Clean up: progress on the old wood cookstove

Looking at the weather forecasts, it’s looking more and more like our planned outdoor gathering with family to celebrate multiple birthdays and anniversaries is going to be an indoor celebration!

So today, I focused on tidying up the Old Kitchen a bit more, so my mother, at least, can sit in it comfortably. Between the Old Kitchen and the sun room, we should be able to fit all of us, if a bit tightly. Of course, if my mother is up to doing the stairs between the old and new parts of the house, we can always move to the dining room.

While wiping things down, I started doing a more thorough cleaning of the old wood burning cookstove. It’ll probably just have a tablecloth thrown over it and be used to hold the food, but I wanted to get some more progress in cleaning it out. Including several decades old ashes in the fire box!

Here is how it looked after I removed the top pieces, and brushed the ashes through.

I should be able to remove the metal plates at each end, which would allow me to remove the grate at the bottom, but I couldn’t see how to do that. For now, I just tried to sweep away as much as I could.

Doing so revealed something strange about the inside wall.

The middle plate looks absolutely destroyed!

I left that for later. First, I wanted to get rid of the ashes. Under the grate are three rollers that can be turned from the outside; a crank handle to do that seems to be missing, but I was able to turn them with my fingers. This allows the ashes to fall into the box below.

I had mostly emptied this box before, so this is all ashes from the fire box.

I’m not sure where that unburned piece of… paneling? … came from. I might have simply missed it, before.

The piece to hold one end of the handle is broken.

After taking the ashes out to the compost, I hosed it down. Then used a chisel to scrape off things stuck to the sides and bottom that were definitely not wood ashes. 😦 After hosing it down again, I set it aside to dry, then went back to working on the fire box.

I ended up taking out the bottom of that destroyed panel completely.

This is thick, cask iron. Just how hot did things get, for this top happen?

Once it was out, I tried to sweep away more ashes.

I ended up knocking out chunks of packed ashes, like this one. More was jammed behind the top piece of the metal panel, and I took that out to get at the rest.

Ashes are not supposed to be able to get in there!

I then started sweeping out the space the ash box fits into. In the ashes I swept out, I found some odd things, like old nails and…

What is this???

That, my friends, is the screw end of a light bulb.

Later, I found the filament in the ashes, too. No glass, thank God!

Why on earth would someone toss a light bulb into the fire? The nails, at least, I can see happening. Scrap wood would have been burned, and if they had nails in them, no one would have taken the time to pull them out, first.

But a light bulb???

Then I used the miracle of technology that is my phone camera, to see what I couldn’t see otherwise!

This is where the as box slides in. The flaps above divert the falling ashes towards the box.

The camera focused on the flaps, but you can see the rollers above, that keep the hot coals from falling into the ash box.

I did as much as I could for now on the fire box side. Next was the cook top above the oven.

As you can see, the oven box is covered with ashes. Now that I’ve seen the broken panel piece in the fire box, I know why.

I didn’t even try to get those out. The metal pieces can be removed for easier access, but…

… they are held in place by screws, and there is no way I’m going to try and take those screws out now!

Though I’ve taken the ring plates out before, somehow I never looked at the bottoms of them.

!!!

It seems the fire was allowed to be built up too big and too hot to cause all that damage in the fire box, which then lead to ashes and sooty smoke getting into the space around the oven box. I was quite young when this was still being used, and don’t remember much about it, but I may well have been among those causing the damage. :-/

I really wonder, at times, how we didn’t burn the house down back then!!

I just brushed off as much as I could from the underside of the ring plates. The panels over the water reservoir didn’t need as much.

I didn’t even try to clean the inside of the water reservoir this time.

I did go into the drawer under the oven. The handle and a piece of hinge from the broken oven door is in there, along with …

… the lifter for the ring plates.

I just used my hands to lift them, but when the stove is in use, this tool is vital.

I… can’t imagine what was done to it to cause this damage. !!!

The final thing to do was give it all a wipe down, then leaving it to dry completely before closing it up and putting everything together again. The cook surface and parts like the front of the fire box, and the panels below it, are the only things that are not enameled. Eventually, I want to use stove blacking on those parts. The rest still needs a very thorough scrubbing and rust removal, but I really don’t know far I’ll bother to go with that. We can’t use it – partly because of the damage, partly because we’d lose our insurance if we did – so mostly, I just want to keep it from degrading further. It would be great if we could get it all fixed up but… I’m not sure that it’s worth it. Especially since, there is another one in the storage shed that I know my late brother used, back when that building was his workshop. As far as I know, it’s in good shape. It’s not as old as this one, but is almost exactly the same design.

Who knows. When we finally build our outdoor cooking area, maybe we can include the wood cookstove as part of it. I think I’d really like that.

The Re-Famer

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