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VC Vigilant questions

Post in 'Vermont Castings & CDW Dutchwest older Models' started by andrew ferguson, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. andrew ferguson

    andrew ferguson New Member

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    I have installed a 1977 wood burning VC viiglant in my home. Stove heats the house very well once the fire is established.
    A few questions for the seaoned vets can hopefully help me with:

    1. Stove flu temps will not surpass 290 to 300 degrees. I am doing something incorrect? I have read that 300 °F to 600 °F are ideal as lower temps will cause the stove to build up creosote in flu. Do I need to add a damper?

    2. Flu is 6" all the way to the top (29'), stove does not seem to have draft problems as no smoke comes out when I open the griddle or doors to load and has no problem creating draft to start. I burn thru wood way to fast. I get about 1-2 hours out of a full load of wood in stove. I am burning thru my stock of wood way to fast. Other posts say this stove will burn for 8 to 9 hours on a goof load of wood.

    3. How do I adjust the draft controls on the back (thermostatic) and side (key hole) ? When should I put stove into horizontal burn? Does the thermostatic door close or open by itself when burning? When the stove is cold is the door closed?

    4.I redid the gaskets on the front doors, flu extension and griddle top. Should I install some type sealantt around the walls and top tp ensure all is sealed air tight? Is there a way to check the stove for air tightness?

    I appreciate any info as I am a "rookie".


    thanks and happy burning!!!! :)

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  2. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    A damper will not increase flue temps, it will decrease them. You should have a stove top thermometer on the griddle. When I have the Vigilant burning well, The stove pipe surface temperature will range from 250-450 horizontal burn mode while the griddle temps range from 550-700. The stove pipe only goes above those temps when I am in updraft mode.

    VC recommends an 8" pipe/line, but I also use a 6" liner and it works very well for me. On a full load you should get 5-6 hour burns from the stove during winter temps. I can not determine why your burns are so short until you tell me how much wood you are putting in, what your air controls are set at, and when you switch the stove to horizontal burn/downdraft mode.

    You should see a lever at the top and back of the stove. This controls the air flap. When you have establish a good fire with griddle temps above 500 degrees you should switch to horizontal burn mode.


    I am unsure as to what you mean by 'sealant' and what walls you are referring to. Easiest way to tell if the stove is put together well would be to shine a flashlight into the firebox and see if any light escapes from the cast iron seems or any place else.
  3. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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  4. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    I think by 'sealant' he's talking about stove cement to fill any cracks. Remkel, in your comments above, #3, don't you mean "you should close the rear draft after placing the stove in HORIZONTAL mode? (not vertical as I assume he started out in vertical.)

    To the OP. Welcome the world of Vigilant burners. I love ours! I don't have a flue pipe thermometer and just don't worry about it, but your temps are about right for the flue. It's the stove top temp that you should monitor. Get a good fire going and get the stove top temp to 550-600. Higher is no problem. I've frequently let mine get up to 700 or a little above. Once you get your target temp, flip the handle on the side to horizontal (handle points down.) Adjust the little wire handle on the thermostat to allow a little air in.
    At bed time, with a full stove and a really good, hot fire going, I close the thermostat to where the flap just barely makes contact with the back wall of the stove. I close the tear drop/key hole cover to about half way. I usually wake up in the morning with the stove top temp around 350-400 and some good coals if I want to build it up again.

    Do you have an operators manual? If not, you should get one. You can download one from the VC website.

    A couple of hints, just in case you haven't figure it out already. Before you open the front doors or the griddle top, always put the damper handle so that the handle points toward the door (vertical mode.) This will give you a good draft so that smoke gets sucked out through the top vent and not into the house.
    Don't leave the stove unattended with a full box and a blazing fire while it is in vertical mode. The temps can jump from 400 to over 700 in just a couple of minutes if you're burning good dry wood. A runaway fire can cause a chimney fire and cause damage to your stove. Check and double check that you are in horizontal mode before you go to bed at night. And don't forget to temporarily put the handle into vertical if you get up in the middle of the night to add wood (through the griddle top.) Put it right back into horizontal after you add the wood.

    Are you well versed in the art of burning properly dried wood? Green wood is NOT good. Don't believe people who tell you to burn green wood because "it lasts longer." It lasts longer because all the energy is wasted boiling the water out of the wood instead of producing heat! Plus, green wood clogs up the stove and flue with creosote which is messy and dangerous. Most wood needs to cut and SPLIT at least a year. Your wood pile should sit out in the sun and wind, UNCOVERED, until it is dry. Some wood, especially oak, can take two or three years to dry where it is burnable. And it's totally worth it! The best thing you can do for yourself is, if you have room, to get two or three years ahead on your wood. If you can't scrounge up your own, buy it now for next year. Never trust a wood seller who tells you he has "seasoned" wood. Seasoned means it was cut last week to those guys. And wood does not start to dry until it is SPLIT. Once you have a good supply of Dry wood, you might want to top cover your stack to keep the snow and rain off of it. Never completely close it up in a tarp. However, many of us never cover it all. Personally, I just bring up a few days worth of wood to my covered front porch. If it has been rained on, it's no big deal. That's only surface moisture that will dry quickly.

    And the best tip I can give you is to keep reading these forums. Not only this one but also The Wood Shed. And if you have a chainsaw and want to start cutting and scrounging, rather than buying your wood, check out "The Gear." I owe virtually everything I know about burning and cutting and storing to these forums and guys like
    Remkel and Browning Bar (above) and many others.

    Cheers! Don't be afraid to ask questions and to let us know how things are going for you.
    Ken
  5. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    DOH- Ken thanks (I always get the two mixed). I always just refer to it as damper open and damper closed, old habit formed by fatherly programming when I was young and operating the Defiant in our house.

    Thanks for the correction.
  6. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    The proper setting for the thermostat is to have it halfway open (45 degrees) when the handle is pointing straight up and the stove is stone cold. Adjust it with the chain (stove cold, of course) until is is in this position.

    Once it is adjusted properly, get the stove up to about 700 for about an hour in vertical mode. If the thermostat is working correctly the flapper should be almost closed if the handle is pointing straight up. This is the point where I close the bypass. If everything goes right and the secondary stays lit with the bypass closed, flue temp should rise to about 400-450 and stay there before it gradually drops at the tail end of the burn.

    That is how I run mine, with a 25' 8x8 tile flue and a basement install. With a 6" pipe, you already have a built-in damper, these stoves like to breathe. ;-)
  7. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Hey BK- I seem to remember during the last rebuild I did that you place stove cement in the grooves on the top plate before placing it onto the four sides as well as for when you place the sides together. Think it might be time for a rebuild on VB's stove? Just trying to think outside the firebox.
  8. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    I think VB needs to at least do a good crack inspection on a dark night with bright flashlight. He reports his light leaks to us and we can advise him from there.
  9. andrew ferguson

    andrew ferguson New Member

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    Wow guys.. thanks for the response's..... ;-)
    I have completed a crack insepcetion with a flashlight and happy to report no visible light.

    When I changed the gaskets on the doors, flu adapter and griddle I used the high temp gasket cement along with new gasket rope from my local stove shop.

    To answer Inferno's question about my short burn times: To start a fire I use small dried kindeling and paper to get the fire going than drop a few splits in until roaring then shove the firebox full and close the griddle, a few minutes later when roaring good I flip to horizontal burn. When in horizontal burn I slide the side "keyhole" air door to about 1/2 closed and adjust the automatic (thermo) damper to about 1/4 open. From what everyone says it looks like the thermo control should do it for me ? Am I not putting in enough wood or too much wood ?

    To answer Remkel's question about the length of burn, I am refering to the actual fire in the stove. I did not know that the coals smoldering keep the stove just as hot as a good fire. How long should the actaul flames be visible 1-2, 3-4hours ?

    New questions:
    1. The auto (thermo) door: Should it be open with a cold stove or closed ? my little door is about 1/8" open and taps when the wind blows.

    2. "key hole" control... is a good position 1/2 open until bed tiem when at that point I should close ...?

    3. Vigilants are long yet narrow.. Is the best way to start fire like a teepee or jsut stack and also when loading is ther a prefered method ?

    Again Thanks for the great responses :coolgrin:
  10. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    VB, do some research on this site for Top Down Burning. I've got the best, quickest starting and hottest fires ever since I started this method. And it makes a lot of sense, too.

    What you do, basically, is to put two or three larger splits on the bottom. A couple of middle size splits next, I put some real skinny splits, tightly rolled wads or knots of newspaper and some pencil sized kindling on top. Light the newspaper. The flame at the top gets your draft going quickly. The newspaper, because it tightly wadded up or knotted, starts quickly but does not flash fire, it continues to burn quite long enough to get the kindling and smaller splits going, which burn down and get the lower levels burning. While all this is going on I leave the front doors open about an inch. Really gets a great draft going. In less than ten minutes I usually have hit 650 or so griddle temp so it's time to close the front door, switch to horizontal and adjust the thermostat door to where it is open maybe half an inch. I'll be cruising around 450 to 500 for hours like this.

    Why put big, cold splits on top of a puny little fire and expect great things from it? Try the top down method. It changed my life- right up there with the night I went streaking through the hot wax at the car wash.
  11. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    The coals will provide heat for a long time- you may not see the 500 degree temps for the whole cycle, but it will cruise along and continue to give you heat. I used to reload when the stove temps got down around 300 or so. Your question about how much wood you are putting into the stove will not have a direct effect on the thermo control, it adjusts according to the heat. If it is not automatically adjusting, then your spring may be shot.

    As for your new questions:
    The air control should open as the stove cools. so when the stove is cooler the door should be open, allowing more air into the firebox. When it is hot, the 1/8" sounds about right. You can make slight adjustments manually if you feel you need to

    The key hole should be open- this is providing the secondary burn air (that is the little "box" in the lower right corner of the fireback). You should not have that closed.

    Kenster mentioned the top down method- I used to make the little tee pee you described. Either way will get a good fire going.


    Hope the information is helpful- I loved the old vigilant, and if it had not been for some chimney issues I had (construction related) and the fact that I had other maintenance to do to the stove I would probably still be running it. My father still operates his Defiant from 1978- if you take care of the old girl she will treat you fine. Sometime down the road you will probably have to do a rebuild to re-cement the joints, but if your light test went ok you are probably fine for now.
  12. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    I forgot to throw in my two cents on coals. Coals are good. Coals throw out good heat that you can safely walk away from- go to bed and forget about it. And coals are great to wake up to. I love to find big, chunky coals in the stove when I get up in the morning. With good coals I'll still be getting 350 to 400 griddle temps in the morning. That may be enough heat for a while, or it will make it easy to get another good fire going by throwing on a few sticks, then a couple of splits.

    Coals are good. You don't have to have roaring flames to get good heat.
  13. Bone1099

    Bone1099 Member

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    First let me start by saying im not trying to hurt feelings or start a fight. Maybe Im partial because i grew up on plate steel welded. After i grew up on plate steel with a crappy installation that he still uses and it still smokes when he opens the door. I moved out and I installed a fisher insert and was somewhat happy with it. But i convinced myself that a VC Vigilant/Defiant was the prettiest stove i had ever seen and still believe they are among the prettiest dragons. So deceived by their beauty that i convinced myself that one could operate as well as it looked. NOT SO. I bought one rebuilt it and installed it I can say my draft was barely sufficient to permit opening griddle while stove was operating. Cast iron is amazingly conductive i mean i was surprised at how even the ash lip seemed ad hot as the griddle top when it was really cranking. and i must admit it did throw the heat. BUT I had to clean out ashes every day and be sure to clean the groove on the left where the air can actually get to the fire. Then there are the holes in the back-plate that you have to keep clear. That dang thermostatic air control opens up all the way as soon as the heat begins to subside and burns up all the coals that are left. Then theres the firebox which isn't big enough for nothing. Yes even piled to the top from the griddle. Just seems to me if a soul wanted to truly heat with wood on a regular basis and wanted to use a smoke dragon. (even if it does have a semi secondary combustion system) He should go out and get a Fisher or some other copy/look alike brand (I grew up on a Vestal) set up a good chimney system and burn responsibly. (dry wood and dont choke youre fire) You will have much less heartache. But if you insist on using that dang heater good luck. After all stoves motorcycles and women are really surprisingly similar. The prettier she is the higher the maintenance and the ride isnt always the best in the business. I guess swimsiut models and Harleys are made for a reason. I ride a Kawasaki and burn a Fisher the rest i will leave to interpretation. Oh yeah and save your pennies for an EPA stove ive seen an Englander NC-30 in action and Im convinced.
    Happy Burning
    Its more fun when everybody gets lit :)
  14. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    Bone,

    No feelings hurt here. I truly understand what you are describing there- actually, I understood so much I traded the old VC in for a new Jotul F600 this year!

    Practicality over sentimentality.
  15. Bone1099

    Bone1099 Member

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    sweet how often and how troublesome are ash cleanings on that stove.
  16. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Personally, if I take out 3-4 shovels full a day I'm fine. Usually, though, I wait for several days and take out about a third of a bucketful.

    The air inlets? I keep a 1/4" steel rod under the stove and poke the ash out every morning. No big deal. I love this stove, and I really hate to see it stay behind when I leave, but I'd never run a Vigilant upstairs in my new place, it'd heat us right out of the house if I was burning it at it's best.

    When I was learning how to fix guitars, the guy who was teaching me was all excited to get his new Defiant installed into his living room. Every time I'd visit in the winter he'd be sitting there in his boxers, the stove doors wide open and him feeding guitar making scraps into the thing. He couldn't run it hot or he'd bake his family, couldn't run it cooler or he'd fill the flue with creosote. Damn powerful heaters, but you need to run them hot like they were designed to be run.
  17. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

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    I would do as BK does, push the hot coals aside, take out 2-3 shovel fulls in the morning, move the coals back and let her rip!

    The F600 has an ash pan- empty it every other day or so- not quite certain which I prefer more as each has their logistical challenges. Still keep the shovel from the old stove just in case.

    I really did love that Vigilant, but it was time to move on for me.

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