Thursday, November 8, 2012

Off-Grid Ingenuity - Fire Bricks

As most of you know, I adore my Pioneer Maid wood cookstove.  I have cooked on it and we have used it to heat our home for over 15 years.  It has an enormous firebox and oven and with the addition of the water reservoir, the stovetop is gigantic.

Our stove is very utilitarian and quite easy to maintain.  It does not have a lot of bells and whistles (it is, after all, a wood cookstove) - its strength is its simplicity.  The one complaint we have had with this stove is the requirement for custom firebricks.  Rather than building the firebox around standard firebricks, the Amish built the stove and then fashioned firebricks to fit.  The bricks are unique sizes and interlock with each other so as to form a "solid" firebrick wall.  Although easy to install, they are very expensive (as firebricks go) and require shipment from Ohio, adding to their cost.

In the 15 years we have used our stove, we have replaced the firebricks 4 times.  We order them from Lehman's Hardware at a cost of about $160.00 with an additional $60.00 shipping.  Due to the high cost, we often limp along with broken firebricks until spring, when we can order a new set.

Because of the way the firebricks sit in the firebox, they are easy broken during the normal course of loading the stove with wood.  Our firebox can only be loaded from the top of the stove and the wood clunks down on the top of the bricks, cracking and breaking them.  Ouch!

After studying the problem, Sir Knight came up with a possible solution to our firebrick dilemma.  Knowing that our bricks break when wood slams into them (on the top of the bricks), Sir Knight welded a couple of pieces angle iron together, snaked them through the top of the stove and set them on top of the firebricks to protect them from flying firewood!  Ingenious!

Angle Iron "Firebrick Guard" on top of the firebricks
The angle iron will burn out eventually and Sir Knight will have to make another "firebrick guard", but that is simple enough.  Hopefully, this little invention will keep our firebricks from breaking and crumbling and save us from having to replace our bricks so often.

Don't you just love "off-grid ingenuity"?


  1. Living the Simple Life and using simple objects makes it easier and easier to fine-tune things on our own, without calling in "experts". I love owning and using things that I can fix or modify by myself.

  2. Enola,


    I love Redneck Engineering.

    My neighbor across the street (the oilfied worker) He's a welder by trade and works as the "neighborhood welder"

    One individual was selling a small brand new four cylinder diesel marine engine for a sailboat. We had an idea to purchase this engine and weld together a frame for it and make a "Diesel Powered Go Cart"

    As men get older, our toys just get bigger and more expensive.....

  3. If it works perhaps he could market them.

  4. Unless he used really thin metal it should last a long time.Yet another success story from The Institute For Advanced MacGyverism.

  5. i just love the ingenuity of the self reliant! yes, lehmans is expensive no matter what is bought from there-worth it most times but i too have never gotten anything from them that i could not repair/fix if need be. there is alot to be said about keeping things simple.

  6. Enola,
    I am hoping to get a Pioneer Princess, which has a front loading fire box. From what I understand, it is the next generation Pioneer Maid. Can't wait! Thanks for showing all about your wood stove...helped me make my decision.


  7. Enola,

    Don't you love a man that knows how to be handy around the house. This new guard is a great idea and will save you money. Have you thought about making these and selling them. I can imagine other stove owners have the same problem. Just a thought:-)


  8. I have a similar problem w/ custom sized face brick. Standard firebick comes in to thicknesses, full & face(~1" thick. I found I could cut to size and even bevel them w/ a table saw and a 10" abrasive masonry blade. They are much softer than actual building brick. I'm thinking I could even use a router w/ a carbide bit to work them. Messy but it works.

  9. Quick tip, most ceramics suppliers sell "refractory" in bricks, sheets you can cut down and as a bag of dry mix you combine with water. the powder can be mixed like concrete, and it can be used to fix the chinks and cracks in fire brick. I have used the sheet refractory to line odd sized ovens and kilns. I cut it with a diamond blade on my circular saw($12 at the big box harware store) and it makes smooth walls where tou will be putting things, like pizza or bread right on the refractory. it comes in diffrent sizes and thicknesses too. combined with the angle iron guards you could have a long life lined firebox. My best from our family to yours

  10. I had a wood stove for years that had cast iron "fire bricks" maybe you could look into that option in getting cast iron or very thick steel custom made to fit and then you would never have to replace them. I loved my stove in that it stayed warm well after the fire had burned out versus the stove my mother had with the very same kind of stove except regular breakable bricks.

  11. Enola,
    Have you tried Obadiah Woodstoves in Troy, MT? They sell the Pioneer Maid (and many others)so they may have the bricks or get them at a better price than Lehman's. They are at or (email) or call at 1-800-968-8604. I have not bought anything from them but I have been drooling over the wood cookstoves on their site for a couple of years. Their prices seem fair and we are close enough to pick it up ourselves and save on shipping. Sir Knights "retrofit" will definitely help though.

  12. Many industrial uses require specific properties, such as thermal conductivity or porosity, that must adhere to certain specifications. Fire brick properties can be adjusted by adding or adjusting the amount of refractory materials.

  13. We to have a woodstove it is our main heat source. i have to replace the brick ever so often I actually buy them in Boise ID they sell stoves and spas. the brick are a couple bucks apiece and i cut them with a 4inch grinder cutoff blade they cut real easy put them in and your done. I buy enough for 2 times of replacing so i have them on hand. Check them out.

  14. Ran across your great Blog about wood cookstoves and firebricks for the Pioneer Stoves. I would agree with you on the design perimeters and the thought process behind it.
    I have also had some folks cast their own firebrick using a product from AW Perkins called Cast-able Firebrick. I am not sure how well it works but I thought I'd mention it.
    The new "Improved idea" from Pioneer is Stainless Steel Refractory Panels for their stoves instead of the firebrick. More info some folks with Pioneer Stoves would be interested in.
    We have just added a new website for folks who own and use wood cookstoves and even those who dream about it. We have videos and articles from everything to the EPA and Woodstoves to various ways to rebuild and install cookstoves. There is even a forum for folks to ask questions and share recipies. Hope this helps.

  15. Did a little research and found out you can patch cracked fire bricks with a refractory mortar. Haven't tried it yet, but will likely give it a go. See: