Final Decision (indecision!) between Jotul F55, Hearthstone Shelburne or Manchester, and Woodstock Ideal Steel

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New Member
Nov 25, 2021
New York
Hi Folks! Coming in for a landing on a final decision about my stove purchase :). Based on all the feedback on this forum I think I'm going to stay away from the F500 Oslo v3. I don't really want to spend that much money on a new stove and potentially have to do things like plug the ashpan holes with magnets, or Never use the front door, etc. I want it to just work.

I think my final contestants are the Jotul F55 v2 (non-CAT), the Hearthstone Shelburne (CAT), and the Hearthstone Manchester (CAT).

There seem to be some people who truly hate the Hearthstone stoves, but also some happy customers. The F55 v2 seems great but we far prefer the look of the hearthstone stoves.

recap of the setup is that the house is a 1200-1500Sqft open layout converted barn, and we only use the stove for supplemental heat when the mini-splits don't work well, and we just love to look at a fire. We may occasionally airBNB the house so ease of use for the stove is important, although detailed directions could be left to operate a CAT I think.

Chimney is brick with a liner (that we will be replacing), and is about 25'... the brick chimney comes right into the living room and has a thimble (no fireplace just a thimble that goes right into the chimney). Thimble height is at 28.75" on center, so all the above stoves would need a small elbow to lift the rear vent a few inches to the right height. Or maybe something to lift the legs a few inches higher?

The hearth is two big slabs of granite and measures 62" wide and 42.5" deep. F55 and Shelburne are no problem in terms of clearances, the Manchester would need double walled connector pipe and the various heat shields to meet approved clearances I believe even though all the surfaces below and behind are stove and 100% non-combustible, but would still be do-able.

And from slightly left field another contestant is the Woodstock Ideal Steel. My wife hates the look of this, but I'm sure she would hate battling with a frustrating stove even more, and I might be able to sell her on the all black version with none of the decorative gak all over it.

Obviously the 26% tax incentive for the hearthstone cat stoves (and accompanying install and flue replacement) is significant. But not worth having a stove that's frustrating.

Votes? thoughts? Words of warning? I'm going to make a move with this soon and appreciate all the great feedback from everyone on this forum!


p.s. images of existing install attached for context

There's some photos of a plain version of the Ideal Steel on their facebook (https://www dot facebook dot com/photo.php?fbid=2975814159142350&id=123135437743584 has a bunch of photos in the thread) - it looks much less steam punk and more like a typical stove.
you pays your money and takes your chances.
If I Air BnB’d wood stove would be off limits. Cat or not. Just not worth the risks IMO.

….Edit rear vent for got it.
Lol, good illustration of why polls can't decide anything for you :) (6/6 Jotul/Ideal Steel now)
I struggled endlessly trying to decide on what stove. Decided on the IS, but with the shipping to Ca. ($800) it lost out to the BK Sirocco that I got for the same price delivered on my hearth. Happy with it.
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Well hearthstone definitely took a beating :).

I’m now just between F55v2 and Woodstock Ideal Steel!
Both are decent let the SO choose.
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Or… 3rd option out of left field:

A used Jotul F400 from eBay?
It’s the double door. I don’t see that as a plus. Probably 600-800$ over priced. Finish looks uneven from the pics. You want a 2+ cu ft stove. I’d pass and I really like my F400. I passed on one that needed repainted and we’re asking 1000$ In June. Honestly at that price I would be looking at a new Drolet.
Edit… forgot rear vent.
Woodstock for the win. They make the best stoves. I would know, I have two! I am absolutely in love with our IS, its such a well designed stove and the personalization options are such a great touch.
Everyone wants to have the perfect stove that works forever and never needs parts or repairs. Having a good dealer nearby for assistance is better than sending stoves back for repairs and working on your own. Having a bad dealer or manufacturer can make woodburning a real chore. Problems come and go but good dealers and manufacturers have staying power.
Is it safe to say that between the Jotul F55 and the Ideal Steel, that the fire viewing in the Jotul would be better? I know that "better" is highly subjective of course, but I just mean more like a normal fire?

My concern is that the CAT stove, while highly efficient, will just be a dark box without lots of nice flames. It seems like when the Ideal Steel is engaging secondary combustion at 1000deg and higher that perhaps there are nice flames but when the CAT is engaged at lower temps perhaps not?

How do you folks think Jotul F55 and Ideal Steel compare in terms of fire viewing? I realize this is totally subjecting but still interested in people's opinions!
here is a good review of the 50 so pretty close to the 55.

So the ideal has cat and tubes. I get great fire viewing on the ideal with the tubes if I want it to, or I can run it slow and low with the cat only if I want an extended burn. When the tubes are lit you get an amazing show with super clear glass. But even during a cat only burn, as long as you run the stove somewhat hot I find the glass stays clean, even if the tubes are not firing at the time. Its pretty rare that it ever has very dirty glass.
With the IS, it is about how you set it, with cat activated, you can have black box, secondaries only, or a mix of flames and secondaries.
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In terms of fire viewing what I’m looking for is big dancing flames… I’m worried about the “gas grill” effect with either of these stoves where even when secondaries are engaged and there are technically “flames” it might just be little even flames coming from secondary tubes? Is that a valid concern? Is either of these stoves better in terms of producing big dancing flames? 🔥 💃 🔥 🕺
In terms of fire viewing what I’m looking for is big dancing flames… I’m worried about the “gas grill” effect with either of these stoves where even when secondaries are engaged and there are technically “flames” it might just be little even flames coming from secondary tubes? Is that a valid concern? Is either of these stoves better in terms of producing big dancing flames? 🔥 💃 🔥 🕺
In order to have good flames with cat activated on the IS you will need quicker medium to smaller fires, because if you want main wood to be flames for display, you will over fire any cat stove with a full load and the air supply open for max flames. The size of your wood also will affect this too, smaller pieces and splits will garner more flames.

Regarding comparisons between stoves I can only offer my thoughts on the IS. On my older non cat stoves I have run, you burn through a lot of wood to have flames,. On a cat stove, you burn through less, but on full loads, you have to turn down the air a lot.

here is an image of a smaller fire in the IS, about 1/3 load, and air open half and cat not .engaged, lasted about 1.5 hours with flames.

Can't beat Woodstock's 6 month love it or leave it money back guarantee...
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But then dont buy it now for 6 months of warrantied summer view...
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I would be looking at Jotul personally. They practice Lean manufacturing (and are internationally reconized as being excellent at it) which is a very good thing for quality and service. You will see the effects of this with their availability being better than most others.

Also I am a fan of the simplicity of a non cat stove.

I have a hearthstone (they all share the same basic design) and while it does some things extremely well and looks great, I don't think it's a utilitarian as the Jotul

I heat 24/7 with my stove an have been fantasizing about trading out of the Hearthstone.
Also are you certain the flue is covered under the tax credit? I installed a new flue this year for my hearthstone which is a tax credit stove, but I purchased the stove in 2020...

would I be able to get anything back for the chimney?