Dateline: 6 April 2017
I bought that stove 32 years ago. Got it second hand. I think I paid $400 for it. It looked a lot better when I first bought it. The stove is a Vermont Castings, Vigilant. Back then, the parts were actually cast at the factory in Vermont.
That relic of a woodstove has heated our home for decades. We never had a breakdown; never had to call a service technician for repair. We just loaded it with wood and it kept us warm. Well, it kept us warm enough. If you've relied on a woodstove in snow country as your only source of home heat, you know that it can get cold at times.
Mornings are especially cold, until someone (whoever gets up first) gets the fire going and gives it some time. And we've found that when it gets below 20° here, with a stiff south wind, that stove never got the house warm enough for comfort. When that was the case, we would go to our backup heating source.... sweaters and sweatshirts.
After our recent foray into buying a house in town, Marlene and I have come to the conclusion that we'll stay right here in Upland. I'm in the process of getting our house siding finished, as this recent picture shows...
Later this year, or next, we hope to put an addition on the west end of the house. It will give us a first floor bedroom and bathroom and some added living room with a southern exposure. We are thinking of accessibility in our older years.
The addition will have a propane-fueled stove to heat the house. That will allow us to leave the house unattended in the winter months. We don't have that luxury now. When my Grandmother Kimball died in February of 2005, and we went to Maine for the funeral, we had a friend live in our house while we were gone. Someone had to keep the woodstove going.
When I was growing up, my parents heated their old farmhouse with two woodstoves. Years later, as they were getting up in age, they still had only the two wood stoves for heat.
One cold winter day I got a call from my stepfather. He and my mother were sick with the flu. They were so sick in bed that they could not get up the strength to tend the woodstoves. In a weak voice, my dad asked me if I would come to the house and get the stoves going.
I had no idea they were sick. They lived only three miles away. I was there within five minutes of hanging up the phone. The house was really cold when I walked in the door. No fire at all in the stoves. Not even any hot coals.
After that experience, my stepfather had a propane furnace installed in the basement.
We don't have much of a basement here. But a propane-fired stove in the addition will keep the house warm. That's our plan.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, we are still able and willing to continue using a woodstove as our source of heat. But I've been thinking that we should get a new woodstove for the past couple of years. I tend to think on things for awhile before I actually do them.
Fortunately, I know Bob Rozonni, owner of Holy Smoke in Dryden, NY. I haven't seen Bob in years but we have a sort of kinship because went through the Y2k buildup together. We were part of a close-knit group of people who met regularly and took the matter very seriously. We helped each other learn new skills and acquire supplies to be better prepared for the collapse of modern civilization.
Bob has been in the woodstove business for forty years. He knows woodstoves. I knew that he would steer me into the best woodstove for my situation. Simply stated, I trust Bob.
So Marlene and I made an appointment to visit Bob and check out his woodstove showroom. Bob's showroom is by his home, way out on a lonely country road. He sees customers only by appointment. When you have a good reputation, you can run a business like that.
I had done some internet research on woodstoves. I was thinking that I wanted to get a soapstone stove. Price was less of a factor than performance, and I was persuaded that a soapstone woodstove would offer the performance we needed. Besides that, I liked how they look.
Bob had soapstone stoves in his showroom but he discouraged me from getting one. He told me that a Regency stove would be far better for my home. He knew we heated only with wood and that I wanted a stove that would dependably last for at least 30 years. We looked at the other stoves he had, but Bob kept bringing us back to the display Regency, which had a fire in it.
I said I liked the idea of the soapstone soaking up heat from the fire and releasing the heat slowly when the fire cooled down. He told me that I could put soapstone slabs on top of the Regency to achieve the same effect. I could even put soapstone in place of the firebrick inside the Regency stove.
Bob sold us on the benefits and practicality of the Regency. He has one in his own home. Both of his installers have the Regency in their homes. There are more attractive wood stoves, but Bob assured me that the Regency is a remarkably good stove.
So we bought one. Bob and his crew installed it a couple weeks ago. They hauled the old Vermont Castings out and put it on the dock of my shop. I've given it to one of my sons, to use, or sell, or give away. It still has some value. I understand there are people who disassemble and clean up and restore old Vermont Castings stoves. Bob says it's not worth the trouble. The newer stoves are better.
After it was installed in place of my old stove, the new Regency stove didn't look too bad. It actually fit the corner hearth better than the Vermont Castings. One of Bob's installers told me that I would find the Regency to be a far better stove that what I had. He said it was like a Ferrari compared to a Volkswagen.
Here's a picture of the Regency in our living room...
|The fake z-brick on the wall is kind of dated. I plan to replace it with |
ceramic tile someday. There is a 1" air space behind the facade.
My brick hearth has held up very well over the years.
If you look closely, you will notice there is a slab of soapstone on the front surface of the stove. Another slab will fit on the back surface, around the stovepipe (I'm waiting for it to arrive). So, I actually do have a soapstone woodstove, sort of.
Bob told me that once I realize how nice this new stove is, I'll wish I had gotten it years ago. He was exactly right about that.
It is now easier to start the fire. It is easier to control the fire. It's easier to load the wood in. The wood burns more completely. There is no smoke in the house when the door is opened. There is an ash bin underneath. And it really pumps out the heat!
I never would have believed a wood stove could work as nicely as this new stove does. It is an absolute joy to use. Our old woodstove truly was like a Volkswagen compared to this Ferrari. I'm almost looking forward to next winter now.
The only thing this new stove lacks is a more traditional look. But in the final analysis, I'll take function over form any day.
|And now we get to see the fire too.|