2021 Vermont Castings Aspen C3 Install

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wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
Unless cooking something that needs high heat, you may want to add a trivet underneath to avoid scorching on the bottom. I regularly use a dutch oven to slow cook dishes and stews on the T6 trivet top. It works great.
Thanks. I am hoping this will be good for big fluffy biscuits and other breads, but I figured I can always raise the bottom off of the cooktop with something (short griddle, diffuser, etc... the trivet is a good idea) for stews and such, as you mentioned. Easier to decrease the heat transferred to the dutch oven than increase it, ha. I'm sure there will be a few failed experiments in my future. The T6 looks awfully handy for cooking.
 

EddyB

New Member
Jun 7, 2021
17
NB Canada
It's been too warm here for fires (60s and 70s!) but I did get a cast iron dutch oven after some measuring and some research. The cooktop circle on the Aspen C3 is right around 9 3/8" diameter inside the lip, so any pot with a bottom diameter of 9 5/16" or less should fit on it and be in direct contact with the cast iron, not held up by the lip around the edge. Lodge doesn't give bottom diameters for their cookware on their website so I went into Cabela's and grabbed a fish measuring stick and felt where the bottom of the dutch ovens were through the boxes to measure diameter.

I can report that a 7 qt. fits about perfectly. Definitely can't go any larger if you want it to fit on the designated area. If I do any cooking/baking I will start a separate thread in the appropriate forum, but figured someone looking at this stove in the future may find this info handy as a reference.

View attachment 286825
Looks great. If you have the model and make of it, I’ll look for the same one. Thanks!
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,886
Downeast Maine
It's been too warm here for fires (60s and 70s!) but I did get a cast iron dutch oven after some measuring and some research. The cooktop circle on the Aspen C3 is right around 9 3/8" diameter inside the lip, so any pot with a bottom diameter of 9 5/16" or less should fit on it and be in direct contact with the cast iron, not held up by the lip around the edge. Lodge doesn't give bottom diameters for their cookware on their website so I went into Cabela's and grabbed a fish measuring stick and felt where the bottom of the dutch ovens were through the boxes to measure diameter.

I can report that a 7 qt. fits about perfectly. Definitely can't go any larger if you want it to fit on the designated area. If I do any cooking/baking I will start a separate thread in the appropriate forum, but figured someone looking at this stove in the future may find this info handy as a reference.

View attachment 286825

You may be able to bake bread in there if you have a smaller Dutch oven to go inside. A trivet, like Begreen mentioned, may also do the trick.
 
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wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
Looks great. If you have the model and make of it, I’ll look for the same one. Thanks!
It's a Lodge 7 qt. Mine is the version with the bail handle as that's all Cabela's had in stock. They appear to have another 7 qt. that does not have the bail handle for slightly cheaper and I would think would have the same measurements. Here's the one I got: Link
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
It's a little cooler here today and we have a nice north wind. I started a fire this morning with the firebox maybe half full of some slightly punky but very dry wood, and let it burn down until the damper started to crack open. That took about 4 hours. Here's the info for that:

125 degrees 18" up on exterior of single wall pipe
225 degrees center of cooktop
200 degrees between cooktop and flue exit (insulated beneath)

So based on my last data points, it wasn't far away from cracking open. I've been wondering if waiting for the damper to crack open is the best way to reload in this stove, with no air control, or if I should be loading on brighter coals before it gets cool enough to crack the damper. I did reload about 1/3 full at this point today. Left the door cracked for 3-5 minutes and closed it, and away it's going. So, no complaints there.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
93,256
South Puget Sound, WA
It's a little cooler here today and we have a nice north wind. I started a fire this morning with the firebox maybe half full of some slightly punky but very dry wood, and let it burn down until the damper started to crack open. That took about 4 hours. Here's the info for that:

125 degrees 18" up on exterior of single wall pipe
225 degrees center of cooktop
200 degrees between cooktop and flue exit (insulated beneath)

So based on my last data points, it wasn't far away from cracking open. I've been wondering if waiting for the damper to crack open is the best way to reload in this stove, with no air control, or if I should be loading on brighter coals before it gets cool enough to crack the damper. I did reload about 1/3 full at this point today. Left the door cracked for 3-5 minutes and closed it, and away it's going. So, no complaints there.
Were these temps at the 4 hr point? They seem cool unless this is at the end of the burn.
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
Were these temps at the 4 hr point? They seem cool unless this is at the end of the burn.
Yes, these are from the point at which the damper starts reopening as the coals are burning down.
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
It's finally looking more like December here. Into the 20s last night and not getting out of the 30s today with a 20 MPH north wind. I started a fire at 10:30 last night. I packed about as many 6" chunks in as I could fit, with some room for kindling towards the front at the top. This is the most I've had the stove loaded so far:

20211217_223611.jpg


I've gotten things down to where I can leave the door barely cracked for the first 5 minutes or so while keeping an eye on the kindling taking off, and then I can shut it and walk away. Here's what things looked like at 5:30am - still a few blue flames showing not coming out well in the pictures from my cheap phone:

20211218_053655.jpg


And here's 10:15am when the house had dropped down to 63 and I reloaded. The stove top was around 125 degrees. A few of these coals were peeking out from the ashes and I uncovered most of what you see here, put some smaller sticks on top of them and then some splits, and had flames and shut the door a couple of minutes later. The stove had cooled down enough that the intake damper was back open for this reload.

20211218_100347.jpg


Overall I am happy with the automatic air control. There are times I wish I could shut the air down sooner, and times I wish I could open it for 10 minutes when I reload on a very burned down coal bed, but I'm extremely happy with the burn time for a stove this size. Since I still had flames from the coals at 5:30am, personally I would easily consider that to be at least a 7 hour burn time. I went back to bed and didn't check it again until a couple hours later. I should be able to go longer when I'm sticking full 16" splits into it instead of a tetris pile of 6-8" chunks sized for the previous fireplace, and also longer when I'm reloading on hot coals and not taking up space with kindling starting from a cold firebox. VC claims 10 hours and I really think that's achievable from what I've seen - with the right size and type of wood, and after you get used to how to operate it.

I am waiting to put in a rating for the stove on this site until I finish the first season, but so far I'd say 4.5/5 stars.
 

EddyB

New Member
Jun 7, 2021
17
NB Canada
That’s a great update! Thank you! The guy still hasn’t come to adjust the chain on the flap so that it closes all the way when it’s up to temperature instead of worrying about the high temps. But I’ve used it enough now that you just have to be patient as you build up enough coals that the temp stays around that 500-600 degree mark. The steady heat it produces at that point is amazing. It doesn’t take much to keep it at that temperature once you have a solid bed of coals. It’s just that period when you’re burning constantly until there’s enough coals that you have to be gradual with feeding the stove. I’m using a blast gate on the back for the time being until he shows up to fix the flap. In the meantime, I’m considering putting in a damper module for the double walled flu. It’s additional cost, but it may do the trick to slow down the draft because there’s tonnes of draft. Have a great holiday season!
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
Thanks EddyB! There wasn't a ton of info out on the web about the C3 so I'm trying to share as much as I can, in hopes it helps others. I sure hope your stove guy gets out before the winter is over. Same to you!
 

RandyBoBandy

Minister of Fire
Feb 25, 2015
1,353
Whitmore lake, MI
Proper burning of good seasoned wood will eventually cook that stuff off. Then you can do the ash on paper towel method. It works very well. I keep a roll of the blue shop towels under the kitchen sink for this chore.
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
Proper burning of good seasoned wood will eventually cook that stuff off. Then you can do the ash on paper towel method. It works very well. I keep a roll of the blue shop towels under the kitchen sink for this chore.
Thanks - I actually haven't had any issues with this since doing the first few break-in fires. My wood is still the same so I still think some of that was deposits from paint and other things burning off the inside of the firebox, or it was just from such low temps from the small break-in fires (or both?). I used a razor blade to remove that black stuff and ever since I have been able to wipe the lighter stuff with ash on a paper towel, with minimal effort. The lighter stuff seems to accumulate enough after 2-3 burns that it makes it difficult to see the fire but not impossible.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,886
Downeast Maine
Thanks - I actually haven't had any issues with this since doing the first few break-in fires. My wood is still the same so I still think some of that was deposits from paint and other things burning off the inside of the firebox, or it was just from such low temps from the small break-in fires (or both?). I used a razor blade to remove that black stuff and ever since I have been able to wipe the lighter stuff with ash on a paper towel, with minimal effort. The lighter stuff seems to accumulate enough after 2-3 burns that it makes it difficult to see the fire but not impossible.
I get fly ash buildup on both of my stoves. Every few weeks of burning I clean the glass, usually when I take out the ashes. If you wait too long it can etch the glass and reduce the clarity a bit.
 
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RandyBoBandy

Minister of Fire
Feb 25, 2015
1,353
Whitmore lake, MI
I probably clean up my glass once every couple of weeks. Basically in the event the stove goes cold and I feel like doing it. I’m always amazed at how clean and clear the glass is after cleaning it.
 
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Diabel

Minister of Fire
Jan 11, 2008
3,540
Ottawa, ON
I never bother. On either stove. Why?
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
I started a fire around 8:30pm the other night and had enough coals under the ashes for a reload at 7:30am-ish the following morning. I forgot to measure the cooktop temp before loading but it was probably 150-200 degrees tops as it was still noticeably warm, but the intake damper was about half open and no coals were visible on top of the ashes. I did put some ~1/2" diameter kindling directly on the coals I had uncovered and then larger splits and rounds on top. With the door cracked I had a roaring fire less than 5 minutes later and I shut the door, and watched it for maybe 20 minutes. I noted this in the Aspen C3 temperatures thread but for documentation here:

425 degrees 18" up on exterior of single wall pipe
750 degrees center of cooktop
625 degrees between cooktop and flue exit (insulated beneath)

Those are the the highest temps I've seen so far. The flue temp was significantly higher than anything I've seen before but that makes sense on a reload, since most of the stove was still probably around 150-200 degrees or so and it took off very quickly. The flue temp dropped after maybe 10 minutes and the cooktop center was getting closer to 700, so I stepped away for a bit. That makes sense with the damper closing as the temp probe heated up. An hour later it was back up around 750 again and I don't know what it may have gotten up to during that time, but I'd be surprised if it got to 800. And if it did, that's still below the max temps observed in the EPA testing, if we assume worst case that their firebox top temp probe was over the uninsulated cooktop and not over an insulated spot, as I suspect it may have been.
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
I promise these long posts will slow down when I quit breaking new to me barriers. I started a fire from scratch at 7:30 this morning with mostly smaller 3-4" honey locust rounds. I didn't touch it again until 10:30pm tonight and I could see the top of a coal peeking out, and to my surprise I uncovered several decent sized chunks (see attached picture... tried it with the flash on but then you couldn't tell they were glowing coals). That's what, 15 hours after I started the fire and I hadn't put any wood in since initially loading at 7:30am? Obviously I would not count this as burn time as the heat output was next to nothing by 10:30pm (stove top was ~100 degrees). However it makes things pretty easy for restarting. I have been leaving a decent amount of ashes in the firebox which helps maintain coals.

I put some kindling and progressively larger pieces on top of those coals. Almost all of this load currently in the stove is dead standing mulberry that I cut a week ago and is consistently testing 14-18% MC so I figured why not try it. I have a ~5" round and a ~6" half split on the top - finally cut to ~16" long since this stove is designed for that length, vs. the pieces I cut from previous seasons that were much shorter for my old ZC prefab fireplace.

Holy guacamole. That mulberry took off like nobody's business after having the door cracked open for about 5 minutes to get it going. For 10-15 minutes I was seeing these temps - the highest yet:

450 degrees 18" up on exterior of single wall pipe
855 degrees center of cooktop
760 degrees between cooktop and flue exit (insulated beneath)

This only lasted maybe 15 minutes but it was exciting. I'm curing paint that hasn't been cured before. That 855 is just under the max that was seen in the EPA tests - again, if they had their location at the center of the cooktop, which is the hottest spot. It has since settled into the 650-750 degree range. I think if I saw 900 I would start getting concerned. There's no wind tonight so that is not in play, and it's still in the mid-40s temp wise.

20211230_222410.jpg
 
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wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
Well, I did see 900. I'll keep most of that discussion over on the thread dedicated to Aspen C3 stovetop temps. I do have this picture of what I started with (smaller rounds of honey locust, mulberry, and silver maple), and then what was left 13 hours after I had started the fire. That was easy enough to reload on. Wish I'd been awake around 10 hours into the burn to see what things looked like.

It has gotten much colder here (down into the single digits at night) and I am happy to report the stove is heating my ~750 square foot house just fine. In general I was reloading every 6-7 hours, with splits and rounds as shown in the 3rd picture. I've seen some other discussions on here about dealing with the coals in this stove (and others). It does coal up a lot with the honey locust. The trick has been to make sure I get my house up to 70+ and then let the coals burn down on their own. There is still a surprising amount of heat output but it is obviously reduced from a roaring fire, and I'll lose temp in the house when it's 10 degrees with a 30 MPH north wind as it's not putting out quite enough BTUs to sustain temp. If I time it well I don't have to reload every 6 hours, or have to deal with a mound of large coals in the firebox. I can reload when it gets close to 62 in the house and the coals are pretty well burned down.

20220102_190030.jpg 20220103_075717.jpg 20220101_175444.jpg
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
It has also been great for burritos and quesadillas. Plenty of heat transfer to the cooktop area.

20220101_212333.jpg
 
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wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
A few minor gripes so far:

1. I noticed the screw for the front door latch had been backing out. I retightened this.
20220107_180942.jpg


2. I checked the door glass retaining screws and they were not completely loose, but definitely not tight. They all took 1/2-1 turn. I presume the heat cycling and compression on the gasket decreasing somewhat since initial assembly caused this. Unfortunately this appears to have had zero effect on keeping the stove from launching to 900 STT sometimes if you don't cut off the air at the intake. I could not detect a leak here before tightening anyway.
20220107_181400.jpg


3. The nut holding the stovetop to the LH side (pic below is inside door, looking to the left and slightly up) was not completely loose, but not tight. I retightened this and made a note to check the ones at the top rear when I take things apart for cleaning after the season is over. The RH front nut was tight.
20220107_182302.jpg


4. The ash lip under the door has a lip all the way around it. This may be nitpicky but it is impossible to clean out without a vacuum or a damp towel or something that will pick up the ash. You can't wipe/sweep/brush it out, like I've always been used to on welded steel stoves that just have a mostly flat sheet of steel here. A 1-2" area with no lip would allow you to sweep it out instead of just moving it back and forth and it getting caught at the edge.

20220109_172049.jpg
 
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moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,971
Iowa
Nice to hear things are generally working out.
 
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wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
I've mostly been keeping the other Aspen C3 stovetop temps thread updated here: Vermont Casting Aspen C3 - How hot should it run

So for folks in the future who come across this while researching the Aspen C3, it's worth reading through that one as well. In summary worst case I have seen up to 920 at the cooktop and a little over 800 above the insulation between the cooktop and the flue. 18" up the outside of the stove pipe gets to 475 or so. It'll do this on a night with little/no wind, but it'll really quickly shoot up to this on a night like last night with plenty of wind. Using the blast gate to shut things off lets you drop temps pretty quickly. I would highly recommend that anyone installing one of these stoves do this - either in line with your OAK ducting, or stick a foot or two of flexible duct on the stove inlet and have a blast gate on the end, hanging out to the side somewhere you can reach it if you're just drawing from the interior of your house.

I really, really cannot imagine having more than 15' or so from floor to chimney cap for this stove unless you are going to ignore VC's directions to not install a flue damper. I would never have thought I would have needed it at 14.5' to the cap when the stove is designed for 16'. However I have decided against installing a flue damper at least while the stove is still under warranty, due to the statement in the manual.

At 900+ with a room entirely dark you can just barely tell that the cooktop area is faintly starting to glow. I take that as a sign to stay under 900 there (which generally corresponds to about 800 on the stovetop between the cooktop and flue exit, where there is insulation underneath). VC says something in the manual along the lines of "if any part of the stove is glowing, stop" and refused to provide any sort of max temp values - or even where to measure them - when I contacted customer service. VC's customer service generally seems to be pretty piss poor. Their strategy is to constantly redirect you to dealers that don't know any more than you do. I get that and understand for a lot of service parts inquiries you should go through a dealer who should be able to take care of you, but it seems like most VC dealers still don't have a lot of experience with the Aspen C3 at this point. Compared to some of the other stove manufacturers that seem to have great customer service (per threads and posts on this forum), I would say this is a drawback if anyone is considering the Aspen C3 or another VC/HHT product.
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
On some positive notes:

I have found decent coals in the ash bed up to 24 hours later. Some of that's my wood, and then I'm not sure if the rest of it is just typical for a cast iron stove, or if the Aspen C3 is any better than other stoves. I'm impressed. Typically as long as it's been 12 hours or less I can uncover them and put a few smaller splits or 1" diameter round sticks on bottom, load larger splits on top, leave the door cracked for 5-10 minutes, get flames and close the door again. I will say this stove is pretty much load it and forget it with the exception of having to watch the top end initially if things are really taking off and it continues to get too much air. If I am going to leave the house after loading or go to bed, I generally try to load 1-2 hours before so I can keep an eye at the riskiest point of it taking off. Once you get past the peak it's fantastic.

The chimney didn't look as bad as I expected when I took a look down it the other day, considering I had some pretty small, cold fires early on for break-in and then some smoldery ones while I was learning the best ways to start a cold fire, reload, etc. like I would've with any new stove. The accumulation that is present is very dry, thin, flaky, and disintegrates when you touch it. I have generally been burning every night, and maybe 50% of the time I'll reload in the morning. We've had a couple of 4-5 day cold stretches where it's been going not quite around the clock. I'll keep checking it and clean it earlier than the end of the season if I need to. I don't want to end up like my neighbors who basically plugged their chimney solid by the end of last winter (wet wood, smoldering fires, and too short of chimney)!

I did worry the other night that I saw the rear of one of my baffle supports glowing but it ended up being a flake of creosote. I have noticed I get some creosote buildup at the very back of the stove. The secondary air comes out ~4" in front of the rear of the stove so the very rear must not get very hot, if it can't quite prevent this stuff from accumulating or burn it off. The rest of the firebox looks pretty good - just a hint of powdery black on everything else.

20220103_172539.jpg
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
211
KS
The other night we were steady around 35 degrees evening to morning. I packed the stove full in the evening and when I left to run into town the next morning there will still active blue flames on the coals and I had a 350 degree STT... 9.5 hours later. The pic isn't great through the soot on the door glass but you can kind of make out the blue flames and the large lump of coals towards the back of the stove. It was still going, too, so I'm going to consider this easily hitting the 10 hour burn time that VC advertises. This load was a mix of honey locust splits and rounds with a 6" diameter round of mulberry right in the middle, and some smaller mulberry rounds and whatever random long kindling sticks would fit filling in the voids. You really have to pack it, and at 35 degrees with little/no wind those were probably ideal conditions for a long burn time. Anyhow, it's definitely possible under the right conditions.

I did have to put the brakes on with the blast gate at the peak - maybe an hour, hour and a half into the burn for 15 minutes or so and then I could turn it loose again.

20220118_204058.jpg 20220119_061201.jpg
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
Nice! You are getting the hang of it! Good job. Now some more playing and much more enjoying!
 
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