Woodstock Absolute Steel review-- first winter

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Whirled Peas

Mar 7, 2019
Hi all,

I did a lot of research here along my path to my recent hearth re-build and stove purchase. I bought a Woodstock Absolute Steel this past summer before they bumped prices up a bit and it sat in another fireplace in my house awaiting a hearth remodel. I finally got that piece finished in January and then installed the new stove. My AS is replacing a ~2002 double door Jotul F400, so that's been my reference point. I documented my hearth project with a few photos here https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/1830s-hearth-renovation-photos.190529/ and was now hoping to give a review of the stove for anyone coming from a similar stove.

Short review: IT'S GREAT! I love it!

Long Review:

I live in a ~1500 square foot, 1830's cape in southern Vermont and my fireplace is in a ~600 square foot kitchen/dining/sitting room. THe house has been improved over the years with an additional layer of foam insulation on the exterior walls an some extra insulation in the attic, but it's certainly no new-build and has its drafty spots.

My Jotul F400 has able to heat the main part of the house pretty well and the max BTU output was adequate for the situation. My desire with a new stove was to be able to pull longer burn times out of a load and hopefully find more hours at the 300-400F end of the spectrum. When the weather got down to single digits, I really had to push the ~1.6cf Jotul to keep up. I would often see 80F room temperatures when I went to bed and 60F when I woke up with cold outside temperatures. Like everyone who heats 24/7, I was also interested in a stove that would leave be a larger bed of coals to restart with. From my research here and elsewhere I found the Woodstock company and was able to drive an hour up the road to go visit their factory. They are amazing. Local craftspeople, local manufacturing jobs, real live poeple who answer the phones, knowledgeable sales folks -- the real deal. I almost felt like buying a round of beers when I left with my stove.

In comparison to my F400, the firebox at first felt ENORMOUS, but I quickly came to appreciate that I could get the same BTU output but for MUCH LONGER time because of the larger size. I'm easily able to fit twice as much wood in this side loader @ 2.8cf than I was in my 1.6cf front loader. Learning to engage the combustor via reading a probe thermometer was a piece of cake and my wife also picked it up, no problem. The 'complexity' of operating a catalytic or hybrid stove is not a real argument, IMO.

The flame show on this stove has a range from 'normal' to 'bizarre' to 'what flames?'. I typically get hours of burn time with only secondary flames visible. Sometimes, with the air shut down low at lower temperatures, I get zero flames and then occassional, lazy, full-firebox 'swoops' of flames for a second or two followed by a minute or two of blackness.

My favorite part about this stove has been the control-ability of it. I've had it installed in January, so there have been plenty of cold days since then. I typically load it three times per day run it up to ~500-550F or so and then set it to cruise ~450 or so for the rest of the load. If I run it that way, I can pretty reliably return to the stove 5 hours later and find it at ~300F and then open the air back up to full and get it back to 350F and get another few hours of heat out of it. If I have a FULL load and run it slow, I've been able to re-start it after 24 hours with a few pieces of kindling and restarting at 12 hours with full size splits is no problem. It was a dream to run 24/7.

Accessing/cleaning the cat is a breeze-- no tools required and 3 second access. The ash pan is also much larger than my Jotul's was and holds a lot of ash. I empty it less than once per week at 24/7 burn rates.

As with all things, I learned along the way and made some mistakes. About 3 weeks in with the stove I overfired the stove by running it from basically cold to full box, fully engulfed and subsequently have a slight upward warp in my baffle and a slight twist in the catalytic combustor shield. Neither seams to make any impact on anything, but it was something I begrudgingly accept as my fault and didn't expect to happen. I think I wasn't leaving enough air space between the top of the wood and the baffle, because the actually temperatures never got >750F, which should be in the borderline ok region from my experience. I have the 'Simple Praire' model without the wings and have also noticed that the patterned trim on the front is a much lighter gauge than anywhere else on the stove and sometimes shows some 'movement' as it warms and cools. That's purely cosmetic, but I'm trying to be nit-picky.

I have zero regrets with my purchase and would buy the exact same stove again in a heartbeat. I feel like I unexpectedly skipped a technological generation and my Jotul now feels like an antique.

Happy to answer any questions.
I also own one and concur its an awesome stove. I load it up full and let it cruise 12 hours. It seems to like to run anywhere from first to 3rd notch up from the bottom once it gets established.
Watch overheating. The secondary fireback may be vulnerable to warpage based on another report.