Little Cod Wood Stove – Bus Building

The first fire!

WARNING: This entry may be boring except for those of you nerdy enough to be curious about my experiences obtaining, installing, and using my Little Cod wood stove (made by Navigator Stove Works on Orcas Island, WA).

Just in time for cold weather! I’ve been storing and hauling this beautiful little woodstove for over a year. Finally the time has come. I light it, and within 5 minutes I’m pulling off layers of clothes.

Right after I got the stove and accessories - equipment test!

When I first moved to Orcas Island in summer of 2010, I had heard about a guy named Andrew who makes world-renowned super-small marine wood stoves. I contacted him regarding a work-trade, and he invited me over to his place. Over the next couple months I worked here and there for him cutting, splitting, hauling and stacking firewood, as well as a couple other miscellaneous jobs. I got to know his family, dog and property.

When it came time to figure out our exact work-trade, it became apparent that one of his stoves that a friend of mine traded from him five years prior might actually be cheaper for me. It had sat unused in his barn and had taken on it’s own wabi sabi appearance in the form of rust and bird poop.

Instead, I used the time I worked for Andrew towards all the accessories that the stove needed (several pieces of single wall and insulated stainless pipe, a damper, a drop-in denatured alcohol burner, a stove pipe cap, a transition piece from single- to double-wall pipe, and an angled pipe support).

Bulding the platform for wood stove and closet. Note: coolant-/electricity-powered water heater (orange) and solar fridge (grey)

A couple weeks ago I rebuilt a platform I had made for the stove and a closet behind my driver’s seat. Underneath it will be a housed a wood storage bin that doubles as table on wheels – the top of which will be a cutting board that also fits on my sink. Also under the platform is a coolant- and/or electricity-powered marine water heater (soon to be plumbed).

Two months ago in Coos Bay, my friend Ric gave me some leftover zinc from a counter-top, which was plenty to make a barrier for around the wood stove. His friend, Terry, who has helped me with several metal projects, helped shear and break all the zinc so that it could fit some ceiling tiles (recommended by Andrew) for insulating the barrier. The barrier (from stove to wall) is: 1” between the stove and the barrier, the zinc, the ceiling panel, and a ½” air gap. Spacers made from scrap copper pipe hold this 1/2” gap. The stove is bolted through its feet, one of these panels, with a gap, and into the plywood platform. This panel, however, is a piece of stainless from the old back doors of Homegrown Market on Orcas Island.

Ceiling tile/zinc heat barrier panels. Thanks Ric and Terry!

Hole in the roof! I was scared until I realized I couldn't change it even if I wanted to.

On the sink side of the woodstove, instead of a gap behind the panel, it is open to under the sink, and above sink level I made a piece of copper sheeting that finished of the backside. It’s decked out with brass hardware and looks pretty snazzy.

The scariest part of the installation was cutting a hole in the ceiling. As Andrew suggested, I held one of the pieces of stovepipe vertical and up to the ceiling and marked out the hole. This helped a lot since a perfect circle for a vertical pipe isn’t a perfect circle on the angled and curved ceiling.

Wood frame and angled bracket to stabilize the double-wall stove pipe as it passed through the roof.

Between the ceiling supports and around the new hole, I build a wood frame to help hold the pipe in place and provide a place to attach the angled stovepipe holder. I had to modify this bracket slightly by bending the edges to make up for the curve of the ceiling. Somehow my calculations ended up a little off and my stovepipe is slightly angled outwards. Oh well. Maybe I’ll fix it someday.

One of the biggest headaches of the process was trying to get the transition piece (from single- to double-wall pipe) to fit in the single-wall pipe. They both had the same diameter and I asked myself if they were even supposed to fit together. I found out that you can crimp pipe like this, so I had it done at the hardware store. It still wouldn’t fit. I had to force it in, which in turn forced the single wall pipe to come apart at the seem. To fix this, I screwed the seam together less than a foot below where the two pieces connected. This kept the seam from coming apart. Once the two pieces were connected, I screwed the seam of the pipe at the top and through the transition piece.

It was here that I also installed the damper. Four-inch dampers are so cute. The screw at the top of the pipe also helps keep the damper in place when in the closed position.

One modification I made to the stove was in the hinges. Originally the stove came with some really cool copper pins for the door hinges. However, these pins seemed too small in diameter to make the door swing nicely and close snugly. In Coos Bay, at Ric’s shop, and with his guidance, I drilled a hole big enough for a ¼” rod in the base casting of the stove directly below the hinges. I took a ¼” brass rod, cut it to length and threaded the ends (with a die). With some finagling, I got the rod through the hole and into the hinges. I capped the top and bottom with some pretty brass acorn nuts. Then I filled the hole I drilled with high temperature cement. The hinge works great, and the accidental benefit of this system is that if you push down on the brass rod it kind of locks the door in place, which is great for keeping it closed for driving and such.

With the two foot extension and cap on. Yes, it's slightly crooked.

The stovepipe configuration I installed consists of two feet of single wall, two feet of double wall, which goes through the ceiling and ends right around the height of my roof rack. Then there’s a two-foot extension that can be added at anytime (except while driving, obviously). The stove needs at least four feet of pipe, and preferably more for good draft.

The manual for this stove calls for five initial fires, starting small and working up to larger ones. Once I finished the install I started this process with my two-foot extension stovepipe on. These small fires worked great until my third fire when I had a few friends in the bus and it was super windy. I had taken the two-foot extension off, and when a huge gust of wind came a giant puff of smoke came from the stove. Cough, cough. However, when it hasn’t been windy, the stove has worked great without the extension.

Building the first fire.

I planned on taking off the extension and cap while driving and putting on some kind of cover that sealed on the top of the stovepipe. I had ideas, such as an upside down bucket with a seal and pins to hold it on. Nothing seemed perfect. Instead, I started driving with just the regular stove cap on and the damper closed. No ash has been coming out of the stove and no moisture has come down either, even when driving 60 MPH in dumping rain. I did leave the cap on and damper open one day and quiet a bit of ash blew in while driving. I also bought a four-inch stainless/rubber expandable plug to plug the pipe when I’m not using the stove much (still have to test this). EDIT: Rubber/stainless plug works great, but I haven’t found a need for it yet, except on long hauls, in extreme weather, and when trying to be more incognito (see photos at bottom of post).

Smoke and sparks from the chimney cap. No, there is no flame coming out. It is just lit up by the fire four feet below and accentuated by my slow shutter speed.

From all this, I decided that when I am using the stove a lot, I can drive with the damper shut and regular cap on. I can burn the stove without the extension, unless it’s windy and then I’ll add it. If I’m not using the stove a lot, or will be driving a bunch I will put the four-inch plug in. The extension and cap store nicely in the truck box mounted on my roof. Yay!! I still have to test how the stove works with the extension versus without.

When I first started burning the stove full blast I had problems keeping the fire within reasonable temperatures. I would crank it to 500 degrees and then damper it down and close the flue (like I had been doing since I was a kid). The temps would continue to rise up to over 850 F. This is definitely over-firing the stove. The stove was also burning wood extremely fast. It would be too hot to want to add more wood, and by the time it cooled down enough to want to add wood, the fire would be all but out. I continued having these problems, and even found other people having these issue on the forum for Navigator Stoves. Some people posted ways to make the stove more airtight, and thus more controllable with the flue and damper. In response, Andrew said that because the stove isn’t airtight, and complies with emission standards, it cannot be dampered down like a regular wood stove. And the methods that users were using to create a more airtight stove would actually make it burn less clean (below 250 degrees creates more emissions and creosote).

Yet, when I was pushing my door closed when dampering it down, I found that closing that gap would help keep the fire temps down. Perhaps I should add a piece wood stove gasket material around the door, or seal the little gap below the door as others suggest?

Wood ceiling panels replaced. Notice the partial old Ford headlight rim used as trim at the ceiling.

I realized after a while that much of my problem came from the wood I was burning, which was all scrap from the shop. All of the wood I was putting in was small (2×2 or smaller). Once I started using larger wood (2x4s) my fires responded much better to my attempts to control temps using air control methods. Still, it’s not as good as I’d like. I may still try to seal the door better, or fill the gap below the door. The balance for me is to be able to control the temps without having the fire burning too hot (over 55o degrees F – over-fire) or too cool (under 250 degrees F – creosote buildup and more emissions).

With a stove this small, it’s kind of a bummer, but I’ll never be able to burn it all of the way through the night, as it needs stoking too often. It looks like once it is dialed, my fires will only burn up to 3-4 hours – which is much better than the under-an-hour burn times I was experiencing with smaller wood.
One of the other experiences I’ve been having is that the stove heats the upper half of my bus nicely since it sits at least a foot and a half off the floor. Yet, since it’s tucked back in there so snugly, the floor area by my benches is still kind of cold. Solution: I hope to create a vent at the rear of the stove that connects to a duct under my sink, with a fan that sucks warm air from the stove and pushes it through a vent by the floor by the benches. This fan will also suck air in the same ducting through a small radiator I have that can be powered by coolant (which is heated by my engine or Webasto – a diesel-powered coolant heater that I have). More on this to come.

Sewing my thermal curtains should help with retaining heat as well.

Making tea and drying pumpkin seeds on the new stove.

Many people have asked about burning my woodstove while parked on the street. I have mostly been burning it on private property, but the few times I’ve burned it in public I’ve had no problems. I’ve lit it before I went to sleep on a few public, but not well traveled, streets. I’ve also burned it while parked at a couple parks. So far no one has cared. I suspect that there are “open flame” laws that prohibit this, but have yet to get hassled. I am curious though.

All in all, I am so stoked on being warm, just in time for winter. It works great! And it is a fun conversation piece when people come in for tea. People keep commenting on how cozy and nice the bus is getting, and I’m sure the woodstove is a huge part of this.

Whew, that was a slew of words in one sitting. I hope this was interesting to at least one or two of you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. For more information on Navigator Stoves, please visit their website or their forum.

Coming soon: running water!

Rubber/stainless plug for driving/rain

Rubber/stainless plug installed

 

The drop-in denatured alcohol burner. Allows you to cook w/o heating your living space.

Making tea on the wood stove with the drop-in burner.

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25 Responses to Little Cod Wood Stove – Bus Building

  1. Charlie A. says:

    I think it is a great story wrought with experience and lessons learned. How rewarding it can be to work hard for some of the simple comforts (often taken for granted) like heat. I must admit I am a bit envious of your life style. Been there and experienced much. Best to you and yours and all the Universe has to give. Perhaps I will run into you at Rootstalk this year, 2012. Thanks again for the story. Charlie in Fort Collins, Colorado

    • Guisepi says:

      Ahh, thank you kind sir! Unfortunately, Rootstalk wont be happening again until 2013… But perhaps before then, in the Rockies or elsewhere. We (Edna-the-teabus and I) will be getting off the West Coast soon and hope to visit many places around the country. Email us to get on our regional “tea-mail” list to know when there are free tea parties, rideshares, and events in your area… freeteaparty@gmail.com

      Thanks again!

  2. James says:

    Thanks for posting your experience. We’re going to be converting another bus over the next couple of years, and I’m seriously considering a Little Cod as the primary heat source. Is the wood you’ve been burning mostly soft wood shop scraps? Burning any kind of hard wood would make a tremendous difference in run time.

    I’d love to see a current report.

    Best regards from North Carolina

    • Guisepi says:

      James! Thanks for your comment. Yes, most of the wood is soft wood scrap from the shop, as well as pallets. I am keeping my eyes out for hardwood (oak) pallets in the future, as well as fallen hardwood when I’m in the forest. I’ve had better luck recently with keeping my temps down (using less small scrap), but this baby still needs to be fed reasonably often (though it will change a bit once I get more hardwoods in there, as you suggested).

      I’m glad you read this even though the pics aren’t up. I will have the pics back up soon, so check back!

  3. Larry Millard says:

    Hey! Thanks for your blog. We live in a 40′ Trailways bus/conversion and are soon to move to the Rockies. Glad for your blog because we have been planning to purchase the LITTLE COD stove for our main source of heat using it every chance get. We’ve been wondering if anyone else out there with a bus/conversion is using the LITTLE COD. Would love to hear any more input on the subject.
    Larry & Francie

    • Guisepi says:

      Yes, these stoves rock! It makes my bus super toasty (too much sometimes). For a 40′ coach, it should just keep you warm in the Rockies. Is your bus insulated? If you have any Q’s, just send me an email (posted on my Contact page)…

      • Larry Millard says:

        Hi,
        Actually yes, we are trying to learn all we can so we have questions: Have you learned of a decent way to heat water with the Little Cod??? We’ve heard the flue hot water heater idea doesn’t heat the water hot enough without really firing up the stove too high also that the firebox is so small that water pipes inside cut down the burn area too much. What have you heard? Another question: are you using a dedicated fresh air inlet near the stove?
        Thanks,
        Larry & Francie

        • Guisepi says:

          You know, I use mine to heat water for tea, and occasionally use it to heat water for washing dishes. I use a great little tea kettle from the 1800s that you actually pop one of the 6″ burners out of the stove and plop this little guy down in there. It has a flange around the mid section of the kettle to hold it in place and seal it a bit. This allows the bottom inch or two to sit down inside the stove while it’s running. It doesn’t stick down lower than the top of the door, so it’s not in the way when feeding the stove. Check it out here.

          I’ve cleaned up the stove a bit since then and re-polished it…

          Otherwise, I use a marine hot water heater that has a heat exchanger inside to heat it while I’m driving or idling. And I just installed a Webasto diesel-powered coolant heater and circulator so that I don’t have to drive or idle to have hot water. (More to come on this in a new posting soon). So, I don’t really use the stove to heat water that often except for tea…

          I also use a Kelly Kettle (wood fired rocket-type stove), a fresnel lens (giant magnifying glass), and a Turbo Pot (tea kettle with a heat sink on the bottom for more efficient heating).

          I don’t have a dedicated fresh air inlet.

          Here’s an idea for helping to distribute the heat. Run a pipe from the lowest, farthest spot from the stove you can. Run it up next to the stove and higher than it. The stove will heat the pipe and the air inside of it. Since heat rises, the air inside the pipe will rise, drawing colder air from the far, low spot where the pipe leads from. The coldest air gets heated, and warmer air will slowly fill the void left by the migrating cold air.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for posting about your stove. We are in the process of converting a ’91 Chevy Bluebird school bus and the “little cod” is what we are thinking about using for heat. It is great to see the install process. I’m pretty scared about cutting that hole in the roof as well! Did you 4″ double wall pipe or did you jump up to 6″ for the double wall? All I saw on the Navigator site in 4″ was single wall and Andrew didn’t answer my questions when I told him the stove was for a gas powered bus. Thanks again! I love that you are sharing your experience!

    • Guisepi says:

      Hey Elizabeth. Glad you could get some info from this post. Don’t be scared about cutting a hole – just make sure it’s in the right place :-) … Holes are easily patched if you mess it up (some sheet metal, self-tapping screws, and some 5200 sealant – it’ll never come apart or leak).

      I used double wall 4″ pipe to go through the ceiling. Because it is double wall, it ends up being 6″ in diameter (OD). I got my pipe through Andrew, so he definitely can get it for you. I did end up finding some online too when searching around.

      As far a using a wood stove in a gasoline vehicle, I would search around a bit and see what other people say…

      Good luck!!!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Thanks for the words of encouragement! And for the tips on patching holes…hopefully I won’t need them though!

        • Hey, so just a few days ago I ran into Andrew from Navigator (actually he came on the bus for tea). I asked him about using them in a gas-powered bus. He said that of course, there is always a risk. You’re not supposed to burn in a gas-powered boat, and for good reasons. If you had a leak or spill, you could have major problems (boom!).

          But, in my opinion, I would just think about your risk likelihood and take it from there. Don’t rule it out right off the bat. If you’re careful, your fuel lines and tank are in tip top shape, and you stay on top of safety, who knows, it might work for you.

  5. Tony Jackson says:

    I am really glad to have found your blog. After much research, I am about to pull the trigger on a little cod to heat my 40′ MCI coach. Did I understand you correctly that you use the stove WHILE travelling? That would be a great additional feature. Please tell me more about that. Do you have a deflector shield in front of your chimney? Is there a draft issue? I look forward to hearing more.

    • Guisepi says:

      Yes, great choice. I LOVE my Little Cod. I actually do NOT use it while driving. I only mention the pipe while driving to explain that residual ash only comes down the chimney when the flue is open. There is no wind guard/deflector. Good luck!

  6. DeLaney says:

    Great post! Very imformative. I am looking to install one of these in my ’78 Airstream Sovereign it is 31 feet long so it should heat that space nice and toasty in the long Michigan winters. I am thinking of installing a way to heat water with the wood stove but am unsure of this. Has anyone done something similar with this model or another small wood burning stove? We want to move far away from using LP that is standard on the Airstream so we are hoping to install all new systems within the next few years. It is all in the planning stages as we get the interior/ exterior fixed up before starting to replace any systems.

    • Guisepi says:

      Hello DeLaney… Yes, this is a GREAT little stove, and should be able to heat your airstream nicely. As far a water heating is concerned, are you looking for heating AND storing water? Or making water for tea? Or for dishwashing? There’s a few different ideas/options (see also a previous comment and reply about heating water). Let me know!

  7. C says:

    Just started using a little cod in my airstream home. I love it although i am having a problem with smoke pouring out the door. Anytime the fire dies down or during lighting/stoking, smoke starts to pour out the door and fill the room. It is more or less fine when the fire is going strong but otherwise is EXTREMELY smokey. Damper and flue open when refilling/lighting. No tall buildings nearby to create downdraft. Stovepipe is about 7.5 ft long. Happens every time windy or not. Any suggestions on what I’m doin wrong?

    • Guisepi says:

      Hey there! That’s an interesting problem you’re having there. Your stove definitely SHOULD NOT be smoking out the door when you open it. I find that this only happens for me if: (a) It’s windy; (b) my stove pipe needs to be swept; or (c) I forget to open the damper. Have you tried closing the air supply (on the side of the Little Cod) when you open the door, so that more draft will pull through the door and keep the smoke from coming out? Also, definitely check to make sure the damper is attached correctly. I’ve seen dampers get out of whack, where they are loose and don’t open/close when you turn the knob. Or, sometimes they are mis-aligned so that they are open when you think their closed, and closed when you think they’re open.

      I would put a strong light in the stove (when it’s not burning, obviously), and get up on the roof, pull off the chimney cap, and see if there’s any creosote buildup, and if the damp is working like you think it is.

      Let me know if any of this helps! Guisepi

      • andrew moore says:

        C’s airstream issues above were traced to a piece of “lost” ROXUL insulation that had apparently fallen down in the pipe during install.
        Sure won’t run well that way!

        How’s it going G?

        A/NSW

  8. Miwa says:

    Hi there!
    Thank you for this post- it is super informative and I appreciated the details. I m currently waiting for my cod stove and will be installing it in my tiny house. I just got the metal roof and the stove pipe all in yesterday so when my cod stove comes I am hoping hooking it up will go quick and smooth!

    One question for you- I am considering those alcohol burner inserts and I am curious how you have found them. Is there any way to control the amount of heat they put out or is it kind of a one setting for all? Do you have another way to cook or do you only cook on your wood stove and with the alcohol burner? Also, have you found any good cheap sources of alcohol to burn? Thanks for your time!

    • Guisepi says:

      Hi Miwa,

      I’m excited for your new stove! I love mine. In fact, I am sitting with it right now burning away, beating off the early cold here in Maine.

      I do have the alcohol burner, but I actually haven’t used it more than a few times. The main reason that I liked the idea of it, was that I knew I could get denatured alcohol from the company Klean Strip that was “95% natural and renewable content” (not sure if this claim is more marketing or not, but nonetheless, I’m not the hugest fossil fuel fan). There’s not many more options out there for non-petroleum-based fuels (biodiesel, perhaps). Your comment here made me bring the burner out and light it up again.

      The burner comes with a rotating simmer ring that allows you to adjust the amount of flame. It consists of a ring that sits on the burner, and redirects the flame toward the center of the burner. In the central opening of the simmer ring, there’s a rotating plate that controls the flame. There are a couple problems with this simmer ring. One is that it is hard to rotate the rotating plate while it is sitting on the burner, as the whole simmer ring will rotate when trying to adjust the flame. This is tougher, obviously, when the burner is lit. The only solution I have found is to use two metal utensils – one to hold the ring, and the other to rotate the plate.

      The other problem with the simmer ring is that it redirects the otherwise evenly distributed flame to just the center of the burner, causing your pot or pan to only be heated from a small central point.

      Overall, I would say that the drop in burner is not for regular cooking, or if you use it for such, be prepared to have more interaction with your stove than a regular stove. It’s probably just fine for people who are happy to keep it simple (only have one stove), and who don’t mind fiddling with it a little. If you just plan on making tea, I’d say this burner is just fine (and I should use it more for that).

      I would consider selling mine if you were interested. Thanks! Guisepi

    • Guisepi says:

      Oh, and yes, I have a propane stove that I use for my regular cooking. I use about 5 gallons every 3 months – for all my cooking (at least one meal/day), as well as making copious amounts of tea.

  9. Claude Taylor says:

    Hi Guisepi, I live in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. I found your articles very interesting. I am trying to think up ways to be self-reliance in my camping, not using electricity or propane. I have a new 7 by 16 foot cargo trailer to use for camping. Your ideas and knowledge, I find to be motivational. Believe it or not, I have a Cod Stove I purchased maybe 20 years ago and used it once outside to burn some documents. I would love to travel more and be 100% self- reliance, & return home with more money than I started with, without working or gambling :>) Thanks for your articles. Cheers——————–Claude PS…my wife & I are in our seventies.

    • Guisepi says:

      Hey Claude!

      I love the journey you are on. You are proof that learning and exploring can be (and probably should be) lifelong adventures. I love your words and ideas. If you ever make it out on the road again, let me know. And perhaps I’ll see you down the road (maybe I’ll even make it to Alberta).

      Also, I know a lot of people who are looking for tiny wood-stoves, so if you every want to pass your Little Cod on, I have the people ;-)

    • Dana Oryana says:

      Hello Claude,
      My husband and I live in the Cariboo – in B.C – if you & your wife ever decide to sell your little Cod woodstove & you haven’t sold it yet.. we are interested as well!
      Happy Spring! :)
      Dana Oryana 1-250-992-3479

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