Friday, October 26, 2012

Home Front: Pot Belly Stove restoration

One of the small victories I had in my separation of assets proceedings was to gain custody of the dismantled, rusted and pieces-missing iron pot-belly stove. I lugged it back from the house in the hills where Triceratops Girl lives, and back to my place by the bay. When I first moved into the house in the hills I was delighted to find the stove in the midden-heap of a woodpile on the property, and dug around to find as many of its parts as I could in the leaf-litter, mulch and dirt. It turned out to be missing the top pot-lid cover, and the internal base, and possibly an ash catcher, as well as the chimney pipe.
The first problem with restoring it were the bolts that were to hold the "chest" the the "belly" parts. These had rusted solid, the nuts on either side all but fused to the metal of the bolts. I hit these with lots of silicone spray, and set at them with adjustable spanner and pliers, until i was able to shift them within the bolt-holes.

They wouldn't come free, hoverer, so I applied the NASA technique of percussive maintenance and hammered the bolts free of their heavily rusted nuts. This allowed the "belly" and "chest" to sit flush once again, for the first time in a long time I expect. The door moves freely and latches happily, giving a good seal, so I didn't feel the need to do any adjustments to it. The "lid" piece was missing its "pot-lid plate", which I will endeavor to replace with a close fitting disk of steel at some stage, if I can't find a more original piece of stove-lid iron. In the mean time, an old baking tray closed the hole for firing-up purposes. You can see there is a crack in the iron at the base of the stove-pipe, which leaks a little smoke. Perhaps brazing could patch that, we'll see. Using materials on hand, (baby-food tins and some coat-hanger wire) I fashioned a rude chimney,

A second round baking tray was sacrificed to close the bottom of the "belly" enabling a fire to be built within, and given the rough-fit, also acted to ventilate the stove, giving it good clean burning capability, without raining ash, embers or sparks onto the chopped wood stored below, between the "legs".

All in all I was very happy with the salvage, rebuilding and cobbled together spare parts that I used to turn a pile of rusted metal parts into a functional, cheerful and rugged wood-burning stove that can warm and cook for my family, if ever the electrical and/or natural gas grids should fail. It is also small enough (and nests) that it could conceivable be taken along for long-stay outdoors adventures.


  1. Nice work.
    If the crack isn't structural, you could try Muffler Putty or something similar to block the leak. Cast Iron welding is a pretty specialised operation.
    Not just cosmetic, but protective if it's living outside, I recall seeing Pot Belly Paint somewhere, High Temperature Paint for the outside of these stoves.

    1. Great suggestion on the patch-job. As for surface protection, i'm going to try the "oil-blacken" technique, we'll see how it goes ...

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