Coal Bear Restoration

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Todd67

Minister of Fire
Jun 25, 2012
938
Northern NY
I took advantage of a rainy day today and cleaned the rust off my coal bear. I've already applied 2-3 heavy coats of PB Blaster every few days for the past week and a half, so the rust was pretty loose.

The rotating grates are in good shape but the liners are not. I removed the liners, grates, and firebricks. I also removed the doors, the ash pan, and the crank handle. I used an assortment of wire brushes on my drill, us some hand-held wire brushes. Roughly 6-7 hours later and everything is cleaned up (not the grates & liners). I finished by applying a coat of PB to the stove and parts to keep it from rusting again before I can paint it. The grates and liners will be saved and set aside.

Before PB Blaster
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Todd67

Minister of Fire
Jun 25, 2012
938
Northern NY
PB Blaster applied for soaking, no brushing in yet

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Todd67

Minister of Fire
Jun 25, 2012
938
Northern NY
After using several types of wire wheels on a hand drill to scrub the stove with PB Blaster, then cleaning the stove with another heavy dose of PB Blaster on a clean rag.

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The top is all bare metal except for the two front corners.

Next step is to wipe the stove down with dry rags and clean it with odorless (clear) mineral spirits. Then paint it and cure the paint with a wood fire.
 
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Todd67

Minister of Fire
Jun 25, 2012
938
Northern NY
I finished the coal bear with 2 coats of Rutland stove paint tonight. It's not completely finished yet because it probably needs at least 2 more coats on the sides and top, and I didn't paint the bottom yet. My goal was to get it painted with my last two cans of spray paint so I could get it inside the house for the winter. I'm afraid it would get more rust if I left it in the garage all winter. I'll finish painting it next spring or summer. For now, it's in hibernation in my house.

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Todd67

Minister of Fire
Jun 25, 2012
938
Northern NY
I finally found a number on my stove, but no UL tag anywhere. The number is PA 0092, stamped on the front upper left, just below the top.

Does this indicate that my stove was made during the first week of production in PA?

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Todd67

Minister of Fire
Jun 25, 2012
938
Northern NY
These are the liners that were in my stove. I have them set aside for now.

These are the side liners. Looks like this first one is sagging down along the top, and the 2nd one is straight across the top
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Here are the front and rear liners. Again, one is sagging down across the top.
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I took the grate assembly out of the stove but I don't have a good picture of it to post yet. My stove has the metal "smoke curtain" too. It's in good shape but I have it rotated up and out of view.
Brochure Specs 3.JPG
 

Bmutts20

New Member
Nov 22, 2021
10
Pa
How did you replace your grates and can you provide me with measurements? I can’t find replacements anywhere
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,341
NE PA
How did you replace your grates and can you provide me with measurements? I can’t find replacements anywhere
Many years ago I located a Coal Bear with grates and liners in good condition. I was going to send them to a local foundry to reproduce a few sets, but was afraid I would be stuck with them for years until someone needed them. There just isn’t enough market for them to have some cast and set aside. I wasn’t sure how many would surface, since when the inside parts deteriorate from coal use, many were scrapped.

Finding one that has only been used with wood is the answer for good grate and liner parts to reproduce.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,730
Colorado
What kind of place would he go to to reproduce those liner parts and grate--welding place or a black smith--How would this be accomplished? Just curious here..? clancey
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,102
central pa
What kind of place would he go to to reproduce those liner parts and grate--welding place or a black smith--How would this be accomplished? Just curious here..? clancey
A foundry. They are cast iron parts
 
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coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,341
NE PA
Sometimes very cheap. When I worked at Steamtown as a locomotive mechanic we had a small forge and could pour our own. You can make what you need with wood if you don’t have a original iron piece, or use broken pieces to press the pattern into sand to fill with molten iron.

Woodmans Associates in the stove industry can make any part you send them whole or from pieces. (if they still do it) Most foundries around me have closed, so that is another reason I never had any cast.
 

Bmutts20

New Member
Nov 22, 2021
10
Pa
Sometimes very cheap. When I worked at Steamtown as a locomotive mechanic we had a small forge and could pour our own. You can make what you need with wood if you don’t have a original iron piece, or use broken pieces to press the pattern into sand to fill with molten iron.

Woodmans Associates in the stove industry can make any part you send them whole or from pieces. (if they still do it) Most foundries around me have closed, so that is another reason I never had any cast.
Thank you, making the tabs for the slots that the grate sits in would be pretty difficult for me, they are at weird angles. I took my stove to a welder fabricator (Dan wells) by lake Sheridan pa. Ironically enough when I showed up there he told me someone that used to build fisher stoves was on the way to pick up some parts that he had fabricated for him. I waited around and met Mr. Carpenter and he knew a lot about the stove, he didn’t have access to parts but gave me the name of a guy who might. I found this old timers number and got ahold of him but he also had no parts available. He told me I need to get ahold of David Huff from factoryville as he ran the fisher stove show room floor for a long time (now permanently closed) these grates are really impossible to find lol… I’m thinking of having Mr. Wells make me some 1/2 thick heat resistant steel plates to put in there. The old timer that I spoke with did say that since these stoves were designed in Washington state that they have a hard time burning anthracite coal because it burns hotter. If anyone has any suggestions on a kind of steel to use I would appreciate it. The initials on the bottom of my stove are WB OPS. Not to ramble but my other question is that I know a lot of people soak in pb blaster bun I didn’t know if anyone had thoughts on sand blasting and painting instead? Lastly does anyone know of a cross referenced shaker grate system or would that have to be custom built as well? Thank you for all of the help.
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,341
NE PA
Blasting is best, carefull not to change the texture of the surface. Since it may be difficult loading, transporting and picking up, I like to coat with PB Blaster to keep the dust down and wire wheel them like a poor mans refurbishing. Plus I do it as a hobby. Refinishing stoves is more fun than taking them somewhere to be done for me.

Dave (spelled Hoff) still has the original first built Papa from PA at his home. He became the manager at Factoryville and later rented the building for parts and a stove shop that was still called Fisher Stoves of PA until he retired. It is now rented to a guy using it as a bait and tackle shop.

Being close to some of the best anthracite coal veins, they didn’t like the way they burned here at all. Anthracite needs a large grate so the air comes up through the bottom in every square inch of the grate area it can. These only get good air flow through coal bed in the center, and what comes up through the side slots through the sides is minimal for what our hard coal needs. His wife Brigitte really hated trying to keep it going on the short chimneys they had in the store. She didn’t remember trying soft bituminous coal since they probably wanted to sell something smokeless, so I told her they should have tried it since they didn’t think much of the way it burned hard coal there. Dave was always out on installs leaving her there to man the store for sales and parts. Her health wasn’t the greatest, and decided to give it up about 2 years ago.

The guy renting now only opens during summer and winters in Florida, so if anyone wants to see the building, it is only open summers. I gave him some history of the brand and building, he has a Fisher himself and is receptive to talk, but knows little about the business that occupied the building before him. It is still owned by the same owner as well as a small trailer park behind it.

You can still tell where the front of the store was and the back where the stoves were built.

Here are their latest cards from just before closing and the bottom darker card is an original from the 80’s when I bought my first stove from them.

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coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,341
NE PA
The last few I worked on for people, I removed the liners, and lined the upper chamber above grates with firebrick for wood use. Made an angle iron frame around the top as a retainer that worked easily. Their grates were ok in the wood burning flat position, but my own was missing grates.

If the grates are missing, or shot, and you want to do that for wood use, anything like an oven rack covering the bottom works, but burns fast and all coals and ash falls into ash pan quickly. You don’t want that.

To make a wood grate, I experimented with welding rebar, then later round steel rod together. Spacing is critical. 1/2 inch between rods allowed ash to fall through too fast. It doesn’t pack between the spaces. Spacing 5/8 steel rods exactly 1/4 inch apart works the best. 1/2 diameter is going to need replacing some day. Smooth round steel is better than cheap rebar that varies the spacing becoming self cleaning. You want the ash to pack. Ash will pack with smooth rods in a short time after starting the fire to allow a slow burn that you won’t get on a clean open grate. To start the next fire, rake across grate to dump ash through. Do not clean thoroughly, only rake across the grate to open slots in a few spots to allow more air up through the grate. Air rips up through starting easily. Once established, ash falls between rods and is not very self cleaning, which is what you want to extend fires. You can load on grates without knocking ash through. More than 1/4 inch between rods becomes self cleaning, burning hard and fast. Depends on the area you’re heating and the duration of a fire you need. For home heating I find the 1/4 inch space is perfect.
1/2 inch round is ok, 5/8 will outlast you. That’s how Fisher’s should be built. I’m convinced converting to wood this way prevents the deterioration from coal burning and I see no wear to any parts just like any other Fisher model burning wood.

Bottom;
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Top;

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If I had the time and was sure the need for converting Coal Bears needing grates was enough, I would make a few and sell for about $100 each putting these stoves back into service. The problem is they need wood cut short when you are used to cutting for a Mama or Papa and won’t hold as much. They have their place when you don’t have much room in a smaller area since they take up little floor space.

Also burn with upper secondary air just cracked open to combust smoke and not allow more air than necessary over fire to slip up stack, cooling it.
 

Bmutts20

New Member
Nov 22, 2021
10
Pa
Thank you so much, is there any sense in trying to mess with the stove to try and allow more airflow for anthracite coal use? It seemed to me like a solution would be more air into the coal bed but didn’t know what you thought of trying to make modifications like that. I wanted a stove to heat my small basement but wood stoves usually have to be stoked to often as I am usually working 10 hour days. The idea of coal was appealing because usually you can get away with stoking it every 12 hours. Before I have any work done to it I totally want your advice, I know you are very knowledgeable and helpful.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,260
Downeast Maine
Thank you so much, is there any sense in trying to mess with the stove to try and allow more airflow for anthracite coal use? It seemed to me like a solution would be more air into the coal bed but didn’t know what you thought of trying to make modifications like that. I wanted a stove to heat my small basement but wood stoves usually have to be stoked to often as I am usually working 10 hour days. The idea of coal was appealing because usually you can get away with stoking it every 12 hours. Before I have any work done to it I totally want your advice, I know you are very knowledgeable and helpful.
I would think, if you don't care about keeping it original, that you could find a fabricator/black smith that could make replacement parts. Does the Coal Bear have a shaker grate system? That would be something worth adding if it doesn't have one from the factory.
 

Bmutts20

New Member
Nov 22, 2021
10
Pa
It in fact does have a shaker grate that is functional, one of the fittings for the shaker handle is worn heavily but still works. Here is a picture
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,260
Downeast Maine
It in fact does have a shaker grate that is functional, one of the fittings for the shaker handle is worn heavily but still works. Here is a picture
I would try and get a replacement fabricated for that fitting if you can. You could probably search facebook for blacksmithing or fabrication groups, there may even be some specific to PA. Maybe you can find someone willing to take on this project.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,260
Downeast Maine
Will do, any ideas on getting more airflow to the coal bed?
You could use an angle grinder to enlarge the gaps on the shakers. Kind of "sacrilegious" to do something like that to intact Fisher grates, but it's an option.
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,341
NE PA
Thank you so much, is there any sense in trying to mess with the stove to try and allow more airflow for anthracite coal use? It seemed to me like a solution would be more air into the coal bed but didn’t know what you thought of trying to make modifications like that. I wanted a stove to heat my small basement but wood stoves usually have to be stoked to often as I am usually working 10 hour days. The idea of coal was appealing because usually you can get away with stoking it every 12 hours. Before I have any work done to it I totally want your advice, I know you are very knowledgeable and helpful.
Here are pictures of the Coal Bear with bricks removed and grate supports showing along with the angled ash deflectors directing ash into pan;

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A689EC50-BD72-406E-A43A-6CE291D53895.jpeg

Coal grates need to set in a frame to fit the firebox which is 20 inches deep x 18 1/2 wide. This makes the frame 19 1/2 x 18. Grate support frame will rest on the horizontal existing supports. This allows 351 square inches of grate area which can be loaded approximately 6 inches deep. This is well over 100,000 btu max, and would normally operate near 60,000 btu burning efficiently. (6 inch pipe and chimney with barometric damper)

The choice of grate design and how it is cleaned make the difference between easy cleaning, good operation and forming clinkers, and causing airborne fly ash.

My favorite grate system is the Gibraltar which changed to Glacier Bay. They are long, extremely heavy duty cast iron grates that resemble cam shafts. They mate and mesh together like gears that roll and grind the ash off coal with a minimum of burning coal falling through, and I’ve never formed a clinker in one.

Flat plates that rock tend to build up ash in the center and when rocked too far are designed to dump the fire through, or get coal stuck easily between when rocked too far, then wait it out to burn out before it can be shaken and grates level again. There is a learning curve of the best shaking method and motion depending on how deep the ash is.

With any type movable grate if only touching up a fire before bed or leaving for 8 or 10 hours a short jerky motion, short stroke, allowing the play in shaker linkage or loose handle fit “knocks” with a vibration to clean until very few coals are seen dropping in ash pan. After many hours when coal burns down and has lots of ash under it, a slower, longer stroke rocking motion dumps a lot of ash quickly

European grates do not move, and are cleaned with a slider knife. They are the easiest to make and don’t require any means to shake or rock. They require slots in the front to pass the thin sliced knife through and normally have little gravity doors on the back that tilt upward when the knife is inserted and slid the knife sideways across the flat grate surface. It resembles a long thin letter opener. I find ash leaks out of the holes during cleaning becoming the dirtiest type. Slots are usually smaller to burn pea size coal, which gives a much longer duration fire between cleaning at a lower output.

You will get the same btu output per pound of any size coal, the difference is how much space for oxygen between each piece making larger pieces burn faster. Any grate for Chestnut size coal is fine.

Always stoke ( the act of shoveling or pouring in fresh coal with a hod) leaving a shallow spot, not entirely level so there is blue flame like a pilot light to ignite coal gas as it is expelled from fresh coal. Loading in the shape of a horseshoe works fine, or a hollow spot front and center that ignites quickly so it has an ignition source on top. Secondary air is needed from upper air control to allow oxygen on top of the fire for secondary combustion of coal gas. That is a lot of heat and pollution to let out without igniting it in the stove. The upper intake only needs to be cracked open slightly. More than that allows indoor air up stack cooling it, decreasing draft. If you don’t have ignition from lack of air, you will get it when opening door. It can be a scary flash of blue flame in the entire firebox area leading up the stack that you learn real quick to open slowly and avoid. No denying, it is a mini explosion. Coal dust can ignite the same way when heated and conditions are right, so keep things clean of coal dust inside.
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,341
NE PA
@SpaceBus
These grates are like 3 sided triangular. When rotated so the closed flat side is up, they are in wood position. Rotating until the sides with grooves is between them is coal position. So the flat sides are vertical on each side, giving the angle downward to center like turning the triangle on its side. Really can’t change the slots. When they are in the wood position with the only flat side facing up, the point like a triangle is facing down with the slots from the point to the wide end that is the flat side. So they rotate 1/3 turn from flat to side with grooves. They were called Reversible Grates.

Coal Bear Grates and Support.JPG New retainer plate and grates. Removing this entire plate allows larger opening for grate area getting twice the air flow for hard coal.

Coal Bear Grates Wood Position.jpg Coal Bear Grates Coal Position.jpg The points of the triangle are facing each other. 2 sides slotted, one side solid. Very unique.
 
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Bmutts20

New Member
Nov 22, 2021
10
Pa
Here are pictures of the Coal Bear with bricks removed and grate supports showing along with the angled ash deflectors directing ash into pan;

View attachment 286403

View attachment 286404

Coal grates need to set in a frame to fit the firebox which is 20 inches deep x 18 1/2 wide. This makes the frame 19 1/2 x 18. Grate support frame will rest on the horizontal existing supports. This allows 351 square inches of grate area which can be loaded approximately 6 inches deep. This is well over 100,000 btu max, and would normally operate near 60,000 btu burning efficiently. (6 inch pipe and chimney with barometric damper)

The choice of grate design and how it is cleaned make the difference between easy cleaning, good operation and forming clinkers, and causing airborne fly ash.

My favorite grate system is the Gibraltar which changed to Glacier Bay. They are long, extremely heavy duty cast iron grates that resemble cam shafts. They mate and mesh together like gears that roll and grind the ash off coal with a minimum of burning coal falling through, and I’ve never formed a clinker in one.

Flat plates that rock tend to build up ash in the center and when rocked too far are designed to dump the fire through, or get coal stuck easily between when rocked too far, then wait it out to burn out before it can be shaken and grates level again. There is a learning curve of the best shaking method and motion depending on how deep the ash is.

With any type movable grate if only touching up a fire before bed or leaving for 8 or 10 hours a short jerky motion, short stroke, allowing the play in shaker linkage or loose handle fit “knocks” with a vibration to clean until very few coals are seen dropping in ash pan. After many hours when coal burns down and has lots of ash under it, a slower, longer stroke rocking motion dumps a lot of ash quickly

European grates do not move, and are cleaned with a slider knife. They are the easiest to make and don’t require any means to shake or rock. They require slots in the front to pass the thin sliced knife through and normally have little gravity doors on the back that tilt upward when the knife is inserted and slid the knife sideways across the flat grate surface. It resembles a long thin letter opener. I find ash leaks out of the holes during cleaning becoming the dirtiest type. Slots are usually smaller to burn pea size coal, which gives a much longer duration fire between cleaning at a lower output.

You will get the same btu output per pound of any size coal, the difference is how much space for oxygen between each piece making larger pieces burn faster. Any grate for Chestnut size coal is fine.

Always stoke ( the act of shoveling or pouring in fresh coal with a hod) leaving a shallow spot, not entirely level so there is blue flame like a pilot light to ignite coal gas as it is expelled from fresh coal. Loading in the shape of a horseshoe works fine, or a hollow spot front and center that ignites quickly so it has an ignition source on top. Secondary air is needed from upper air control to allow oxygen on top of the fire for secondary combustion of coal gas. That is a lot of heat and pollution to let out without igniting it in the stove. The upper intake only needs to be cracked open slightly. More than that allows indoor air up stack cooling it, decreasing draft. If you don’t have ignition from lack of air, you will get it when opening door. It can be a scary flash of blue flame in the entire firebox area leading up the stack that you learn real quick to open slowly and avoid. No denying, it is a mini explosion. Coal dust can ignite the same way when heated and conditions are right, so keep things clean of coal dust inside.
Super helpful, I already have a stainless steel triple wall chimney (6” inside) all set up. I really like the Harman shaker grates and I think the mark II might work out as a good replacement. Would I need to get custom angle grates made or do you think it would be fine to just use fire brick on the sides where the old grates burned out? Also if you know of any grate shaker full assembly’s with frame that would get me close it would save me a lot of research. I enjoy doing the research and figuring it out but it is getting cold and I want to get this thing up to snuff and installed for the rest of winter. Thank you for all of the info