We have had a wood stove in the house for thirty-one years. When I began making sure it was ready for use this winter, I ran into a major issue. The draft or as I have just discovered to be more precise, the bypass damper, would not open. It wouldn’t even budge. If that wouldn’t work, the stove would be useless as I knew from prior experience that the fire would not burn.
How, was I got to fix that? I had already removed the stove pipe and cleaned it. I had checked the section that went through the wall to the chimney, it was clear. My son cleaned the chimney. While I had the stove pipe off, I began to clean the soot out of the top of the stove. At some point in a conversation, I had been told what this area of the wood stove was called, but for the life of me I can’t recall. Thanks to burning some less than ideal wood last year, it was pretty clogged up. I dug it out by hand for a while, then I remembered I had a wet vac out in the carport. Finding it and dragging it back into the house I set to work. I worked until I was tired of the noise, the mess and the scraped up hands. I still need to drag the vacuum out and empty the thing.
When I tried though, the damper would not budge. No matter what was tried, it would not move. My son after doing everything he knew to do, after checking to see the stove was heavily welded all the way around, up and down and back again, was shaking his head. There was only one option left and that was to remove the plate from behind the stove and try to go in from there.
This morning he got it removed before he left for work.
The first thing I did this morning was make room for my son to get to the hot water heater. The heating elements needed to be replaced again. After getting everything I thought moved out of the way, I marked that off my to do list.
Then mom and I took off to get her a few minutes outside the confines of her house. That and I did need more food for my dogs. A traffic accident had us back tracking and finding a different route to where we were going. It just gave her a few more minutes and an interesting tour of the shopping center parking lot.
When we got back, and I got her home, I headed toward that stove. Taking a trashcan with me, I began digging soot out of the stove. I worked for over an hour cleaning and clearing. I stirred up the dust, coughing and sneezing enough I would have concerned anyone just walking in the door. After dragging out what I thought to be a major portion of the soot, I decided to check the damper. It worked! I had cleaned out enough that it was moving freely. I still have more I want to clean out, but at least I know I have that working now.
I won’t lie, I did a little happy dance. Scared the cat and had the dog outside looking in the doorway, doing that head tilt thing. Thankfully there are no videos.
When my son came in, he began the process of changing out the elements in the water heater. I watched him step by step, standing out of the way, holding a flashlight. It took longer for the water to drain from the heater, and us to find the right screwdrivers, than it did for him to replace the elements. But after watching carefully, I may even know how to do that, but don’t tell James. Just because I can (or think I can) doesn’t mean I want to.
Its been a wild day, a busy day, and interesting day. I’ve sent a few emails with requests. I’ve had interesting conversations. I’ve written a bit. I’ve done my very best to avoid politics because getting me stirred up wouldn’t be a pretty thing right now.
Back when I was working, it was not unusual for me to make repairs to the machinery. Belts would come off, parts needing replacing or swapping out for a different variety. I had my own toolbox and belt. I’ll admit that I have been missing working. I’ve worked most of my life, I really didn’t think that would end so quickly. But today, today I could motion for my son to follow me, lead him to the stove and show him, look, I fixed it.
I think we all need those moments of success. The times we can stand back and at least verbally pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.