I hate working with metal, it’s cold and impersonal. I much prefer wood: its warm and friendly and gives off the air that it is content with being shaped when you draw a blade or saw to it. Metal on the other hand gets pissed off as soon as you go near it with a power tool,it screams out in a most aggressive way. I knew that making Bertha a reality was going to be difficult for me.
To turn a steel drum into something useful takes a lot of noise and a lot of graft. Once I had stolen Bertha away from her life as an oil skivvy, she had to be ritually cleansed. To achieve this I had to light a fire in her belly to remove all the oil from her past life.
When I first stuck the newspaper and kindling into my future best friend, I felt content that this was the rehab that she needed to become the ultimate wood-burning stove. The paper caught fire, the wood went up and flames coughed out of the top as if they had shot out of a dragons nostril. The oil began to crackle and spit and the flames shooting out the top were getting bigger. It was at this point that I began to think: "Bugger! Something’s not right here". The sheer ferocity of the burning oil was a tad scary. It was like seeing a mini power station, screwing over the ozone in my back yard.
Eventually the flames diminished, so I kicked back with a beer in hand till the dragon calmed and eventually went out. Once Bertha had cooled, she was ready to be worked on. Out came the drill and the jigsaw and I set about a few hours of upsetting the neighbors with the grinding and screeching of not so heavy metal.
The plans I was following were disconcertingly vague, both in order and description, once I had read through the instructions from Wayne "Dubya" Robertson a few times, it all became clear. I shall not bore you with the ins and outs of stove making, but if you do wish to see the plans from the big man himself, click here.
The noise, the smell, the pain (mostly from small cuts on the hand from unkind metal)- was worth every drop of sweat and Bertha had come alive, she will prove a worthy ally in harsh times. Although I am still to find her some suitable stovepipe to make her complete, my wood burning stove is ready for action! I was pleased that I had taken a by-product of the destructive fossil fuel industry and with a little nip and tuck, turned it into an energy source itself. This is not just another steel barrel: She has an identity, she will make my cold nights warm, my rainy days happy and hopefully….my kettle sing!