This the second in my series of monthly projects that I hope will get you excited about In the Kitchen With Laura. I want to thank my friend Susan Odom of Hillside Homestead (a 19th century immersion experience bed and breakfast in Michigan) for the use of the photos I edited in this post. Most kitchens are organized so it’s hard to get a nice clear shot of the stove, but luckily hers isn’t. Odom gave me this additional information about her stove: “It is a Round Oak Range by the Round Oak Company of Dowagiac, Michigan. It is the style R9-20 and it was manufactured likely in 1908 or 1909. I don’t know what the R stands for, but the 9 is for the burner plates that are 9 inches in a diameter and the oven is 20 inches wide. There is a cool museum in Dowagiac that has an amazing collection of stoves and info all from the round oak company http://www.dowagiacmuseum.info/round-oak/ ” Laura fans have probably seen Laura’s wood cookstove in the Rocky Ridge kitchen. It’s a Ward’s stove from 1905 called the Blue Ribbon model.
First, let’s take a tour of the cookstove starting in the upper left hand corner of the first photo. I’m going to take you on a tour of the basics of a wood cookstove. There are lots more details, hints, and instructions I should add, but this should give you a basic picture of what it’s like to use one.
The stove pipe is connected with the chimney. It provides both a way to exhaust the smoke and to help transfer heat to other parts of the house.
Warming oven is an enclosed cabinet space with doors. It is used primarily to keep things warm. Often cooks would keep bread products there so they would always be warm, it also resulted them in being dried out and gave them a unique texture that really can’t be replicated any other way. I used it frequently at Ushers Ferry and I really do miss having one on my modern stove. It gets warmer than you think it would. On some stoves they just have a shelf here instead which doesn’t get as warm as an enclosed box, although the stove pipe still gives off a lot of heat.
The Firebox is, like its name suggests, the box that holds the fire for heating the stove. You can put more fuel (wood, coal, corncobs) either through the top where the stove lids are or through the door in the front. I usually fed the fire through the top (I felt like it gave me more control and I could see the entire fire much better), but if you had a lot going on the stove top you had to use the door.
The bottom of the firebox is a grate that allows for air circulation to burn better. The burnt material and ashes fall through the grate and into the ash box that is behind this Ash Removal Door. You need to pull the box out and empty the ashes between uses. The box doesn’t have a lid or a back so be careful when you pull it out to empty.
The middle of the stove is the oven. The oven clean out door provides access to clean out the area under the oven. A special tool comes with the stove to help you pull out any ash that might have strayed underneath. There is space all around the oven to allow hot air to circulate around it.
Right above the oven clean out door is the oven door which closes off the oven. The handle functions as a catch to keep it closed.
The water reservoir needs to be kept full so that it doesn’t rust. This water stays warm while the stove is lit so you can always dip out water for washing dishes or your hands, etc. You wouldn’t use it for drinking.
The splash back is a large piece of metal used mainly for design, it connects the main body of the stove to the warming oven or warming shelf.
Second, here is the stove again, this time with some close up photos of the different sections to give you a better view.
1. Stove lids – act in a similar way to burners on a modern stove. This is more fancy than a lot of stoves with the multiple sizes within the lid. Equivalent to the high setting would be lift the lid and put the pan directly over the fire. Many cooking utensils were made the size of a stove lid so they’d be able to fit right down in sitting on the same lip that the stove lid does. Next highest would be in the same location but through the metal of the stove lid. Lower settings are equated by moving across the stove top from left to right.
2. Firebox and grate – with the lids both off (the middle section between the two lids also is removable) you can see the grate where the fire sits. This is the area where you feed and control the fire and what you spend most of your time working with when you cook on a cookstove.
3. Oven Box – with the stove lid completely removed you can see the oven box just to the right of the firebox and grate. There is space around the oven box for air to flow.
4. Water Reservoir – sometimes just called the Reservoir, with the lid open you can see it’s full of water.
Finally, a depiction of the way heat moves through the stove whether you’re using the oven, the stove top or the warming ovens.
All the heat comes from the firebox on the left hand side whether you’re talking about the oven or the stove top. You can’t just set a stove to a certain temperature and walk off like a modern oven. Instead you have to keep the fire going and you may have to move across the stove top or rotate in the oven to work with the heat coming all from the one side. Each stove developed its own little quirks and personality. There are a lot more adjustments you can make, but those basics would be enough to get you started.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.