Antique Wood Stove Restoration

When it comes to antique wood stove restoration, Bill Eckert is the master.

| September/October 1979

  • 059 antique wood stove 04 restored cookstove.jpg
    Looking better than the day it was made, this antique wood stove—which sold for $1,000—is ready for many more years of faithful service.
    PHOTO: BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove 01 rusty stove.jpg
     A rusty old wood burning cook stove awaits the restorer's magic. The first step is to make sure that the body is sound and the cast iron not cracked.
    BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove 02 removing bolts and rivets.jpg
    Frozen rivets and bolts that won't submit to logical persuasion wlll yield to a hammer and chisel. It's necessary to remove the brightwork.
    BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove 03 removing rust.jpg
    Attack all that encrusted rust with a coarse rotary wire brush on an electric drill or send the job out to be done. If the trim won't come off the stove, dipping the whole works in a chemical bath will remove the corrosion.
    BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove 05 curly corroded.jpg
    Curly covered with corrosion, before the process of restoration began.
    BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove 07 painting curly.jpg
    Stove polish is applied with a toothbrush. Two coats and a good buffing, and Curly is almost home! Sheet metal parts may be painted, but cast iron should be polished.
    BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove 06 curly cleaned.jpg
    After a trip to the monumentmaker for sandblasting (the trim was removed first), Curly is clean once more. Meanwhile, the wood heater's trim paid a visit to a nickle-plating concern and once again gleamed.
    BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove 08 curly restored.jpg
    With brightwork shining and the cast iron burnished to a fare-thee-well, Curly is now worth $500. Renovating stoves can be messy and time-consuming, but the reward sure is great!
    BARRY DORDAHL
  • 059 antique wood stove - room of stoves.jpg
    This array of wood cookstoves lining the wall of Friendly Fire's workshop represents a very impressive (as well as virtually inflation-proof) "savings account!"
    BARRY DORDAHL

  • 059 antique wood stove 04 restored cookstove.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove 01 rusty stove.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove 02 removing bolts and rivets.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove 03 removing rust.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove 05 curly corroded.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove 07 painting curly.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove 06 curly cleaned.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove 08 curly restored.jpg
  • 059 antique wood stove - room of stoves.jpg

The antique wood stove and heater—exquisitely restored to its original elegance—is making a comeback both as a tool to cook vittles or heat a house and as an investment whose value has run well ahead of inflation.

Unfortunately, all this new-found popularity has caused the price of such refurbished stoves to go plumb through the roof. Or so I thought until Bill Eckert (owner of Friendly Fire, Inc. in Fort Collins, Colorado) explained how just about anyone could own a fine antique without paying a collector's price. The secret? Find a grizzled old timber toaster in need of a friend, and restore it yourself!

But what if you don't a thing about stove restoration? Well hang on, because with Bill's expert help, I'm about to tell you. All you'll need to "play along" are a few common hand tools, some inexpensive supplies, a good electric drill with rotary wire brushes, and—of course—a stove.

Where to Find Those Oldie

Any town that's over 50 years old probably has an abundance of used stoves just rusting away and waiting for someone to claim them. The reason is an all-too-common one: "When cheap gas and oil became available," says Bill, "wood stoves were carted out to the yard and abandoned." One of the best ways to find these "experienced" wood-burners is to run a want ad in the paper of a likely burg. Or simply hop in your buggy and go for a drive. I've spotted "oldies" just by roaming around, and in each case the owner was delighted to sell. Try antique dealers, too. They very often have—or know of—old stoves for sale. (And since the demand for reconditioned models is so high, dealers might pay you to do restoration for them!) With a little effort, you should find all the projects you'll ever want right close to home.



But Can It Be Saved?

Before you fork over your hard-earned dollars for a particular stove, take a few minutes to inspect it. Be sure that antique really can be salvaged.

First off, IS THE BODY SOUND? Most any abandoned wood-burner will be rusty. That's OK  as long as the metal under that rust is still healthy. Potbellied heaters usually were built of cast iron heavy enough to shrug off decades of oxidation. But base-burners—self-feeding heaters built of cast iron and sheet metal—might have weak points. Tap a few suspicious-looking spots with a screwdriver, if you're not totally confident. Since old kitchen ranges were generally made of lighter material, check their rusty parts with particular care to be sure you have something to restore. Inspect the top, bottom, sides, and insides.

aserel
3/17/2018 6:22:52 PM

have a 1912 home comfort 6 square cook stove. all the parts are present, it is in pretty rough shape. used it several years ago to heat home and to cook on. would like to see something done with it before it becomes a pile of rust.


Woody
1/9/2018 1:22:35 PM

Hi.....I don't know the first thing about old wood burning cook stoves. Recently (up here in PEI Canada) I took possession of my grandmother's Simpson stove. It is in great shape, has some nice cream porcelyn (however you spell that) and chrome. It takes up too much space in my house, and I can't get insurance if I hooked it up. I was thinking of building a dome pizza oven in my back yard...first thought I could use the oven door......second thought I could use the whole stove, mount it on some bricks, put "old brick" walls on 3 sides, and a roof for protection from the elements........problem is I think the fire box is in pieces. Since I plan to use it outside can someone tell me how the fire box would work? From what I figure, the bottom is a grate system that can be opened and closed so ashes can fall in to a little slide-out box underneath. The top is the steel platform of the stove, with two holes where wood can be added. So can I just place some fire brick down the sides of the box, maybe get a welder to make two new sidewall (and is there a back end wall??) Anyway, if anyone can throw some thoughts, ideas, wisdom my way.....it would be cool to get granny's stove cookin again. I remember her making chicken and dumplings on it when I was 10, lets just say 50 years ago. Thanks for reading this long winded disertation. Woody


Woody
1/9/2018 1:21:49 PM

Hi.....I don't know the first thing about old wood burning cook stoves. Recently (up here in PEI Canada) I took possession of my grandmother's Simpson stove. It is in great shape, has some nice cream porcelyn (however you spell that) and chrome. It takes up too much space in my house, and I can't get insurance if I hooked it up. I was thinking of building a dome pizza oven in my back yard...first thought I could use the oven door......second thought I could use the whole stove, mount it on some bricks, put "old brick" walls on 3 sides, and a roof for protection from the elements........problem is I think the fire box is in pieces. Since I plan to use it outside can someone tell me how the fire box would work? From what I figure, the bottom is a grate system that can be opened and closed so ashes can fall in to a little slide-out box underneath. The top is the steel platform of the stove, with two holes where wood can be added. So can I just place some fire brick down the sides of the box, maybe get a welder to make two new sidewall (and is there a back end wall??) Anyway, if anyone can throw some thoughts, ideas, wisdom my way.....it would be cool to get granny's stove cookin again. I remember her making chicken and dumplings on it when I was 10, lets just say 50 years ago. Thanks for reading this long winded disertation. Woody







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