Buck 91 cracks in metal!?

tebenhoh

New Member
May 19, 2020
8
Southern Illinois
Newbie here. [Wave]
Buck 91 insert was in a home we purchased 2yrs ago, and we’ve used it the past 2 seasons. This forum taught us everything we thought we needed to know about using and maintaining a catalyst wood stove - never had one or used one before we bought the house. Seriously, this site is/was a godsend.
We were meticulous about dry wood, opening/closing damper, correct temperatures, etc after reading posts here.
This Spring we decided to do some maintenance since we have no idea about the stoves history or previous use - the house was abandoned for almost 3yrs, and PO skipped state while filing bankruptcy.
Buck actually updated their manual for the 91 and it shows the catalyst location and replacement, so I dug in only to find - see photos!
NO lower cat shield.
NO catalyst.
Catalyst housing held by 2 nuts - there’s 8 bolts.
(I have more photos.)
We’ve purchased the catalyst and gaskets, and are about to order the other necessary parts - cat housing, brass nuts, lower shield, etc. I sent these photos to a dealer who said they didn’t look too bad. I sent them to Buck who said maybe 2 seasons. The photos are looking through the door and up at the top of the firebox where the cat housing usually is, the bolts secure the housing to the top of the stove. There are cracks at 6 of the bolts I believe, and “bad?” cracks at the two rearmost corners.
Please flood us with info and options; is the stove usable, is it trashed, can it be repaired, should it be repaired???
Thanks so much in advance, and again for the knowledge gained here to even know how to get this far!
 

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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,964
South Puget Sound, WA
Welcome and good work with the dry wood. The cracks may be repairable. Is there a good welder in the area?
 

tebenhoh

New Member
May 19, 2020
8
Southern Illinois
Thank you, for the welcome and the compliment!
We do, and I wondered whether welding could be an option. I was hoping to avoid moving the stove. It is, however, a better option than buying a new stove! Is it a ridiculous idea to even think of having it done where it sits, in the house? We have an outside door, and windows, in the room for ventilation. To start the conversation with the welders, would a smaller portable wire feed welder be sufficient, or are we talking the big guns - 240v or 3phase?
Also, I purchased extreme heat JBWeld (2400deg) to fix a stripped screw in the door which holds a plate that sandwiches the glass and it’s gasket. I’m assuming that may only be temporary at best, or useless, for the cracks?
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
17,308
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Thank you, for the welcome and the compliment!
We do, and I wondered whether welding could be an option. I was hoping to avoid moving the stove. It is, however, a better option than buying a new stove! Is it a ridiculous idea to even think of having it done where it sits, in the house? We have an outside door, and windows, in the room for ventilation. To start the conversation with the welders, would a smaller portable wire feed welder be sufficient, or are we talking the big guns - 240v or 3phase?
Also, I purchased extreme heat JBWeld (2400deg) to fix a stripped screw in the door which holds a plate that sandwiches the glass and it’s gasket. I’m assuming that may only be temporary at best, or useless, for the cracks?
The welder will know what to do and most have the power source on their truck. That metal is thick enough to stick weld but wire feed machines are certainly available that can do it too. Comes down to the professional’s preference. The chimney will draft most of the welding fumes away. Anything that spills out is no big deal. He will need to grind the weld smooth since you need to bolt something in place so have that thing there for him to test fit.

I would expect him to weld it in place. Be expecting him to be dirty. Warn him to protect the floors from sparks. Welders are good at welding in dirty environments, not so much your living room.
 
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Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,470
Midwest
I guess it's going to depend on what type / level of repair you want.

If you want some guy to come out with a truck and weld 'upside down' inside your stove (believe these cracks are on the 'roof' of the firebox, yes?) Then yeah, he can probably slap some weld beads on there and keep the cracks from coming back for a year or two.

If you want someone to go in and fully grind out the cracks and re-weld so ALL the cracks are gone - that's likely going to need to be done in a shop with better access to the problem area. That might keep the cracks away for another "however old the stove is now". (You've burned it two seasons, sat empty for 3 seasons, previous owner burned some..."?)

But the real problem is all those sharp/square corners. If you want the cracks to go away and stay away, those need to be dealt with in some manner. That is likely a pretty big undertaking and likely beyond just a general welder.

Another option would be to keep an eye on the cracks and burn for another season - assuming they aren't making any huge issues with gas bypassing the cat. It might be that all the stress has essentially 'relieved' and the cracks aren't actively growing. If the stove works fine and the cracks aren't growing, then they may not be a big issue.
 

tebenhoh

New Member
May 19, 2020
8
Southern Illinois
The welder will know what to do and most have the power source on their truck. That metal is thick enough to stick weld but wire feed machines are certainly available that can do it too. Comes down to the professional’s preference. The chimney will draft most of the welding fumes away. Anything that spills out is no big deal. He will need to grind the weld smooth since you need to bolt something in place so have that thing there for him to test fit.

I would expect him to weld it in place. Be expecting him to be dirty. Warn him to protect the floors from sparks. Welders are good at welding in dirty environments, not so much your living room.
Highbeam: Thanks for the welder/welding info. That gives me a clearer idea of what’s necessary. And I understand the dirty part; floors are ceramic tile and the hearth is stone, so we have a little bit of built in protection.
 

tebenhoh

New Member
May 19, 2020
8
Southern Illinois
Thanks Corey
The cracks are at the top of the firebox where the cat housing mounts, but it’s not the top of the stove. This is why I asked, and why I appreciate the posts with options and information - I didn’t really know which would be better, but from my limited welding experience I assumed to do it right we’d have to pull the stove out.

All I know from hearsay in town is that the PO burned a lot and kept the house very warm. What I don’t know is how hot he burned, what he burned, or how long it was used without the catalyst or lower cat shield or housing gasket (besides our last two seasons, and we kept temps in check). My guess is the stove was overheated, possibly a lotunless those cracks are normal with age? But then the house sat empty with no heating/cooling - maybe we stressed the metal when we first fired it - who knows?

I like the idea of operating the stove normally and watching what the cracks do. We haven’t burned with a catalyst yet, (installing one and a new housing once we figure out the crack issue), so gasses bypassing will be a new learning experience. The cracks will essentially be sandwiched between a gasket and the cat housing, and protected (from flames, not heat) to a point by a shield directly under the cat housing.

What is interesting is how well the stove ran without a catalyst. We’d even go outside and watch for dark smoke out the chimney, and we never could see any by daylight. It heats great! We never got that full all night burn, but there were always plenty of coals to relight. We did have it inspected, when we bought it and again this Spring, and both guys said the chimney looked great. I’m still frustrated that the first guy, a Buck dealer recommendation, didn’t know, or didn’t tell us, the cat was missing.

As careful as we are about fire in the house, your suggestion may win out initially, Corey. It’s a good starting point, and easy enough to monitor.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
17,308
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
I honestly wouldn’t expect a mobile welder to want this job. Lots of risk, low reward, and way outside of their normal type of work.

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Have you considered replacing the stove? The cat and other parts cost you some cash that may or may not be refundable.
 

tebenhoh

New Member
May 19, 2020
8
Southern Illinois
We’ve considered it may be necessary, yes. The catalyst is the only part we’ve purchased so far, but I could see us getting another Buck if we go that route. We really like this one, and it would make the install simpler. We haven’t budgeted for it, but we’ve considered it. I scrolled through craigslist and marketplace the other day and was surprised what was available.
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,186
Iowa
If you decide to have the stove welded, let us know the results. I have not had much success chasing cracks around the top of a firebox. The material has been super heated. It act's brittle. Preheating, V'ing the cracks, using multiple flavors of stick or mig type welder's didn't make a heck of a lot of difference for me. Poor results. Sketchy penetration and expanding original cracks. With the limited physical access adding to the challenge!
Hope I am wrong but I would anticipate most attempting welding repairs to encounter similar issues. Good luck.
 

tebenhoh

New Member
May 19, 2020
8
Southern Illinois
Thank you; I’ll post our decision and results either way. Replacing the stove is the best long term solution, it removes all of the maybe’s and variables, and what if’s. It’s actually good to hear the welding may not be successful if only to narrow our options - if we removed it, had it welded, and re-installed it only to find more cracks, I’d sure have wished we’d replaced it!
 
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Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,177
Northern Maine
I know a couple of welders who could repair that in place but the travel time costs would kill you. The newer welding units are no longer these huge heavy monsters of years past. One fabricator I know does a lot on interior work like custom staircases and his stuff is all suitcase sized.
 

tebenhoh

New Member
May 19, 2020
8
Southern Illinois
I think if we’re paying travel costs from Maine, it will be for us to visit!
There are two I know of here with mobile setups, would just need to investigate further as to their equipment and quality of work.