How to Build the Vulcan Homemade Stove

Your commercial fireplace may be pumping most of the heat it produces straight up the chimney, but that open window to the sky can be easily replaced with this inexpensive Vulcan homemade stove.

| November/December 1982

Learn how to build the inexpensive Vulcan homemade stove. (See the Vulcan stove photos and diagrams in the image gallery.)

While a warm, crackling fire in an open hearth on a cold winter's night can be wonderfully soothing, it's also pretty danged wasteful. The fact is that most conventional fireplaces are of dubious value when it comes to keeping a home cozy. Such devices typically have efficiency ratings of only 10% to 30%, and some especially poorly designed and/or constructed models will actually cool a room by venting its warm air up the chimney.

That realization struck me one winter's evening while a group of friends and I were sitting before (and seemingly inching ever closer to) a cheery open blaze in my home's family room. We were busily discussing the state of the world when the talk spontaneously turned to how chilly we all were. And although that subject led—in its turn—to comments about the high cost of heating oil, the balance of trade, the fate of the U.S. dollar, and the social habits and ancestry of various members of the OPEC cartel (as well as to the donning of sweaters!), the central theme was clear: Roaring fire or no, it was awfully damn cold in that room ever since economy had demanded that the oil furnace be turned off. So our little group decided to take action . . . and the Vulcan Stove was the result.

Now let me say at the outset that none of us is exactly what you might call an artisan (much less an experienced stove designer) . . . nor is the Vulcan beautiful. Nevertheless, we did manage to pool our resources, imagination, and sundry talents to develop a truly functional woodburner with the Vulcan homemade stove . . . and we were able to manufacture six of the units for a total cost (in 1978) of just under $300.

A Heater is Born: The Vulcan Stove

Our design criteria were limited in number but quite firm. Every member of the group wanted a stove, but nobody wanted a freestanding model that would require a brick pad and a pipe angling off into the nearest wall. And everyone wanted a firebox that would be both efficient and easy to tend. Finally, each of us wanted a heater that would represent the epitome of woodburning elegance . . . but in deference to our abilities, that last requirement was soon quietly forgotten!

We decided that our best bet was to design a stove that would fit inside an existing fireplace. No home remodeling would be necessary to install such a heater, and the firebox would be unobtrusive. As a bonus, the surrounding brick would—we imagined—serve as a heat sink, radiating the warmth of the fire for hours after the flames had gone out.

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