Easier, better or both?

Stove Top Fans

Stove Top FanOur cute little Sterling engine stove-top fan has arrived.

We decided to buy a stove top fan, to speed up the circulation of warm air around our living room, as it can take a while for the heat that radiates from the surface of our wood burning stove to reach other parts of the room.

We identified two types of stove top fans that are free to run, and don’t require batteries or mains power. Both use heat from the stove (or more precisely heat differentials) to drive the fan and are based on elegant, albeit different, scientific principles.

1. A Seebeck effect fan is driven by an electrical current, which is generated by a thermoelectric effect (i.e. a current is produced when the junctions between different metals are at different temperatures).

Sterling Engine Stove Top Fan2. A fan, which uses a Sterling engine to convert heat from the stove into mechanical energy. In this device, a column of air is heated, it expands, pushing a piston upward, the air is then rapidly cooled, it contracts, pulling the piston downward. The up and down movement of the piston, rotates an arm which turns the fan.

We chose a Sterling engine stove top fan, made by Kontax, a boutique engineering company based in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The fan is beautifully designed in stainless steel, glass and graphite.

This wonderful gadget works a treat. The living room now gets warm and cosy soon after we light the stove. Heat also circulates to the rest of the house. We have lots of fun and get an enormous amount of satisfaction watching the little engine bobbing elegantly up and down. It has been a great talking point with visitors too. We would highly recommend this ingenious device.


There is quite an art (and science) to making a good fire. Since having our new stove installed, our fire-making skills have improved daily. We can now get the fire going on the first lighting – most days. We have experimented with a variety of woods and have been fascinated to see how log size, tree species and degree of seasoning really do affect how well the wood burns (as all our “stove veteran” friends have been telling us).

After testing wood from a number of sources, we have decided to buy our logs from Tiddesley Wood, a nature reserve near Pershore. Their logs come from mixed woodland and are well seasoned, as they are stored for at least 2 years before being cut. As a result, their wood burns beautifully and the seasoning ensures that we can avoid the perils of a spluttering, popping and smoky fire. The woodland is sustainably managed and the profits from log sales go towards wildlife conservation.

As this is one of Tiddesley’s log-sale weekends, hubby popped over there today to load up his car with luverly firewood. We are so pleased to have our little Clearview stove and to have found such a super source of wood. This great combination is better than heating with oil in so many ways.


We chose a wood burning stove with a flat top, as we thought this surface might come in useful sometime. When the fire’s going, the stove-top thermometer reads over 200 deg C. That’s a lot of energy, sitting (well, not quite sitting – but that’s a topic for another day!) right there. As boiling water in an electric kettle uses lots of electricity, we thought we’d rather use all the lovely heat being generated by the wood burning stove to boil the water for our evening cuppa’.

First we tried one of our stainless steel pots. The water got hot, tiny bubbles appeared on the bottom and we waited, and waited and waited. It never boiled – i.e. no big, enthusiastic bubbles. We repeated the experiment with a teflon-lined pot – same result. Interestingly, we gave up watching this one and about an hour later discovered that the water had all evaporated. This stimulated a debate between hubby and I as to the definition of “boiling”. He said that in order for the water to evaporate, it must have been boiling. I thought it wasn’t really boiling if it didn’t bubble properly. We don’t have a suitable thermometer, so couldn’t settle the debate by seeing if the water reached 100 deg C.

After repeating the experiment using different pots, varying the volume of the water, with and without lids, we decided that pots weren’t going to work and that we needed a proper stove-top kettle for the job.

I trawled all the local cookshops, hardware stores and other likely retailers looking for a suitable vessel. The kettles were all either ugly, badly designed or both. Scalding is pretty likely if you have a kettle with a handle that sits above the lid in a fixed position . This ruled out most options. Poor spout design and bold colours ruled out the rest.

Then I discovered the magical tetsubin –  beautiful, superbly designed Japanese cast iron kettles. I found the perfect one online. When it arrived, it was love at first sight. Petite and elegant, it holds 800 ml water, has a handle that folds down, out of the way, so that you can lift the lid, a spout that pours well and a little hole for the steam to escape. And best of all – when we placed it on the wood burning stove, it boiled!!!!!

Each evening we now gain enormous pleasure making tea using water boiled on top of our wood burning stove in our lovely little tetsubin. A much better way to make tea.

Wood Burning Stove

We live in a rural village and currently use oil to heat our house and water. We moved here from a  suburban house on the gas grid and have been amazed at how much more costly the oil-based heating system is. We are therefore exploring cheaper and greener energy sources.

Wood is a good option for us, as it is a renewable resource and is available at a fair price from beautiful woodlands nearby. No messy drilling or mining required! So we decided to invest in a wood burning stove.

We researched the myriad of models available for months and Clearview stoves stood out as having a wildly enthusiastic owner-base.  After a couple of visits to the gorgeous Clearview showroom in Stow-on-the-Wold and a home visit from their knowledgeable and enthusiastic installer Richard, we settled on a Clearview Pioneer 400, which was installed over 3 days this summer. This is our first wood burning stove, so we’ll keep you posted on our experiences as we get used to life with the “new baby”.