gun), even with it only 1/3 full and cruising low. They don't have a skin-temp sensor on the glass for obvious reasons, but Tom estimates 1000ºF glass temps when she's running full tilt. With all that surface area, that's a lot of heat, but I wouldn't doubt it for a minute.
  7. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Not just steel, it's actually soapstone on the inside. The steel is just a shell holding it together so they can modify it as R&D continues. I'll assume they wouldn't have soapstone in it at this point if they didn't plan on using it in the final product, but it's anybody's guess at this point. They were totally non-committal regarding what the final version would look like. Maybe when the prototype is made, someone can steal it off the bar when one of the employees that has it out for a test run has to use the head. Then Gizmodo can give us a pre-release report. Otherwise, I think they prefer it to be a mystery until the unveiling.

    Another new development is that they are starting to use castings from the Vermont Castings foundry in Randolph, VT, less than an hour away. Say what you want about VC stoves, but back in the day they had a first rate foundry if nothing else.

    Oh, and I didn't buy a stove. My son's wedding this summer left me flat broke, and we're not credit card type people. Money is short this burn season. Heck, I still have to buy half my wood yet.

    Not only did I get to meet the illustrious Mr. Backwoods Savage and his (not so) "ornery" wife, I got to have a nice talk with Slow1 from the forum here. Turns out he ain't so slow, and we had an interesting discussion about whether or not the Fireview would work in my basement install. I rely on reclaiming a portion of the flue gas temps inside my interior masonry chimney. He was concerned that with the low flue temps on the Fireview, most of the heat would be released in the basement where I might have a hard time getting the heat upstairs. Also, while it was plenty warm (and delightfully "soft" feeling), I wasn't impressed with the total heat output of the Fireview as compared to my Vigilant. The Vig can leave you awestruck with the heat that radiates out of it. I'd be afraid to burn the Fireview anywhere near as hot as I do in the Vigilant. I've now gotten to expect a steady 72ºF in my house day and night. I don't want to go backwards on that. Still, if the stove was to go into a great room or something like that, where I'd be in the actual room that the stove was burning in, I would be selling some stuff on eBay just to get one into my home. I really love the things.
  8. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Great Shot! I missed the mortgage burn but was outside with backwoods and Eric and Tony and spouses(fire_man, backwoods savage slow , I lose track of all the avatars and handles!

    But I have a great time seeing both Tom and the Woodstock crew and some hearth.com diehards and their broods........plenty of new woodburners to be if Eric has his way! He brought all 4 of the kids along!

    I'll post a couple pics in this thread.

    Apparently this new stove is being tested longer and harder than most - I know enough about most makers...who often sub out the design job at a relatively low price and want to get the stoves into production and meet/beat EPA. Woodstock is not playing that game. They are working hard to fix all the real world problems that "testing to the standard" has caused over the years. Unlike companies with stockholders or investment bankers, Tom is not under the gun to get something out the door.....and so can afford to test, test, test and then test some more. I am confident they will end up with a stove which will be a winner for decades to come.

    It won't be cheap - 600 lbs of castings and soapstone and technology never is, but hopefully we can get this Homestar program through Congress and the included tax credit will make this and other such equipment more affordable for a year or two.
  9. Pagey

    Pagey Minister of Fire

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    They seem to be a real class act there at Woodstock.
  10. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Here is some of the Hearth.com contingent - with our Hearth.com supercedars and hats.....BK, where were you? You must have been hiding from me.......or I was spaced out (I had some kind of flu and chills a day before, but was OK sunday)

    Other pic is Tom pumping up the beer kegs.......Long Trail, made in VT.

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  11. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    I had that same issue when replacing our VC. While it isn't nearly as pretty, the BK blows away the VC on the high end while we haven't had one open the window situation since the switch. Combine that with the burn times that come from a firebox easily twice the size of the VC and we were very happy last year.

    With the R&D commitment Woodstock is showing with this project, I hope they do an even bigger stove in the future. What's the deal with the secondary burn/cat thing? Is that something the operator has to deal with?
  12. branchburner

    branchburner Minister of Fire

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    I think you'll still need to engage the cat with the bypass, but after that it's autopilot. The idea is the burn-tube-baffle burns the smoke as long as the stove is up to high enough temps. If the temps drop and those secondaries cut out, then the cat takes over. That seems like the plan, anyway.

    I got the impression there will be only one air control but it will effect both primary and secondary air, though maybe not proportionally - does that mean a thermostatic control might be involved?
  13. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    So what did that secondary baffle look like? Is it burn tubes or a stainless manifold? I hope they do the thermostat like BK.
  14. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Craig, I wasn't hard to find if you knew what you were looking for. I was the good looking guy built like one of those beer kegs. Got that way from drinking too much from too many of them all these years. Sorry I missed you and Tony, I kept asking about a Hearth.com troop, and I kept hearing, "Oh... there's a lot of those guys floating around."


    Yeah, I sensed that this was a company that was still driven by personal goals rather than financial. Tom was beaming with pride and excitement about the new stove, and it was a real pleasure to see that attitude. Anyone asking where the real America has gone need look no further. These guys are all about living the ideals of innovation, hard work and pride in workmanship that once defined this country. I wish them another wonderful 25 (mortgage free) years.


    Here's a few shots of the work shop and stoves in action. This Fireview looks especially pretty because the castings have an experimental fired powder coating (unavailable, so don't ask), which is why it looks so shiny. The stove was cruising at around 500º when this was taken. That charge was supposedly put in there at the start of the day. The photo was shot at about 3 PM. Those two splits in the bin never made it into the stove because they weren't needed. Beauty is as beauty does.

    Notice all the cool HD equipment somebody gets to play with. This machine shop section is just a small area of the entire workshop.

    The two shots of gas burners are included because I think they are really nice. If they made a short squatty one, I could see it sitting inside my fireplace, which rarely gets used because we get tired of feeding it precious wood all night.

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  15. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    I saw it up close and personal! The secondary baffle was a beautiful stainless steel manifold! It was nice and solid, a misplaced log should not hurt this beast - other designs are very fragile and easily hurt. I expected nothing less from Woodstock. The front clearance on the new stove is 6" more than the Fireview due to the much higher heat output. I think I heard it's gonna weigh in at 600+ pounds. It was worth the trip up just to see this monster in action!
  16. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    The anticipation from all of you guys is going to be fun to watch for the next year. :cheese:

    This year has been the year of the Blaze King and the Fireview. Next year will be the year of Frankenstove. :lol:
  17. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I bet you like the looks of it in steel huh? Maybe they will sell you the prototype?
  18. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Said exactly that here awhile back. I want the prototype when they are done with it.

    When ya gotta design a good stove, do it in steel and then down grade it to rock. :lol:
  19. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    I can't wait to see the finished product. I would love to have a 3 cubic foot stove with a CAT that isn't butt ugly. I would really love to have it in steel but if it looks good the soapstone stove may do. :)
  20. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Actually I think it has been called a Buck Stove for years. If it hadn't been for the eight inch flue requirement I would have been burning one for the last four years. But have no regrets. The 30 is doing just fine.
  21. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    I'm not a fan of the Bucks looks and the 8" flue has no way of happening for me.
  22. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    I've seen online a brand called SteelCat. Are we talking about that, or something else? www.woodstovecombustors.com/steel_advantages.html
  23. KevinG

    KevinG Member

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    I need to order a replacement cat for my Fireview but they're listed as "out of stock" on their website. I called and they told me they expect to receive the stainless cats any day.

    Any idea if these new stainless replacement cats will also have this alloy screen?
  24. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    You can get SS cats for all their stoves from Woodstock now I believe. I had brought my cat along for the ride - yeah, I am that geeky. I wanted to get a professional opinion (or two) on how well it has fared after a year of service. I did get my opinions - more than two as well as more information about cats than I expected. I have learned that the SS cats are being phased in there and I would expect that in the future all their stoves will have them standard (although that is not a quote but an impression from the way the discussion went). I was offered the opportunity to purchase and walk out with one for my Fireview if I wanted (same price as the old ones btw).

    As to my cat - the wear and tear (some cracks deemed minor) is pretty much 'as expected' for the amount of used it has had. No warping or other stress signs on the metal or gaskets to indicate that I've over-fired it or otherwise abused it so it is good to go for the season (and likely more after this one)... thus as much as I wanted bragging rights to be one of the first here to have a FV with a SS cat, I had to save my money. After all, next year I'll be wanting it for that new stove eh?

    Besides bragging rights I would have gotten a more durable cat with a lower light-off temp and a bit higher overall efficiency. A large part of that efficiency would come from the lower light-off temp as so much of the loss comes from that startup time of course. Oh well, too bad my cat wasn't damaged bad enough to require a replacement under warranty - ha!

    So what else did I learn about cats? Well...

    OK - as was stated above, it seems a bunch of experiments were done at WS. They burned green wood, wet (surface) wood, wood with snow on top, all this in an effort to induce cracks on the cats and didn't see damage. So then they took the thermal shock a step farther and injected room temp air through a hot cat (in a controlled aka oven environment) and alternated hot/cold cycles. Bottom line is that they found the cats to be remarkably more resistant to the dreaded thermal shock than popular literature and warnings would have us believe.

    Chemically, however, they do seem sensitive to trace K in the the wood - all plants have it of course. Some species of wood naturally have more than others although they haven't (yet?) compiled a list of which woods have more than others. It seems that this K under temp will bind in some way with the ceramic and weaken it leading to the failures that commonly are associate with physical failure of the cats.

    Very interesting. Now if this is indeed in the fly ash as has been suggested in the thread above, then perhaps the best thing one can do to enhance cat life is to be sure and minimize exposure to ash - i.e. open bypass when door is open/stirring up ashes (minimize the 'oops I forgot' events that I am sure we've all done) and clean the cat at least as often as recommended (the dusting off of ash monthly/each cord) - perhaps even more often if burning a species that generates more ash? I'm extrapolating here but this would seem to make sense to me.
  25. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Did they mention anything about the new steel cats to be prone to warpage? I've heard a few people with that problem but could be operator error. That's good they are keeping the price the same, I was thinking they would be twice as much. I'd like to try one but don't think I'll need one for a few more years.

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