Friday, August 15, 2008

Antique Cylinder Stoves: Facets and Features


Antique Cylinder Stoves come in three sizes small, medium and large. A small Cylinder Stove was often found warming a woman’s boudoir while the larger Cylinder Stove could comfortably heat a greatroom all night long.

Antique cylinder stoves, intricately crafted from cast iron and rolled steel, burn wood or coal and can be converted to gas.

The stately stove uses a minimal amount of floor space while providing the ultimate in heat distribution.
With its air-tight design, Cylinder Stoves were considered to be the superior heating stove of the day (in the early 1900’s.)

The anatomy of a typical cylinder stove

The antique Cylinder Stove defines elegance and beauty. The hand-crafted stoves display rich detailing in nickel trimming, intricate cast iron designs, and beautifully framed mica windows. With its efficient heat output the vintage Cylinder Stove is a premier example of functional art.

Good Time selection of stoves

Many antique cylinder stoves feature large convenient loading doors, ash pit doors for easy cleanout, smoke door to assure less soot in the room and hidden cook lids.

Nickel skirts gracefully direct heat down towards the floor.

Vintage cylinder stove in modern setting

Good Times in Goshen

    Good Times in Goshen

Sunday, August 10, 2008

yesterday i hit a photographic jackpot — the good time stove company in nearby goshen, ma. not only is good time stove the place to find beautifully restored antique stoves of every size and shape (including stunning, vintage 1930’s gas kitchen stoves) but it’s also a landmark, thanks to the enormous tin man of goshen who welcomes visitors to the shop. built in 1955 to advertise a local fuel company, the tin man has been featured in the boston globe, the daily hampshire gazette, the berkshire eagle, and yankee magazine, as well as being a subject for bill griffith’s comic zippy the pinhead. you can read all about the towering tin man, including the story of how he got his sizable heart here on the good time stove company’s blog.

he’s awesome.

fascinating, random objects of rusty metal and painted wood embellish the outside of the shop - signs, tools, iron gates, wagon wheels, bikes, an old pair of wooden crutches, hand made bird feeders, defunct lawn mowers - melding together in a sculptural assemblage. beyond an arbor of rusty bicycles and swaying lady’s mantle, the three sisters garden stretches out from the shop and behind owner richard richardson’s home. not wanting to impose, i didn’t tour the gardens (this time) but they include windowed arbors, a stone and metal dragon, a 16×32′ water garden, a stone amphitheater, a sanctuary for meditation. you can tour all of them here.

i may never recycle another tin can.

after stopping here and looking around, i didn’t feel the need to travel farther (did i mention i was on my bike?) i was so creatively refreshed and inspired by the imaginative assemblages and joy de vive evident in the spotless shop full of carefully restored stoves and the surrounding artful gardens. i only wish i lived next door!

Can’t Visit Good Time Stove? Take a Scroll Through our Showroom

Take a scroll through our Showroom…

For those of you who don’t live close enough to visit, enjoy these photos of our showroom.

Good Time Stove Co. Musuem and Showroom located on Route 112 in Goshen, MA

Franklin Fireplace Stoves

Four O’Clock Stoves

Pot Belly Stoves

Cylinder Stoves

Parlor Stoves

Parlor Stoves

Parlor Stoves

Dual-Fuel Gas/Wood Combination Kitchen Stoves

Gas Cook Stoves

Wood Kitchen Ranges

Enamel Kitchen stoves

Cast Iron Cook Stoves

Wood Stoves for Cooking and Heating

Coal Ranges for Heating and Cooking

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ways of Putting Hot Air Where People Are

    Ways of Putting Heated Air Where People Are

by Irwin L. Goodchild
24 September 2007

The most common ways of heating air are by passing it by hot pipes, baseboard heaters, convectors, or so-called radiators. In each case the air being heated becomes lighter and slowly rises naturally to the ceiling.

The heated air then fills the top of a room. It does not descend to where people are until it cools and is replaced by more warmer air. As can be seen this is a slow way of moving heated air to where people are. In addition this way places the warmest air where it is most likely to lose heat through the ceiling and the surrounding upper walls.

Now, there are two ways to move the warm air at the ceiling more quickly down to where people are. One way is to have a forced hot air system and the other is to have a ceiling fan. The drawback to each of these ways is that the warmest air is still going to the ceiling first. It just does not stay there as long.

But note that there is a still better way to get the warmed air to people. That is to have a fan blow it horizontally toward the area where people are, — one to three feet above the floor. It does this most quickly and most cheaply with fan forced warm air.

Fan Forced Warm Air
There are several ways for fans to be used to blow warmed air horizontally one to three feet above the floor. The simplest, easiest, and cheapest would be for homeowners with forced hot air systems. They have only to buy deflectors for each of their hot air vents. The only caution is to be sure the blower system is not overloaded and for this one can check with their heater serviceman.

The next simplest, easiest, and cheapest is to invest in fan forced portable electric heaters. The economy of purchase, installation and operation and the convenience of portability go a long way toward making up for the cost of electricity. The cautions obviously are to be sure your electric outlets will supply 1500 watts safely. Use no more than one heater per outlet. Be sure no fire hazards exist, and be sure that local regulations are met. The method does have its adherents.

For homes using steam, hot water, or electric baseboard heaters the idea is simple. Have an electric fan blow air across, along, or through the heater when the heat comes on. The way to do it is not simple. Placing a fan at each heater is no problem. What is a problem is how to have the fan run when, and only when, the heater is on. Two methods best duplicate the advantages of fan forced portable electric heaters. One uses fan forced propane or natural gas heaters which are permanently installed along one or more walls of each room. The other method is to use electric fan forced heaters installed in or on room walls. The only change is to swap the practicality of fixed installation for the convenience of portable heaters.

Propane or natural gas fan forced heaters have the advantages of piping in for combustion air from outside and piping the spent gases back to the outside. This eliminates outside air mixing with inside air and cooling it. It eliminates the need for a chimney and the chimney’s construction and maintenance costs. Their drawback is that their purchase and installation costs are not cheap.

Electric fan forced wall heaters are most similar to fan forced electric portable heaters. Their purchase costs are low and their installation costs are, too. The particular economy of fan forced electric heat far outways the cost of electricity as a heat source.

Simply Put

A. Fan forced heat is the most direct heat distribution system.

B. Fan forced heat has the most positive “on” control with minimal delay in starting. In the case of electrical heat there is no significant overshooting when the thermostat calls for shut off.

Because of A. and B. above there is no need to heat rooms not in use for it takes only minutes to make a room comfortable. The significance of the economy and the comfort of fan forced heat outweighs all other ways for distributing heat.


Radiant heat has the particular advantage of warm floors but it is not a distribution system where time is important for starting - or where overheating can be stopped quickly. The amount of flooring controls these things and economy of operation can be diminished. Conduction of heat through floors and air is a limiting factor and with any significant temperature rise in a floor the heat loss to the ceiling by true radiation can become a factor.

Plans for any new heating system should have as a priority careful attention to the amount of insulation planned for or in place already. If there is any question of what to do first, always insulate first and then install an appropriately sized heating system.

With sufficient insulation in the walls, modem windows of modest size, and the distribution of heat by fan forced heaters there should be little concern about the former practice of having heaters placed along outer walls to limit cold drafts from these walls. This is not to say that window insulation would not be advantageous.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Warm Up Complete - Heating Systems in Old Houses

Warm Up Complete
by Mary Ellen Polson
Old House Interiors, Jan. Feb. 2008. Pp. 36-38.

Heating an old house is a balancing act. May early homes were built without any type of central heating system (unless you count central chimney) and other are faced with aging, sometimes inefficient systems.

Unless you are planning to gut the house, you probably have to work with what you have: existing steam or hydronic radiators powered by a broiler, or forced air ducts fueled by a furnace. Even if you don’t intend to rip out the floor, there are ways to incorporate new technology that will make your system more efficient, but more comfortable to live with.

Homeowners have long supplemented central heating systems with wood- or gas-burning fireplaces, stoves and inserts. These often efficient units can boost warmth in a gathering room or even heat a small house at prices that make sense to most homeowners (see “Warmth for Winter,” December 2007, pp. 86-90). But there are plenty of other choices that can resolve certain dilemmas or boost comfort in traditionally chilly spots like entries, porches and bathrooms.

Got a steam or hot water system with balky radiators? No need to throw out the boiler with the bath water when you replace the most troublesome with new ones. Choices include almost silent baseboard units that melt into the wall, flat-fins units that tuck under windows, or streamlined tubular radiators that resemble the originals you may already have, like the ones from Steam Radiators Runtal North America even offers flat-fin units that can curve underneath a bowfront window!

Another option for bump-out windows or large expanses of glass is a narrow radiant register that recesses into the floor. Reggio Registers offers a stylish version that measures 8 feet long by 8 inches wide. The unit draws in cold air, warms it with a hydronic heating element, then re-circulates the warmed air. Kitchens built at the perimeter (like porch conversions) can benefit from the installation of kick-plate registers that direct warmth to your feet, like those from and I.A.P. Sales.

Radiators that work fine but look homely can get a cosmetic makeover with the addition of a radiator cover. The metal ones, like those from Beautiful Radiators or (for baseboard units) Radiant Wraps, often feature traditional grille patterns familiar from the early 29th century. These units can help direct heat away from walls and windows out into the room. If you have a forced hot air system, give vents and returns a more polished look with registers grilles in patterns and materials that are more in keeping with date of the house, like those from Acorn Manufacturing and others.

Remodeling a bath, kitchen or mudroom is a great time to lay down a new radiant floor. Hannel Radiant Direct offers full radiant heating packages from state-of-the-art boilers to PEX tubing and thermostats – good news for homeowners who want the efficiency of an entirely new system, Electric radiant systems are so easy to install that they go down in an afternoon and link to the existing electrical box with a thermostat to control the setting. They even go outdoors: low-voltage electric radiant systems like those from Heatizon can de-ice roofs and melt ice and snow on driveways and walks.

What System Works Best For You?
Forced Air
Pros: Ducts can be used for both heating and cooling.
Cons: Inefficient for heat delivery (especially with heat pumps), Hot and Cold spots; variations in temperature, Retrofitting on installing a new system can cost thousands.
Works Best For: Regions with more cooling days than heating days.
Comfort/Cost Savings Alternatives: Distribute warmed air more efficiently with a ceiling fan, Supplement with radiant floors, wood stoves or inserts, Systems with built-in humidifiers.

Steam/Hot Water
Pros: Efficient, comfortable whole house heating.
Cons: Does not address cooling needs, Older radiators can be balky or noisy.
Works Best For: Colder climates with many heating days.
Comfort/Cost Savings Alternatives: Retrofit noisy, balky, or broken radiators with almost silent new ones (at about $500 each), Disguise ugly radiator with covers.

Heating Stoves/Inserts
Pros: Easy to install (except masonry stoves), a quality stove costs $25 or less, Highly fuel efficient, Masonry and catalytics capable of whole-house heating, Passive cooling in warm months (masonry stoves).
Cons: Effectiveness diminishes in relation to distance from heat source, Wood and masonry stoves require regular feeding and maintenance, Masonry stoves best suited for new construction or major remodels.
Works Best For: Smaller homes, As supplement to whole-house heating, especially forced air.
Comfort/Cost Savings Alternatives: Humidifiers, Distribute warm air more efficiently with ceiling fans.

Heating Stoves/Inserts
Pros: Easy to install (except masonry stoves), a quality stove costs $25 or less, Highly fuel efficient, Masonry and catalytics capable of whole-house heating, Passive cooling in warm months (masonry stoves).
Cons: Effectiveness diminishes in relation to distance from heat source, Wood and masonry stoves require regular feeding and maintenance, Masonry stoves best suited for new construction or major remodels.
Works Best For: Smaller homes, As supplement to whole-house heating, especially forced air.
Comfort/Cost Savings Alternatives: Humidifiers, Distribute warm air more efficiently with ceiling fans.

Radiant (floor, wall, etc.)
Pros: Even, cost-effective heating ($8-12 square foot installed), Cost effective in retrofits (i.e. replacing old wall radiators with new), Spot applications (baths, mudrooms, etc), new construction (additions, whole house remodels).
Cons: Requires hot water for team boiler except spot (electric) units, As whole-house heating ca be expensive and difficult to install in houses without existing radiators, Does not address cooling needs.
Works Best For: Homes in cooler climates; new homes and homes being extensively remodeled; retrofits with existing hot water systems, spot heating.
Comfort/Cost Savings Alternatives: Use as spot-comfort zones where possible (wall and floor radiators).

Heating Things Up

Hannel Radiant Direct: 1-888-298-6036
Heatizon Systems: 1-888-239-1232
I.A.P. Sales: 1-800-416-1298
Myson: 1-800-698-9690
Radiant Floor Co.: 1-866-927-6863
Reggio Registers: 1-800-88-3090
Rinnai: 1-866-RINNAI
Runtal North America: 1-800-526-2621
Steam Radiators: 1-800-966-587
Weil McLain: 1-219-876-6561
Windy Ridge Group/VEHA: 1-800-639-2021
Viega: 1-877-843-4262
Radiators Covers and Registers
Acorn Manufacturing: 1-800-835-0121
Arsco/Beautiful Radiators: 1-800-543-7040 1-509-535-5098
Mission Woodworking: 1-877-848-5697
Radiant Wraps: 973-857-6480
Reggio Registers: 1-800-880-3090
Wooden Radiator Cabinet Company: 1-800-817-9110

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Line on Liners: Chimney Liners - All You Need to Know

Metal Chimney Liners
Micheal Chotiner
Old-House Journal November/December 2007 pg. 41

Most old-house owners savor the warmth of fireplaces or heating stoves, so they know it’s important to routinely inspect and clean a working masonry chimney. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that chimneys burning solid fuel-wood, coal, or pellets-be inspected yearly and cleaned as often as needed. Such upkeep helps to ensure structural integrity, identify defects that might allow deadly combustion gases to vent into living spaces, and prevent chimney fires caused by the buildup of creosote, a natural byproduct of burning wood.

However, few homeowners who use their chimneys merely to vent gas or oil-fired furnaces and boilers are aware that maintenance and sound conditions apply to them, too. That’s a problem because the byproducts of burning gas and oil are just as insidious as those from solid fuels. Chimneys-or more specifically, the flues within them-must be clean and sound to carry heat and gases safely up and away from the chimney d top, but these combustion byproducts can also deteriorate a flue’s inner surface over time. So let’s say that you get your chimney inspected, and let’s say that the report recommends that your flue d needs to be relined. We’ll explore what that means, as well as the best way to go about correcting the problem for your particular chimney and house.

The Line on Liners
Among the best reasons for relining a masonry chimney is that it wasn’t built right in the first place-that is, without a flue liner, a material that provides a smooth, relatively seamless surface as well as insulation. Historically, well-built chimneys were parged with mortar to line the flue, and clay tiles have been standard liners since the 1900s. Nonetheless, linerless chimneys remain very common in old houses as well as newer ones. Builders and heating equipment installers don’t always keep up with recommended practices, and even if they do, they may not take the trouble to observe them. If your chimney does have a liner, another reason you may need to reline is because it is defective. Age and use can open cracks in tiles, and combustion gases combined with rain will erode parging and masonry joints between bricks or stones. If the preponderance of evidence points to relining, you’ve got some choices to consider. You can 1) reconstruct clay tile flues with new clay tile liners, 2) reinforce the chimney and create new flues with poured-cement liners, or 3) reline existing flues and run new ones with metal flue liners. Each method has its benefits, limitations, and challenges. The approach you ultimately choose should be the one that’s best suited to the problems of the particular chimney and the appliances vented through it.

1. Clay Flue tiles are rectangualr or round cermic units 24″ - tall that are stacked with mortared joints to make a liner.

2. While highly durable, tiles can crack due to age or damage and their weight and rigidity make them complicated to retrofit.

Clay Tile Liners
Clay tile flues are the traditional favorite. Flue tiles are virtually impervious to the heat and corrosive byproducts of burning any and all fuels. With refractory mortar joints properly finished, a clay tile flue’s service life can be projected at 50 years or more with very little Flue tiles can be square, maintenance other than regular cleaning.

But square and rectangular flue tiles are not the most efficient shape for venting smoke. By nature, smoke spirals upward through a flue in a helical pattern, leaving incongruous air spaces at the margins. At best, these air spaces simply take up extra room within the chimney that may be needed for additional flues; at worst, they reduce draft. Round flues are much more efficient.

Clay liner tiles are relatively inexpensive-about $10 for a typical 24″ -tall unit. But what you save on materials will most likely exceed the cost of installation labor. Clay flue liners are hard to retrofit in an existing chimney, especially if it isn’t straight. Even for a straight run, it’s necessary to break through chimney walls every few vertical feet to gain access for removing the old flue tile and laying up the new tile.

For chimneys with offsets (bends), flue tiles need to be cut at precise angles for acceptable joints. In some areas, it’s difficult to find anyone who has the skills for this kind of installation, and it’s definitely not an owner-restorer job.

A Clay Tile Alternative
If careful inspection of a clay flue liner indicates that the mortar joints have gaps but the tiles themselves are more or less intact and in alignment, you may wish to consider a relatively new approach. Through a network of local contractors, Firesafe Industries ( offers a product called FireGuard and an application method for refilling defective joints, and patching and smoothing existing clay flues.

FireGuard is a ceramic sealant said to have a service temperature of up to 3,200 degrees F. When applying FireGuard, technicians first thoroughly clean the flue, then lower an applicato (which looks something like a rocket nosecone congruent in size and shape to the inside of the flue) using a cable from the top of the chimney. FireGuard of a mud-like consistency is pumped into the chimney, and the vibrating applicator is slowly drawn upward, forcing the sealant into gaps at the joints and defects in the liner.

The promise of the FireGuard system is that it effectively reseals clay flue liners with a fraction of the labor for replacement. The process doesn’t appreciably reduce the size of the flue, which means that any fireplace or stove that it serves should show no changes in performance.

Cast-in-Place Liners Where new clay tiles are not an option, it’s possible to create a new flue within a damaged masonry chimney by using one of several poured-cement processes. Generally speaking, this approach offers all the advantages of clay flues, plus a couple more. Cast-in-place flues are virtually impervious to the harmful effects of heat, acids, and condensation, regardless of the type of fuel that is burned. Temperatures inside cast-in-place flues are generally high because of their insulation properties, so they bum cleaner and reduce creosote accumulation. Expect poured-cement flues to last at least as long as clay tile-50 years or more. Some companies claim that cast-in-place flues can stabilize unsOlmd clay flues and chimneys, since they’re poured inside either the ex~sting flue or the chimney walls.

While a cast-in-place process can be less laborious and invasive than reconstructing clay flues, there are a number of different proprietary metbods for casting. In some projects, the cost of labor required can equal or exceed that for relining with clay tile. As always, the best approach depends on conditions specific to th.e particular job. In no case is casting flue liner in place a do-it-yourself job. The materials and equipment for casting flues in place are supplied by a number of different manufacturers to distributor/technicians who perform the installations.

If the problem chimney has one or more clay flues within it, the installer will determine whether the tile can be left in place or needs to be removed. Determining factors include the structural condition of the existing flue and chimney, and how much space is needed based on the size and number of flues required.

In the first of the two prevalent flue-casting methods-market.ed variously under the brand names Golden Flue (www., SolidfFlue Chimney Systems (www.solidflue. com) and Supaflu Chimney Systems ( starts with a preparatory flue cleaning. Then, technicians insert one or more bladders from the heating appliance outlet to the top of the chimney. Next, they install formwork at the base of the chimney and place spacers around the bladders to separate them from chimney. At this point, they pump a mudlike mixture of lightweight refractory cement. and insulating aggregate is into the chimney until it fills to the chimney top (see drawing at left). Once the cement hardens, the bladders are deflated, the form work is removed, and any necessary finish work is performed. The result: one or more structurally rigid, smooth, continuous, amply insulated flues.

In a second flue-casting method-marketed under the brand names Ahrens Chimney Systems ( and Guardian Chimney Systems ( slowly pump mud-consistency lining mat.erial into the chimney as they draw a vibrating bell (a pointy fonning tool) up through the cement to form the flue opening. In the Ahrens method, there’s a second step where the technician sprays a slurry topcoat onto the flue channel to provide a smoother, non-absorbent urface said to increase draft and facilitate cleaning. Both casting methods have been used in Europe for more than 70 years, and in the U.S. for more than 30.

1. Cast-in-place liners are proprietary processes that pump mortar within the chimney to form a new flue. One method, illustrated here, employs an inflatable bladder to form the flue.
2. Instead of a bladder, an alternate cast-in-place process draws a pointed bell up the chimney to form the flue.

1. Stainless steel flue liners come in rigid and flexible forms and a variety of designs and alloys, making them among the most versatile liers.

2. One of the advantages of flexible metal liners is their ability to accommodate offsets and other old flue surprises.

Flexible Liners

Stainless Steel Flue Liners
Alloy Selection Guide by Fuel Type
Fuel Type Recommended Alloy
Coal 316L or T1
Gas AL29-4C
Oil 316L or T1
Wood AL29-4C
Pragmatists, including many installers and fire-protection specialists were consulted, tend to like stainless steel flue liners. They generally require less labor to install than other types of liners, and they’re readily available in types and sizes for all common heating appliances, including fireplaces and wood stoves. Installed by a pro, a metal liner costs about $100 per foot.

The trouble for old-house restorers is that there are so many different metal flue types and sizes that can be hard to sort out which is best for a given application. The good news is that commonly used flue liners are available in kits, complete with insulation wraps and fittings to hook up to fireplaces, stoves, furnaces, and broilers.

Stainless steel flue liners come in rigid and flexible formats. Rigid flue pipes are available in diameters ranging from three inches to ten inches, while flexible corrugated metal tube runs from two inch to ten inch in diameter. Rigid flue liners shouldn’t be confused with double- or triple-wall chimney pipe, which is designed unenclosed chimneys and shouldn’t be used as flue liner. Rigid liners are best for straight chimneys with no offset or bends.

There is some discussion about whether rigid flue liners are easier to clean than flexible liners, which have a corrugated surface. Our most trusted expert says that flexible liners tend to collect less creosote when used to vent wood fireplaces and stoves because they flex as they expand and contract with temperature fluctuations, causing buildups to loosen and fall away.

For venting a fireplace, choose the diameter that provides a vent opening equal to one-eighth of the total area of the fireplace opening. For wood stoves and other heating appliances, consult the manufacturer’s recommendation for flue diameter. The trickiest aspect of selecting an appropriate stainless steel liner is choosing the correct alloy based on the type of fuel being burned. Careful selection prevents corrosion, which is the main cause of premature failure in stainless steel liners.

It is also good practice to insulate metal flues with wraps or jackets designed specifically for the purpose. Insulation is particularly important around vents for high-efficiency heaters and stoves, since their flue temperatures are lower than conventional models. Insulation not only helps maintain higher temperatures within the flue to reduce corrosive condensation, but it also prevents heat transfer from flue pipes to the home’s structure - an added measure of safety, which is what flue liners are all about in the first place.

Michael Chotiner is the author of Building Crafts and a longtime writer and editor on the building construction industry.

Top Twenty Reason for Relinings Chimneys
Sympton/Condition Notes
Exisiting Chimney/All Flue Types
Chimney appears to be collapsing Where deterioration is visible from the outside, deterioration on the inside is likely.
Chimney contains no flue liner Not ucommon for chimneys built prior to 1906.
Creosote staining/accumulation on chimey walls or between existing line and chimey walls Iniciation that existing flue is leaking.
Recent fire Exposure to excessively high temperature can damage all types of flues.
Recent lightning strike Same as above.
Inadequate clearance between chimey/flue liner and combustible materials In old houses, framing was sometimes attached to chimneys.
Smoke from fireplace or stove wafts into living space May be caused by incorrecct flue size.
Sooty or oily deposits collect in living space Indicates inadequate draft.
More than one appliance vented with a single flue Very common.
Flue sized incorrectly Often a problem when an exisiting flue is converted for use with an appliance of a different fuel type of efficiency level.
Smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detectors trigger Indicates inadequate drafy, leaky flue.
Home occupants suffer from frequent headaches Indicates inadequate drafy, leaky flue.
An existing fuel-burning appliance served by the flue is replaced with a different model of type Different applainces have different needs with respect to size and other features; check wtih appliance manufacturer for recommended flue specs.
A new fuel-burning applaince is added Each appliance present should be vented through a seperate flue.
Clay Tile Flues
Gaps between flue tiles at mortar joints Age and use can cause mortar joints to deteriorate, but this problem is most often caused in newer chimneys by failure to use refractory cement in flue tile joints.
Flue tiles misaligned The inside of flue should be smooth with no spots for creosote and/or soot to accumulate.
Flue tiles cracked or spalling Clay tile normally resists heat and corrosive byproducts in smoke, so if defects are present, something is wrong. Flue must be sound to contain heat and smoke.
Metal Flues
Creosote leaking out through joints Indication of improper fastening, inadequate cleaning, or damaged caused by expansion and contraction.
Visible Corrosion Evidence of improper alloy selection with respect to fuel type and/or flue operating at a too-low temperature.
Appliance changed from conventional to high-efficiency model High-efficiency appliances produce lower flue temperatures; flue size may need to be reduced and insulation improved to prevent condensation, corrosion.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Burning Love: Richard Richardson’s Passion for Pot Bellies and Parlor Stoves

Burning Love: Richard Richardson’s Passion for Potbellies and Parlor Stoves

Hampshire Life - March 7-13, 2008.

By Sean Reagan. Photos by Kevin Gutting

Above, Richard Richardson, center, and two of his children, Sara Labonte and Jaime Labonte, stand beside a cylinder stove in the showroom of the Good Time Stove Co. in Goshen, where they sell antique stoves. At the left, onthe floor, is a line of parlor stoves and behind them are the smaller four o’clock stoves.

On Left is a Scorcher potbelly stove, circa 1880-1910.

Richardson has made the outside of his Good Time Stove Co. building on Route 112 in Goshen a work of art. In the back yard is a sculpture garden.

There are two ways to find the Goshen headquarters of the Good Time Stove Co. First - and perhaps most obviously - you can be in the market for a painstakingly refurbished antique heating stove or kitchen range.

It’s a niche market, but after more than 30 years in the business, the Richardson family enjoys a global reputation. For stove connoisseurs and newcomers alike, their business tends to be both your first and only stop.

The other way to discover the Good Time Stove Co. is simply to drive by the Route 112 museum and showroom and say, “Whoa! What the heck is that?”

At first glance, the building - adjacent to the Richardson family home - is an explosion of color, quirky sculpture and rehabilitated refuse. It looks like an antique shop run by Willy Wonka, with all the curios tacked to the exterior walls.

“I collect sizes and shapes,” says Richard “Stove Black” Richardson, while showing a visitor around recently. He wears a cowboy hat over thick silver hair. His sneakers are handpainted bright red, yellow and blue, and the back of his jacket proclaims that “Happiness is a warm stove and a cold beer.”

“People really seem to like the buildings. I didn’t know they were going to be such a draw,” he says.

Richardson loves offering outside tours, boasting that you can spend hours studying a few square feet of wall, always turning up some new piece - a bead, a knotted rope, a square of burnished metal. Last summer, a woman pulled in around lunchtime and was still shooting photographs at dusk.

There are hand-painted saw blades, antique bed frames with plastic toys dangling from them, kaleidoscopic maple syrup buckets, masks that run the gamut from comic to frightening.

The front door of this Glenwood parlor stove in Ricahrdson’s showroom is decorated with cherubs

Crisscrossed machetes reflect the bright winter
sun. Mailboxes recline beside birdhouses which are propped against oven racks adjacent to discarded road signs.

And if all that doesn’t get your attention, there’s always the 20-foot-tall tin man with the gleaming red heart who stands front and center waving to passersby. A local farmer, using the tin man as a gargantuan scarecrow, offered to trade it to Richardson for stove parts.

Richardson, who has since acquired a costume that allows him to resemble the two-story statue: couldn’t say no.

Today, tin man costume in the closet, Richardson takes a step back and considers the building that has been home to his stove business since the early ’70s.

“I like to see old things - stuff that’s been discarded and given up on - come back to life,” he says. Then he smiles and offers what might be the Good Time Stove Co.’s corporate motto - “plus, we’re just having way too much fun with it.”

When Richardson takes the tour inside the museum and showroom, the effect is like the difference between night and day. If the outside is flair and flash, ‘then the interior, where the stoves are, is quiet, darker, anchored by iron.

The stoves - most over a century old - have been
Meticulously restored. There are squat potbelly stoves, sprawling kitchen ranges the size of small cottages, and ornate stoves with nickel trim and gleaming windows.

Richardson stokes a stove that heats his showwom. “I like to see old things - stuff that’s been discarded and given up on - some back to life,” he says.

“The stoves ground me,” says Richardson, explaining the difference between what’s outside and what’s inside. He heads to the comer where a Vale Oak stove fills the room with warmth and the pleasant smell of a small cozy fire. The art, he says, feeds his spirit. The stoves, on the other hand, “keep food in the fridge.”

Old photographs decorate the walls. There’s the first time Richardson was photographed for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. There are framed advertisements from stove manufacturers dating back more than century. There are pictures of family and friends.

Richardson stands with his back to the stove while he talks. His daughter Sara LaBonte, otherwise known as the “Stove Princess,” enters the room.

LaBonte, 31, was born at home -literally in the office where she now works each day fielding customer queries, coordinating the shipment of stoves back and forth to

If you want to understand the nuts and bolts of the operation, LaBonte’s the one to talk to. Like her father, she is devoted to stoves, and their compatibility is palpable.

When Richardson is trying to find just the right word to end a sentence, she’ll supply it. Richardson introduces a subject - the challenge of restoring glass to antique stoves, say - and LaBonte launches a mini seminar.

Indeed, watching them work together and playoff one
another lends credence to Richardson’s notion that they were business partners in a past life. In this one, apparently, they’ve perfected the art of having fun while running a successful company.

Richardson, who is divorced, has another daughter
Megan LaBonte, known as Stove Parts Girl, who also works for the company, and a son, Jaime LaBonte, no nickname, who does finishing work on the stoves and also handles a 10l of the photography for the company. Another daughter, TinaMarie, died in 2004.

Stoves have always been central to the family. When Sara was born. Richardson refinished an 1894 Highland Grand Cook and gave it to her as a gift. There’s a photo in the showroom of that stove. Sara, in booties and kiddie sweater is perched atop it while her father - the beard and long black hair h as the stoves around him then - beams at her.

Those were in the early days of the business - back when Richardson had just become “Stove Black,” purveyor of refurbished stoves, self-proclaimed custodian of the lost art of stove. Though he has since farmed out the bulk of the restoration work, in those days he was doing it all by hand himself, going so far as to apprentice himself to a local blacksmith learning to forge, shape and weld on his own.

Asked to share the story of how the Good Time Stove Co. came to be, he and Sara chuckle. It can be summed up in one word says Richardson: destiny.

“I was meant to live right here in Goshen and do this,” he says. “This is what the Gods wanted.”

Richardson, 59, grew up in New Jersey. In 1971, he was selling women’s shoes and his boss offered him a promotion. Richardson had no clue what was on the horizon, but he was reasonably sure it wasn’t a corporate career in the footwear industry.

So he passed on the promotion and quit the job. A few days later, a friend announced he was heading to a craft fair in Haydenville and suggested that Richardson, who had never been to Massachusetts, come along for the ride.

“I didn’t have anything else to do so I said sure, I’ll go to Massachusetts. Within 24 hours, I drove through Goshen for the first time and I said, ‘If I could live anywhere in the world this would be it,’ ” says Richardson.

Within a year, he had moved to town. And soon thereafter, he bought a pair of stoves from a hotel in the Berkshires that was happy to have them off the premises.

“Basically, I’m a collector,” he says of the decision. “I had a chance to buy some cool-looking stoves and I did. I liked them and I bought a few more. Suddenly I’ve got eight stoves and I’m broke so I had to sell a couple to pay the bills.”

After a bit of restoring and repairing, selling the stoves was easier than he’d expected. He sought out the fine points of stove history - where they were made, the detail in the cast iron, the challenges in restoration.

He learned the art of iron work. He would break the stoves apart and refinish each piece - sometimes welding

Richardson, whose nicekname is “Stove Black,” says his daughter and business partner, Sara “Stove Princess” Labonte, was born in the stove company office. Left, they pose with the “Tin Man of Goshen,” which Ricahrdson says he acquired from a farmer by trading stove parts.

To listen to Stove Black and the Stove Princess tell it is to understand that the history of stoves is a uniquely American story. You can’t tell it without touching the country’s political, social and cultural history. And you can’t understand it without an appreciation for the way the country transitioned from a rural backwater to a thriving global super giant.

It is also, as they are both fond of pointing out, the story of how some of what makes the American character both idealistic and indefatigable has been lost by the wayside in pursuit of money and convenience.

“Every stove that we restore and every piece of stove literature that we archive is a piece of America’s history that would literally be lost otherwise,” says LaBonte. “I feel a great desire to be active in the preservation of all of that.”

The predecessor to stoves was the open fire - notoriously dangerous and inefficient. Fires consumed fuel at a rapid pace in exchange for relatively low levels of heat that were all but impossible to contain.

In 1742, Benjamin Franklin is believed to have invented what is called the Franklin Stove. It utilized metal to contain the fire and thus control the flow of heat. Rather than losing warmth up the chimney, the stove redirected the heat into the room where it stood.

Still, it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that stoves became relatively commonplace for both heating and cooking. Most of the stoves and ranges that the Good Time Stove Company sells date to the period between 1840 and 1930.

In those days, stoves were the center of domestic life says Richardson. Every home had at least one. They were used to heat water for bathing, keep the outside cold at bay and cook meals.

There were stoves at local stores, at restaurants, in hotel rooms. There were stoves on trains. They were starting points for social gatherings and became stock images of the American past, idealized by artists like Norman Rockwell: two old men playing checkers and smoking in front of a hard-working potbelly stove.

At the turn of the 19th century, there were over 2,000 stove manufacturers working 24/7 to satisfy the American need for stoves. Salesmen for The Wrought Iron Range Co. of St. Louis, Mo., used to go door to door, hawking Home Comfort stoves off the back of a horse-drawn wagon.

And the stoves they produced weren’t bland or uniform.
There were, literally, hundreds of variations out there. Some were small while others took up half a room. Some were ornate to the point of fine art, while others were designed to be workhorses.

There was the Modern Glenwood Parlor Stove, the Ivy Franklin, the Atlantic Silver Moon, the New Era Caboose.

But when interest in alternatives to fossil-based heating fuels spiked in the early 1970s, many people in this country looked to Scandinavia for their model wood-burning stoves. They’d been in use there for decades and the presumption – somewhat inaccurate in Richardson’s view – was that Scandinavian stove technology was superior to anything closer to home.

“Nobody chose to look back at an industry that was as huge as our appliance industry is today,” he says. “They didn’t want to hear about it. They just wanted to move forward.”

A lot of those odl American stoves - maybe most of them - were destroyed in World War II, when the war effort’s need for iron outweighed the need for stoves that had become, in light of technological developments, essentially antiques.

The Good Time Stove Co. deals in almost all of what remains. Some sellers approach the Richardsons, and they find others· by prowling the Internet, keeping
an eye on auctions throughout the Northeast. They are, says LaBonte, experts in finding lost stoves.

Richardson’s latest acquisition is an Othello stove that dates back to the 1880. Some seams need to be welded, the doors need to be reset to ensure a tight fit and a new ash pan and lid lifter will be needed.

Walking through the showroom, he gives a loving pat to a Red Cloud potbelly stove - “This was the workhorse,” says Richardson. The stove threw out great clouds of heat churning steadily through fuel. Inelegant, perhaps - hence the potbelly - but a steady, reliable performer. These were the stoves that were used in public areas - country stores, hotel lobbies, restaurants.

There’s also a sky-blue Harold enamel range there that has already been sold to a California investor.

Richardson’s stoves are not merely decorative antiques.
All of the stoves are functional and can be used for their original purpose. Their aesthetic beauty, he says, is essentially icing on the cake.

Good Time Stove Co. has sold stoves to movie sets looking to up their historical authenticity quotient. There’s pair of potbelly stoves in the upcoming “Hell Boy II” and one in “Amistad” that once stood on the showroom floor.

The company gets calls and internet requests from all across the country and other parts of the world. Richardson’s stoves have been shipped as far away as the United Kingdom and France.

These days, much of the restoration is done off site in Nashua, NH. Stove Black and the Stove Princess do the buying and selling – a full-time occupation for her, and close to the same for him.

It takes approximately 30 days to restore a beat up stove to a museum quality that functions safely. The company currently has a 6-month back up so great is the demand.

Asked if he has a favorite stove – to look at, to work on, to talk about – Richardson scoffs. It’s literally the only time his brow can be said to furrow. How, he asks, could you possibly have a favorite one?

“I deal in some of the most beautiful stoves imaginable,” says Richardson. “I look at all of them as art.”

Left, two-level, dual-fuel (wood and gas) stoves at the Good Time Stove Co. Colored enamel, like taht on the light-blue Barstow, second from left, from the 1920s or 1930s, wsa one of the last visual changes before stoves went all to gas.

Over lunch in his kitchen, Richardson points out the yard – several acres of open field on the Goshen/Ashfield town line that lie behind the Richardson home and the Good Time Stove museum and showroom.

In recent years, Richardson has begun pulling back from the stove business – handing the reigns to Sara – and devoting himself to what he describes as “landscape art.”

“I was really taken by all the different media you could play with outside,” he says. He ticks them off – stone, vegetables, flowers, buildings.

He created small walks, sculpted bushes, piles of stones ill direct walkers here and there. The project fed his artistic side - he felt called to it the same way he felt called to stoves - but it lacked a coherent theme. While he worked, he wondered: Was this a hobby or something bigger?

When Tina Marie died, Richardson realized that what he was creating was a space that could be devoted to healing. “It really became a place where I could release my grief,” he says. “That was a real turning point in the garden.”

These days, even covered in snow, the garden is a captivating space. There’s a small stone amphitheater in the works. There’s an enormous ceramic dragon atop a long wall that doubles as - you guessed it - a stove. When the stove is lit, smoke comes out of the dragon’s mouth. The garden has a name, Three Sisters Garden, for Richardson’s daughters, and a Web site,

Ultimately, says Richardson, he hopes that it can be a place for anyone to visit. “When you walk through the gates, it’s like walking into another world,” he says. “I want it to be there for anyone who needs it.”

The garden hardly supplants his stoves - nor would Richardson want it to. Yet gazing at it helps solidify one’s sense that what makes the Good Time Stove Co. successful is not so much that Richardson and his family have cornered a niche market or are exceptional salespeople. It has to do with being aware of how you live and what you leave behind.

So they sell beautiful stoves, preserving a critical piece of America’s past. They decorate the outside of the showroom in such a way that people can spend hours delighting in it. They turn a yard into a garden of healing and peace and open it up to the world.

And you always keep your eyes open for what might come next. “I’m 59,” says Richardson. “And I’m far from done.”

Sean Reagan is a Gazette reporter. He can be reached at