Wood Stove Plans

Looking for wood stove plans? Well, if like me you are a creative tinkerer the idea of building your own wood stove to heat your home, or cook with may well already have occurred to you and you want to find out some more general information about building stoves, or wood stove plans that show you exactly how to build the perfect stove.

Before we get onto the juicy bits we first need to really think about whether building your own is really the right thing to do.

A little stove history

The technology surrounding wood stoves is surprisingly complex and has evolved, over many years of tinkering and adjusting by experts and craftsmen to where it is today.

Early homes had a firepit in the middle of a large open hall - smoke found its way eventually up and out of a hole in the roof above. People decided that having the smoke in the room was a bad idea and the chimney and hearth were developed. For many centuries this was all that was available until the industrial revolution and production of cast iron at affordable prices became possible. Some bright spark worked out that putting the fire in a box made it burn hotter and more efficiently so you needed less wood to get through the winter.

These early wood stoves quickly evolved into the classics we know from the Victorian era - pot bellied stoves, kitchen ranges, parlour stoves etc... They were classy, attractive in the home, and threw out enough heat to keep a family snug through a cold winter. Efficiencies of 40 - 45% are quoted, an improvement over the 30% of most open fireplaces.

As the field continued to progress the inner working of the stoves became more complex - an airwash was included to prevent the glass door blacking up, a secondary burn chamber and air supply reduced pollution and increased efficiency by burning the smoke completely. And so we arrive at the modern efficient, environmentally friendly, EPA approved wood stoves.

EPA approval was the death knell that closed down many wood stove manufacturers - those who didn't have the know-how, skills and capital to design, build, test, and redesign their own stoves went out of business (many of these were little more than hobbyists with a welder) and the standard of stove available on the market went up significantly. Modern building regulations (check these in your location) now require that all wood burning appliances in the home meet these environmental, as well as safety standards. Stoves with secondary burn chambers can achieve between 60% and 70% efficiency and offer worthwhile savings in fuel and labour costs due to reduced fuel demands.

Why do you want to build your own wood stove?

  • Maybe you have some particular type of fuel you'd like to burn (mountains of free wood chips? cheap corn or straw from the farm?) and need a custom or special design
  • You want to heat a workshop space for occassional use and can't justify an expensive outlay
  • Your welder is sitting in the back itching to be used
  • You think you can do it better than the pros (unlikely, they have massive research budgets)
  • You dream of self-sufficiency and buying a stove undermines that

I'm sure you could come up with more reasons of your own. There is a suitable response to all of these reasons but there are a few important points to think about before you start planning a stove project.

Can you legally install a homemade stove in your house? This will depend where you are but the answer will generally be no. If you can then check what this will do to your home insurance premiums. If you don't tell them and suffer a house fire then you will not be covered for the damage. Saving a few bucks on the stove at the expense of higher insurance premiums or not being covered at all is false economy. If you can't install one in the home then a homemade outdoor boiler may be feasible.

Do you have the technical skills to build a stove? And if you did would you (or more importantly - your wife) want the result sitting in your living room? In most homes the wood stove becomes a central feature - the visible flames cheer even the darkest and coldest of winter nights. A home made contraption may throw out the heat but it is unlikely to fit the aesthetic criteria most people want.

Have you thought about what you want your stove to achieve? Is it going to be a thermal mass stove, such as a cob bench rocket stove or a traditional metal box? Do you want to be able to cook on it? Does it need to supply hot water?

Answering these will help you decide if building your own is the right option, and if it is what style to go for.

Still want to go ahead?

In that case some types of stove you might like to build are listed here. Remember anything you do with fire is potentially dangerous. Wood stove plans listed here are for information only and should be used only as guidance when building homemade wood stoves. Make sure you understand fully what you are trying to achieve and proceed at your own risk!

Thermal Mass Rocket Wood Stove Plans

Thermal mass rocket stoves are probably one of THE best option for a DIY stove builder. They need no technical knowledge or skills such as welding, they naturally burn cleanly, they offer all the benefits associated with thermal mass designs (even heat release over long periods of time) and are cheap to build. A well built and thoughtfully designed rocket stove is probably one of the few homemade wood stoves that would pass the wife test and be allowed in the sitting room!

Masonry Wood Stove Plans

The masonry stove is an attractive proposition, although on the expensive end of the 'home built' spectrum. Masonry Stove Builders offer a 'heat core' around which you can construct your own Masonry Stove. They will make a Masonry wood stove plan to suit your specifications. It is definitely a pricey option ($6000 for the components and you still need to assemble it on site which is a major operation) but they are classy and can have added features like a bake oven, along with the benefits of large thermal mass.

Update, Oct 2012 - since I first investigated these a lot more companies have got involved in the market and the cost has started coming down. Some of these will even do brick by brick plans for you, that you can get you local brick layer to assemble. These are a great idea to investigate if you are doing a new build or major internal remodel.

Portable Camp Rocket Stove for cooking

Rocket stoves without the thermal mass are ideal for cooking and serve a similar function to a gas hob - intense smokeless flames that can be used to boil water, fry food etc... I've built and used portable versions running camps for 40+ people away from civilization. Nothing young people going in the morning better than tea and a bacon and egg butty, all powered by twigs! You aren't going to be cooking a roast dinner on one but if you live off grid and want a convenient option to boil the kettle this may be for you.

Rumford Fireplace Plans

We have spoken so far about wood stove plans but some people are still stuck with open fireplaces - an option for those who do have a fireplace is to rework it into a Rumford Fireplace. These fireplaces are substantially more efficient at radiating heat into the room and the restricted throat in the chimney improves the draft substantially.

This site has a selection of rumford fireplace plans. One neat use I've seen for this was to make an outdoor fireplace for patio area.

Lightweight camping wood stove plans

With developing enthusiasm for lightweight camping many people out there are experimenting with small cook stoves that burn twigs and wood for fuel. The obvious advantage being that you don't have to carry substantial amounts of fuel when you are travelling. In a home setting some of these designs may be adaptable for a kitchen use (a project for a tinkerer perhaps - don't forget the need for a flue indoors!). Many lightweight wood stove plans are available, some more sophisticated than others with controlled two stage burning (gasification followed by char burning) and draft control.

Wood Burning Stove Plans

The internet is littered with individual attempts at making a 'steel box' wood stove - some are more successful than others though there is yet to be a consensus that any one design is 'good'. Unfortunately when you start going down this route you are competing directly with the manufactured versions - do you really think you can do a better job than them? I've picked out a few of the more promising designs but haven't had a go making any myself. Bear in mind that you are unlikely to get a finished product that will suit a living space.

Outdoor biochar maker/incinerator

Dealing with twiggy waste in the garden can be a pain: it won't compost, a bonfire won't burn cleanly and shredding it is laborious. Fortunately a dead simple design based around an oil drum (with a bit of clever pyrodynamics thrown in) will burn leafy and twiggy material fast, cleanly and produce biochar (a useful soil additive and counteracts global warming). I've put up my own plans for how to make biochar as well as a some reasons why making biochar is a good idea

Barrel Wood Stove Plans

Barrel stoves have been made for as long as there have been barrels - they are easy to get hold of, easy to chop up and weld and can be free if you find the right supply. Lots of people have made variants of barrel wood stoves and hundreds of variants can be seen online. If you want something cheap and crude this is probably the way to go. Unfortunately they don't last long - barrels burn through or rust away and they never look great. If you have supply of barrels and want to experiment then give it a shot and let us know how you get on.

Barrel Stove Kit

Some Barrel Stove Kits are available online, containing a hinged door, leg supports and stove pipe fittings. They are a cost effective solution to building from a wood stove plan and the outlay for parts should come in at less than $100. They do have a reputation for not burning cleanly but can heat a large workshop space quickly on scrap wood.

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