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  A smattering of information and a view or two of historical documents which reference the Sunshine stoves are available online, and Gary has seen two other Ideal Sunshine ranges go by on eBay, but that has been about it.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!


  1. I've never heard of Ideal Sunshine but what a pretty name!

    1. My brother still has one that he's had since 1979-80 he still uses it daily for cooking and heating..

    2. Thomas Paine-

      I know that Gary would be thrilled if he would be able to communicate with your brother about their Ideal Sunshine cookstoves. If that would be at all possible, please leave another comment on the blog and I'll do what I can to connect the two. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Hey Thomas, I would love to talk to your brother about the Ideal Sunshine stove. Does he have a cook stove like mine? Look forward to hearing from you. Best Regards, Gary

  3. just picked up a 48-18 in great shape (unrestored). Would like to know if anyone has additional literature, or if you could tell me more about it.

  4. Tom, If its an Ideal Sunshine let me know. I will check my file to see what I have. Gary

  5. Tom, I found some pictures of an Ideal Sunshine 48-18 at the Rocky Ridge Antique Shop in Hagerstown, MD. Can send you the pictures if you want. Gary