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So you have a stove...

August 17, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

If you've managed to pick up a nice brass pressure stove, what next?

All the following information is available on the Classic Camp Stoves forum.  Please feel free to search there for hints & tips and stuff.  It is, afterall, where I picked up most of the things I know!!!

Furst First we'll give the stove a gentle clean with a mild detergent (like fairy liquid) and gently clean the stove with something similar to a non-stick safe scouring pad or sponge - you just want to clean the worst of the grot off so you can handle it!  You should find that a lot of the muck will clean right off.  Take care not to scratch the brass any more than it is already.

We have here from top left, spirit can (this woud be for meths), storage tin, cleaned tank.  From middle left, flame ring, burner assembly, pot stands (only two - there should be three), fill cap, pressure release screw, reserve lid.  From bottom left, spanner (for attaching & removing burner) and pump assembly, pump knob, pump cap and pump shaft complete with washer.  Newspaper is a MUST - do not anger the domestic authorities!!!

What we want to do now is see if the tank holds pressure.  Unscrew the pump tube cap and pull the plunger out slowly.  Hopefully, you will find an old pump leather still intact (or even better, a newish one in good condition!).  Soak the leather in some three-in-one oil or motor oil until it's supple and replace the pump.  Now tighten down the fill cap and pressure release screw and put your finger over where burner screws onto the tank.  Pump the pump!  You should feel resistance and you should feel air trying to push your finger off the top of the tank.  Now submerge the tank in water (still with your finger on top) and watch for bubbles!

Watch for

  • Pump knob not moving when you pump - this suggests a stuck NRV (non return valve)
  • Pump knob & shaft sliding back out of the pump tube ("Viagra Effect") - this indicates an issue with the NRV
  • Bubble from pump tube - this indicates an issue with the NRV
  • Bubbles from the fill cap - this is just a straight forwards seal to change
  • Bubbles from elsewhere - hope that they're tracking or your finger is loose on the top of the tank as otherwise, you're going to get good at soldering brass...

As a guide, expect to replace every seal in the stove when you rebuild it, including the pump leather.  Thankfully, kits are readily available from http://www.fettlebox.co.uk/ but you may find yourself popping over to base-camp.co.uk for other parts.

Ok, so lets assume that the tank holds pressure.  Now you want to clean the inside of the tank out well with a warm weak soapy water (some use soda crystals in solution) and clean the accumulated cr*p out of the tank.  Rinse well with hot water & let to dry.  Rinse the stove out with isopropyl alcohol (or similar) and dry.

Now attach the burner to the tank and snug it down and pump!  You're going to listen for the air coming out of the jet of the burner (you can always put this bit in water and watch for results).  If no air comes out, you are either going to need to replace the jet (or prick it out with the corret size pricker) and/or clean the burner assembly.

If the burner isn't blocked you can put some paraffin in the stove and do a trial burn.  Don't fill more than 1/4 full at this point.  Never do your first burn of a new stove indoors or near flammable stuff and NEVER USE PETROL IN A PARAFFIN STOVE!!!

Ok, to do a test firing, make sure the stove is in a draught free place.  Close the fill cap well BY HAND ONLY and open the pressure relief screw.  Fill the spirit cup with meths (don't fill it right to the top) and always ALWAYS mop up spillages.  Light the meths in the spirit cup and wait!  As the meths burns down to the bottom of the spirit cup, tighten the pressure relief screw.  If you have a silent burner wait for the meths to extinguish.  If you have a roarer burner, pump the stove up until you get ignition!  If you get a jet of liquid paraffin, stop pumping, release the pressure (using the pressure relief screw) and re-prime with meths.  With a silent burner, pressurise the stove with a lighter near the cap so it burns outside of the cap (just like with a gas stove).

Now hopefully you have a good (blue) flame from your stove.  Watch and see if the flame dies down quickly (indicating a pressure leak) or continues strongly.  Watch for a yellow flame coming from anywhere it shouldn't and also look for white vapour escaping from anywhere

If the flame does die down, let out the pressure and wait for it all to cool.  Nothing should be warm.  Empty the paraffin into an old coke bottle and then pressurise the stove again, block the jet of the burner with your little finger (or something that isn't going to get stuck in the jet) and place stove under water to look for leaks.  It's hopefully just a lead washer or one of the seals around the spirit cup that needs changing.

If you didn't get to do the trial burn, don't worry!  Part of the fun with old stoves is getting them going and cleaning them up!

Cleaning full service next ;)


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