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I'm going to sound stupid but I really need help...

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Bitterbee, Sep 15, 2006.

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  1. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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    Hi, I hope someone has the time to help me. To make a long story short, due to heating expenses where I rent and the old part stone part wood home being so cold the landlords agreed to get a wood stove insert. They set everything up and I didn't and would not have been able to pay for it so not like i received something new. The man who had his gus installed it has been not much help in answering questions, I still don't have a manual for it, they were supposed to come back and gasket around it where it attaches. They made cast iron panels around it where there were gaps where it sat. I hope this makes sense.

    It is a small stove, like I said cast iron and they put a pipe up the chimney and a cap on it. What I want to know is what do I need to know to run this. I tried it the other night, it gets really hot in the house, too hot..almost 90 degress! How do you adjust the heat. It has 2 knobs at the front to let air in and I ended up closing one and the other one barely open but wood burning quick and the house got much too hot. I am wondering how much to fill it, I had been filling it up.

    I have so many questions about it. Can anyone let me know some details about this? It's making me nervous. I do have a gas furnace that only heats the upstairs to use as back up but trying to save on fuel. This year has been really rough for me.
    I live in a small 2 story house, just 2 floors each a big open space. I don't know the square footage but is like a 2 story log cabin if that helps.

    I am sorry I don't know much, this is all new to me and scary. So I need to know about filling it, how to make it confortable but not so hot as has been. Anything else I should know.

    Thanks to anyone who has the time.

    Karen

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  2. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    If it has Knobs on the doors to adjust air it sound like a 25 + year old stove.
    If soo You wont see a manual.

    Lite the fire with the knobs open.
    after you get a good fire going close both knobs down so very little air is coming in.

    The trick is to build small HOT fires
    and NOT Large smoldering fires.
    What I am saying is DONT LOAD THE STOVE UP TO THE HILT
  3. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Do you happen to know what brand/model?
  4. jabush

    jabush Feeling the Heat

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    A picture of the stove and the setup would be helpful as well.
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Karen, do you have a camera that you could take a full shot of the installation and then a close up shot of the stove? That would help. If not, is there any name on the front of it? Can you visually describe the stove? Is it new or used? Sounds like an old Fisher or the like.

    As to burning, at this time of year you don't need to build a very big fire. Just start a small fire and maybe burn a couple logs for the night. Start off this way and get familiar with the stove first.

    PS: This is not a stupid question at all. You did the right thing by asking for advice.
  6. minesmoria

    minesmoria New Member

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    The epa stove are designed to still burn all the smoke up even when full to the top and dampered down, there is a stop weleded on the air control to still let enough air in to achieve secondary burn.
  7. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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    Oh, thanks that helps. Small fires that burn slow? I had filled it up, thought it would burn longer and not go out then.
    The stove says Fischer on it. I do not have a digital camera to send a picture. It is approximately 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet high tops.

    It has fire brick inside and no glass doors, just cast iron doors with levers to shut the doors. They have metal wire ends on them like coiled.

    I just hope it is safe. I really appreciate the help/advice

    Karen
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Small fires won't burn slower, you are just giving the fire less fuel. Less fuel in = less heat out. The speed at which it will burn is controlled by the air controls in front. More air = faster burn, less = slower burn. At this time of the year you don't need big fires and you'll be safer having a small fire until you get to know the stove and are sure it is working properly.

    The stove if installed correctly it may be safe, but it's an oldy. Fishers were good stoves in their day, but are not too clean burning. Where are you located Karen? Perhaps one of the Hearth.com regulars is nearby and can give the stove a checkup.

    It would be good to make sure that the door gaskets are still in place and doing their job. Here is a link on stove door gaskets that may help.
    Where are you located Karen? Perhaps one of the Hearth.com regulars is nearby and can give the stove a checkup.
    http://www.woodheat.org/maintenance/maintenance.htm

    Fisher info at bottom of the page:
    http://www.northweststoves.ca/faq.html#w

    Oh, and get yourself some heavy leather gloves so that you can control this beast when it's hot without burning yourself.
  9. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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    Thank you for the links..I am going to test the door gasket.
    I understand about needing smaller fires now. But I am wondering about when is colder how to get the fire burning longer?
    I had the one knob closed, the other just open a bit past closed, a tiny bit but they burn out during the night. That is with a full load of wood in it. I have a variety of wood I picked up including cherry, nothing light. So when it is very cold am wondering how to make it last without having to fill it every few hours or is that just how they work?

    I understand the air..more of it and it burns faster..so perhaps I have a leak. I will check the door gasket. Other than that without me having pictures to show you I am not sure what else to check. There was nothing installed except the metal pipe that attaches to it and goes up the chimney. They put Fireplace putty around the pipe where it attaches to the stove to seal and also made those iron plates cut to fit around the openings and the one above the stove is tilted to allow the top of the stove heat to enter the room. But they have not been out to put a gasket around that..not much of a gap but some. I was not home and saw on caller I.D. they called but no message of coming out
    But that would be more affecting the heat of the place and not the stove itself any small gaps around stove correct? That doesn't seem like it would affect how fast it burns and it got real hot in here as I said.

    So perhaps this is how they work or I have an airy stove. I will check the door gasket now.

    Thanks again,

    Karen
  10. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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    The test with the dollar bill, when the door is closed a dollar bill just slips out very easily from where door meets and top.

    So it needs a new door gasket? Now how do I tell this guy this, "the door is not sealing properly and please come fix it"??

    Or should i do it myself?

    Karen
  11. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Karen the last fisher I did a year ago had a prety thick gasket 3/4" or more Ace servicce star hardware has them. with glue about $13 we can give you direstions of going about the replacement. I( would request an inspection from you building dept to give you a piece of mind and to check if it is installed code compliant and safe. Where do you live? like one suggested one of our members might be able to see just how safe it is. Always there are clearance to combustiables that are need so as not to touch off a fire.

    There is nothing stupid asking questions about your safety, Do you have a smoke and carbon monoxide detector? real good idea

    Fisher stoves were made like tanks, almost indestructiable. If you have a single door you model is a baby bear.

    Without gasket seal at the door, you will never control a fire. It will burn hot and fast and never last long forget threw the night
  12. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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    Thanks again, well I did call the company who installed it and talked with the owner. And he will come out to fix it...late next week. Though he did question me on it I told him it obviously was burning too quickly and told him "I did not think the door gasket was effective and that I had my neighbor, he came over and checked it (didn't want to tell him I did the dollar bill thing) and said that it wasn't sealed. Seemed to help telling him I got a mans opinion. So I am wondering if this had not been noticed in the first place. Why did he sell it without checking it. So hopefully he just replaces the gasket. But what do I do, whip out the dollar bill I front of him when he is done and test it myself! : )

    I imagine if he is replacing it it will be done right. But if not I will get the supplies you suggest and do it myself.

    I am really impressed with the replies I have received. Explaining everything so thank you so much. Do you have any idea how much a help you have been/are being?

    Also thanks for the info on what model I have. Nice to know. I'll have to see if I can find it online somewhere..and info on it. Though with the age of it I am sure is doubtful.

    I don't think I have ever found any help with anything so thorough and so fast. Like I said before, am really impressed and THANKFUL

    Karen
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Folks here are good people. Your well being is first priority. Comfort and joy of a nice running stove come close behind, but safety should always be your first priority. Good to hear the gasket is the problem. It should be pretty easy to fix right and then the stove should behave more predictably.

    Keep posting, maybe someone had an old Fisher manual lying around.
  14. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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  15. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    I cant believe that a Fireplace Pro will even sell a fisher Now adays.
    In My area it is against the law to sell a stove that is used with out the EPA/UL listin/Efficeincy Label on it.
  16. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Many, if not most, Fishers did not have door gaskets. They had a metal to metal seal and would probably not pass the dollar bill test - but then again the amount of air entering is probably not enough to hurt anything - could actually help things!

    There is an article in the Wiki about Fisher and a couple articles at:
    http://www.hearth.com/what/specific.html

    on how to start and then how to burn a wood stove properly.
  17. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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    There is a gasket in the door. It is made of some odd meshlike material.

    I have been reading the articles on how to burn a fire properly etc. Thanks

    Karen
  18. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Karen, soon you will know more about your stove then the person who sold it to you. I agree, this place is a great resource, for dealers and consumers both. I usually learn something new here everyday.
  19. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Karen I have refurbished that stove and given it to famillies in need of econimic heat relief. you have the moma Bear stove model.
    that stove is capable of putting out a lot of heat. Usually I take a very hard stand concerning these stove installations but your situation is different. At least you have a stove built like a tank it could fall out of a pickup truck and only damage the asphalt. Fishers were made in New Hamshire from about 1976 -1985 all ones made after 1979 were ul listed Look on the back there should be a lable
    You May PM Private message me your town and state location and have one of these very knowledgeable member take a look and make sure all is safe I live in Easter MA. Welcome aboard the hearth I hope as you learn and discover wood buring, that you actively participate and share your experiences here
  20. Bitterbee

    Bitterbee New Member

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    Thanks "Lored Of Fire", as long as it is safe. I will post after gasket is fixed and let it known how is going and if I have any other questions. This is an old house with a lot of wood inside and out including the floors and ceiling..so I worry. I assume the installation is safe but really I wont ever know unless someone comes out to check it. I wish I could have just been able to afford to get my own and then I could have come here for advice but that isn't the case. I will keep reading and any advice on safety is MUCH appreciated. I have everything at least 3 feet from the stove. Some farther away.

    What is worst for me is leaving and having it going. I have 2 dogs here so having a fire going while i am gone. I need to make sure nothing will happen.

    Thanks for the help and the info on it being a "Momma Bear" stove

    Karen
  21. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

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    Karen,

    I applaud your willingness to take advice and try to apply it to make sure your stove installation is safe. I hesitate to say what I am about to say. But you will probably respond to it well because you are trying to learn.

    The fact is, we cannot tell you it is safe. We simply do not know what your installation looks like and cannot tell from here on the internet if it is okay.

    I also appreciate the intent of the advice you have recieved here from forum participants. These are a great group of people who really do care about your safety. Unfortunately, you may have received a few bad peices of advice and you should be careful about accepting the opinions of well meaning folks as an assurance of safety. They are not safety professionals. They care. But they are only sharing their opinions.

    First, the Fisher was not originally designed to use gaskets. Now, as elk mentioned he has refurbished some that were using gaskets. It MAY be okay to use gaskets to seal the doors but you must understand first how the wood combustion process works. You could restrict the air flow too much and create a volatile situation. Or, you could inhibit the proper sealing of the doors, leading to over-firing and damage to the steel.

    If you are not careful, burning a small hot fire at the wrong time could start a chimney fire. The Fisher, when restricted too much, can contribute to rapid creosote build-up. A hot fire after a low fire can cause a chimney fire. A chimney fire at the wrong moment can cause a house fire.

    I do not want to scare you unnecessarily. But we cannot tell from here if you have a chimney that can withstand a chimney fire. So far, I have not heard that you had an insulated liner system installed all the way to the top of the chimney. I also have not heard if your masonry fireplace and chimney have passed safety codes for use with a wood stove. I also cannot see your wood pile or watch you operate the stove.

    Frankly, the Fisher is one of the worst choices that could have been made for a novice to start learning how to operate a wood stove. Your chances of having problems are MUCH higher with that stove than any modern stove that may be purchased for about $500. A used Encore or Dutchwest may be had for that amount. Or even a new Drolet, or Century. Why they chose an old Fisher I cannot say. But if I were you I would tread lightly and work hard to get that thing out of your house.

    I understand that times are hard for you right now and that you may not have as much control over the property on which you dwell. But you cannot let others make decisions that put your life at risk. There are better choices. They can sell the Fisher to someone else who has a less risky situation and who perhaps is already an experienced wood burner. At the very least, they need to invest in a UL Listed chimney system that can withstand a chimney fire and that is easy to clean and maintain. Their property is at risk also.

    I'm sorry to be such a downer. But I am a professional hearth technician and I have seen many costly mistakes hurt innocent people. It can be done with relative safety. There are many of us who routinely leave our house for hours while the wood stove does it's job unattended. We have come to trust in our systems as being safe because we have learned how to assess the risks and take the necessary precautions. One of the things we have learned is that the weakest part of the system is the chimney. Do not take it lightly. If you do not have a UL Listed chimney you should not be burning that Fisher. If you cannot have a UL Listed chimney it should at least be code compliant for use with a wood stove.

    Please be careful.

    Sean
  22. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

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    I don’t understand your opinion of not to have small hot fires?
    We have been preached to for years that Small hot fires are SAFER and better than LARGE SMOLDERING fires. From the Chimney Sweep Guild to the EPA and Local Air resource boards.

    What I was telling her was that if you have a 4 cubic foot fire box but you are heating a small area that you do not want to fill the firebox full of wood and have a smoldering fire.

    A Slow burring large fire is going to be far more dangerous that a Small Hot fire for a smoldering fire is going to build up 3rd stage Creosote.

    I would be careful of stepping on some people’s toes and saying that we (some of the pros Giving advise) are not chimney professionals. We are just trying to help her with her current situation to make a poor working stove work a little better. Sure the Fisher is a stove most of use Hearth Pros would rather use as our Boat anchor but this is all she has to work with at this time.

    She has no choice on what stove she has to use for she is a renter and not the home owner.
    I am a Hearth pro for the past 18 and a fire safety expert for I have been a Paid call firefighter for 15 years and a Fire Prevention Specialist for the State of California.
  23. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

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    Please forgive me Rod. I did not mean to slight anyone. I respect your opinions and I understand that you are a professional. I only intended to remind Karen that we are sharing our opinions only, me included. We really cannot tell if her stove install is safe or not.

    It is my belief that a hot fire in that stove at the wrong time can help create a chimney fire. You and I both know how to work through the challenges that are faced with a big old dirty buring stove. This is a difficult thing to learn and we have had a lot of practice. It is far more risky for Karen to attempt to do anything with that stove if she does not have a safe chimney. I wanted to emphasize the need for a safe chimney system BEFORE she tries anythng else.

    I do not disagree with your advice to burn small hot fires. Or the recommendation to replace the gasketing. On their own these may be good things to try. We simply cannot predict what will happen in the hands of a novice. First things first. Make sure that chimney can withstand a chimney fire.

    Take care,
    Sean
  24. TheFlame

    TheFlame New Member

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    Bitterbee,

    Is there a damper installed in the stove pipe? If not, there definitely should be. From what you are saying about the burn time and the heat output it sounds like there is no damper installed. Is this right? My parent's stove has no gaskets around the doors, it never has.

    My parents have this exact stove. The big plus is that it can generate tremendous heat, and is virtually indestructable. The downside is that it burns very dirty (especially once you start dampering it down), and the chimney should be checked AT LEAST twice a burning season if you burn the stove as a primary heat source.

    If there is a damper installed, try out the following when burning:

    1) Open damper all the way to light
    2) Open inlets about half way each
    3) Start fire
    4) Burn until stove is heated
    5) Close inlet holes and damper down as needed to produce steady heat (this step takes some practice, since you have 2 variables - the damper and the inlets, but after a while you'll get the feel for it). Never close the inlet holes all the way! Also, the strange thing will be that when you start to close the damper, the stove will actually get HOTTER, since all the heat isn't going up the chimney.

    I'm not sure what these guys are going for with the "short, small hot fires" advice. Once you get the stove heated up, load it to the gills, get that load burning, and damper down to lengthen the burn. Sure, it's going to smoke like hell, but that is how you will get a long consistent burn out of it. Just make sure to check the chimney often, as that method will build up some serious creosote.

    Keep a close eye on it until you get it all figured out, this stove can burn like the fires of hell.
  25. Dave_1

    Dave_1 New Member

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    Bitterbee,

    I have heated our 2,000 sq ft ranch house with a Fisher Grandmother Bear (MaMa) since Oct, 1980. The first 3 years were our learning curve & this knowledge I pass to you. There were no door gaskets when we bought it, are none now, & we use no damper. The control of the heater are the two screw openings in the doors, which are adjusted to the temperature reading of a “Condar” thermometer which is located 2‘-0“ above the heater flue on the stove pipe.

    (For safety & effective burn you must know the heater’s temp. Since you do not have a metal chimney perhaps hearth owners, or others with a heater fireplace insert, will suggest a suitable temp gauge to help you?)

    http://www.condar.com/meteruse.html
    http://www.condar.com/meters.html

    MaMa is not in a fireplace, it is connected to an inside house 8” metal chimney. The pipe temperature is maintained @ 300-400 degrees, except at startup which is @ 500. If the outside temp is going to be 60+ the morning fire is allowed to go out since the heater & 12‘ of brick wall absorb heat & thus keep the house nice for hours.

    After the first year I bought 4 additional firebrick to use as a grate. The bricks are 2“ thick, 4“ wide, & 8“ long. I put 2 on each side, end to end from front to the rear of the heater, & stood them on the 2” side. That clearance makes an easy starting much quicker fire. Wood is then put into the heater, from side to side, so that it sits on these bricks.

    I put rolled cardboard, cut with a box knife into 9”x18” strips, next to kindling beneath the first level of wood which are 4 round limbs 2-3” thick. On top of those limbs are 2 / 3 splits, depends on what the outside temp will be in the next 4 hours, that are 4-6” thick. Newspaper is installed, lit, & the left door closed. Rolled cardboard is added thru the open right door until the first level of limbs ignites.

    The screws are opened all the way & at 250 degrees the right door closed. When the temp reaches 400 the screws are quickly closed & re-opened 2-½ turns each. On our heater, & depending on the type of wood burned, this usually results in the temp leveling out in the 500-600 degree zone. That zone is maintained by adjusting the screw on the left door, & right door if closing the left does not stop the temp rise past 500.

    Caution! If the temp goes above 500 close both screws until it drops back to 450- 500. Then the screw on the right door is opened one full turn. If the temp continues to drop it is opened another full turn for each 100 degree drop. Once the temp starts to rise I close that screw ½ turn for each 100 degree rise until the temp levels out @ 500. 

    After @ 15 minutes @ 500 burn close the left screw. If closing it does not start the temp down in a couple of minutes the other screw is turned in one full turn. Once the temp starts down it usually takes 5-10 minutes of adjusting the right door’s screw to get to 300-400 which is the heater’s run zone. Now there is only one screw open & its on the right door.

    About 1-½ hours later the coals & some un-burnt wood will be on the left side at the rear. Using a gardening do-dad (it is 16“ long, has 9 fingers ¼” wide, & spans 5”) the coals & wood are raked forward to the right. Next install 4-6” wood split(s) & close the door. I use old leather gloves for this work bought at Walmart for $10.

    Caution! Should you get flame, smoke, & puffing sound out of the door screws, close both & note the temp. This is called back-puffing. Since you had the doors gasketed you might not hear the heater squealing. If you do it is because it is trying to suck air into the firebox. Just watch the temp gauge, wait until it starts down, & when below 500 open the right door screw one full turn. But keep an eye on the temp gauge! If after a couple minutes it continues to drop then open that screw another full turn, etc. 

    We burn wood stored in an open 3 sided shed that is at least 2-3 years under cover. The south side of our shed is enclosed in glass & spans 24’ L x 7’ H with the end of the wood pointed at the glass. That positioning results in @ a 6% moisture content (mc) reading on my Delmhorst J-Lite moisture meter. That 6% is because the sun draws the moisture out the end of the wood fibers thru capillary action. Turn the wood broadside & there is little such action so the mc will be @ 15-20%.

    We run our heater with small hot fires in the day that take a 4-6” sized split every 1 ½ hour or so. The only time our chimney smokes is when a fire is started or more wood is added, & then @ 5 minutes. After that there is so little smoke that it is barely seen.

    Consequently there is very little creosote that Sean has, rightfully, warned you about. The first two years I swept our chimney twice & once a year thereafter. But after @ 10 years I stopped since there was so little ash/creosote. I swept the chimney this year in order to check out the Metalbestos pipe & got @ a 12 oz can of ash & creosote. That is a 17 year accumulation.

    No, I’m not suggesting that your landlord forget sweeping annually. None of us have seen your flue, know the mc of the wood that you are going to burn this year, or the temp you are going to burn such at, etc. Sean has correctly warned you about the flue since that is generally where the weak link in the wood heating scenario is.

    Only an onsite inspection by a experienced professional can determine your heater & flue’s condition. My 27 year experience with our Fisher is merely to help you in your learning curve to know what to do, look for, & the reason why you should do so.

    Anytime that you have a question please pm me. Us bears gotta stick together as we’re becoming an endangered species.

    Dave
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