Vermont Castings vs Blaze King (reviews, suggestions, etc)

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ralph_deadmoon

New Member
Nov 18, 2021
14
Minnesota
Hi, folks.

We live in Northern Minnesota and are getting ready to buy a brand new wood stove for our (as yet unfinished) house. The house comes in at around 1600 sq ft and the wood stove will be located in the center of the building on the main floor. We intend to really utilize our wood stove (as opposed to owning a $3-4K conversation piece).

Based on our needs, we found ourselves looking at either the Vermont Castings Defiant or the Blaze King Ashford 30. One thing we liked about the VC is the ability to temporarily remove the cat during "shoulder" burning months in the interest of avoiding unnecessary usage time and premature wear of the cat (whereas it seems this isn't an option with the BK).

We're eager to hear what folks have to say about these makes/models. In reading a bit since our visit to the closest dealerships, I'm also curious about Pacific Energy stoves and what folks' opinions are of that manufacturer. Based on my cursory scan of old(er) forum posts and reviews around the Internet, it sounds like folks find VC to be quality stoves although they may require a bit more maintenance over time. The folks at one of the places we visited are pretty passionate about BK stoves! I will say, I was at least a little more impressed by the integrity of the handles/levers/mechanisms on the BK over the VC (although the VC Defiant was still a pretty impressive stove to be sure). Heck, the ash pan on the BK slid out on a pair of smooth, drawer slides whereas the VC ash pan was more or less just hinged on one side. Again, minor details but curious if folks find that to be the "rule of thumb" between these two manufacturers.

Thanks for your time, folks! We've burned wood for some time but only ever in older, used stoves. This will be our first NEW stove purchase! We're eager to make it an educated one. Thanks again..
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,696
central pa
Hi, folks.

We live in Northern Minnesota and are getting ready to buy a brand new wood stove for our (as yet unfinished) house. The house comes in at around 1600 sq ft and the wood stove will be located in the center of the building on the main floor. We intend to really utilize our wood stove (as opposed to owning a $3-4K conversation piece).

Based on our needs, we found ourselves looking at either the Vermont Castings Defiant or the Blaze King Ashford 30. One thing we liked about the VC is the ability to temporarily remove the cat during "shoulder" burning months in the interest of avoiding unnecessary usage time and premature wear of the cat (whereas it seems this isn't an option with the BK).

We're eager to hear what folks have to say about these makes/models. In reading a bit since our visit to the closest dealerships, I'm also curious about Pacific Energy stoves and what folks' opinions are of that manufacturer. Based on my cursory scan of old(er) forum posts and reviews around the Internet, it sounds like folks find VC to be quality stoves although they may require a bit more maintenance over time. The folks at one of the places we visited are pretty passionate about BK stoves! I will say, I was at least a little more impressed by the integrity of the handles/levers/mechanisms on the BK over the VC (although the VC Defiant was still a pretty impressive stove to be sure). Heck, the ash pan on the BK slid out on a pair of smooth, drawer slides whereas the VC ash pan was more or less just hinged on one side. Again, minor details but curious if folks find that to be the "rule of thumb" between these two manufacturers.

Thanks for your time, folks! We've burned wood for some time but only ever in older, used stoves. This will be our first NEW stove purchase! We're eager to make it an educated one. Thanks again..
You want the cat more during shoulder seasons than when it's colder. Good cat stoves have the advantage of being able to turn down lower and still burn cleanly. The advantages of a cat are much less at higher btu outputs. As far as aesthetics VC wins hands down. Maintenance and ease of use bk wins no question.
 
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Todd

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
9,601
NW Wisconsin
First I’ve heard about removing the cat for shoulder seasons. This is where the cat stoves shine and can burn low, slow and clean. Personally I love the looks and top loading of the VC but not so keen on the durability. The Blaze King and PE are both top quality stoves, I’d lean more towards them.
 
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john26

Minister of Fire
Oct 27, 2008
756
Wildwood MO
Look at the low end btu output on the PE's using the EPA data base T5= 12518, T6= 16,102 where the Ashford is 11,553 but the high end output on both PE's are over 10,000 btu higher the VC is similar heat output to Ashford but even a little less on the hi end. I have heard of a few complaints on here about the BK's keeping up when it gets really cold not sure what models.
 

Diabel

Minister of Fire
Jan 11, 2008
3,542
Ottawa, ON
Welcome to the forum.

How is your firewood situation? On this forum you will find a dedicated BK thread and VC thread. Lots of first hand information there.
 

ralph_deadmoon

New Member
Nov 18, 2021
14
Minnesota
Welcome to the forum.

How is your firewood situation? On this forum you will find a dedicated BK thread and VC thread. Lots of first hand information there.
Admittedly, our firewood isn't as dry as we'd like. Perhaps it's a refrain here and everywhere that SOMEDAY we'd like to actually find ourselves stocked w/ wood 2+ years out (meaning adequately dried wood for current heating season). In the meantime, our wood is so-so in terms of moisture content this year.

We're trying to avoid making a decision on the basis of availability at the moment. The dealers we visited have several BK Ashfords in stock whereas the VC Defiants are 3-4 months out. Shame on us for not thinking about this sooner but here we are. We're prepared to track down a "loaner" in the meantime and so the lead time on the VC isn't necessarily a deal breaker.
 

Diabel

Minister of Fire
Jan 11, 2008
3,542
Ottawa, ON
I am sure you read this before. The firewood is the one most important factor in good fire vs bad/frustrating fire.

The Defiant is a beautiful stove (might be too big for 1600sqf house). It has a lot of moving parts that are expensive to replace. It has a down draft technology. Common consensus here is that it is not a good technology.

Cannot speak of the Ashford but I have its larger sister (princess) amazing stove, not the prettiest in the barn but it makes up with its work ethic. There were few people here that had some smoke seeping issues with the Ashford. Some were resolved others were not. Apparently, the Ashford needs a “perfect” chimney system to work right.

You have to ask yourself, what do I want from the stove……focal point in the house, appearance, ambiance with beautiful flames or a heating box to supplement your primary heat source.

I have the VC Encore installed in my main house. It works fine, it is in its 5 season after I completely rebuild it. Last three seasons it was used part time. If I had to replace it today……it would not be another VC stove!

Again, work on your wood supply. Two years ahead is good, three is better. We all had to start somewhere and for most of us the first your was very frustrating.

PE has very good reputation on this forum.
 

TheElementalCashew

New Member
Nov 9, 2021
18
NH
I went from an (old) VC Defiant Encore that I rebuilt to a BK Princess, and would never go back. The VC was a decent stove, but it required a lot of constant fiddling to keep it from overfiring or dying and was not very efficient. The BK just gets loaded up and left alone, and it runs itself all day long.
 
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snojetter

Member
Feb 1, 2018
49
Brandon, MN
Princess Ultra owner here from west central MN installed in new construction in 2013. It may not be the prettiest stove, but we don't mind the look (it grows on you after 8 years) and it's installed in our basement family room. It's been a 24/7 burner from October into April all these years. Stove and chimney set-ups bringing their own set of variables, all I can say is our stove has been nearly flawless. I say "nearly" because being a cheapskate, I tried to milk out every last ounce of life from the first cat and burned at least one season too long on it. That resulted in so-so performance as my chimney cap nearly plugged a couple times over the course of the season due to dirty burns. Once I replaced the cat, we regained that oh-so sweet blaze king control and even heat output.

I can't comment on any other modern stove, but I cannot recommend a BK highly enough. Folks tout the ability to burn low and long as the big selling point; in my opinion, it's the controllability of the strove that is the best feature. No multiple air controls to set and then adjust during the burn cycle. With this stove, you char the load, then set the T-stat and walk away. There's peace-of-mind knowing your stove isn't going to do weird things on you when you're not watching. I sleep easy overnight, and leave for work knowing all I need to do is reload in the evening on a (roughly) 12-hour burn cycle even in the coldest weather. Growing up with an old 70's stove, I was prepared to put more work into keeping our stove going. Nope, this thing is quite literally set-it-and-forget. If it wasn't for leaving the house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we'd have one continuous fire for 6 months. As it is, I probably start 3 fires per season, maybe 4 and she just burns and burns and burns and...

A word of caution: while dry wood is your friend in any stove, the BK's cat (and overall performance) won't be ideal if you try feeding it wet wood. The cat will likely plug as will your chimney cap. Ask me how I know...but I have much better storage for my wood stacks know :) Hopefully your flue and chimney are straight vertical shots. That's not a necessity as my brother-in-law is extremely happy with his BK Sirocco even though his flue takes a convoluted route to the chimney.

Whatever route you go, enjoy burning with wood. We love it!
 
Last edited:

Nealm66

Minister of Fire
Sep 25, 2020
1,247
Western Washington
Princess owner here from west central MN installed in new construction in 2013. It's been a 24/7 burner from October into April all these years. Stove and chimney set-ups bringing their own set of variables, all I can say is our stove has been nearly flawless. I say "nearly" because being a cheapskate, I tried to milk out every last ounce of life from the first cat and burned at least one season too long on it. That resulted in so-so performance as my chimney cap nearly plugged a couple times over the course of the season due to dirty burns. Once I replaced the cat, we regained that oh-so sweet blaze king control and even heat output.

I can't comment on any other modern stove, but I cannot recommend a BK highly enough. Folks tout the ability to burn low and long as the big selling point; in my opinion, it's the controllability of the strove that is the best feature. No multiple air controls to set and then adjust during the burn cycle. With this stove, you char the load, then set the T-stat and walk away. There's peace-of-mind knowing your stove isn't going to do weird things on you when you're not watching. I sleep easy overnight, and leave for work knowing all I need to do is reload in the evening on a (roughly) 12-hour burn cycle even in the coldest weather. Growing up with an old 70's stove, I was prepared to put more work into keeping our stove going. Nope, this thing is as close to set-it-and-forget it as you can get. If it wasn't for leaving the house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we'd have one continuous fire for 6 months. As it is, I probably start 3 fires per season, maybe 4.

A word of caution: while dry wood is your friend in any stove, the BK's cat (and overall performance) won't be ideal if you try feeding it wet wood. The cat will likely plug as will your chimney cap. Ask me how I know...but I have much better storage for my wood stacks now :) Hopefully your flue and chimney are straight vertical shots. That's not a necessity as my brother-in-law is extremely happy with his BK Sirocco even though his flue takes a convoluted route to the chimney.

Whatever route you go, enjoy burning with wood. We love it!
Well said
 
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ohlongarm

Minister of Fire
Mar 18, 2011
1,606
Northeastern Ohio
Hi, folks.

We live in Northern Minnesota and are getting ready to buy a brand new wood stove for our (as yet unfinished) house. The house comes in at around 1600 sq ft and the wood stove will be located in the center of the building on the main floor. We intend to really utilize our wood stove (as opposed to owning a $3-4K conversation piece).

Based on our needs, we found ourselves looking at either the Vermont Castings Defiant or the Blaze King Ashford 30. One thing we liked about the VC is the ability to temporarily remove the cat during "shoulder" burning months in the interest of avoiding unnecessary usage time and premature wear of the cat (whereas it seems this isn't an option with the BK).

We're eager to hear what folks have to say about these makes/models. In reading a bit since our visit to the closest dealerships, I'm also curious about Pacific Energy stoves and what folks' opinions are of that manufacturer. Based on my cursory scan of old(er) forum posts and reviews around the Internet, it sounds like folks find VC to be quality stoves although they may require a bit more maintenance over time. The folks at one of the places we visited are pretty passionate about BK stoves! I will say, I was at least a little more impressed by the integrity of the handles/levers/mechanisms on the BK over the VC (although the VC Defiant was still a pretty impressive stove to be sure). Heck, the ash pan on the BK slid out on a pair of smooth, drawer slides whereas the VC ash pan was more or less just hinged on one side. Again, minor details but curious if folks find that to be the "rule of thumb" between these two manufacturers.

Thanks for your time, folks! We've burned wood for some time but only ever in older, used stoves. This will be our first NEW stove purchase! We're eager to make it an educated one. Thanks again..
If your wood is WELL seasoned go for a BK, if not you're wasting your time, a BK can only do its job with WELL seasoned wood. Good luck in whatever decision you make.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,696
central pa
Princess Ultra owner here from west central MN installed in new construction in 2013. It may not be the prettiest stove, but we don't mind the look (it grows on you after 8 years) and it's installed in our basement family room. It's been a 24/7 burner from October into April all these years. Stove and chimney set-ups bringing their own set of variables, all I can say is our stove has been nearly flawless. I say "nearly" because being a cheapskate, I tried to milk out every last ounce of life from the first cat and burned at least one season too long on it. That resulted in so-so performance as my chimney cap nearly plugged a couple times over the course of the season due to dirty burns. Once I replaced the cat, we regained that oh-so sweet blaze king control and even heat output.

I can't comment on any other modern stove, but I cannot recommend a BK highly enough. Folks tout the ability to burn low and long as the big selling point; in my opinion, it's the controllability of the strove that is the best feature. No multiple air controls to set and then adjust during the burn cycle. With this stove, you char the load, then set the T-stat and walk away. There's peace-of-mind knowing your stove isn't going to do weird things on you when you're not watching. I sleep easy overnight, and leave for work knowing all I need to do is reload in the evening on a (roughly) 12-hour burn cycle even in the coldest weather. Growing up with an old 70's stove, I was prepared to put more work into keeping our stove going. Nope, this thing is quite literally set-it-and-forget. If it wasn't for leaving the house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we'd have one continuous fire for 6 months. As it is, I probably start 3 fires per season, maybe 4 and she just burns and burns and burns and...

A word of caution: while dry wood is your friend in any stove, the BK's cat (and overall performance) won't be ideal if you try feeding it wet wood. The cat will likely plug as will your chimney cap. Ask me how I know...but I have much better storage for my wood stacks know :) Hopefully your flue and chimney are straight vertical shots. That's not a necessity as my brother-in-law is extremely happy with his BK Sirocco even though his flue takes a convoluted route to the chimney.

Whatever route you go, enjoy burning with wood. We love it!
Very well said overall. I just have to point out that being someone who has run many different stoves both modern and older including a princess currently there really is no need to mess with the controls on other modern stoves any more than a blaze king. I have always only adjusted 2 to 3 times after loading then.let it cruise. In about the same timeframe as closing the bypass then turning down the thermostat.

But yes the control especially on the low end is far better with the bk than any other.
 
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Diabel

Minister of Fire
Jan 11, 2008
3,542
Ottawa, ON
Agree with all of the above comments.
For me personally, after the initial char it takes about 5min to set the Princess for a 18-22 h burn. With the VC after the char it takes about 15-20min to set it for a 6-12h burn (depending on wood species).
 
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ralph_deadmoon

New Member
Nov 18, 2021
14
Minnesota
Princess Ultra owner here from west central MN installed in new construction in 2013. It may not be the prettiest stove, but we don't mind the look (it grows on you after 8 years) and it's installed in our basement family room. It's been a 24/7 burner from October into April all these years. Stove and chimney set-ups bringing their own set of variables, all I can say is our stove has been nearly flawless. I say "nearly" because being a cheapskate, I tried to milk out every last ounce of life from the first cat and burned at least one season too long on it. That resulted in so-so performance as my chimney cap nearly plugged a couple times over the course of the season due to dirty burns. Once I replaced the cat, we regained that oh-so sweet blaze king control and even heat output.

I can't comment on any other modern stove, but I cannot recommend a BK highly enough. Folks tout the ability to burn low and long as the big selling point; in my opinion, it's the controllability of the strove that is the best feature. No multiple air controls to set and then adjust during the burn cycle. With this stove, you char the load, then set the T-stat and walk away. There's peace-of-mind knowing your stove isn't going to do weird things on you when you're not watching. I sleep easy overnight, and leave for work knowing all I need to do is reload in the evening on a (roughly) 12-hour burn cycle even in the coldest weather. Growing up with an old 70's stove, I was prepared to put more work into keeping our stove going. Nope, this thing is quite literally set-it-and-forget. If it wasn't for leaving the house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we'd have one continuous fire for 6 months. As it is, I probably start 3 fires per season, maybe 4 and she just burns and burns and burns and...

A word of caution: while dry wood is your friend in any stove, the BK's cat (and overall performance) won't be ideal if you try feeding it wet wood. The cat will likely plug as will your chimney cap. Ask me how I know...but I have much better storage for my wood stacks know :) Hopefully your flue and chimney are straight vertical shots. That's not a necessity as my brother-in-law is extremely happy with his BK Sirocco even though his flue takes a convoluted route to the chimney.

Whatever route you go, enjoy burning with wood. We love it!
Thanks so much for the thoughtful insights. Quickly, do you ever remove your BK's cat and run the stove w/o it in order to avoid excessive wear on the cat? I guess I've heard of folks doing this with the VC cats during heating months when maybe a long, slow burn isn't perhaps necessary (and instead you just wanna kick out some BTU's, warm the place up, and maybe you let your fire die out depending on the weather.. thinking mainly of Oct/Nov and early Spring). And forgive me if my idea(s) of how the cat does and doesn't work don't exactly jive with reality. I've never ran a stove w/ a cat.. still wrapping my head around what they do for me and how they play into the operation of a stove. Sure am leaning towards a BK though. After sifting thru some older posts, it really sounds like folks don't care for Vermont Castings (particularly after ownership changed hands in the 1990's or thereabouts). Thanks again!
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,696
central pa
Thanks so much for the thoughtful insights. Quickly, do you ever remove your BK's cat and run the stove w/o it in order to avoid excessive wear on the cat? I guess I've heard of folks doing this with the VC cats during heating months when maybe a long, slow burn isn't perhaps necessary (and instead you just wanna kick out some BTU's, warm the place up, and maybe you let your fire die out depending on the weather.. thinking mainly of Oct/Nov and early Spring). And forgive me if my idea(s) of how the cat does and doesn't work don't exactly jive with reality. I've never ran a stove w/ a cat.. still wrapping my head around what they do for me and how they play into the operation of a stove. Sure am leaning towards a BK though. After sifting thru some older posts, it really sounds like folks don't care for Vermont Castings (particularly after ownership changed hands in the 1990's or thereabouts). Thanks again!
No you can't remove the cat in a bk. Not sure why you would. If you want a non cat get a noncat.
 

MMH

Minister of Fire
Jan 21, 2019
557
NV
I’m running the ashford 30.2, great stove, our 3rd year now with it. And as already stated, no removing the cat would defeat the purpose of it etc.
 

Rickb

Minister of Fire
Oct 24, 2012
1,199
St.Louis
You would never remove the cat and run the stove in a BK.....
Im not sure anyone would remove the cat in a VC to "save the cat" with out possibly damaging the stove either tho.....

Also you don't want to run the stove hot with the bypass open all the time either or you might cause big problems as well.
 

Woodsplitter67

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2017
2,231
Woolwich nj
I have a vc. I never removed the cat. In shoulder season I use medium BTU wood and get the cat going and turn the air all the way back for a long clean burn with low heat out put. If I dont need a lot of heat and jut getting the chill off I burn clean with just a hot fire and cat not engaged. The top loading is great with not having to be on your knees. This stove will need maintenance down the road, if you know that going in then your good. Its a down draft stove so you need to make sure you have good draft. My stack was on the short side so I went with the 8in pipe instead of the 6 on it
 

Slate Dale

Member
Dec 27, 2021
159
Slatington, Pennsylvania
I also looked at the largest Defiant model (because of the top loading not the fancy appearance) but I decided on the BK King 40 model.

I was wondering what led you to the Ashford instead of the BK King 40 model?