What Is a Pot Belly Stove?
A pot belly stove is a type of wood burning stove (used either to cook or to give off heat) that is made of cast iron. Pot belly stoves are generally freestanding (not attached to any structure) and are normally vented through a wall or up out of a ceiling. The term itself, “pot belly stove”, comes straight from the look of the stove itself. Pot belly stoves are shaped like barrels, bulging out in the middle resembling a pot belly on a person. The pot belly stove is now mostly an antique item that stands in for old-school America and the look of the old country store. Where people still have pot belly stoves they are mostly antiques and used for their look more than their function.
Why were pot bellied stoves made of cast iron?
Cast iron is basically a strong iron that is also made up of 3 to 4 percent carbon and less than 6 percent silica. This mixture is ideal for stoves because it is strong and can also handle extremely high temperatures without affecting the metal itself. Cast iron is literally “cast” in molds and then heated up to super high temperatures for long periods of time. The casting process changes the carbon in the iron into graphite and gives the cast iron its most desirable properties, such as strength and resistance to heat.
Where were pot belly stoves used?
In old days, a pot belly stove would be used to heat a large space. You could find them in stores, train stations, schoolhouses, churches, etc. The pot belly stove is good at heating up large areas, and were well-constructed of heavy-duty cast iron. Pot belly stoves allowed people to gather around them and warm up while they shop, attend church or a prayer meeting, or wait on a train to arrive. Even though the pot belly stove was meant to heat large spaces, some homes on the American frontier used them to ward off the intense cold. They provide better warmth than a fireplace and last longer as well.
How did the design of pot belly stoves differ from regular stoves?
The only real difference between a pot belly stove and other types of cast iron stoves (with names like “box stoves”, “parlor stoves”, etc) is the shape of the stove itself. The design of the pot belly stove has more to do with the style of the times than with function — the pot belly look just appealed to people back then. Yes, the pot belly stove has a familiar bulging barrel shape, but claw feet are another hallmark of pot belly stoves. At the front of the pot belly stoves, there is usually a heavy hinged door for feeding in wood and cleaning out the ash after a fire. But outside of the pot belly shape and the claw feet, there isn’t much different about a pot belly stove.
Do people still use cast iron pot bellied stoves?
Modern heating techniques have made the use of the pot belly stove something of a novelty. Antique pot belly stoves still exist, and there are even manufacturers making replicas of popular pot belly stove designs. If a person is building a farmhouse or an addition to their home in a frontier style, the inclusion of a pot belly stove is a no-brainer. You don’t have to go the route of an expensive antique — a replica pot belly stove will work just fine.
In some cases, older homes may still have their original pot belly stove in place, and it may still work with a few simple cleaning procedures. You can even convert your old pot belly stove to a gas or electric hookup, so you can use a real piece of Americana to cook meals and heat a room or two.
If you’re looking for a pot belly stove to complete your home’s look, prepare to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Replica pot belly stoves aren’t much cheaper, as they are usually still made of cast iron which is a heavy and expensive material.
Pot belly stoves are a piece of the American past that can still be functional, either as design tools or heating equipment. The look of a pot belly stove is familiar to anyone who’s spent any time watching old movies — when you want a frontier look, there’s nothing that says “America” more than a pot belly stove.