So this is supposed to be heavy and outdated? Just like me!
August 18, 2014 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I'd like tips, tricks, mods, etc. for a Svea 123R stove.

So over the past three decades I have backpacked with a variety of stoves starting with Coleman Peak 1 single burner attached tank models before graduating up to various MSR-type Whisperlite detached tank models. This weekend a neighbor left a bunch of outdoor gear on the curb for general dispersal to the world. They were giving away a Whisperlite shaker-jet which had been used once. Perfect. My old one can be used for parts. But right next to it was a stove I have seen in use but never used, a Svea 123R. I almost passed up on it but something about the brass construction and the beautiful form caught my eye. Hell, it was free. I took it.

Since then, I have been smitten. I have been practicing priming it by using body heat to force gas out into the well. I have practiced lighting it and using it to boil water. The ease of use, simplicity of design, the beauty of the machine are all amazing. I think I have the basic functioning of the thing down pretty well, but what am I missing? I have checked the o-ring in the cap and it is still pliable. I haven't taken apart the valve so don't need to replace the graphite bushing. Under pressure, there are no leaks.

Do you know any tips or tricks to share with me? Anything at all. Lay it on me. (But I have realized that as I approach middle age, I seem to aim more for low-tech to home-made solutions to things.)
For a pot I am contemplating getting a mucket or a trade kettle from a suttler, but if anyone has any preferences for cookware, I am open to suggestions.
posted by Seamus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used a Svea when I started backpacking in the mid 70's. One of the things we always did was to poke a cleaning needle into the hole the gas comes out before starting it. I guess to clear out soot. We used a Sigg bottle to carry white gas/Coleman fuel -- I had one with a regular cap and a pour spout cap attached to it. Other folks would use a small plastic funnel.

Good memories! :)
posted by elmay at 6:56 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is the stove of my childhood, and that sputtering hiss was the soundtrack. Well, that and the cursing when it wouldn't prime, then went out again, then tipped over...

Really it's a good stove and I could probably still operate one with my eyes shut, but as you indicate in the title stove technology has moved on. The Svea is a timeless design, like a classic car, and comparing it to a modern version isn't fair to either. Take it apart often enough to know all the parts because they clog and leak and loosen and need fiddling and fixing, and better to learn at the kitchen table than in the rain while everyone is hungry.

Even with that cute little pour spout cap it was still hard to fill it without spilling gas -- maybe the new version is better? I've never used anything other than a dented and blackened aluminum pot; the biggest issue is stability so do some experimenting in the backyard before going camping. The stupid little cap is supposed to be a pot but isn't big enough for anything except a cup of coffee and you will burn your lips on it anyway.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:05 PM on August 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have one and I've used it for years decades, never had a problem and done zero maintenance to it.

Seconding the needle. You can buy replacements online. The key is also a wrench on mine. Looking at some others online I've seen some different designs that don't look as obviously wrenchlike but they might also work for pulling the stem off.

I used to have the dropper to put the fuel down in the priming well and light it, to get the gas to pressurize. The body heat thing doesn't always work. I lost that thing years ago and I've found all manner of ways to heat it up. I've even blown into the fuel port in a pinch, to push the gas up the stem. Never had it not light, although sometimes it's taken some time.

I also don't go into the woods for weeks at a time though, so ymmv.
posted by natteringnabob at 7:08 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, the stove is iconic to boomers who had a period of wilderness hiking & backpacking. It is functionally similar in many ways to the Optimus 8r and 111B, and they may share some parts, like the flame spreader and the fuel cap. So you could look include those models as potential parts sources.
I share your appreciation of the brass construction. As for a cook pot, old aluminum is fine, and nothing bigger than a quart size or it will surely tip over!
posted by TDIpod at 7:30 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The walmart mess-kit lightweight generous size, your stove may fit inside it .
posted by hortense at 9:40 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't try to simmer. It is frigging awesome at boiling water though.
posted by rockindata at 8:36 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

When using it be sure to wear only wool, down and oil-cloth (or perhaps polyurethane coated nylon). Also, get yourself some awesome round-lens mountaineer glasses.
posted by Good Brain at 8:40 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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