A newbie with an inherited cast iron stove that scares me

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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,228
Long Island NY
We had a coal stove when I was a kid (until about 15 years old?). I like its heat better. It's a very constant thing. Both in heat and in appearance. Soft but keeping the place warm.

I hear there generally is a lot of ash to get rid of though (somehow our coal did not produce much - don't know why).

And it's not the best for the great outdoors. Acid rain (see all the things you have to do to prevent your pipes corroding) and more CO2.

So I like my wood stove now. Still, a well-operated coal stove has its appeal.
 

powlette

New Member
Nov 13, 2022
9
Dayton, Ohio
Good. Told you it would be controllable and not have a melt down. Coal can only do that when a blower is forcing air through it such as in a forge.

That fire looks quite heavy, unless you’re bringing the temperature up with it burning hard. You can turn it down to only a tiny glow from the bottom on warm days and not lose the fire. It comes with practice. You will find coal is a lot less work. It does have nasty emissions, and makes a lot of ash that isn’t useable like lime from wood. It doesn’t hurt the soil, but it doesn’t do it any good. I use it around poles or fences where I don’t want weeds to grow.

Not everyone gets a coal fire established the first time they try it. The biggest mistake is thinking they have to burn wood down to coals before putting coal on. When you do it right you will have glowing coal quickly. Just strange covering a good fire with rocks thinking this is going to kill it! My coal grate is much larger and only light it once a year. Never lost the fire yet. If you ever lose the critical mass of the fire, no matter what you do you are going to lose it. It can’t recover once it hits a certain point.

The next mistake is thinking the fire will respond right away. Sometimes you just have to walk away and find it grows by itself without playing with it. Worst case scenario is let the ash door open for maximum air flow to get it going. Use caution doing this and stay with it. This expels lots of gas from the coal on top and when you close the ash door it will ignite the gases on top. It won’t burn right with ash door open because of getting too much dilution air. These are the things you’ll learn by doing.

You will find when letting it burn overnight, you may think it is almost out. A little shake and you should see some glow from the bottom up. Notice I always state to look at the fire from bottom of grate. When you get the hang of it you will be able to tell a rough fire from a smooth even one from the top, but the even glow from bottom tells the story.

The reason coal gets a bad rap from being dirty is the ash is finer and can become fly ash becoming airborne easily. Try to only shake when the draft is strong. You may have to shake a little first to kick it up and get the chimney hotter. Then later shake it the rest of the way until you see coals start to drop. This allows the stronger draft to vacuum the flyash up the stack instead of drifting inside.
Finally, at season end let it burn out. Only shake, don’t add anymore. Mine takes 3 days after no longer adding coal. Then empty ash and clean chimney very, very well. The fly ash in chimney is acidic. At least the longer it’s in there, the more neutral it becomes. I remove inside pipe and run water with garden hose through it, rinsing clean until the smell is gone. Then brush chimney with a poly brush or Soot-Eater. I prefer the Soot Eater. Then wrap rag around brush and do it again. I clean with a wet rag the same way. I have even put drain oil on a rag and run it in the flue to coat it for the summer. If you don’t rinse the inside black pipe, it will pinhole in a year or so.

The last word of caution is if you get large chunks of what looks like molten lava that won’t burn, that is a clinker. It can come from user error, usually poor coal, or some stoves are more susceptible to forming them. You can only remove it from the top. I have only formed them in large locomotive boilers, never my coal stove. You will find not all coal is equal. What burns fine on one style grate may give problems with another. Then sometimes what comes from a good breaker changes as they hit different veins underground looking like shale that won’t burn right. About the time you think you have it mastered, you find another trick that works better.
@coaly, thanks again for taking the time to make these detailed posts for a newbie like me. I let the fire burn out as I'm still not confident to let it run overnight without being monitored. Even though I last topped it off around 5pm it was still glowing in the morning but I'll let it go out, clean everything and start fresh. We're expecting 17F weather on Friday so I plan to get it going tomorrow and run through the cold weekend. So far, I'm surprised about how clean it seems to be. Burning wood was constantly putting out ash and dropping bark and sawdust but the coal runs so long undisturbed that it's actually less smell in the room and less ash. It's also far easier to top off with a couple pounds of coal compared to half a dozen logs. You've made me a believer!

So are you saying at the end of the season I should take the chimney apart and run a wet rag through it to keep it from corroding? It's a very short pipe as you can see in the first photo I posted so not a big deal to do I just want to maintain it properly since it was surprisingly hard to get a chimney company to install this in a building with a glass roof.

thanks again!
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,184
central pa
@coaly, thanks again for taking the time to make these detailed posts for a newbie like me. I let the fire burn out as I'm still not confident to let it run overnight without being monitored. Even though I last topped it off around 5pm it was still glowing in the morning but I'll let it go out, clean everything and start fresh. We're expecting 17F weather on Friday so I plan to get it going tomorrow and run through the cold weekend. So far, I'm surprised about how clean it seems to be. Burning wood was constantly putting out ash and dropping bark and sawdust but the coal runs so long undisturbed that it's actually less smell in the room and less ash. It's also far easier to top off with a couple pounds of coal compared to half a dozen logs. You've made me a believer!

So are you saying at the end of the season I should take the chimney apart and run a wet rag through it to keep it from corroding? It's a very short pipe as you can see in the first photo I posted so not a big deal to do I just want to maintain it properly since it was surprisingly hard to get a chimney company to install this in a building with a glass roof.

thanks again!
No leave the chimney up. Just clean it well then oil it down I find wd40 works well. I do the same with the pipe. Coaly rinses his pipe out. Do you know what alloy of stainless your chimney is?
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
17,602
Philadelphia
Nothing to add here, I'd have only paged @coaly if I'd been the first to come across the thread. But it is amusing that a guy posts a photo of a pretty lady in front of her greenhouse, and all everyone here notices is the stove! What a bunch of stove nerds. ;lol
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
1,325
MA
Great thread. Learned a lot. Thanks all!
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,668
NE PA
Nothing to add here, I'd have only paged @coaly if I'd been the first to come across the thread. But it is amusing that a guy posts a photo of a pretty lady in front of her greenhouse, and all everyone here notices is the stove! What a bunch of stove nerds. ;lol
We noticed.
 
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Reactions: begreen

kborndale

Feeling the Heat
Oct 9, 2008
466
LI
Coal is dirty, when it’s burned, when it’s mined, from beginning to end it’s dirty.

Yes, you have made your position on coal quite clear. I don't think that small stove will have such an impact compared to the 200+ coal powerplants in the USA though.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,184
central pa
Yes, you have made your position on coal quite clear. I don't think that small stove will have such an impact compared to the 200+ coal powerplants in the USA though.
In the world no. But having burnt coal in my previous home for a while it really is very dirty.
 

BillBurns

New Member
Nov 11, 2022
91
PA
Now thats an AWESOME stove, Im glad you didnt give up on it. I cant burn coal, but I grew up with it. LOTS of heat and burn times, a lot of work, like wood.....but youll save money for sure.