Installing a wood-burning stove for hobbits

A few years back I had the clever idea of building my art studio in the “yard”—an ambiguous term, since depending on which point of the compass you face, my yard is pretty much solid trees (except for the I-90 corridor) for 400 miles if you head south, or if you head north, it goes up through Canada all the way to the Arctic. Anyway, as I’m sure will be a shockeroo to you, I didn’t have the money. Then my wife said, “Hey, why not just build your studio off the bedroom?” And thus commenced what is, for me, The Coolest Studio In Recorded History. Fear not, I’ll reveal tantalizing peeks as we go (if I remember).

One of the first steps was to wall it off with a built-in bookcase that goes from the floor to the ceiling—13 feet, at its highest point. But once I installed the Secret Bookcase Door, I had a problem: It cut me off from our home’s heat source.

Living in Argentina through two winters pretty much cured me of the desire to ever be cold again. Argentina is a beautiful country, my adopted heartland; as varied geographically as the United States itself, the seventh largest nation in the world by area, and a standing refutation of anybody who thinks we’re all going to die of overcrowding. But they don’t heat their buildings in the winter—at least not where I lived. Walk into the bank, the church, any public building, and everyone’s bundled up as though it were as cold as outside, because it is. In an Argentine winter, the only warm places are your bed and the shower (once the water heats up).

So I don’t like to be cold. And since we heat solely with wood, our home only stays warm by convection currents from the wood stove downstairs. Usually that works beautifully, but once I close the door to the studio, I’m cut off from that source. Space heater? Too pricey. Campfire? Might damage the floor. Wear more layers? I’d become nearly spherical. The only obvious solution? Why, a hobbit wood stove, of course!

My tiny studio woodstove

When persons of the female persuasion first see my stove, their first reaction (scientifically described) is “Ooooooh!” while putting hands to face. I believe this word is code for “Cute!” My wood stove is about 12” cubed; about the width of an iPad in its case. But it’s the real deal: it burns real wood with a real fire, makes real smoke and real ashes (but not much). It keeps things snug in here, despite the tall ceiling. Call me a fan!

Installing it wasn’t tough; it just took a while. First, find the stove and wait for it to go on sale. Then call the roofer dude to schedule a time for him to come over and risk his neck, so you don’t have to risk yours. Then plan out how you’ll install it. Cut a bunch of firewood to small sizes—not a problem, since last summer’s supply had been cut too long at a nearby state park*, so I just cut it down to size and used the excess for my stove. Put it up at head height so I don’t have to bend over all the time to tend it, and put the wood box under it. When the weather gets cold, test it out—and hey, works like a charm! Install tile. Gain the wife’s approval. Close the studio door, light the stove, and enjoy!

I keep the small firewood in the box just below the stove.


*They’d dropped a bunch of diseased trees at the campground so they wouldn’t end up with flat campers. Hey, free heat!


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