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My Fall to Darkness - and the new Blaze King

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by AKSHADOW, Oct 29, 2011.

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  1. AKSHADOW

    AKSHADOW Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2010
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Fairbanks, AK
    The winters here in Alaska are brutally cold, and have no mercy for the unprepared homeowner. As I recent first-time homeowner, I found myself scrambling to prepare for my first winter that would undoubtedly be eye-opening - Although I did hope, perhaps in vain, that my eyes would not freeze open. The new abode (well, new to me) was sporting a vintage, but certainly not without character, Vermont Castings Vigilant wood stove. Fall progressed like any other - golds and reds that faded into browns signaled the bitter temperature drops on the horizon. As I became familiar with the Vigilant, I started feeling confident that I could heat my entire house with the old dragon's faithful breath. However, Jack Frost and his cohorts had other plans, and to prove me wrong they soon educated me with their malicious intents.

    With numerous cold air leaks and improperly insulated domestic water, septic, and vent pipes, nearly every system in the house had frozen and failed over the course of the winter. The Vigilant also having leaks between the plates, and an inherently inadequate design for this particular application - I was forced to rely on frequent reloading, little sleep, and the oil toyostoves to try and makeup for the sub-par conditions. All the while, there I wast n, trying to find the stove that would allow me to once and for all achieve an eight-hour burn.

    I had been researching stoves for over a year with the intention to leave no stone un-turned, or stove as it were. I had many initial opinions and preferences that changed drastically over the journey. As I had grown up with classic cast-iron Jotul stoves, I was of course particularly swayed in their nostalgic iron beauty. As with many stoves to follow, I researched the Jotul models and contrasted against competitors and found them to be unequivocally superior. While my research continued, the little voice that gnaws incessantly to second guess my decisions spurred me to further, more critical analysis. It was only a matter of time before all previous knowledge had been thrown out in the search for the perfect stove.

    Obviously most modern stoves could do achieve the wondrous act of extended burning, but none would satisfy me unless I truly felt confident that I had criticized every available option. At this point the reader most likely is thinking, "Why didn't he just buy a catalytic stove and be done with it?" Well, there is only one reason that I can give in response, "It just didn't seem as cool." I was strictly against the catalytic stove. I likened the difference between non-catalytic secondary burn stoves and catalytic stoves to the differences in high-performance automotive engines. I have many times gone through a theoretical build for a new engine in my 1977 Ford Bronco - which has taken me to both ends of every spectrum and option and seemed feasible. This of course brought up the difference between naturally aspirated motors (motors without turbos or superchargers) and motors with a turbo or supercharger. Using a blower or turbo seemed like cheating. It wasn't like you were achieving performance through genius of design, but merely jamming air down the motors throat - it seemed like a violation of the motor's rights - the **** of internal combustion. And in the same way, a catalytic combustor in a wood stove seemed like cheating. The reliance on specific materials rather than specific design was unappealing at the least.

    However, once winter had broken and summer ensued, house projects filled my schedule and buying a new stove fell to the wayside. And as summer always manages to be all to short, fall gave way to the first snow, and my stove decision became critical. On a limited budget of $3000-tops, I had to find the best burn for the buck. I won't mention the stoves that I decided not to buy, as I have a large respect for the various designers and engineers that put together all of the fantastic stove choices available to the market. I was about to drop a substantial amount of money on my future well-being and comfort, and I'd be damned if I was going to make the wrong decision.

    Most of my research had been done on the internet, contrasting manufacturer spec sheets against one another. But the most valuable information that I found was the firsthand accounts of actual stove owners on Heart.com. Their findings and discussions proved invaluable to my decision, and I must thank everyone who participates on the board for steering me, although perhaps unknowingly, to my final decision.

    It became apparent that there was one stove that stood out from the rest in functional design, sacrificing perhaps, the overall beauty of a modern parlor stove. The Blaze King boasted "burn times" that no other stove could match, at a price more competitive than most other similar models. In the end I threw away my pride, I threw away my stubbornness, and joined the dark side. I purchased a Blaze King - King Classic. Of course it is even less
    pretty with no fancy trim, no gold accents - but damn, it is by far, the most exquisite thing in my home. After coming home to a 21-hour burn with more than enough coals to quickly start another full load - without any coddling - I knew, I had without a doubt joined the dark side and will never be going back.

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  2. North of 60

    North of 60 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    2,449
    Loc:
    Yukon Canada
    The Dark side in this situation is also known as joining the SMART side when it comes to long low ,clean even burns for our climate. Welcome aboard and enjoy the hassle free operation in my opinion.
    Cheers.
  3. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
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    29,153
    Loc:
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    Blaze King - The state stove of Alaska. I think there is one on the flag.

    Glad ya found the right one on the first shot.
  4. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

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    Rochester,Ny.
    You have a way with words my friend!
  5. Milton Findley

    Milton Findley Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    Whitefish Bay, WI
    Nicely told story, and while I don't have one, I think you are going to be very happy with that wood burner.
  6. techieguy

    techieguy Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2008
    Messages:
    36
    Loc:
    Southern Oregon
    Now I admit that my climate isn't nearly as cold as yours...but I love my BK Princess! In the mild winters here in So. Oregon I get 8 hours of burn time with Pine! With better wood like Fir or Madrone the burns increase upto 16 hours!
  7. AKSHADOW

    AKSHADOW Member

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    Loc:
    Fairbanks, AK
    Thanks all - burning wood is just so much more fun on the dark side :)
  8. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

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    She may not win a beauty contest..but she will rock all night and the next day even..lol.
  9. leeave96

    leeave96 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Western VA
    I wouldn't say you've gone to the dark side, I'd say you've got yourself a great stove that you can be proud of for many years to come. I saw a Blaze King stove last weekend and I thought it was a nice looking stove - and this is from a guy with a Woodstock soapstone stove.

    Happy burning,
    Bill
  10. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Michigan
    Welcome! No worries it's a nice side to be on. They really are amazing the way they can smolder a load of wood. :)
  11. Frostbit

    Frostbit Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    307
    Loc:
    Northwest Arctic Alaska
    Well, congrats on the Blaze King...no doubt an easy choice living in Fairbanks.

    Could not help but think of the recent posts here by a fellow Fairbanks-ite with his disgruntled opinion of his paint flaking stove, poor dealer, and no help from Blaze corporate. With that, he really is reluctant to take the stove out of service.

    I guess my next thought is, did you buy your stove from the same dealer, and did you by chance read his thread here?

    Gotta like those BK's. Super burn times. I just need one with close install clearances.
  12. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    1,495
    This sounds like the script for Homeowner's Scary Movie, a baptism by not-enough-fire. That's a tough one.

    I was told my the inspector when I bought my house that the vent pipe above the bathroom needed to be longer--only protruded from the house about 6". I put an extension on it (fortunately, did not glue it on) last winter, after no problems for the first two winters. The third time that it iced up, I took the extension off and pitched it off the roof. No problems since. If that hadn't worked, I was ready to dangle heat tape down it and plug it in PRN.

    Septic system freezing up is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. It may need a good pumping, and it might be that you're not dumping enough warm water down it. If you're pumping water out of the ground and using that for flushing, etc., or have an external holding tank for delivered water, and wash clothes in cold water, it could be that you're not giving the tank the temperatures that it needs to function right.

    Are your water pipes on an external wall? I'm guessing you've repaired the leaks, wrapped them with heat tape, and insulated them. That will help a lot. Relocating pipes is usually a major pain, but some people have no choice with that one in the end.

    Congratulations on your stove purchase. Warm is nice, warm is good.
  13. ohlongarm

    ohlongarm Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2011
    Messages:
    723
    Loc:
    Northeastern Ohio
    Good luck with the King this will be my first year with a 2011 Ultra,I'm learning with help from this forum,12 hour burns with one quarter loaded with ash are easy. BUT the real test is yet to come,I think from what I've read here it will meet my expectations I can't wait till I feed it some real fodder,oak,hedge,locust,hickory beech. Keep us posted, right now in shoulder season it's eating garbage,white ash,cherry,and maple Good Luck.
  14. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
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    8,426
    Loc:
    So Cent ALASKA
    I know I'm very pleased with my stove.
    It'll be interesting how much wood you burn now compared to last season ( more/better heat in the house)
    You have several state cutting areas in your area. So a good amount of wood available, just not a good amount of daylight to go get it.

    Hope your stove works as well for you as mine is for me.
  15. AKSHADOW

    AKSHADOW Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2010
    Messages:
    67
    Loc:
    Fairbanks, AK
    I've now been burning for a full 7 days and it has performed like a champion. I've done quite a bit of work over the summer to insulate pipes and rerouted/enlarged the main vent pipe which should solve the vent freezing issue (now running a 4" pipe). Had the blower door test and found most of the large air leaks which I will hopefully tackle soon. It's amazing what the outside air intake does for the pressure in the house. I was pulling a ton more cold air through the house with the Vig.

    The septic drain that froze was due to the vent freezing and thus making toilet flush slower which eventually slowly glaciated inside the drain. So with the new enlarged vent that should take care of that. Not to mention that the drain was completely exposed to outside air under the house before it goes into the ground so I put some blue board around it and spray foamed the whole thing.

    And to answer the question about the previous thread concerning the peeling paint and dealer - I was following it and made my own comments about the dealer. Unfortunately when it came down to it I decided to purchase the stove in town from the suspect dealer as their price was around $100 cheaper than the Wasilla/Anchorage dealer. But now that the stove is out of the way I can spend my money elsewhere for any other accessories/other needs. Personally I kind of want to do my own custom accent paint job to spruce the King up a bit.

    Bogydave - luckily I've got a good four acres that I can log for fuel and plan to put a couple rental cabins on the property so getting rid of some trees will pull double duty!

    Now a question for all of you other BK owners: I read a thread about an owner not being able to get up to temp because he had some stones or something sitting on the top of his stove, but what about a steamer pot - does anyone experience poor performance from the cat when using a steamer pot?
  16. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

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    The wife puts a fancy thing on ours with water in it..never noticed a diff in performance.

    Can't wait to see you paint job!
  17. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    I have the 'Ultra". It has a cover 1" above the stove top, that the fans move air thru. . I set the pot on it & it needs filled daily. No effect I've noticed, (different set up though)
    Can't see why it would effect yours though.
  18. BKInsert

    BKInsert Member

    Joined:
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    151
    Loc:
    Long Island NY
    I also joined the BK owners just last week, I had a catless stove for ten years prior... No comparison period! I also have a daily driver car with a turbo running 20 psi and close to 400lb torque that gets 30mpg on highway and 19 in town. This is no cheating, this is the future of technology. Enjoy the long burning of your stove!
  19. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

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    STI?
  20. BKInsert

    BKInsert Member

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    Loc:
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    You got it... and its 4WD, can't wait for the deep snow...
  21. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

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    I know a guy with one..he souped it up bout the same power you're talking..carbon fiber drive shaft to the back also...bigger brakes.
    That car hauls butt for a 4 banger!
    Corners real nice too.
    His is the last year before they made them kinda fugly..forget what year though.
    He won't drive it in snow though..it only has like 15k on it.
    Wife has the LL bean outback with the 6 banger..that thing will run also!
  22. BKInsert

    BKInsert Member

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    Loc:
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    Sounds like a nice setup, I only changed the downpipe and air intake, needed to retune after and that is it basically.

    I am really really surprised that there aren't any more stove manufacturers with the cat and automatic thermostat combo out there!
  23. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

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    I hear you on the cat and thermostat...there might be one or two others..seems i have heard some others mentioned on here.
    It takes awhile to get used to using the t stat.
    But if you don't turn it to far down the t-stat will open and get the fire going then close again.
    That's usually around 1.5-1.75 on my stove.
    Most of the time just a orange glow in the bottom..and one at the top!
  24. BKInsert

    BKInsert Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Long Island NY
    Yes, the same here just orange glow in long burn. On the Inserts the t-stat is labeled "High" and "Low" in half a circle with a few dots in between. After each load I have been gradually bringing it down to the Low till it gets to ~1/8, one or 2 dots, off the half a circle.
  25. HotCoals

    HotCoals Minister of Fire

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    Mine's a little diff.
    Try turning the knob up and down a few times rather fast.
    On mine I can hear when the flopper shuts doing that...I adjust from there...I like it just on the border when it's cruising.
    But yeah..after loading and gassing off the wood some,bring it down slow to that point..in increments.
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