Monday, October 31, 2016

TMS Camp Stove, a follow up

TMS camp stove

Okay, so going into a second season with this beast, I thought a bit of a follow up report on our little woodstove would be appropriate.

As you'll remember from the original post. . .you DID read the original post, right?  Okay, good.  This little cheapie Chinese woodstove was something we got as an experiment to see if wood heating was more economical and less odor filled than our admittedly-effective kerosene heater.

We used the thing throughout the rather cool spring, sat stuff on it like a giant trivet through the rather hot summer, and now that we're into the fall are beginning our first real winter with the thing I thought some observations were in order:

First, the bad:  The stove is cheaply made (we knew this).  One of the biggest problems is the thin, non-removable wire rack inside, which warps from the heat, making ash removal with the provided ash rake nearly impossible.  Really, we're contemplating getting an ash vacuum for the thing as trying to coax the ashes out is a real chore. We are using rather more wood than I'd anticipated, though by no means a massive amount. The door does not seal well, giving you limited control of the airflow, and the stove is extremely sensitive to chimney height for developing a draw.  Our first iteration backwinded badly, filling the place with smoke.  Extending the chimney another two feet cured this entirely, though.

All of that being said, the stove does work.  The dampers provide a decent if imperfect control of air flow, and with very little wood we can turn the place into a sauna.  It took a bit of practice, making sure we built the fire to the rear of the stove to keep smoke out of the room and to be able to bank and extend the fire.  As it is, with a careful build, the ash bed is still pumping out a bit of heat after about four hours, which is far more than we'd anticipated.  We do use the stovetop for some cooking chores, mostly boiling water and keeping stuff warm, and it's handy for that, and we've done some rather successful baking on it using our little stovetop oven, which--remarkably--fits.  The stove being below our pot rack also helps keep our cast iron cookware (which we use almost exclusively) dry and rust free.

You have to be a bit careful establishing a draw, but we've taken to using paper lunch bags. . .the kind you used to take to school as a kid . . .and filling them with paper, woodchips, and kindling to get the thing to start more easily.  In the mornings we toss one of the bags to the back of the stove, light it, and then put on some thin wood to get the fire going. . .(more on this later). . it works. . .mostly.

One of the pleasant surprises of using wood heat has been the effect on condensation.  Last winter and spring, if we didn't run our little dehumidifier, we could get rainstorms in the kitchen, and, occasionally, water would build up under the insulation above the bed, making for some rude surprises in the middle of the night.  The wood stove seems to be keeping the humidity at bay.  We've seen none of the condensation we've seen in earlier years, despite some pretty cool nights, and that's been a major plus.

All in all, I'm anticipating the little stove will work well though this winter and will probably be replaced by a more expensive, better sealed and better constructed version come the new iteration of the boat next spring.  For the price, it's pretty hard to beat, and the hot water on demand in the evenings has been a nice plus.  For a small boat or cabin, or for casual use, you should seriously consider what this small investment can do for your comfort level.

Happy fall



  1. Thanks for the update! It is simply amazing how dry heat can be coming off from a wood stove.

    If you want it to carry heat a bit longer, put cast iron objects (like old, antique irons) on top when you aren't heating water. They will hold the heat and slowly radiate it into the area. Soapstone is good at that too.

  2. Actually, Jarm, the water jacket seems to help quite a bit. The problem with all thermal mass is: It is, by definition, MASSIVE as in HEAVY, which, being on a boat, we have to watch.