Showing posts with label wood stove. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wood stove. Show all posts

Friday, December 26, 2014

Luxuriant flames

Here at Gamone, it would be an exaggeration to claim that it’s cold… unless, of course, you were to go wandering around on the slopes—Aussie style at this time of the year—dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and thongs. I prefer to be wrapped up constantly, day and night, in garments made out of the fabulous textile known as polar fleece. I believe that the latest stuff I purchased (through the Internet) is made out of recycled plastic bottles.

Meanwhile, I burn a lot of wood, non-stop, almost day and night. Sure, it’s a luxury, but Fitzroy and I lose no sleep fretting about the idea that we might be privileged rural dwellers. I’m too preoccupied by the tasks of cleaning up the stove every morning, and carting in a new supply of firewood. Then I think of nothing more than warming up my toes, while my dog (often in my lap) likes to combine the warmth of my body with the heat hitting his backside. It’s all very calculated, almost scientific.

Utter luxury (in which I’ve never yet indulged) would consist of lighting up simultaneously the closed fireplace at the other end of the living room. I’ll do this (I promise) if one or other of our children—or maybe even me—were to decide to organize, say, a marriage reception here at Gamone in the midst of winter... and if it were truly cold enough, of course, to justify all the flames. In fact, I’m so enchanted by that luxurious idea of utter flaming warmth in my living room that I really must start looking around for a bride. Or maybe my dog might reveal his secret nuptial plans.

Friday, November 21, 2014


In my house at Gamone, I’ve just assembled and installed two alarm panels like this:

The alarm on the left is a smoke detector, while that on the right detects lethal carbon monoxide gas. They both run on batteries.

I’ve installed one panel in the staircase, in the vicinity of my ground-floor wood-burning stove. The other panel is installed on a wall in the kitchen. These detectors are not expensive, and they’re easy to install. So, I’ll probably get around to installing other identical panels throughout the house.

My son François told me that he inadvertently tested his CO detector when cleaning the interior of the chimney pipe that evacuates smoke from his wood-burning stove. There were two 90-degree bends in his piping (which have since been eliminated thanks to a single vertical pipe from ground level to the roof), and it would appear that CO had collected between these bends. Consequently, as soon as François started to brush away the soot that had gathered in these bends, the CO floated down into his living room and set off the alarm.

François and I both felt that it would be reassuring if we were able to test our smoke detectors… without setting fire to our houses. At lunchtime today, I succeeded in doing just that, thanks to half-a-dozen barbecue sausages from my deep freezer. I cooked them on a flat iron pan of the kind used for making pancakes, heated by my gas range. Naturally, as the temperature rose, and the sausages sizzled, a bit of smoke escaped from the pan. Suddenly there was a piercing whistle, but I had no idea of its origin. Since I was also using an induction plate to cook vegetables to accompany the sausages, I had the crazy idea that the molecules in the induction system might be “resonating”  weirdly and catastrophically… and I half-expected something to explode. The whistle continued to shriek. Finally, I noticed that the smoke detector was also flashing a red lamp… and I realized what had happened. So, I rushed to the kitchen door and opened it to let out the smoke, which ended the whistle shrieks.

It was a successful and convincing test. Besides, I had the impression that the sausages and vegetables—which I ate on an outside coffee table, in the autumn sunshine, sharing tidbits with my dog Fitzroy (who had been just as disturbed by the alarm as I was)—tasted better than ever.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Primroses popping up at Gamone

Every year, in February, I look forward to the first primroses, harbingers of spring. Well, they started to appear here a few days ago.

It has certainly been an amazingly mild winter at Choranche, with little snow and no freezing weather whatsoever. On the other hand, there has been a lot of rain and several days of strong winds. I certainly appreciated the luxurious presence of my new wood-burning stove, combined with the convenience of my recently-constructed woodshed. Not surprisingly, since the stove burns almost constantly, my woodshed is already half-empty (or half-full for optimists like myself). Fortunately, in a place such as Gamone, acquiring firewood is not a problem.

I certainly can’t complain about recent meteorological conditions here on the edge of the Vercors. Elsewhere in France, particularly in Brittany, there have been tempests and flooding. Christine and François had the impression, for a week or so, that they were being struck by a new tempest every day.

Talking about things popping up like primroses, what are those two brand-new wooden boxes that have suddenly appeared alongside the doorstep of my house?

There must be some kind of an explanation…

Friday, December 6, 2013

Habemus invictam

Trying to capture an image (for posterity) of the very first wisp of white smoke emerging from my new chimney at Gamone is like taking photos of a polar bear in the Arctic snow. At this time of the year, almost everything in the sky of Choranche looks like wisps of white smoke.

Click to enlarge

To obtain this proof that smoke does indeed go up the chimney that I designed and erected (with constant help from my friend and neighbor Serge Bellier), I burned no more than a bit of paper and a few wood chips, because I’ll only be taking the stove up to its operational temperature over a period of a week or so, to give the metal time to gradually expand and creak itself into shape.

My only blog reader who’s likely to understand the title of this post is my son François, who also installed a French-manufactured wood stove of the Invicta brand. I was almost going to write Habemus poelam, but Christine would have lost no time in correcting me. The modern French word poêle can indeed designate either a frying-pan or a wood stove, but the ancient Romans only used poela in the first sense. They did not use metal stoves for heating. Their domestic heating installations were based upon steam generated in the cellar by a hypocaust system associated with a furnace (in the style of a pizza oven).

This is the same kind of system that was used to heat up water in a pool—called a caldarium—in the splendid Somerset city of Bath.

At Gamone, my living room is already well heated by my fireplace… provided that I keep the glass cover down, instead of raising it so that I can warm my toes while watching TV: a great pleasure, which I often share with Fitzroy, lying in my lap. Incidentally, talking about Fitzroy, I bought him an elegant cushion yesterday, which I promptly lined with an old pair of ski pants that I’ve outgrown.

For the first time in ages, Fitzroy spent the entire night on the kitchen floor in his new bed, which he guards jealously as if it were a bone that an evil passer-by might try to steal.

PS Don't be too alarmed by the grubby state of my kitchen floor. Apart from the fact that I'm only slowly emerging from the lengthy period of construction of my wood shed [display], not to mention final operations concerning the installation of the wood stove (during which time my tools were often left lying upon the kitchen floor), the current dirty state of the floor is due above all to the fact that the evacuation system for used sink water is clogged up once again. I'll fix that tomorrow, and clean up the mess in the kitchen. One thing at a time...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reached the roof

In November 2012, I started to purchase pipe elements for the erection of a chimney system for a future wood stove. Prior to that date, I had devoted days of effort to a tedious and horribly dusty operation that consisted of making a wide hole in the 20cm-thick slab of reinforced concrete between the ground level and the upper floor of my house. Finally, last January, I decided upon the stove model that I preferred (a French-manufactured Invicta Bradford), as indicated in a blog post entitled Installation of my wood stove [display]. Since then, I've carried on purchasing and installing all the required elements of galvanized steel tubing (Poujoulat), according to the following schema:

Click to enlarge

This afternoon, Serge Bellier and I carried out the ultimate operation, which consisted of placing a chimney on top of the roof, linking together the final elements of tubing, and firmly attaching the external chimney to the rafters of the house. Everything fell into place perfectly, and we didn't even have to cut through any rafters, or slice into any roof tiles. Here's a photo of Serge alongside the new chimney:

Serge was happy to discover that the chimney, now fixed firmly in place, turned out to be perfectly vertical.

 Retrospectively, I realize that there were several stages in the chimney construction process at which I might have possibly run into nasty obstacles of an almost insurmountable kind. Fortunately, in every case, I managed to avoid such traps, often through sheer luck. In other words, the entire installation process has been carried out in a very smooth fashion. Besides, the stove itself (from Bricomarché) and all the items involved in the erection of the chimney (from Castorama) were purchased for a global cost that is a mere fraction of what I would have paid if I had called upon a professional stove vendor and chimney installer.

At this stage, all that remains to be done is to order some extra-dry firewood (to be delivered in November). Then I'll simply wait for the start of the cold season.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Installation of my wood stove

I purchased a wood stove in St-Marcellin and accepted the generous assistance of Serge Bellier to bring it back to Gamone in his large utility vehicle. We moved the stove into its intended position, which has made it possible to verify that the smoke pipe—which will emerge vertically from the top of the stove—is perfectly aligned with the hole I made in the ceiling.

This photo shows the neat solution imagined by Serge for holding in place a pair of boards around the future pipe. This will enable me, working from the upper floor, to fill up with plaster the space around the jagged hole in the ceiling.

In the floor beneath and behind the stove, some bare concrete needs to be covered in ceramic tiles. To the left, a final task has to be carried out in the vicinity of the stove, which is too close to the Placoplatre wall. I intend to remove a rectangular piece of this wall and replace it by slabs of the white lightweight material known in English as ACC (autoclaved cellular concrete, béton cellulaire in French, brand name Siporex), which is fire-resistant.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fitzroy's favorite positions

Fitzroy has developed the habit of sitting down at the top of the stairs, with his rump and hind legs on the landing, and his front paws on the first step.

Not only is it a comfortable position, but it allows my dog to meditate upon his next move, which will depend of course upon the next displacement of his master (me). Should Fitzroy scramble down to the ground floor? Or would he do better to remain on the upper floor, based upon the assumption that his master is merely visiting momentarily the second bedroom or the bathroom?

This photo reveals that everything in that vicinity is covered in a thick layer of white dust (which I've decided to ignore for the moment). The origins of that dust can be traced to the shiny metallic column seen behind Fitzroy in the following photo:

It's a tube of galvanized steel, 1.33 m long and 30 cm in diameter, incorporating an interior tube of stainless steel, 18 cm in diameter, which is the initial segment of a chimney for a future wood stove on the ground floor.

Here's a precise schema of the entire system that I'm building:

[Click to enlarge]

On the ground floor, I intend to install a French-manufactured Invicta Sedan 10 cast-iron wood stove (which I don't intend to purchase until the chimney system is completed):

The stove (poêle in French) will be placed on a step between the kitchen and the living room. For the passage of the stovepipe, 15 cm in diameter (shown in brown in my schema), I had to hack a hole in the massive slab of reinforced concrete (dalle in French), 20 cm thick, between the ground and the upper floor. Here's a poor-quality photo (looking up at the ground-floor ceiling) that shows the present state of the completed hole:

The verb "hack" is quite appropriate, as I was obliged to work blindly with an assortment of diamond disc grinders, drills, chisels and hammers. And that explains the presence in the house of all the white dust. When I say that I worked "blindly", what I mean is that I didn't know with certainty, in the beginning, how to avoid damaging any vital beams in the slab (such as the one on the right, with a red line traced on it). In other words, I was obliged to perform my hacking solely in the region occupied by hollow-core concrete planks (with the typical grainy texture that you can see in the above photo). The initial problem, of course, was that the layout of the beams and planks was concealed behind a layer of plaster, which I first had to chip away. Naturally, once the stove is correctly installed, I'll be able to tidy up the rough edges of my hacking... but it's too early to worry about such trivial aspects of my construction project.

In the schema, you can see that I've been obliged to introduce a twist in the chimney tubes at the level of the first floor, just before it ascends into the attic (grenier in French). That's because I encountered an unexpected obstacle when I pierced the suspended ceiling (faux plafond in French) above the first floor: a huge reinforced concrete beam, whose vital role consists of helping to hold in place the ancient stone walls of the house.

The tube seen in the above photos with Fitzroy is therefore the first of a series of 8 or 9 elements leading up to the final object in the system: an external roof chimney. I've already ordered this object from the same excellent French manufacturer who makes all the stovepipes and tubes: Poujoulat. Taking into account the inevitable delays due to tomorrow's Mayan end-of-the-world and the Christmas festivities, I would predict that my future wood stove should become operational at around the height of winter, some time in February. Up until then, I can rely, of course, on the good old open fireplace in the living room, whose major weakness is that it tends to warm only those parts of the body that are facing the flames, leaving you constantly with a chilly backside.

Talking of the fireplace, Fitzroy has developed another habit, which consists of waiting until I've lit up the fire and settled down in front of the flames with a good book, or to watch TV. Then, without asking for my opinion on the matter, Fitzroy scrambles up onto my knees and snuggles in for a warm snooze. If I try to push him back down onto the floor, my dog uses all the force of his powerful legs and claws to hang on tightly. So, I usually don't insist any further, preferring to take pleasure in Fitzroy's warm somnolent presence. He nevertheless becomes heavy after a while, and I have to guide carefully the mass of my sleeping dog back down onto the floor, where he sits upright, still half-asleep, with his head and paws supported by my knees and the tip of his backside poised on the floor. Finally, he wakes up completely, gets the message, and finds a new position outstretched on the floor. (Unfortunately, I can't supply readers with images of the delightful operations that I'm describing.)

Observers might say that I'm an excessively permissive master.