pot too large for wood stove, now what?
December 2, 2016 7:48 PM   Subscribe

I use large pots on the wood stove to heat bathwater in my cabin. Wanting to upgrade a 6 gallon pot, I bought two larger ones at an auction. Only to find my eyes were bigger than my stove surface and the pots I purchased are prrobably something like 20 gallons each! Only 60% of the larger pot fits on top of the stove, the rest would hang off the side. Wanting to avoid spilling 20 gallons of steaming water. Is there any way to make this safe?

Cast iron stove. The stovepipe comes out of the middle of the stove top, and the pots would need to fit one on each side. The pots are round with flat bottoms and straight sides.

Wondering about perhaps getting a metal sheet with a stovepipe sized hole in the middle, and somehow anchoring it to the top of the stove. Or maybe somehow attaching "wings" to the sides of the stove.
posted by joeyh to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
One gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. How much could weight could you realistically heave off the stove without risking a spill?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:21 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Would it be practical to construct another stove, say outside so you don't need stovepipes, and mostly made of brick? If your cabin is a summer cabin, or if it doesn't drop much below freezing in the area where you cabin is located it would probably be easier to do that than to actually make major renovations to the stove you already have.

A laundry stove was usually used for heating up large quantities of water. It had a much bigger top area and was also rather lower to the ground to make it easier to handle the heavy pots of water. The pots used to heat wash water were often made of copper and might have a faucet on one side to draw the water off so you didn't have to climb a ladder to scoop it out of the top with a bucket, or move the copper full of scalding water.

They used to have cast iron flange-things that could be bolted on to a stove body to customize it so that the same stove body could be sold as a basic or as a luxury model, with a water reservoir on the side of the stove, or a shelf on the side. But the version that supported the water tank would have been bolted to both the top and the bottom, and the shelf might very well not be strong enough for a huge pot of water. If you examine your woodstove you will see if there are holes in the iron to allow this kind of retrofitting, although of course they would be sealed with some kind of a bolt.

If your stove does have these bolt holes the problem would be finding the antique parts you need, or making something along the same lines, but out of modern material. It would have to be a permanent thing, because it would have to be very securely attached for safety's sake, not something you could just flip onto the top of the stove, then off every time you wanted bath water.

Stove lids come in sizes; so does cast iron cookware. They were usually seven inch, eight inch or nine inch, if I remember correctly. For best results your cookware/pot should be exactly the size of the stove lid.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:26 PM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wondering about perhaps getting a metal sheet with a stovepipe sized hole in the middle, and somehow anchoring it to the top of the stove. Or maybe somehow attaching "wings" to the sides of the stove.

The first is certainly something you could do, but it would cost you more than a new pot or two (you'd pay someone hundreds to do this and buy the material). The second is possible if your stove is designed to have add on sides, but even those are probably quite expensive, if you can still get the pots.

sevenyearlurk if right though, you don't want a 20 gallon pot unless you have some sort of valve and hose system to get the water out. 20 gallons is way too much hot water to be lifting.
posted by ssg at 8:53 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

You seem to limping towards the point where you reinvent modern plumbing, since this is what is is for. There is no way you want to be caryying a 166 lb container of hot water around your house.
posted by w0mbat at 9:03 PM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

Agree re weight. During my childhood and teens we lived in house where the only source of hot water was pots on the stove top. Fill the 20 gallon pots with cold water and carry and tip into the tub etc and consider if you are up to doing this with hot water.
Also huge pot will take so much longer to heat and especially so if pot surface is only 60% over stove top.
Boiling water will make pot vibrate, so personally would not put extensions etc on stove but go buy smaller pot.
posted by 15L06 at 5:36 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just from a safety perspective, could you rig a chain and hook to the pot, hanging from a beefy anchor above the stove? It doesn't solve transport, but you could at least prevent it from randomly tipping off the side of the stove.
posted by cowcowgrasstree at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2016

I actually own a 20 gallon stock pot. It is around 20 inches in diameter and 16 inches tall, and it weights around 170 pounds when filled. I am a pretty strong guy, and it takes two people like me to lift this pot and carry it any distance safely when it is full. Even then, it's not easy. So I think you can forget about walking around with one of these things. One possible solution would be to drill a hole in the side of the pots near the bottom and install a spigot. It would be much easier and safer to just put cold water in the tub and heat it up with an electric bucket heater, but I'm guessing you have reasons that you wouldn't want to do that.
posted by slkinsey at 8:26 AM on December 3, 2016

In the "this might not be a good idea, but..." suppose you were to weight the appropriate side of the pot with a stone or something like that? I don't know how much water you should heat, but that's a whole 'nother question.
posted by mr. digits at 8:32 PM on December 3, 2016

Also, if you were looking to try something along the "wing" line making a pedestal of a couple cinder blocks with an appropriately thick slice of wood for height precision (and maybe stabilization) could work while remaining on the economical side.
posted by mr. digits at 8:42 PM on December 3, 2016

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