Masonry “Heater Hat” Videos: Construction Details

about 300 pounds of masonry makes a small space comfortable for 10-24 hours on very little fuel. It’s also hard to make it burn dirty – within minutes of ignition, there’s no visible smoke from the stack, and you never damp it down.

This little heater hat continues to work superbly! I think it’s a great do-it-yourself option for anyone interested in turning their box stove into a much more efficient, cleaner heater for their home or shop.

That said, a heater in the home poses serious risks — potentially much greater than what you’d expect of an outdoor oven. But it’s not rocket science; masonry heaters were developed and designed by amateurs — people who work for love, not money (for the whole story, look up David Lyle’s Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming).

I’ve been reluctant to publish formal plans or how-to info as I consider this to be an experimental prototype, but rocket goddess (and Sketchup artist) Erica Wisner was inspired to draw up some basic plans, and convinced me that they should be published. So, if you’re inspired to try something of your own, please feel free to download the plans (free! through the bookstore; they include clarification of a discrepancy in the video); also, take good care; design/build a better clean-out, and send photos!)

The videos below show how it goes together. In addition, I’d recommend you look up the Masonry Heater Association, and Alex Chernow’s website. Alex has been developing bell stove designs, and has links to a Russian heater builder who makes brilliant sense of the theory, which is really just flow — think funnels full of water, then turn ‘em upside down and re-envision the water as hot gases. Everything goes from there.

The big trick, I think, really has to do with getting bricks and mortar right, especially if you’re only building a heater that’s a single brick thick. The goal is to limit (even prevent!) cracks in the masonry that could compromise function and/or safety (I do have some cracks in mine, but they don’t seem to be causing harm. I’ll be able to say more after I open it up for maintenance/examination — after (another!) heating season is over.)

If you build something like this, again, please do take notes and pix, and please share! I would love to publish a collection of stories from folks who have successfully done it themselves — that’s authoritative in a much more important way — taking responsibility for one’s own experiments, as well as one’s own heat…

About Kiko Denzer

I live in western Oregon with my family and run Hand Print Press with help from friends Max and Eva. We are interested in restoring the arts of living to their rightful, traditional, public role, as cultural medium – and think the web is a poor substitute, but until we can fashion something better, we try to make the most of it.

One Response to Masonry “Heater Hat” Videos: Construction Details

  1. Max Edleson says:

    Great you were able to put these videos up!….. Here is a sketch to add to the ideas of how I would imagine building a similar “hat” with masonry support. It could result in a pretty significant point load at the bottom of each pillar, but that happens even more extremely if you support the hat on the metal stove anyways.

    Also, here is an excerpt and photo from communication with Chris Mcclellan that shows an alternate and very promising way of adding mass to an existing stove:

    “The last idea I wanted to bug you with is that I’ve seen some really cool fireplaces from rammed earth and it seems that you should be able to form up a much more efficient design either around a stovepipe or a series of wooden forms that are slightly tapered and oiled to make them easily removable, or a heavy cardboard form you can burn out. It looks like rammed earth is probably more resistant to thermal shock cracking than many of the materials like firebrick that have to be pieced together rather than cast in a complicated useful shape. I am currently enjoying a downdraft bypass on my bargain basement woodstove’s flue running through a cob bench and storing all that heat that was going up the chimney before. Very little creosote buildup but I am watching it. It seems to keep the house warmer longer with a lot less wood. I included several handfulls of fibermesh fiberglass reinforcement fibers from the concrete supply place in each mixer full of cob instead of straw and it seems to be helping things stay together.”

    It is exciting to begin to develop these neat ways of continuing this conversation. Please…. all with ideas…. contribute them…. we’ll continue to organize them in better ways. Notice that you can subscribe by email to further additions to this conversation below.

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