Antique Wood Stove Restoration

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

| September/October 1979

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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.


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.

1/20/2014 10:08:13 AM

Hello! I have a Columbian Cook Stove and need to replace the firebox liners....does anyone have a contact of someone who makes these? I had a contact years ago and cannot find the information!! Help!? :) Thanks

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