Homemade Bullerjan Stove

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When it comes to heating a room or house in the dead of winter, who are we to argue with Canadian lumberjacks?*
Developed by Canadian lumberjacks in the snowy Rocky Mountains, the enclosed heating chamber is built for practicality, quickly and cheaply warming cabins while using readily-available materials (in lumberjacks’ case, of course, that would be wood). The Bullerjan Furnace works independent of oil, gas and electricity, torching wood to provide your space with heating. When used, air moves from the bottom to the top vents, distributing the heat in a fast and even manner.

As with the Lumberjacks, my need for a better heating method for my workshop arose on a cold winter day. It was nearly -30 degrees Celcius (-22F) that day when I decided to go and work on a project. As I entered my workshop and flicked on the lights something strange happened. It was so damn cold that even my fluorescent lights would not turn on properly. My fingers got numb in just a few minutes without hand gloves - woodworking that day was not pleasant! Heating my small shop with the old wood burner would have taken at least half a day. This is when I realised that I needed a better heating method.

I got a sign later that week when scrolling through Pinterest and stumbled upon this photo. It became the main inspiration for my stove design. I liked it because it had square tubing welded at angles instead of bent round tubing like the original Bullerjan. This was something I could easily replicate in my workshop with the tools I had.

I would not consider myself to be a good welder. I am just a guy who can in most cases can make two metal pieces stick to each other but it will probably not look pretty. In fact, I would sum up my welding knowledge with a sentence " I know it is hot but I will still touch it to be sure!" This is also why I assure you that you should not be intimidated by this project. Some welding knowledge would be good before you try to make a Bullerjan stove but you definitely do not need to be a professional.

I have had an original Bullerjan stove in my home for over 15 years. When designing and building a new one I kept a close eye on the original one to make sure it would also work in the end. And as you can see it did.

Disclaimer: There are obviously a few dangers involving this project. Please weld your own Bullerjan stove only when you are absolutely sure you can do it and it would be safe in the end. Use proper precautions when using a wooden heater (fire extinguisher nearby, CO and smoke detector, non-combustible surroundings, common sense, etc). More about safety at the end of this ´ible!

More photos of the stove in the final step!

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Step 1: History of the Bullerjan

The Canadian lumberjack story is great and all but to me, unfortunately, seems like a folk tale. It could be that these lumberjacks used a similar design for a heater but modern-day Bullerjan stove was invented in 1975 by Eric Darnell in Vermont (or so the Bullerjan website claims)

"The history begins in a cold Vermont winter in 1975 with the inventor Eric Darnell. He improvised housing, despite its brand new wood-fired stove would not get sufficiently warm.
At that time, Darnell earned a part of his income through the installation of specially bent steel tubes in open fires in that way, that their heating capacity – without electric blowers – was noticeably increased. For this, he made use of the fact that hot air rises (convection effect). From his knowledge gained here and the analysis of the weakness of his radiation stove, arose the idea for the Free Flow hot air stove. It took only a week from the idea to the first prototype. The heating power was overwhelming. Thanks to the Free Flow, Darnell’s draughty home became equally warm everywhere. Up to today, he heats his entire house in Vermont with a first-generation Free Flow."

The photos are from the official Bullerjan website and showcase Eric Darnell and his first production partners Bob and Sherm Wilson in 1977

Step 2: Tools, Materials and Design

One does not actually need a large array of tools to complete this build but some things are essential. You will need:

Optional:

The list of would-be could-be tools is endless but the best tool is always the one you already have!

All the blades and discs need to be rated for metal!

Materials:

  • 60X60mm rectangular tubing
  • 60mm wide flat bar
  • mm thick sheet material
  • Butterfly damper
  • 3-5 cans of heat resistant spray paint
  • White spirit and a rag to remove dirt before painting

Door:

  • 40mm flat bar
  • Sheet material
  • Large washer
  • A metal rod (for the hinge)
  • Sealing cord/band for wood burner door
  • rectangular metal rod

Air intake:

  • 10 cm of 70mm round tubing
  • A nail
  • A small washer and a spring
  • Small piece of sheet material

Locking mechanism:

  • A Nail
  • Two metal springs from an old bicycle seat
  • Small piece of flat bar
  • Metal rod
  • A large washer

Bear in mind that this is the design I decided to go with. You can alter it or choose a completely new one if you desired it!

An Internet search revealed a diagram showing Bullerjan basic work principles. I have also added it to this step. Unfortunately, I can not find the original source for it, but I got it off of this page.

I designed my stove so that it would fit in my workshop. I have to admit that it came out a bit bigger than I needed but is better to have a heater that is a bit overpowered than a one that is underpowered. But of course, not so powerful that it burns your house down! You can find a Sketchup drawing with precise measurements for the stove I built. The amount of material you need depends on how big of a stove you want. Making a sketch with precise measurements definitely helps when calculating the amount of material.

Step 3: Chop It!

The first step is to cut the square tubing to the proper size. I used my chop saw for this but it could also be done just with angle grinder although it requires much more time and effort. Another way to cut this metal would be with a metal band saw. In every case try the angles first on test pieces and do double or even triple checks to be extra sure.

After all the pieces are cut it is also important to grind all the edges that will be welded. This creates a little space that will be later filled with welding bead. It is important to have it because otherwise when grinding and smoothing out the bead, the joint would just come loose again.

Step 4: Weld It!

It is a great idea to build a jig before actually starting welding. I built one out of some wooden pieces and cheap particle board. It is important to keep an eye on everything when welding to avoid fires (keep an extinguisher nearby). I also added a little groove to my jig exactly where the welding bead would be. This was done to keep everything flat. Talking about keeping things flat - it is a really good idea to also clamp everything down as welding tends to warp material.

After welding, I ground the joints flat with an angle grinder.

Step 5: Weld Some More!

After the square tubing pieces are ready it is time to weld them all together to form the main frame of the body. Lay everything on a flat surface and use a steel square to get the pieces aligned. Check everything before welding!

My frame consisted of four ribs on each side. After the tubes were welded together I added a 60mm wide flat bar to fill the space between the ribs. I built another jig to space the flat bar even distance (1.5cm) from the outer face. Often I needed to persuade the square tubing with a hammer and metal clamps to actually get the flat bar to fit in between the tubes.

Step 6: Welding on the Back Side and the Damper

Now that the stove is starting to take its shape it is time to add a back wall to it.

Lay the main body on a piece of sheet metal and trace it out. Cut it with an angle grinder but be sure not to use an apron made from an old towel or this will happen!

Weld it! After that add a pipe that will let the smoke and gases escape the stove. The pipe has to fit the piping in your chimney! I decided to hit two birds with one stone and used a damper. It is really important to get the pipe/damper location absolutely right on the back wall. Otherwise, you will have problems when installing the stove. I think I checked at least five times before I actually cut the hole and welded on the damper.

Step 7: Making the Flame Guide

Now it is time to add the flame guide. This is required so that the flame would not go straight into the chimney. It extends the lifespan of the chimney and also makes the stove more efficient.

The flame guide itself is pretty much two sheet metal pieces welded in a V-shape and attached right under the hole where the smoke exits the stove. The first thing to do is to cut out both sides and mark the locations of the square tubing. Cut away these sections as well so that the edge of this plate touches the outer wall of the stove. Weld it into a V-shape when both sides are ready. As you can see I did not have a perfect fit so I had to add an extra angle bar.

Step 8: Extra Air Intake Holes

This is something I copied from the original Bullerjan that I had. It is two round tubes with three holes on the side and on on the end. These tubes provide fresh air through the first two square tubes near the mouth of the stove.

The principle, as far as I understand it, is that once the fire reaches a certain temperature you almost close off the main air intake and the formation of wood gas starts to happen. Then the main air intake will take place through these two pipes.

Wikipedia explains:

Certain stove designs are, in effect, gasifiers working on the updraft principle: The air passes up through the fuel, which can be a column of rice hulls, and is combusted, then reduced to carbon monoxide by the residual char on the surface. The resulting gas is then burnt by heated secondary air coming up a concentric tube. Such a device behaves very much like a gas stove. This arrangement is also known as a Chinese burner.

The first step is to weld a washer on one end of the tube, then comes drilling. Three smaller holes on the side and one large one in the main body of the stove itself. Next comes the welding. The holes on the side of the tube need to face the direction the smoke will be going.

Step 9: The Front Side and a Hole for the Door

The front side is made in a similar manner as the back side was made. This time, though, you can not lay the stove on top of the sheet material and trace it out. Now the shape has to be measured and drawn manually.

Once the wall is welded it is time to draw the shape of the door mouth on it. It has to be near the bottom edge but not too close so that ash would start falling out when you open the door. Once happy with the shape cut it out using an angle grinder and/or jigsaw.

When that is done as well it is time to add "lips" to the mouth by welding a 40 mm wide flat bar all around as seen in the picture. Cut out one piece at a time!

Step 10: The Door and the Hinge

Most likely the leftover from cutting the mouth of the door can not be used to make the door itself as it will be too tight of a fit. The door has to be cut out from a new piece of sheet metal. Add a rim from a flat bar to it as well making sure the door fits over the hole in the front of the stove.

The hinge is pretty much just two ears welded on to the door and two ears welded on the main body. They are then connected using a rod which has a large washer welded on top. It takes quite some fiddling to get it working smoothly.

Step 11: The Main Air Intake

On with the main air intake!
For this, you will need a small section of round tubing, a small piece of sheet metal, a nail, a washer and a spring.

The first thing to do is to do cut the round tubing to length. It has to be a bit bigger than the diameter of the inner circle. Clean it as well if needed. Use a drill and a drill press to drill a through-hole on the side. It has to be a similar diameter as the nail. My nail was 5mm so I used a drill that was 5.5mm.

Next cut a circle out of some sheet metal. Use the inner circle of the tube as a template. Cut it out exact and use a grinding wheel to get a perfect fit. Well, not a perfect fit but a fit that allows the disc to turn 90 degrees inside the tube without any resistance.

Insert the nail through the holes. As you can see I inserted the nail first and then bent it but it is not really necessary to do it in that order as the head of the nail will be cut off anyway. Plus adding the stopper bead to the nail is also much easier when the spring is not too close.

Once the washer and the spring are fixed by a small bead it is time to weld on the disc. Push in the nail in so that the spring is under some tension and weld the disc to the nail using just a few beads (it really does not need more and it is much easier to do adjustments if necessary). Be sure to pay attention to the orientation of the handle when welding (vertical- closed, horizontal- open)

The spring is there to keep a tiny bit of pressure on the latch mechanism so that it would hold its position and not close off with gravity or wind draft.

When the whole thing was done I welded it to the door near the bottom edge.

Step 12: The Seal and the Handles

Almost every heater has some sort of seal on the door to better control the airflow to the fire. It is also a great idea to add one to the Bullerjan. Usually, the seal is fitted inside some sort of groove to make it more efficient and to prevent it from coming loose. To create the"groove" I welded a little rim from some scrap metal I had lying around. After that, I just added the seal that conveniently had an adhesive backing. I could have probably used a seal that was not so wide.

To keep the door shut and to add some more firewood one also needs a handle and a latch for the door. My first idea was to make a similar one as the original Bullerjan stove has. It consists of just one handle that also acts as the latching mechanism. You can see it when taking a close look at these photos. I was already making it but managed to lose the pieces as I made a long pause in the process. This is when my lazy maker kicked in and I decided to try something different. I came up with this design that uses two old springs from a bicycle seat and a few other metal pieces. The build process is pretty straight forward and can be seen in the pictures. Let me know if you have any questions! The design is not the prettiest as it needs two handles to operate but it does the job and that is what matters.

Step 13: The Paint

The last step is to paint the heater to the desired colour. Of course, this is not a must but it definitely adds a nicer look. I decided to paint my Bullerjan matt black as everything looks much more badass when painted black. And this is also something that the Rolling Stones have been advocating. Definately do not use regular paint. As the stove gets really hot you also need a paint that can withstand these temperatures. I found some spray paint that was rated to withstand 800 degrees Celcius from my local hardware store. I bought 3 cans but would have definitely used at least 5 cans.

Before painting it is also important to clean the stove with white/mineral spirit to get rid of any dirt and oil. This helps the paint stick better.

The painting itself should be done in a well-ventilated area with proper lung protection.

Step 14: Safety

Safety talk is something that can not be ignored

As you can already guess there are certain dangers involved with wood burners. To minimize risks one has to undertake some safety procedures.

  1. First, have a fire extinguisher nearby. As you can see I have one right behind the wall.
  2. Secondly, install smoke and CO detectors. Smoke is something you can see but CO2 is not. Both are equally deadly! Follow the instructions when installing these detectors.
  3. Thirdly, keep an eye on the surroundings. Install fireproof material to the walls and floors that are near a heater. In my case, there is fireproof material on the back and side wall and I also installed a thin sheet metal under the stove and in front of the door. It is really important to have it since burning coal might drop out when adding firewood.

Wood heaters might also play jokes sometimes. Mostly when the chimney is cold and the draft is not working properly. In this case, the stove might start to work in reverse puffing smoke in from the air intake hole. This can also occur when there are strong winds outside or the stove has not been used for a long time. This is something you just have to take into account. Keep an eye on the stove for the first five minutes after lighting the fire. Let it suck in as much air as possible to get the temperature up in the chimney to get the draft going. Once the stove and the chimney are up to heat it is impossible for it to start puffing smoke in unless of course Santa Clause gets stuck in the chimney.

My experience has shown that every wood stove (also the store-bought ones) act weirdly on the first few times. It is usually caused by the fact that the stove just needs to "settle in". There might be a lot of smoke so be sure to open all the windows.

Step 15: The End!

This is it! I know it looks like a really complicated project but once you break it down into smaller parts it is quite easy actually. And do not rush it - it took me 3 years to finish this project. Of course, not because it took me so long to weld but because I had countless other projects to work on. But now it is ready and it is mostly thanks to Instructables Metal Contest 2019. It made me finally pull myself together and finish it. It has taken me a lot of effort to document and present this project to you so I would be tremendously happy if you voted for me in the contest! Many thanks!

I know I probably did not explain everything as clearly as I could have so feel free to leave your questions in the comments. Also, leave your thoughts about this project down there. I would love to know what you think!

Cheers,

Andu

NB: Making your own wood heater from scratch could be really dangerous so do it at your own risk!

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    72 Discussions

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    Geoffery J

    2 months ago on Step 15

    Excellent interpretation of a Canadian invention. Well done and keep toasty!

    1 reply
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    CraftAnduRogerC119

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hi!
    Sure, you can find a SketchUp file in the second step. Every important measurement is shown in that file. You can download the free version of Sketchup from here. https://www.sketchup.com/download/make
    I have also added a photo in case you do not feel like downloading this program ;)
    Cheers
    Andu

    2019-09-25 18_41_27-Window.png
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    RogerC119CraftAndu

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hi Andu, much appreciated, thank you for that.

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    liquidsands

    2 months ago on Step 8

    I loved your project. Nothing more calming than sitting next to a nice warm fire. I have a question though about the air tubes you installed to oxygenate the gasifier feature. Were these placed at the entry to the area above the flame director plate so that the unburned hydrocarbons are ignited only at the top of the stove? Are there any special needs for the chimney pipe with that high temperature right at the exhaust port? I voted for you by-the-way... nice ible

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    CraftAnduliquidsands

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hi, thanks!
    Yeah, I believe the extra intake pipes/holes are there to allow the wood gas to burn efficiently. I do not really understand the physics behind all that - I just copied the original Bullerjan stove.
    The chimney behind this kind of a stove has to be from metal. The temperature coming from the burn chamber is lower than from a regular heater and that would cause a stone chimney to get covered by soot over time.
    Right now I do not know how hot it gets. I would really love to measure the exhaust temperature somehow.
    I hope that answered your question!
    Thanks for the vote btw, I really appreciate it!
    Cheers,
    Andu

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    DougL56

    2 months ago

    This stove seems like a beautiful combination of form and function. I like how the intake pipes serve as feet, and the top ones would be a perfect rack for drying out damp firewood.

    2 replies
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    CraftAnduDougL56

    Reply 2 months ago

    I agree, although I would definitely not dry any wood on top as it gets really really hot!

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    DougL56CraftAndu

    Reply 2 months ago

    Ahh okay, maybe cook a pot roast up there then!

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    jeanniel1

    2 months ago

    IS this somewhat similar to the Franklin stove? At least half of it - as the Franklin stove had pipes that pointed forward from the fireplace.

    Comment - maybe a flash to take a picture of something that's black might make it show up more? Depends on your environment. Just seems hard to see other than a black shape.

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    jeanniel1jeanniel1

    Reply 2 months ago

    OH, where IS the chimney - or the flue that goes up to the outside? Did I miss something?

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    CraftAndujeanniel1

    Reply 2 months ago

    I googled images of the Franklin stove - I do not see any resemblance :/
    Thanks for the flash tip, I will try it!
    The chimney is behind the wall. There is also a second wood stove there.
    Cheers
    Andu

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    jeanniel1CraftAndu

    Reply 2 months ago

    Yeah, the Franklin stove was more for a fireplace

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    Killawhat

    2 months ago

    Great design and project and easy to follow. Probably not the prettiest of heaters, but I'm sure it heat's that shed well! I've been looking for something to heat my shed also and been tossing up
    whether to make something like this or an oil burner. This one's
    definitely something most people can knock up. I'd even thought of using a 22 gal drum with pipes around it.
    I do have a question for you though.
    How heavy do you reckon it end up? And could you move it yourself or did you need a couple of mates around and a carton of beer?
    A couple of things I did notice you could have improved upon:
    - When you were welding the thing together, it probably would have been easier to weld the flat plate in between the layers as you were building. That way you don't have to force the whole structure if it's off a bit.
    - I probably would have welded the flat plate towards the inside of the burn chamber. That way you don't get coals stuck in between the grooves. Although taking advantage of that, you could also weld the plate to the outside and use fire bricks on the inside to retain some heat.
    - The flame guide I would have welded some pins on the inside of the stove and made it removable. That way you can clean all the crap out that's going to get stuck there over time.
    - Lastly, for the door I would have got some fire retarder rope (from a wood stove place) and put that in there for the seal.

    3 replies
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    CraftAnduKillawhat

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hi, thank you!
    I think it ended up weighing around 100 kilos. I still managed to move it all by myself. Of course, not lift but push, pull and tip over. I also built a little cart with big wheels to move it around. As my workshop is on the second floor I used a winch to haul it up there. You see the video here https://www.instagram.com/p/B1D7HZmHPUa/?igshid=1c...
    Hmm, I do not think that it would have been significantly easier to weld the flat plate as I was welding the tubes. As the tubes and the flat plate have the exact width it probably forced the structure back to the right shape ;) And all it really took to get it in between the tubes was a some hammering. On the plus side I did not need any clamps either when welding.
    I actually had planned a double floor so that the coals could not get stuck between the tubes. I decided to not do it for weight saving. Yeah it is a little tricky cleaning the stove but with a shop vac and dust cyclone it is actually not that bad. Adding the stones was also something I was thinking of when planning this stove. I would have added them to the outside.
    I designed my stove after the original Bullerjan stove that I had. It did not have a removable flame guide so I did not make one on mine. I think it is actually quite easy to clean it with right chimney cleaning tools.
    But I think I used the fire retardant rope for the seal. It was just flat and had adhesive backing.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
    Cheers
    Andu

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    KillawhatCraftAndu

    Reply 2 months ago

    Cheer Mate.
    I suppose you if you were concerned with weight, you can always remove the bricks before you move it? Seems like having a trolley saved you a lot of hassle moving it around. Now I'm wondering whether it would be possible to make it modular by using some threaded rod to keep all the panels together and a seal in-between the panels? Hmmm.

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    CraftAnduKillawhat

    Reply 2 months ago

    Damn, the modular idea is fantastic!! You buy the front and back end and as many pipes you like. And you could always up - or downgrade if needed. Then, of course, the flame guide would have to be removable;)

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    studiokes

    2 months ago

    This is a great design! If I had a plate of ceramic glass i'd weld up one of these with a nice fire viewing window for my cabin, if I had a cabin!

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    CraftAndustudiokes

    Reply 2 months ago

    Yeah, I had a glass window planned as well but decided to leave it out at the last moment. I have seen photos of many bullerjan stoves with glass windows. The idea is great but I have doubts about how long it stays clean. This type of stove works on slow burning principle and that creates a lot soot.
    Though I have to agree with you about the cabin part - I wish I had one too :)