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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just did a forum search on wood cookstoves, and it looks like Pioneer Maid and Baker's Choice come out way ahead.
For those of you that have either of them, several questions:
My Lehman's catalog says the tops are "steel, not stainless". Are they a pain to keep clean, do you even try to keep them shiny, how does it work?
The Pioneer Maid has a full porcelain finish, the catalog says. Have you had any trouble with cracking or chipping?
Also, the Lehman's blurb says that "customers...often complain about nonaligned seams and rough finishes that may show weld spatter. (For example, the air controls work well but wobble when you turn them)."
Do the nonaligned seams cause problems with doors closing right or something? Smoke leakage? Or is it merely cosmetic?
If the air controls wobble when turned it suggests to me that they may be loose and thus not controlling air as precisely as may be wished. Is this the case or is it again just a little persnickety thing?
Finally, does anybody know of a dealer in the pacific NW or NW Canada who carries these stoves?

Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I have heated and cooked using a Pioneer Maid as my primary heat source and stove for almost a year and a half. I say primary because I have also used a Coleman stove as it is quicker to heat up when and when I don't need to heat the house.

the Pioneer Maid that I purchased does indeed have a stainless steel top. I don't know whether the current production stoves still have stainless steel tops or not. for those in the PNW who wish to purchase one I recommend a company called Obadiah's. located in Troy, Montana. I know the owners personally and will vouch for their honesty and their diligence in providing excellent customer support. they have a website :

as to the Pioneer Maid itself; in a nutshell if I knew then what I know now I would not buy one.

it is far less than airtight. I have never been able to bank a fire for more than 4 hours.

the fit and finish are not merely cosmetic issues. I had to buy a masonry cutoff blade for my skil saw to resize one of the firebricks before it would fit into its predesigned spot in the fire chamber. the chimney adapter flange that bolts to the back of the stove was missing its attachment brackets and it turned out cheaper and quicker to have a local welder fabricate replacements than to have the manufacturer in Ontario, Canada send replacements. the adapter flange was built to utilze a 7 inch diameter chimney and 7 inch diameter chimney was sold to me by the supplier of the stove.

however throughout most of the U.S. standard metal-bestos chimney components that are normal stocking items in hardware and wood stove dealers are 6 inch and 8 inch diameter. thus making the PM stove's chimney parts a constant source of difficulty for local installers and for replacement within the U.S. rather than simply getting parts from the local retailers, one must order the chimney parts and have them shipped from Canada, resulting in signifigant delays and scheduling of labor for installation.

additionally the chimney flange / adapter constantly leaks air owing to the bolt on design, unless the end user is able to acquire and apply some kind of gasketting that will withstand the 2,100F rating of the chimney components.

the design of the fire chamber and the air flow over the internal oven result in uneven heating of the oven chamber and difficulty in maintaining constant oven temperatures. additionally the design of the internal air flow chambers results in large amounts of creosote buildup in the area behind the oven which is where the stove has a tendency to start chimney fires.

since the chimney adapter flange is made to fit only a single wall chimney pipe, and that in a flattened oval which is merely hand press fit into the adapter, when the inevitable chimney fire starts it heats up the thin, single wall steel chimney pipe at the flange to dangerous levels almost intantly.

because the stove is not truely air tight and because the integral damper between the fire chamber and the chimney flange is loose fitting and non-airtight, and because the creosote buildup occurs in a heat chamber behind the oven and also on the chimney side of the damper, when the chimney fire starts closing the air inlets and the damper only slow down the chimney fire and do not help to extinguish it.

on the unit I purchased, the warming oven door has never been able to be shut in such a way as to have all of the door closed at one time. it was built and shipped in a warped condition and will only close at one end and not evenly across the entire warming oven opening. the reason for this is that the warming oven door is merely a flat piece of sheet steel with a box-like channel on the bottom for the hinge mechanism, and a right angle flange at the top of the door. imagine a U-channel of thin sheet metal that is roughly 10 inches by
47 inches. even without being subject to heating from the stove top during use it will warp axially and there is really no way to prevent it without redesigning it to add stiffners. the cheap pulley sheaves and light weight chain sections and screen door coil springs that are used to hold the door in its upright position are too weak to keep the door fully closed in any event. and make a terrible racket when the door is opened or closed.

the fire box is large and will accomodate a good fire and make use of larger pieces of wood. however the only opening by which to feed wood into the fire box is through a 10 inch diameter opening in the cooktop, which is directly over the firebox. the consequences of this are that pots and pans must be shuffled around the cooktop in order to feed the fire. and every time the stove top is opened in order to feed the fire, the air currents produced by the fire cause soot and schmutz to become airborne and coat the stove. it is impossible to keep the stove clean, and especially the interior of the upper warming oven, and the top shelf. for more than an hour or so. the stove is
constantly coated with a fine dusting of ash particles.

the two support brackets that hold the warming oven above the stove were manufactured slightly out of square and are of different sizes by approximately 1/8th inch. the sheetmetal back panel between the cooktop and the upper warming oven buckles slightly because the pre drilled holes attaching it to the stove top are slightly out of alignment with each other. there is an approximately 1/4 inch gap between the sheet metal back of the upper warming oven and the sheetmetal top of the upper warming oven. it cannot be corrected
without having one or both of those bolted on sheet metal components being remanufactured, because the sheet metal top of the warming oven was built short.

the baked on ceramic coating in the oven only applies to the oven's floor and not to the sides, rear, or "ceiling". the oven is constructed of several pieces of stainless steel sheeting which have been bent into a roughly box like shape and welded at the seems in the back, and riveted using thin angle brackets along the bottom of the oven's floor. the sharp corners and interfering, riveted angle brackets along the bottom side edges of the oven interior make cleaing the interior of the oven a time consuming chore.

Discussion Starter · #3 ·
continued :

the air inlet controls do indeed wobble. however they do not leak and they do shut off the air as advertised. they consist essentially of large sections of threaded shafts which terminate in a large wooden knob. between the knob and the side of the stove, and on the threaded shafts, are very large steel washers. when the knob is rotated and thus the large washer is alternately pressed against the stove side opening, or pulled away from it, the air is allowed to enter the firebox or is prevented from entering it. in normal use the end user is forced to remember how many turns of the screw were last employed in order to guess how much air flow corresponds to a particular burn rate. the air control knobs work as advertised. but they are not especially convenient to use.

the water closet on the side of the stove is also stainless steel and heats water as promised. however the top loading door through which to access the water has a tendency to form surface rust on a daily basis because of constant condensation on the under surface of the trap door in the stove top which is the access point to the water closet. because the water closet is not insulated on its external sides or bottom, once the stove begins to cool, the water in the water closet quickly cools as well. because of the way the water closet is designed and fitted, it is nearly impossible to insulate the water closet should one wish to retrofit it with insulation.

as a space heater the stove, in my experience, heats an area about 1/2 the size advertised. however, it must be borne in mind that space heating is highly variable and dependent on the specific conditions of that space being heated. I have 9 & 1/2 foot high ceilings, and at present, no insulation in the walls. someone who had standard 8 foot high ceilings and adequate wall insulation might very well find that the stove does indeed heat the amount of space that the retailers claim for the stove. bear in mind also that a wood stove is a single point heat source and it is a radiant heat source. meaning
that the heat that is produced will rise in a vertical column of air until it
reaches the ceiling. it will additionally radiate out from the stove, but air is a very poor conductor and the heat will dissipate rapidly as the distance from the stove increases. to use any wood burning stove as a heat source it is essential to have a fan of some type to push the heated column of air above the stove and mix it with the cooler air in the room, thus creating a convection loop that will ultimately raise the average temperature of the air in the room.

the Pioneer Maid is equipped with two removable slugs covering openings to the firebox on the back of the stove by which to install a stainless steel water loop in the firebox for attaching to an external water tank or water heater tank. if you choose to attach any wood burning stove to an external water tank, that tank will be a pressurized tank once the hot water begins to move through the firebox loop and into the tank. you must have high temperature and high pressure relief valves inline with the connections and they must be correctly installed or you risk the danger of explosive steam pressures.

if I were not already invested in a stove that cost me a couple of thousand dollars, and if I knew then what I know now, I would be more inclined to look very seriously at the Kitchen Queen stove. also available through Obadiah's however, knowing firsthand the sloppy level of construction of the Pioneer Maid, I would want to visit the manufacturer's shop, or otherwise physically inspect the specific unit I was purchasing before putting my money on the table.

Obadiah's isn't just honest, they don't just go the extra mile for their customers, they are a standard against which to measure any other stove dealer. when I had issues with the Pioneer Maid they went so far as to arrange a conference call between me and the manufacturer in Ontario, Canada. I can recommend Obadiah's without reservation.

the stove itself is unfortunately another matter.

Discussion Starter · #4 ·
but what about the Margin Gem? I looked at this thing, it looked wonderful.....

Anyone with personal experience?

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