Author Topic: Starting up the Keystone stoves  (Read 3812 times)

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Offline Pearl Schneider

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Re: Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2014, 05:41:24 PM »
Well, by now you should know about how the third burn turned out. I'm glad it is starting to work for you.

About the holes: One stove is working great. I do get some smoke at the end, but not too bad. The second one is still not doing complete burns, maybe about 95-95%, so I am thinking about adding another hole, but just one, because I do not want the char to start burning, which I gather it will if there is too much air flow.

Right now I have about 2/3 of a 55 gal drum full of mostly char with some unburnt or partially burnt bits. But mostly char. So I am going to have to start charging it here one of these days. Yippee!

Peace and pellets, Pearl

Offline Thom

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Re: Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2014, 12:15:19 PM »
How interesting Lisa, and welcome to the O.N.E. forum!

I've seen plenty of old decayed bones in my time and have also noticed how porous they are. Don't know how fine their structure is or whether it compares to that of the carbon structure of biochar, but it would make sense if it did.

As to your burn experience, I have yet to try my stove, but I do know it's not uncommon to experience smoking at the end of a burn. Smoking at the start has more to do with how much and the type of accelerant you use, how well it saturates the pellets, and other similar factors. I've seen quite a few stove starts at Doug's workshops and how easy / well you get the burn started is mostly about experience and technique.

Hopefully as more and more of our members post their experiences here the learning curve be easy to get past.
You'll become a better person if you surround yourself with the quality of people that model the virtues you seek for yourself. But first take a deep look inside yourself and fix the only sure thing you have control over - you.

Offline lisarollens

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Re: Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2014, 11:32:25 AM »
We are on our third burn here today.  Burn #1 went pretty well, burned most of the pellets but it didn't put itself out and smoked a LOT at the end.  The second burn we let the alcohol/oil mix sit too long and the alcohol probably evaporated.  I don't think we got a good start and it just smoked.  So we put it out and redid the starting procedure.  That time it burned all the way down, but interestingly enough, there were unburned pellets on the sides that I had to scrape off with a ash shovel.  But the main thing I wanted to share about this burn was that we put 2 cow vertebrae in the middle of the pellets while we were filling the stove.  They burned perfectly!  They broke up a bit when I pried them out of there but they looked like black sponges.

The third burn is going on now and going well.  No smoke to speak of even at the start.  We were also thinking that we needed more air.  I looked into the burn chamber before filling this time and noticed that there was creosote partially closing off some of the bottom holes.  Will need to clean that next time if it doesn't burn off.  Another experiment...this time I put a large cow leg bone in the burn chamber!

Here's what John says:

If three holes noticeably helped, try three more!  If there is no improvement at this point, then all is probably good.  If it's worse you can always screw large screws into the holes to close them off (or large pop rivets).

Back to me:  we both agree that maybe just enlarging the holes a bit might help.  Also, don't forget to clean out the holes after slow burns that create lots of creosote.

This third burn has been going an hour and looks great!

Maybe we've passed the steep part of the learning curve too.

Offline Thom

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Re: Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2014, 05:02:15 PM »
I was a little confused in your post of the conversation sequence (didn't get what #1, #2 or chauvinistic referred to), but I got the gist of it and that's what counts.

So glad for your success! I don't know how many different pellet suppliers Doug has tried, or whether your starting difficulties have anything to do with that, but I consider modifications like 3 extra holes to be pretty minor. I wonder if the same would result by enlarging the existing holes by 1/16th of an inch. If you got the holes too big you could compensate by rotating the pipe tape valve at the bottom to partially block the holes that provide the primary air, but that is certainly less desirable than a fully ON or OFF setting.

Anyway, I wouldn't have expected we'd need to modify the design at all, not even in a minor way as I thought it was very well tested under a wide range of pellets and conditions.

Also, if I had a similar experience of hard starting and incomplete burns after several attempts my thinking would be it wasn't getting enough primary air and would likewise be tempted to modify the stove in some fashion to allow more primary air in.

Before I took it upon myself to change the design I'd contact Doug and ask him about the pellets he uses and if he noticed much variation in how they burn from one supplier to the next.

All in all you did pretty much the same thing I would do Pearl, and it paid off nicely. Thanks for sharing your experience with the community, and I hope you continue to do so as you experiment with different fuels.

Great job!
You'll become a better person if you surround yourself with the quality of people that model the virtues you seek for yourself. But first take a deep look inside yourself and fix the only sure thing you have control over - you.

Offline Pearl Schneider

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Re: Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2014, 02:43:23 PM »
I received a reply from Doug Brethower. I followed his advice and replied to him. Below is the text of our email conversation thus far:

Thanks for getting back with me! I really appreciate it. I will post your reply to the group shortly.  BTW, it is snowing here right now, and it is really pretty.

Item #1 is the clincher, but first on item #2:

It is chauvanistic.

In any event, as I indicated in my missive, I was dowsing the whole shebang with accelerant the first day or two. Then I got Donna's reply and I looked up starting these stoves in your book, Make Smoke, Burn Smoke, and realized that was a problem - at first I thought it was THE problem. I have not had any trouble starting the stove since then.

However, ten days and approximately 20 burns in all sorts of configurations later, I realized (I am a bear of very little brain) that there was some other problem and it probably had to do with draft because it would either cease burning after the accelerant layer was gone (1 to 1-1/2 hours) or it would produce only a partial burn and then smoke like crazy.

Back to Item #1:

I drilled an additional three small holes in the botton of the fuel cell. These holes are only slightly larger than the holes we drilled in the workshop (I didn't have a bit the exact right size) and were placed where they would sort of be in balance with the rest of the holes. I started with 16 holes, and now I have 19 holes. Yesterday, I did a burn with only pellets and it burned for over eight hours and then it self-extinguished, did not fill the hoop house with smoke and turned all the pellets to char. SUCCESS!

Since I have more than a large tub of partially burnt pellets mixed with crude wood chips from DoCo, I couldn't resist trying to reburn those and see how it goes. It has been two hours and so far they are burning fine, if not as hot as the pellets were burning.

So while am willing to own up to user error, I think my main problem was not enough draft. I am delighted that the stove now works. Next is to see if it will actually turn the hoop house into a greenhouse.

Thank you very much for your assistance! I was very reluctant to drill more holes in the bottom, afraid I might wreck it, so I really appreciate your suggestion.

Peace and Pretty winter days, Pearl

Offline Pearl Schneider

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Re: Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2014, 03:43:34 PM »
Here is what I posted on the Ava Organic Club forum on November 2 in reply to Donna's post that she did one batch outside and it burned 8 hours, no problem:

I am thinking maybe I am expecting too much.  So far, I am doing all this outdoors. I tried in the green/hoop house the first day, but it was rather disastrous - smoke was rolling out the chimney. I want to have this in our green/hoop house and I really do not want to see any smoke.  A mess.

I realized some of what I was doing wrong (i.e., putting the alcohol/oil starter directly on the fuel rather than soaking some first and then putting it on the fuel), but the longest I could get it to go yesterday without any smoke while I was watching it was 1-1/2 to 2 hours - I thought, "yea! it's working!" - and then it started smoking. I dumped it out and after that 2 hours only a couple of handfuls of pellets had burnt - maybe those just soaked with starter - and the rest were just sitting there. My pellets are up off the ground, covered and in the hoophouse so covered again.  I believe they are dry.

So I have some wood chips from DoCo. I tried it with them because they have actually seemed to burn better that the pellets, but I could never get that batch to go without puffing smoke, then rolling smoke. I finally gave up and shut it down to very little or no smoke. When I went up this morning, it had burnt down to about 1/3 the volume and was charcoal - I don't know if it is biochar yet because it was still too hot to check. So what is that?!

Fool that I am, I started it up again this morning with pellets. it was a little smokey but seems to be working now. I will check again in a bit. It certainly doesn't look like any videos I have seen in terms of the flame inside and I don't think it has ever gotten as hot as I understood it could - and there are the unexpected puffs of smoke as well as it just deciding to smoke a lot.  I really don't want all that smoke in a contained area.

Are you leaving the bottom holes open or closing them up? How are you lighting it? How much of a flame do you see before you decide to put the top on? You didn't get any smoke? How hot did it get? It might be good to see you light yours up and watch how you do it, but I am not too keen on hauling my stove around and would rather just try to figure it out from here if possible. Thanks for any direction you can give me.

Donna replied:

This is what I did, Pearl.

After filling the stove up to about 1" below the holes at the inner top,
I took out about 2" of those top pellets. I soaked them in rubbing alcohol
which is all that I had handy. Soaked them good. Then replaced those
pellets back, smoothed them out across the top and poured all the
remaining alcohol on top.

Used charcoal lighter, the long ones that can reach down inside.
Lite it and watched till the flame was all the way across the top of the pellets,
completely in flame. It took 2 or 3 lights to get the whole top flaming.
It is a low flame. Then put the top on and the chimney.

This first burn was done outside.

My bottom holes were open the whole burn time. The burner was sitting
directly on solid piece of wood which never burned or got too hot. I did
not close off the bottom holes till after the 8 hours and I was ready to
pour out the biochar.

Just a little bit of starting smoke, maybe 5 minutes. Then the smoke
faded. The inner flame got larger and larger till I could see the
flame thru the holes in the top cap.

8 hours later, the smoke came back. I poured out the burned pellets
into a metal can and put a lid on that metal can to smother the fire. I did not take
note of exactly how many pellets were left but I am thinking that
there was almost as much as I started with or just a bit less.

There were a few unburned pellets at the bottom on my first burn.
The instructor did tell us that there was a learning curve with the
start up process. I would suggest just keep doing it with the pellets.
Once you get the pellet biochar perfected, then change over to
chips,etc.

Soak those start up pellets real good, Pearl. He mentioned vegetable oil,
lamp oil, and alcohol as good starters. Get those start up pellets
burning all the way across the top before you put the cap on. Those two things
should do it for you, Pearl. Do it outside till you get the smoke thing
under control.

Let us know how it goes. You got this!


It is now November 12 and I am ready to write Doug Brethower and ask what the heck is going on. I have tried every combination I can think of and the longest I have gotten anything to burn is between 4-5 hours usually it more like 2-3 hours. Then it starts smoking like crazy; no putting itself out here. It only works if I combine the DoCo wood chips (many of which are probably really too big for this project) with the pellets.  I have NEVER gotten a load of pure pellets to burn further than my accelerant. I have used 91% alcohol, 70% alcohol in combination with vegetable oil in ratios from 3/4 oil/alcohol, 1/2 oil/alcohol to 3/4 alcohol/ oil. I have the most success starting it in the range of 1/2-3/4 alcohol.

 I no longer have any problem starting it, as long as I soak the wood (pellet and chips) in accelerant first and start it with the cap on, but not the pipe.

As mentioned above, the only time I actually got a complete burn was with straight DoCo chips, but I have not been able to repeat that either. So far the best results are with a mixture of about half and half pellets-chips and the best I have done is about 90% combustion - that is rare. Usually it is much less.

The stove also does not really get hot. I have put it in the hoop/greenhouse and it hasn't made any difference to the internal temperature, but it has made a difference to the internal smoke content when it decides it doesn't want to burn any more. I am convinced that the problem has something to do with draw, but what, I do not know. What the solution might be. I do not know if Donna's stove got hot enough to burn off the galvanization, but mine certainly hasn't. 

This is not just my experience. The few people I have talked to, besides Donna, who have tried to start up these stoves have had similar difficulties - if not with smoke, then with incomplete combustion (and therefore I assume not reaching adequate temperatures to really make char). It is my understanding that Jon Kruger and Walt Gregory tried to get on going at David Yarrow's presentation and just got smoke, and if I understand correctly from Chuck, it would seem that he is getting incomplete combustion.

Jon suggested that there might be a design flaw since the bowl size was smaller than on previous models. Maybe. I don't know. I would appreciate more feedback from people on whether they are getting these to work and if so how. Also if not, how. I want to give Doug some feedback about how this is going and I want input from as many sources as possible. I will be talking to Donna this weekend and maybe Jon and I will discuss it when I see him on Friday.

I really love the whole idea of these stoves. I really want to use it in the hoop house to make it a greenhouse and I really wanted to be able to use it in the tipi. At the moment, there is really no way to do that. I really want to make char as I warm plants and/or people and it is sad and frustrating that this is not working and I cannot figure out why.

Peace and perplexity, Pearl

Offline Thom

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Re: Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2014, 10:23:39 AM »
Hi Pearl,

sorry you're having trouble. Doesn't sound like you've done anything wrong. What is the strength of the alcohol you're using? Best I've gotten a hold of is 70%.

I haven't tried to fire mine up yet so I can only comment from my woodpecker experience.

I would try to use a different accelerate in place of the alcohol. If you use charcoal  grill lighter fluid you would probably need to cut way back on the oil, say 1/4 to 1/3 oil to the rest lighter fluid.

It's just gonna take some experimentation to find the best combo to get our pellets started. I hope we don't find the difficulties are due to our pellets, but that's one possibility I guess.

Sorry for such a long delay in replying, haven't been on much myself since ONE has expressed such a lack of interest online here. I'll be more proactive since others will likely be discussing their stove experiences, and it would be highly recommended to encourage members to come here to share their experience with the stoves.
You'll become a better person if you surround yourself with the quality of people that model the virtues you seek for yourself. But first take a deep look inside yourself and fix the only sure thing you have control over - you.

Offline Pearl Schneider

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Starting up the Keystone stoves
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2014, 09:32:33 AM »
Has anyone started up their Keystone stove? 

I did last night and this morning and I am not getting it to go.  It burns for a while, but is mostly smoldering and then dying way down.  In the beginning there is no smoke coming out the chimney, but later it gets smoky - it never has gotten hot enough to even mar the galvanized pipe. I am just using the pellets we got and starting with a 1/2-1/2 alcohol/cooking oil mixture.  Some of the pellets seem to be disintegrating a bit even though they have been kept dry; I thought maybe I was using too much alcohol in the 1/2-1/2 ratio (making them fall apart), so I mixed it ~1/4-3/4 the next time, but it didn't seem to make any difference. 

Any comments, thoughts, ideas, experience?

Peace and perplexity, Pearl

 

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