Installing Wood Stove in Camping Van

  • NickG,

    You say:

    "Works great oce the line has bled but I ahd a problem getting it to work when the coleman bottle first attached."

    Trouble Shooting: open the gas line leaving the regulator output open to the air. Try this setup on several different Coleman cans to see whether you get propane flow consistently. It does sound like a faulty regulator that has developed to much leach in its mechanism. If you find you get propane outflow using an empty tank I want that faulty device and will buy you a new regulator in exchange.

    Some vendors of propane products claim (the likeness of ) a time delay (up to 5 min) from the time you turn on the tank valve until their control valve will permit lighting the pilot. Is this time delay a devise built into the control unit or do they mean there being air in the line on a new installation the propane arrival to the burner will come after all the air has gone through the pilot jet and that air expulsion might take 5 min?

  • My first thought was to just put a differ regulater on there but that seems silly if the issue is that standard BBQ regulators are not really compatible with coleman bottles...

  • NickG,

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The hardware sits in your hands along with doing the troubleshooting. Divide and Conquer or Divide and Measure. I would like to hear a resolved verdict on the propane tanks/ regulator issue as it sounds intriguing. You may have to spend time &. $$..

  • Success. Success. Two changes were made to the 3 cu ft. Guide Gear Wood Stove which is in the RV. First the OEM 3 3/8 " stove pipe was replaced with 5" diesel stack steel pipe. The second change was transformational in that the combustion chamber was reduced from OEM size of 3 cu ft to just under 2 cu ft.

    The RV stove had a 3.45" hub adapter to connect the stove to the stove pipe via a flange and i.d. Type insert. It was removable by unscrewing four screws which left a hole just under 3.5". If I could cut the needed 5" holes ( one in the stove and two through the thimble) on the same centers the 5" stove pipe would slide through the roof unto the new 5" hub adapter.


    Here we see a makeshift unshortened hub adapter which is a 5" OD to OD coupler. Both it and the 5" OD to 5" ID couple which was the style used are noticeably wider in middle. This big bulge acts as a wedge stop to the coupler's further insertion into the stove. The bulge occurs in the center of the 8" height couple and most of the bottom half went into the stove. About 3" of the bottom of the pipe was cut off to leave a minor lip sticking inside the stove -- 1/4".

    Note the right angle drill with the red 5" hole saw and fastened into it backwards is a 3.5" hole saw. These 2 hole saws are attached by 1/4" steel rod in lieu of the 1/4" steel drilling bit that is normally in the center holes of the two hole saw arbors. Typically half the hole saw teeth stick outward and half are bend inward slightly -- hole saw teeth set. Anyway the 3.5" teeth frame top is slightly less than 3.5" and fit the OEM hole very snugly. The inner hole saw in this fashion acts as a centering arbor for the outside hole saw. When the inner hole saw fit is tight you get very little wobble in the outer hole saw rotation and hence a very round hole.


    There are 2 locations on the newly inserted ID to OD adapter that must have a sealing material added to stop smoke leaks. This location on a wood stove is too hot for RED RTV silicone sealant at 650F (temps at the hub (usually next to hottest spot on stove top) can get to 900F soon after startup). The black color visible above the yellow label on the coupler is Meeco's Red Devil Gasket Cement and Stove Sealer (2000F rating). This silicate cement sealant cleans up with soapy water. When dry the silicate cement sets up quite hard, almost brittle and does not form a supple gasket like material that is needed for the door gasket material.

    The second major change to the wood stove was to simply test for what changes adding the likes of fire brick would make on stove performance. Rather than spending $$ on real fire brick for such a test I just lined the stove's inside with clay bricks. A brick liner addition is a must for good low rate combustion control. But the addition of fire brick etc. will significantly reduce your combustion volume. I will report more later on the performance of these changes.

    Net gain: big reduction in smoke release into the cabin & may not go for external stove door.

  • Installing Fire Brick

    Lining a stove with bricks insulates the combustion chamber which makes for less scorching hot sidewalls. This retained chamber heat will also heat the wood up inside more uniformly and quickly during startup. The time interval from fire starting to steady state burning after brick lining is about one third of the time. An astonishing reduction, measured by how long the stove is burning until no gray smoke out pours -- clear hot air distortion with a tiny bit of black. The brick is placed on 3 of the sidewalls, not the door opening side. As for the bottom, the brick choice is optional since ashes will insulate his location quite well. The stove top will get hotter than before brick lining.

    Adding bricks will decrease combustion chamber volume. For example the nominal 3 cu ft large Gear Guide Stove in the RV is by selling dimensions 24" x 17" x 15" = 3.54 cu ft. Adding clay bricks to the bottom and 3 sides gave inside measurements of 22" x 11.625" x 12" = 1.776 cu ft. Clay bricks weigh 4 3/4 lb per brick so adding approx 35 bricks adds 166 lbs of thermal mass. The stove will cool slower as the wood charge dwindles.


    Rutland Firebox bricks (ceramic) cost about $6.62 / brick delivered with sales tax while the clay bricks were free. The ceramic fire brick show 2700F and clay bricks rate a little above wood combustion temps 1400F. The thermal expansion rate of clay brick varies somewhat but often is about 1/2 of what the rate is for steel. Due to this big thermal expansion difference bricks are often not motar cemented to steel but fastened with just steel clips and rods. The joints however can be filled with high temp motar and this bonding together of the bricks will stabilize the brick wall to act like a unit.


    So far I have not added any metal clips to hold the bricks in position nor applied motar to the joints.

    After doing the brick installation the trade off is a lower maximun heating potential of the stove while the gain was for lower temp controllable smooth burns and far less spurious smoke belching. The brick lining may yield lasting wood charges up to 6 - 8 hrs. The reduced flat plate office size ( a 3/4" washer) on the external pipe combustion air inlet feed demonstrates how low of a combustion rate the stove now stays burning.


    A damper was also added:


  • Interestin', fer' sure, fer' sure. Gonna tag this "DIY". Only other DIY'er thread thus far on RPU, at least as far as I can recall off the top of my noggin, is @NickG 's Sprinter Van Build. Be cool beans to see more of this kind of stuff. 🐕

    @DingusMcgee Let me know if you need help cleaning up those "![alt text](image url)" bits.

  • Toby,

    Yes tell me how to remove the print under my photo inserts. Thanks.

    Either email or this thread is fine.


  • @DingusMcgee See your post immediately preceding. I edited the last photo w/the damper and left the rest intact. Compare and contrast. I think you'll grok it 😜

    Have fun o/ 🐕

  • Toby,

    Yes that text is more of a distraction than I ever had imagined. Thanks for the demo.


  • Very Hot Stove Top

    The addition of the bricks insulated the three steel sides of the stove and the steel bottom from direct combustion. This insulation job caused the stove's steel top to get hotter than it did before the additon of the bricks which lead to more heat warping on the top plate which in turn overstretched and broke the furnace cement used to seal the stove pipe hub to the stove top. Likely a reapplication of furnace cement would just crack again.

    Either stick welding or acetylene torch steel welding would likely seal & secure the 5" steel OD to ID coupler to the stove top. I decided to try the 5/32" 6013 electrode rod on the aluminized steel diesel stack. A test welding bead on the coupler looked good -- likely the aluminum was vaporized. An attemp was made to grind off the old coat of furnace cement at the coupler insertion / stove top boundary as it might contaminate the depositing rod.

    The first weld was kind of a disaster but I eventually figured out the stove top welds were getting contaminated from the galvanized coated steel stove top. The zinc etc of surface galvanizing material can be ground off or it can be burned off with an acetylene torch while steel rod welding but not so with electrode welding. The electrode welding bead material only sticks here and there when galvanizing contamination is present. The finalized weld took some intermittent grinding and amperage increase to get some semblance of a substantial weld. After the final grinding I rubbed furnace cement into all the weld pores to seal the joint from smoke leaks.


    The seal job passed the damper-on test applied during the smoky startup phase with no jets of leaking smoke visible.

    Breathing the fumes from burning zinc plating off steel with a gas torch can be rather toxic to the lungs. You might get the "zinc chills" along with chest pains in the night. With strong ventilation during welding you likely are safe from the chills. However zinc is said to improve sexual performance just keep it out of your lungs.

  • @DingusMcgee Engineering testing reports provide some thought food....

    Tentative conclusion:

    • Combination of reduced interior stove volume and larger effluent stove pipe are just a tad much...


    • Retrofit back to original 4" stove pipe?

    Although one might expect the damper to compensate? Hmmm... Oh well, I am only a dog. Maybe you humans can get it figured. 🤔

    🐕 🍐

  • Toby,

    What engineering test reports?

    Yes, the new combustion volume of the stove after the brick lining could have worked with a smaller stove pipe size by calculation from the linear approximation I experimenally wrote up in an earlier post. That linear approximation was for determining MINIMUM size pipe for a given combustion volume.

    I have seen some high $$ cast iron stoves with a 2 cu ft combustion chamber having a 6" stove pipe. I have not tried to formulate maximum stove pipe size for combustion volume. I am not sure what criteria to use for the lower cutoff volume for a size of pipe because an open fire seemingly burns fine -- when open to the sky --

    As far as now going to 4.5" or 4" after having installed 5" stove pipe would be a waste of $$ and time as the stove works quite well and as you note the stove has a damper.

  • @DingusMcgee said in Installing Wood Stove in Camping Van:


    What engineering test reports?

    Why, the reports filed here by one Dingus Mcgee, of course...

    As far as now going to 4.5" or 4" after having installed 5" stove pipe would be a waste of $$ and time as the stove works quite well and as you note the stove has a damper.

    @toby said in Installing Wood Stove in Camping Van:

    .... Although one might expect the damper to compensate? Hmmm...


  • Installing Fire Brick

    The small Guide Gear stove would suffer a larger volume loss if I installed clay brick at 2 1/4" thick rather than fire brick at 1 1/4" thick. Accumulating ashes insulate the bottom so to change the volume even less than adding the brick to the stove bottom the bottom was not fire bricked, just three sides were.

    The bricks at 9 1/2" long were longer than the internal stove's height. I wanted to get a snug fit at the top of the inplace brick after cutting the brick height to size.

    The Diagonal Rule: you can translate a solid 3-D rectangle shape (a brick) around in a parallel ceiling and floor shape (the stove) when its height is "equal" to (minus some epsilon) the height of the room it is inside. To stand the brick rectangle (rotate) up after getting it inside the stove is not possible when brick height equals stove height. The shortened brick height for successful rotation is when the diagonal length of the brick measured from the axis of rotation to the opposite edge equals the stove height.

    With thin walled stoves there is a trick to getting a brick of the same height as the stove's inside stood upright. At the center of the stove's top and bottom walls there is some flexibility outward when pressure is applied. So attempt the brick rotation at the center of he stove. With fire bricks you can round the two edges that are touching the top and bottom stove walls during the rotation process to stand the brick upright.

    With fire brick as opposed to clay brick grinding off material along this edge is quite easily done by rubbing the brick's edge or sides on the sidewalk.


    Most of the fitted fire bricks fit snug but the stove height varies a little and one size did not fit snug in all places. Two bricks could fall over. I decided to grout all the bricks so they would not fall over. A cement based fire motar has a 30 day curing period as opposed to 24 hrs for a sodium silicate furnace motar. A 2lb can Meccos Red Devil Funace Cement and Fireplace Motar was just enough for both stoves.

    A look at the Grouted clay brick inside the OEM 3 cu ft Guide Gear stove.

  • Toby,

    If we were to test the expensive cast iron 2 cu ft stove with the 6" exit pipe I mention and in some fashion conclude the exit pipe let out almost too much heat (maybe even with the damper) and then declare this size pipe the maximum, we could come up with a max diameter for my clay brick lined stove. The pipe diameter max calculates 5.69" at a combustion volume of 1.78 cu ft.

    The steady state stove performance is better when the exit pipe area is slightly below the minimum area than just below the maximum. BUT the bigger the pipe the less likely any smoke will come out the door when recharging -- always tradeoffs. Bigger pipes also cost more, weigh more and are more difficult to fit.

  • @DingusMcgee I used to be in the consulting business. Folks are often looking for bottom line, easiest to understand, one size fits all, answers. Step one is to define your objectives. Like any half decent engineer knows. Yet it always amazed me how many times this step is skipped. Like, too lazy to put in that work up front, but still want some great results.

    As this thread illustrates, and perhaps partly why it interests me even though I will likely never own an RV, is, more often than not the "correct" answer is: " It depends..." and you got to base your assessment on real data and testing. So I appreciate the thought and analysis that you've put into this, if only from an academic perspective.

    Party on, Wayne! 🥃

  • Toby,

    Thanks for the assessment of my efforts.

    Here is more on this:

    The manifold of the world as it is is not simple. Snags everywhere. The finished result may appear simple if someone has walked us down their efforts to find the path to the end goal. Every step of a project is a fitting process of what we want with what is out there and out there as constraints.

    Within the whole fitting process it is much easier to move ideas around (fit them) rather than simply start at the hard material end of things. And as you suggest,"..define your objectives..."

  • Adding a Window

    There are a couple of good reasons for adding a window to your stove. Foremost is the view through the glass lets you see the volume and condition of unburned wood in your stove. This view will give you an idea of when a fuel recharge is needed and how much. Also the visual inspection thru glass does not necessitate opening the door which could let smoke into the cabin.

    The sight of orange flickering flames from a fire on a cool dark night seem to turn some primordial "you are in comfort" switches. Such experiences are in demand. Stove windows are on propane stoves that merely simulate logs burning. The flickering flame light can be enough light so you can get around in the cabin without turning on a light.

    You will need a higher temperature rated glass for wood stoves than what is adequate on pellet stoves. There are 2 choices of "glass" for wood stoves - Isinglass (from the mineral mica) and pyro ceramic glass. The ceramic version is far more durable.

    Wood Stove Glass

    The minimum size you can buy from this place is 6" x 8" for $32. at 3/16" thick glass. They do cut and polish smaller sizes & thicknesses plus they sell the glass rope needed for the window gasket.

    There are a couple of ways to mount the glass to a flat panel on the stove. A flat door is usually 1st choice location. As for a location to mount the glass on the door, centered and high up is usually better.

    1. Make a steel frame that compresses with screws the glass against the door where a hole has been cut in the door. The cut hole is maybe 1/4" smaller on a side than the glass.

    2. Essentially the other way amounts to glueing the glass edges to a hole just bigger than the glass perimeter. An option way of simply glueing would be cut hole just big enough so the glass rope which is sticky on one side will make for a tight fit for the glass insertion into the thickness of the door frame.

    My first try was a small window frame clamped with screws that clamps against rope glass gasket that lines the panel of glass on both sides.

    The Framing MethodIMG_0238.JPG

    After doing the small window I decided I wanted a much bigger window and a size that would cover (remove) the top vent holes as they are about worthless for keeping smoke out when they are in use.

    The window inserts into the door frameIMG_0120.JPG

    The gray material around the window is excess? Fiberglass wood stove gasket rope. Since it has adhesive on one side I felt leaving it stuck to the door would help hold the glass in place. The 4 washered screws are loose like anchors that will not permit the glass to be pushed outside the frame insertion it has, but give the glass some room for thermal expansion.

    As the door will warp a little when heated I hesitated from the idea of a 3 point anchor screw set for the glass verses a 4 point anchor. Three points determine a plane and 4 points could over constrain the plane of the glass when the cast iron door experiences heat warping. To release this overconstraining the bolts washers were cushioned with an additional layer of glass rope. We will see if the glass cracks.

    The smaller piece of glass removed from the big stove was glue inserted with glass rope around the glass into the smalller stove. The glueing was done with red RTV sealant. Door temps can get get close to the temp limit of red RTV sealant. I expect some slow thermal degradation of the red RTV on the inside of the door. If this happens to soon and too much I will get the next higher temp(Mil-Pack Black temp 1100F) sealant. If the glass rope is tight when the pane is inserted into the door frame there likely is somewhat of seal against smoke leaking into the cabin.

    The Small Sove with a Glue-in WindowIMG_0246.JPG

    The door holes were cut using a thin cutting wheel on a grinder and the corners were cut using a jig saw with a steel cutting blade. The large door was too much cutting for the cordless Makita grinder. The plastic brush holder frame melted. The new grinder are brushless and have no such frame.

  • you definatly have some very cool metal working skilz! drained my gas lines overninght a few days ago. removed coleman bottle and opened valves on stove. Hooked up the coleman bottle the next day after wok and it functioned perfectly. Reading the reviews of the hose a regulator that I bought was interesting. it has a 4.5 star rateing but I often click on just the one star ratings to see what problems people might have had. often the one stars are BS relateing to the customers stupidity but other times they are very useful information especially if you see a repeating pattern. several other people had the same issue I had with no gas flow. Presumably they were using normal BBQ tanks and not coleman bottles like I use. all the speculation is that the leak detection in the regulator activates and shuts off the gas due to a malfunction or over sensitive valve???

  • NickG,

    It seems the adapter to the regulator that is used when Coleman tanks are not used may be part of the problem?

    Other wise, when you use the Big tanks do you have a normal tank regulator at the tank valve and employ the Coleman small tank regulator also? Two regulators on the same line that reduce pressure from 60 psi to 11 oz WP may not work in that serial combination. There is too much friction in the second regulator to work on a mere 11oz WP.

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