Saturday, November 30, 2013

Big News! My Brother's New-to-His-Family Wood Cookstove

That's right, folks.  I am no longer the only wood cookstove owner in my family.  My brother and his family now are also the proud owners of a vintage woodburning cookstove!  When they took their family vacation just before harvest started a couple months ago this fall, they stopped at an antique store in Oklahoma and found this cute little Montgomery Ward cookstove. My sister-in-law had posted a picture on Facebook of my nephew standing next to it, saying that he walked right up to it and started taking the lids off like an old hand.  This made me proud.  He has helped me start the Margin Gem, and whenever he is here while the stove is going, he always wants to see the fire.

Kevin called me to see if I thought that the price was reasonable.  He had inspected it thoroughly and found it sound, and I thought that the price was certainly reasonable, so he bought it and brought it home.  After they got back, I couldn't wait to get over there to take a look at it.  My nephew was more than happy to show it to me.  Since it is just his size, he is under the impression that it is his.   He removed all of the lids for me and gave me a tour.

HD showing me "his" cookstove.

You can see in this picture that the oven clean out door was
missing.  Other than that, the stove was complete.  The lid
with the concentric circles is not original to the stove, but
fits perfectly, and I think it adds to the value of the stove.  I
am hoping to eventually find a lid like that to fit the
Riverside Bakewell down in the summer kitchen.
I inspected the stove pretty closely, poking and tapping on every surface.  A couple of missing bolts make the cast-iron cooktop loose, but they will be easily supplied.  I was disappointed to see that the door for the oven clean out was missing since that meant that the stove could not be fired until a replacement could be made.

However, while I was completing my inspection, I decided to poke the camera into the oven clean out opening, and with the flash and camera screen discovered that the clean out door was simply reposing inside the oven flue.  Thus, the stove is complete.  (At this point, I would just like to sing the praises of the digital camera.  When I was growing up and my parents took the occasional photograph, we would not know what the pictures looked like until the film was developed, and sometimes this would be months after the photo was snapped.  I'm not usually one who gets very excited over the latest technological advancements, but I think that it is wonderful to be able to see the pictures that you've taken immediately so that you can delete the terrible ones and get a retake before your subject flies the coop.)
The oven clean out door hiding in the flue beneath the oven.

I was surprised at how large the firebox is for such a small stove.  I was also fascinated by the grate.  It is what is called a dump grate where the whole grate pivots on a single axis and "dumps" the ashes down into the ash drawer.

A picture of the inside of the firebox and the dump grate at
the bottom.

The clean out door is in position, and HD is busily replacing the
lids in the cooktop for the umpteenth time.
I don't know enough about serial numbers to know exactly when this stove was manufactured, but I have a small collection of antique catalogs, and this model stove appears in the 1958 Spring and Summer Montgomery Ward catalog.  At that time, the stove retailed for $22.95.

A scan of part of the page from the
1958 Montgomery Ward catalog
where Kevin's stove appeared.
Here is what the text in the catalog says:

Economy Cook Stove
Welded steel body, steel oven--17 3/4 x 13 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. high.  Four 8-inch cooking lids.  Easy-to-clean white porcelained panels.  Cast-iron cooktop.  Cast-iron firebox, 17 x 7 x 7 1/2 in., has flat dump grate; burns soft coal, 18-inch wood.  Size overall: 26 x 21 in. deep, 25 in. high.  Use 6-in. stovepipe--see Notice, Page 906.  Pay Freight from Factory near St. Louis, Mo.--shipped promptly.  Ship. wt. 120 lbs.  68 A 1518F-$2.50 Down; Cash $22.95

When all of the lids are removed from the cooktop, I can lift the stove by myself.  I was surprised at how roomy the oven is.  Had I known that the catalog didn't include the dimensions of the oven, I would have measured it and included them here.  Suffice it to say that a 9 x 13 pan would easily fit with a little room to spare.

Now here is the part where all of you readers will discover just how weird I am:

I don't consider myself a prepper, but the fact that Kevin has this stove makes me feel a little bit more secure.  You see, on the farm where he lives, there are three homes: Kevin's, my grandmother's, and my cousin's.  Each of these homes is equipped with only electric stoves for cooking.  I feel better because in some kind of drastic emergency, this little cookstove could be easily put into service.  It wouldn't take a huge crew of men to transport it to my grandmother's basement where a furnace duct could be taken down and fashioned into a stovepipe that would be sufficient to attach it to one of the two old, but lined and safe chimneys which can be accessed down there. My grandmother would probably be able to remember a little about cooking on a wood cookstove, and my sister-in-law is a brilliant cook who could probably prepare a five-course, gourmet meal over a can of Sterno, so I know they will all be able to eat because she would easily be able to figure out how to cook on a cookstove.

As it is, I'm looking forward to the day when we can try out this little cutie, and of course, I'll write a post about how it works so that you'll all know too. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks in 2013--A Different Sort of Post

We're just finishing baking pies for tomorrow's dinner at my parents' home.  Nancy has gone to bed, anticipating an early and busy morning, and I find myself spending some time in Psalms, thinking about the many things that I am thankful for while I wait on the last pie to come out of the oven.

The pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving 2013 coming out of the
oven of the Margin Gem cookstove.
I'm thankful for many things, but here is a shortened list of some of the blessings that are on my mind tonight:

1. I'm thankful for steady, relatively secure employment for both Nancy and me.  Even though school is the chief source of stress in my life, when it comes right down to it, I do find my work rewarding.

2. I'm thankful that we live in an area of the country where God's provision results in abundant food and fuel.  When my aunt Cheri, who is a missionary in Africa, talks about the difficulty that she and the native people have sometimes had in securing fuel to cook their food, I realize how closely tied these two items really are.  We often hear about how much food is wasted in our society, but I'm amazed at how much fuel we let go to waste in our part of the world, too.

3. I'm thankful for our home.  With homelessness being such a large problem, I'm thankful that we have not just a house to live in (albeit humble and still in need of a great deal of work), but a home rich in family history and memories.

4. I'm thankful for our parents for several reasons.  First, they raised us in Christian homes. 

Second, they have remained married to each other.  Nancy's celebrated their 51st anniversary in August, and my folks celebrated 42 years together yesterday.  I am continually amazed at what a huge difference it makes in the lives of my students if they live with their own two parents rather than an assortment of step-parents or transient live-in mates.  Each year of teaching makes me more and more thankful that my parents have held steadfastly to their marriage vows.   

Third, my parents and Nancy's parents get along great with each other.  This is one of the best blessings that our parents could have given to Nancy's and my marriage.  We all had supper together at our house last Saturday night, and Nancy's folks will be with us for Thanksgiving at my parents' house tomorrow.  The friendship between our sets of parents makes our lives so much easier.

Fourth, both sets of our parents are very generous to us with their time and resources.  Even after over nine years of marriage and being fairly independent people, I'm humbled by how much we rely on our parents in various ways.  I see this in other families who are our friends and neighbors, and I cannot fathom what it must be like for those who cannot rely on their parents for whatever reason.

5. I'm thankful for our remaining grandmothers who are two of the sweetest women God ever created.

6. I'm thankful for the blessing of having siblings and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law whom we get along with and enjoy the company of.

7. I'm thankful for extended family, the aunts, uncles, and cousins who play such a large role in our lives, and for our many friends. 

8. I'm thankful for our six nieces and nephews who help fill the void left by our own childlessness--especially my brother's sons who live only a few miles away and see us regularly.

9. I'm thankful for the "wife of my youth" who still loves me and makes my life interesting.

10. I'm thankful for our church family and the opportunities that we have there to serve Christ together.

11. I'm thankful that we live in a country where we can still worship God.  I often feel that many things are not on the correct track in the U.S., and I sometimes wonder how long we will be allowed to worship freely, but at this moment we have that right, and I am thankful for it.

12. I'm thankful that God knew that we needed a Savior and sent His Son to save us.  Without that, everything else is pointless.

Oh, and #13.  I'm thankful for this blog which has allowed me the opportunity to visit with so many people regarding woodburning cookstoves.  Nancy's thankful for it too because otherwise she would have to listen to me all by herself.  ;)

I'd better stop there.  I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever.  - Psalms 107:1

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Blog Reader's Cookstove - III

New blog reader Gary from Pennsylvania contacted me to tell me about his Ideal Sunshine cookstove, and I'm very glad that he did because he has quite a story to tell.

Reader Gary's Ideal Sunshine cookstove. 

Gary purchased his cookstove at an auction in 1980 for $60.  I've heard other people say that antique wood cookstoves were flooding the markets in the late 70's and early 80's and could be purchased pretty cheaply.  By today's standard prices for usable, antique cookstoves, though, Gary didn't buy his stove; he STOLE it!  At the time that he purchased the stove, the grates were in pretty bad shape.  In the picture below, you can see that someone had welded a garden rake to the left grate in order to bridge the gap between the broken pieces. 

A garden rake welded to the left half of the grate.
Gary spent another $100 dollars to have a new left oven wall cast and to purchase stovepipe.  Gary also replaced some firebrick and metal firebox linings, and he and his wife have used the stove (in tandem with a Vermont Castings heating stove) to help heat their 1870's-era home for the last 33 years.

During those three decades, Gary has worked hard to find more information about his stove, especially with the hope of finding some replacement parts.  This has proven to be a challenge.  The Sunshine ranges were made by the The Reading Stove Works, Orr, Painter & Co. in Reading, Pennsylvania.  A smattering of information and a view or two of historical documents which reference the Sunshine stoves are available online, and Gary has seen two other Ideal Sunshine ranges go by on eBay, but that has been about it.

This year, however, Gary found out about Cattail Foundry, an Amish-run foundry near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  In the photograph below, you can see what beautiful work the craftsman at Cattail Foundry did--very impressive!

The newly manufactured replacement pieces are on the left.
Look at what an improvement the new grates are!

The firebox of the Ideal Sunshine cookstove
with its new replacement grates.
Now that colder weather has set in, I imagine that Gary is really enjoying firing his stove with the new grates.  I can't help but think that they would make using the stove much more convenient.

Gary's stove has a few characteristics which I find particularly interesting.  For one thing, the stove has two clean out doors for the flue around the oven.  One is located under the oven door on the front of the stove.  This is the standard location for soot clean out doors.  The second is located on the right hand side of the stove.  You can see it in the picture below.  I think this feature is great.  A door there would make it much more convenient to clean the stove.

Furthermore, Gary has equipped his stove with two swinging towel racks.  Some antique cookstoves had this great feature in various locations. 

Another aspect of Gary's stove that I find interesting is that the bottom part of the stove is enameled brown.  Of course, enamel on wood cookstoves is nothing out of the ordinary, but I've never seen enamel which was such a dark shade of brown. 

The ash clean out door on the right, the towel rack, and the
dark brown enamel can all be easily seen in this picture.

Gary guesses that his stove was manufactured sometime in the 1920s because of the presence of so much enamel.  Though I'm not an expert at dating stoves, after having researched wood cookstoves for a number of years, I would have to agree with Gary's guess.  Gary sent this photocopy of some of the literature that he has regarding the Ideal Sunshine stoves.  His is most similar to the stove on the right.

Three of the Ideal Sunshine cookstoves manufactured by
The Reading Stove Works, Orr, Painter, & Co.
Over the last 33 years, Gary has done some experimental cooking on the Ideal Sunshine, but its main use has been for heating and making breakfast during that time.  However, Gary has recently retired, and he is looking forward to spending more time cooking on this grand old lady.  I'm looking forward to hearing him chime in on the blog from an Ideal Sunshine owner's point of view.  Gary would also really appreciate connecting with anyone else who owns an Ideal Sunshine cookstove, so if you are the proud owner of another one of these beauties, please use the comments section to let us know about your existence. 

Thanks, Gary, for getting in touch with me.  Talking to other wood cookstove users is one of the most rewarding parts of operating this blog!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Our First Wood Cookstove Cooking Workshop!

Last Saturday, Nancy and I had the pleasure and privilege of hosting our first wood cookstove cooking workshop here at our home.  A person who lives east of the Des Moines area had contacted me via the comments section of one of the blog posts a couple of months ago.  After e-mailing back and forth, we settled on Nov. 9th as the date of the workshop.  Seven people came: two married couples and three additional ladies.

They arrived around 8:30 in the morning.  We started both the Margin Gem and the Riverside Bakewell once they got here and commenced quite a bit of cooking.  First, they made and canned grape jelly using juice that my sister-in-law had canned.  Then, we started our noon dinner consisting of baked onion-crusted chicken breasts, homemade noodles with buttered bread cubes the way my great-grandmother always cooked them, pork and beans with homemade ketchup, and green beans with bacon and sauteed mushrooms and onions.  (You will note the conspicuous absence of a dessert.  I forgot that we had planned to make cinnamon apples--oops!)

After dinner, we baked oatmeal raisin cookies and white bread in both stoves.  I was disappointed in the quality of the bread, and I know that the reason for it not being as good as usual was because I was too busy talking to pay as close attention to the dough as I should have.   Talking too much is one of my weaknesses.  I'm sure that you couldn't possibly know that from reading my egregiously long blog posts!

The seven guests who attended the workshop were all exceptionally nice people.  If I have my facts straight, they meet once a month and do something with food.  They had made cheese together the last time they met, and after using our Atlas noodle maker, I wouldn't be surprised if making noodles shows up on one of their upcoming agendas.  Nancy and I both had a wonderful time visiting with them.

A picture of the Margin Gem which was taken
by one of the guests.  The canner is over the
firebox, and the sauce pan on the far right
contains the pork and beans.
Besides the cinnamon apples, Nancy and I forgot to snap any pictures of the whole event.  Luckily, one of the guests sent us the one above.

The whole thing was great fun for both of us, but I told Nancy afterward that we'd better be careful.  I might become completely impossible to live with if given the opportunity to talk about wood cookstoves with a group of interested people very often! 

Anyway, our thanks to the attendees for such a fun Saturday!