Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Sudden Challenge

Several years ago we received a Jotul 118B box stove from someone who was clearing out some excess possessions. We put it in the garage because we already had a Taiwanese copy of a Jotul heating the house from the basement.

Comparing the two, the real Norwegian was clearly of higher quality than the Asian knock-off. When I moved the old stove to the basement in 1993, it seemed massive. It certainly isn't light. But it sounds like tin when you clank the side after rapping your knuckles (carefully) against the Jotul. I could just lift one end of the Taiwotul. I could barely lift one end of the Jotul.

The heavy beast sat in the back of the garage while I found many reasons to avoid coming to grips with it. Then last night as I stoked the Taiwotul at bed time I saw a hairline crack up the side of it. The side bulged very slightly but the crack was only a faint line. I didn't think the plate would split and dump hot coals onto the floor before morning. That didn't stop me from adding house fires to the list of short film subjects in a busy dream queue.

The Taiwotul served me for 20 years. It came with the house, so it wasn't new two decades ago. No hard feelings. The inner plates of the fire box have warped and broken. The chunks that had fallen off in later years had been small enough to blend with the ash I shoveled out every few days. I expected it to give out before much longer.

At least I had a nice day for all these maneuvers. I used a block and tackle to drag the Jotul into the center of the garage and hoist it onto the garden cart. Then I drove out to the hardware store to get a hydraulic jack and a hand truck.

Since the stove is a crucial part of the winter heating system, I needed to get this done. I wasn't completely sure the Jotul had all its parts. Because it is so heavy, it made just as much sense to go ahead and try to install it as it would to assemble it somewhere else and then knock it down so I could move it to where I needed it.

I moved the box without its legs. The box is so heavy, I feared that the mass would bend or break the legs if I leaned the stove too far over with them in place. Once I moved away from where I could rig the overhead tackle I had to do everything with leverage and the jack.

The actual move went smoothly. No one could have helped because the box is too small for two people to grip effectively. Two people couldn't lift it safely anyway.

With the box on the hand truck I installed the front legs. I placed the box in such a way that I could lower it onto its front legs with the back end elevated on a piece of timber. One grunt at a time I was able to lift that end and insert chunks of two-by-four to gain enough clearance for the bottle jack. With the jack I lifted the box high enough to block it up while I bolted on the remaining pair of legs.

The outlet lined up with the stove pipe better than the old stove. I thought I had it made. Then I noticed the light shining through the rusted-out bottom of the connecting reducer. Crap!

I'd already had to make a second trip to the hardware store to exchange a defective jack. Now I sprinted out again to get stove pipe parts to improvise the connection to the chimney.

Again I got lucky as the simplest piece did the trick.

With no manual I had to figure out how the internal parts fit together before I put the top plate back on the stove. Between the Internet and the Taiwotul I figured it out.

Once lit, the stove showed its quality right away. Superficially nearly identical to the old stove, this one draws better and more quietly. It heats quickly, despite the thickness of the metal and the intact inner plates. Within a couple of minutes it had heated the basement enough to allow the Monitor, which had done repeated long burns during the day, to shut off.

I didn't get anything else done with the day, but I can't complain. I would have been in a fix without a spare stove hanging around.

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