1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

vermont castings 1977 question

Post in 'Vermont Castings & CDW Dutchwest older Models' started by surfer37, Jan 16, 2012.

  1. surfer37

    surfer37 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Loc:
    Eastern Long Island
    I recently picked up a Vermont Castings 1977 used on craigslist. Awesome stove. I haven't had the oil burner on since I hooked it up. I'm currently running it on a 8" single wall to a 6" double wall stainless steel flue pipe that was already in the house when we purchased it. The total run is only about 14' straight up. It heats the whole house very well. The house is only about 1900 sq. ft., 2 floor cottage. My first question is does having too much ash in the stove inhibit its ability to burn effectively? I only burn seasoned wood, not coal and I noticed that when it gets a good amount of ash built up in the bottom that I have to poke the logs around more. I always make sure never to completely empty it as I've read I should keep at least a 2" base in the bottom of the stove to prevent cracking.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. VCBurner

    VCBurner Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2010
    Messages:
    1,509
    Loc:
    Templeton, MA
    Search around and find what model stove you have, the 1977 that was cast in the fireback was actually the date that part was designed. You might have a Vigilant. I believe those stoves required at least 16' of 8" flue in order to run properly. Going from single wall 8" to 6" double wall is considered chocking it down. 2" of ashes should not hurt anything, but a clean stove radiates more heat, thus making it more efficient, in theory. Keeping ashes in the bottom of your stove was the way to keep old cast iron antique stoves from falling appart as they were glowing red! Nowadays a thermometer on the stovetop should tell you if you are under 750°, which is the top safe operating temp for most stoves I know. Good luck, those stoves were reliable burners and made a great name for Vermont Castings. They love to be fed a large diet of trees though!.

    Welcome aboard! You might find more guys with this stove in the classic stoves section .
  3. surfer37

    surfer37 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Loc:
    Eastern Long Island
    You are correct, it is a vigilant. I have read about the flue restriction but for the time being I can't afford to change the pipe till next season. No problem heating the house as is though. When I bought the pipe to connect it the salesman told me to use retort cement on the crimped connections. When we first start a hot fire we occasionally get a funny smell in the house but only for a short while and then it goes away. Is retort cement for use on furnace pipe only? And I'll try to clean out the stove completely and also pick up a thermometer. I can't even run it full bore because it overheats the house. We've gotten it into the 80's a bunch of times.
  4. VCBurner

    VCBurner Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2010
    Messages:
    1,509
    Loc:
    Templeton, MA
    Glad to hear it is heating well even with the 6" flue. It was the second stove designed by VC and part of the reason they became so popular. They were realy durable and reliable stoves. The furnace cemment will emmit a smell fot a while and sowill the brand new pipes. It should go away after a few strong fires. Another good thing to do is tp put a flue thermometet to use so you can regulate temps there as well as stovetop temps. Temps too hot at the flue mean you are,heating the great outdoors. Temps too high on stovetop, if sustained, could damage the stove as well as becoming a dangerous situation.
    Take care,
    Chris
  5. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2010
    Messages:
    414
    Loc:
    No. NH
    Air comes into the Vig.'s firebox through a series of holes in the fireback and through the primary air tube on the left side of the firbox. By allowing ash to build up it can inhibit the flow of primary air in, also partially obstruct the outlet on the lower right of the firback, where smoke exits when the damper is closed. They are sometimes fussy about ashes, and so ALWAYS leave the 2" minimum to prevent the bottom from cracking(chronic problem) but shovel out on a regular basis for maximum performance. I take a scoop or two from my Defiant every loading, and shovel more completely when I can let the fire really die down, which is not usually too frequently in northern NH. This years not so bad though.

    Happy heating!!!
  6. innkeeper

    innkeeper Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2008
    Messages:
    11
    Loc:
    midcoast maine
    These are great stoves. They heat up quickly and can put out an amazing amount of heat. The one I have has been in place for 30 years or so and still looks/performs like new. I have only 2 issues, no glass doors on mine so ya can't see the fire and that they can go thru a lot of wood. That being said, if you take care of your stove it will last practically forever. These are the stoves that VC made their name with.
    In the 80s they were the best money could buy. Beautiful castings, very efficient for their time and pretty simple to operate. Mine just loves to run at around 600 deg. stovetop but i'm comfortable with that because it is so responsive to the air control. I think that this generation of VC stoves were the first to try burning with a secondary that consumed volatile gasses. Not to today's standards, but compared to what else was out there in the 80s they were very high tech.
    A couple of suggestions...Keep the stove clean, I remove ashes every couple of days. In mine the bottom plate is ridged to hold an inch of ashes so I clean down to the top of the ridges. Also there is a series of 5 holes at the bottom of the back plate under the 1977, be sure to keep them open because some of your air supply comes thru them and to the right bottom of the rear plate is an opening abour 3"x5" where the gasses go when in secondary mode...keep this area free of ashes. I don't put mine into secondary until I have a nice bed for coals (usually, I burn thru a small fire with 3 medium splits then refill) and after refilling, let it run hot till stovetop is at least 600 deg. then put it into secondary and turn down the air to about 1/2 and 10 min. later to 1/3. Mine will run like this for about 3hrs while the air self regulates then comes slowly down over the next hour. I refill at around 350 deg. when I still have plenty of coals left.
    The stove has been helping to heat 5000 ft/sq on the 3 floors. It won't keep all of it at 70 deg. but it sure cuts down on the $3.70/gal. oil I have to use.
    Going from 8" into a 6" flue is possible according to VC but don't try burning doors open/screen in...not enough draft for that.
    You shouldn't have to "stir things up" to keep your heat up...either not enough draft or yer wood is marginal. Try some of the packaged kiln dried splits they have at HD or some markets and see if this makes a difference other than that, can you add to your flue height?
    Look at the left side of your stove and you will see a covered 1" hole covered by a cast plate, this should be open as both your primary and secondary air supply comes form there.
  7. surfer37

    surfer37 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Loc:
    Eastern Long Island
    Thanks for the heads up about the 5 holes in the back plate. Never noticed them. And I have noticed that the stove works better when I shovel the ashes out to the metal ribs. The wood may be questionable. The place where I bought it had it piled around in a lot uncovered so I may have grabbed a few damp pieces off the stack. I keep my stacked wood outside under a tarp on good heavy duty pallets. For the most part it burns fine. The local historical society had felled a huge cherry tree and left it for whoever wanted it. I grabbed as much as I could and after I cut, split and stacked it I figured I have about two cords for next year. Any advice for the ideal size splits I should be using in this stove? I've noticed that the large ones take some fussing over and I have to occasionally throw in a small one to kick it up. And I should mention that I'm a cabinet maker and have plenty of kiln dried oak, poplar and other woods to start it up. But my question that I'm sure I know the answer to is, is it ok to occasionally throw in a piece of unfinished plywood as a starter? Please be gentle when answering this..... my fathers already read me the riot act
  8. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,101
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    I'm not going to say it will give the neighbors cancer - but, in general, this is not good practice. The glues and other materials in plywood do cause a more poisonous exhaust.....and it's not like "pure" kindling wood is so hard to find.......

    I had one customer who burned particle board roll cores of some type in his cast iron stove - it actually ate away some of the cast parts!
  9. innkeeper

    innkeeper Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2008
    Messages:
    11
    Loc:
    midcoast maine
    Ideal size for a stove like the 1977 is a little or a lot of everything. Smaller for startup then medium for running while you are around to feed the beast and big for long burns. Big rounds burn long but you need lots of coals to light them off. Most of the wood I use is 4 or 5 inch splits...I would call them medium. Big I would call rounds bigger than 6 inches or splits bigger than 6 inches...a few big rounds will burn longer than a lot of small or medium splits. Sorry, but never burn plywood the resins and glues give off all sorts of nastiness and will harm you, your stove and the neighbors.
  10. remkel

    remkel Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    1,459
    Loc:
    Southwest NH
    You only need to take a few shovel fills of ashes out at a time. There should be at least one inch of ashes in the bottom of the stove to insulate the bottom.

    As for the stove itself, GREAT heater. Heated my house with one for a few yers and had gotten that one from my pepere. It will provide you a lot of warmth if you take care if it.

    Happy burning!
  11. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2009
    Messages:
    3,732
    Loc:
    Just Outside the Blue Line
    I loved using mine and I really miss it. That stove would bake us in this place, though. It will burn wood at just about any MC, and do it cleanly. However, you need to have a big fire going unless the wood is well seasoned. That means that for the small fires needed for small spaces you need to use your best dry wood.

    I would not even consider closing the bypass until the stove is really, really hot. Forget about the griddle top temp, the secondary burn happens behind the fireback. The stove is ready for the bypass damper to be closed after about an hour running it on high in the updraft position. Using an IR thermometer, I found that the block that the thermostatic coil is screwed into needs to be about 400°F for the secondary burn to be established.

    These old reburn stoves were pretty crude by today's standard. They didn't have strategically placed insulating materials to elevate temps in the secondary combustion chamber. Therefore, you need to run the stove very hot to achieve secondary combustion. This makes these stoves a poor choice for a parlor installation. They are whole house heaters. The Vig is good for an average home, the Defiant could handle just about any size home when run properly and using superior fuel.

    Wood size? My feeling is the bigger the better, as long as it is dry. I forget now, but I think the max size split you can fit by the smoke shelf when top-loading is less than 7". Without a side load door, these gals are easiest loaded from the top, so I'd have plenty of 6-7" wood cut 18-20" long. Mine had the raised ridges on the bottom, and I was advised to never clean the ash out or the stove bottom would crack. My repair center told me that there are no Vig bottom plates anywhere to their knowledge, so a cracked bottom plate means a dead stove. That said, I've found that the stove runs best when scraped down to the top of the ridges, leaving only about 1" of ash below the fire bed.

    As far as them being fuel-hungry, all I can say is they produce massive amounts of heat, so they are going to use some wood in doing so. Run properly, they are reasonably efficient, well over 60% overall when tested in the lab. That is about 10-15% more efficient than the average airtight stove of that time. I've taken a lot of flak here for burning with older technology. I suspect that a lot of it came from folks who never stood by a Vig warming their rumps after a couple hours shoveling snow at 0°F. These are very serious heaters for Northern climates, and are built to last a lifetime. I bought mine used in wonderful condition for $300 and sold it almost three seasons later for $500. I used it very hard in that time, but never abused it. Except for maybe needing a paint job, it was it the same fine condition it was in when I bought it. Not a stove to baby or fret about "overfiring", these stoves can take the heat as well as put it out.

    VC had their own foundry, and the quality control was exemplary. Back in the day, any employee could pull a stove out of the production line for any reason and send it back to the foundry to be re-cast. No questions asked, and it happened all the time. The guiding philosophy was to build perfect stoves, nothing else was to be tolerated. My feeling is that they came close.
  12. surfer37

    surfer37 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Loc:
    Eastern Long Island
    Thanks for all the info. Been a big help. I have one question that my wife would love the answer to. How do I keep the house at a nice temp, say in the 70s. Every time I get a fire going, it always works its way up to 80+. If I use the damper in the flue, wont it make the fire go out or will it keep it at a slow burn? She hates me right now. I don't mind the heat but obviously she does.
  13. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2010
    Messages:
    414
    Loc:
    No. NH
    With damper open, try keeping the fire smaller. Load the stove perhaps1/3 full, and throw a log in there periodically. I burn a Defiant, and to be sure, we don't need all that heat spring and fall, so that's one way to keep the house temp. where you want it while you're home. Closing the damper in the stove will extend burn times, and likely either make MORE heat or create more creosote in the chimney. Consider a smaller stove! Bet she'd just LOVE a Jotul Castine!!!
  14. VCBurner

    VCBurner Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2010
    Messages:
    1,509
    Loc:
    Templeton, MA
    Hey Surfer let's see some pics!

    I looked at a few Vigilants when I was on my second season of wood heating. Very handsome stoves, the ones with glass doors are rare but beautiful. I decided against it because I had a 6" flue and was advised it would underperform. I found this site and ended up with a Vermont Castings Dutchwest, it was a newer EPA rated stove that ended up being a great stove for us. Anyway, pictures or it never happened is what they say around here! :)

    I ended up moving and had to switch to a pellet stove. Here's mine:

    Attached Files:

  15. JonP

    JonP Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Messages:
    13
    Loc:
    Central PA
    I have a VC Vigilant that probably is from 1977 because that is when the basement was finished. I shovel ash when it gets up to the primary inlet and the holes in the back leaving the tops of the ribs exposed. It certainly has an appetite and can throw the heat like crazy.

    I never burn plywood or anything similar, seasoned dry wood only.
  16. rob z.

    rob z. New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    I am running an old Vigilant reduced down to 6" metalbestos and it does fine. I put a secondary damper in the stovepipe (to kill it just in case it got out of control) but have only had to use it once when I put too much KD hardwood flooring scraps in there. If you build up a nice bed of coals and put normal-sized DRY firewood in, it pretty much takes care of itself. Love it!.

Share This Page