Repurpose an Old Wood Stove

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
article image

Buyer Beware

When we were having the shell of our present home built the builder called us and said it was hard to work because of the cold weather. He told us he had an air tight wood stove he would install for a price so he could continue to work on the house. We agreed to the offer and later when we drove the three days to inspect the construction progress we found the wood stove in the photo. It was a home made plate steel stove and anything but air tight. We subsequently had a quality cast iron wood stove installed inside the house and put this stove into storage down under the house not knowing what else to do with the old wood stove. Several years later some friends came to hunt elk and visit us and saw the old wood stove sitting there under the house. They asked if they could borrow it to cook on in their camp while they were hunting. I was happy to loan it to them and even threw in a half of a cord of split firewood for them to use in the stove.

Later when their hunting was over and they brought the old wood stove back they commented on how good it was for cooking. That got me to thinking and I set the stove up outdoors and leveled it up and have been using it for several years to cook breakfast on occasionally. It was re-purposed to have a far more functional use, especially since it leaked smoke so badly that it was not safe to use inside. I have cooked many delicious breakfasts for ourselves and our visitors and friends over the years. An old wood stove that had no other use but scrap iron because it was so leaky and didn’t put out heat like a cast iron stove does and it ended up being the best thing since sliced bread for us. Taking something of virtually no value and re-purposing it to something useful is rewarding.

The old wood stove gives me a chance to use lumber ends from projects also obtaining derivative value from them and not having to throw them away. I found a large flat rock and pulled, dragged and inched it over where I could place it in front of the stove to serve as a version of a hearth. The draft ability of the stove is so poor that most of the time I have the loading door partly open to keep the fire inside going strong and now the large rock keeps any sparks from landing on the ground. I made a spark arrester for the top of the chimney by using three layers of 1/8 inch hardware screen. The wind cap improves the draft of the stove slightly and makes it is safe to use outside with virtually no chance of emitting any dangerous sparks.

Our normal breakfast are eggs over easy and a slice of fried spam which is enhanced by additional seasoning and tastes delicious done this way. We also slice up potatoes and they are seasoned with some spicy seasoning we obtain from a BBQ place in Rochester, New York. We also like cream cheese grits and sometimes have biscuits and jam or fresh fruit that is in season. Coffee that has cooked for a while on the stove then tops off what we consider an excellent breakfast and all from an old wood stove that had no other useful or functional purpose. We use cast iron cook wear which coupled with cooking outside gives the breakfast a special taste and ambience. It seems that eating food cooked outside always seems to taste better than when cooked inside. The temperature of the stove is regulated by adding firewood or adjustment of the loading door of the stove which results in the slow even cooking of the food.

Before using an otherwise useless old wood stove for scrap metal or a planter it might be wise to consider using it (if properly designed) for an outdoor cook stove. Our particular stove has a much greater value as a cook stove than it ever had as something to keep us warm indoors. Over the years it has cooked some very delicious meals for us and our visitors and has been a perfect cook stove. Visitors look forward to having a meal slow cooked out on that old stove. Being able to re-purpose something that previously had little or no value is an excellent way to reuse old worthless equipment and the best part is that I didn’t have to make a single change to the stove except level it.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to:

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.