The Timberline wood stove holds a special place in the history of wood stoves. Although its production was short lived, it's still in the hearts of those who know it, and continue to use the stoves today.
No long production life was necessary to cement Timberline's place as the biggest and baddest guys on the block, with an appetite to match.
Formed in 1977 in Idaho by Calvin Cotton and Lonnie Preslar, Timberline Wood Stoves Inc. was a response to a developing wood stove market in the 1970's spurred by the energy insecurity of the time.
No doubt they had seen the developing success of the Fisher wood stove and wanted a piece of those sales.
So they developed 2 wood stoves, a single door and a double door stove, and produced both of them in cast iron with relief scenes of snowy hills and mountains.
These sturdy stoves with screw type vents on their doors helped to develop an American style of wood stove that is still influencing wood stove styling today. It is not hard to find love for these old stoves on message boards across the internet, with some owners even retrofitting them with baffles to convert them into reburn stoves, also known as secondary combustion.
Winters are notoriously difficult in Idaho. As a child my father would tell me about living way out in a mountain valley near the Sawtooth National Forest.
The house he lived in had a door on the roof. In the middle of winter when they were snowed in, it was the only way out of the house and every storm he would have to go out there and shovel their roof to keep it from collapsing.
Big mountains and valleys, big winds and huge storms are the norm for this area of the country. Having a reliable and powerful heating source is not a luxury there, it is a matter of staying alive. Those are the mountains in relief on the Timberline wood stove.
Where I live in New England it can seem like winter is the dominant part of 3 seasons. Even now if I travel 10 min away off the mountain top where I live there is no snow, but here we are practically snowed in.
Here we learn to rely on ourselves and know that help is just down the road or across the street if we need it, even in my town of 700. These were not the considerations likely given to the Timberline stoves though in Idaho where huge mountains and valleys left many spread out and alone to face winters wrath.
Big mountain heat comes with a bigger appetite. This was the stove to put in your chalet or your big winter cabin. This was the stove that you put in your family room or basement and heated your entire house easily. You paid the price for it though in bought wood or labor.
At the time it did not seem like so much, but now we know even the single door Timberline wood stove was hungry by today’s standards. Wood stoves have come such a long way and the time of chimney dampers seems long ago and strangely confusing.
Wood stoves like everything else have evolved, and the heat produced by a secondary combustion stove is intense without the need for a cavernous firebox that is endlessly hungry.
I have fond memories of sitting around one of these beautiful stoves admiring the reliefs, while the owner kept the doors open to stoke the ravenous firebox.
Warming your feet in front of it after a long day of skiing, you had the perfect view to watch the flames roar up the stovepipe. Not the model of efficiency, but few of us complained if we were not handling the wood and feeding it.
Timberline wood stoves have had a remarkable run. Their heavy castings and fire brick lined interior have made them long lived and easily repairable. As such you will find them in older homes, and on the resale market quite often which is surprising considering some of these stoves are over 40 years old.
Like most older wood stoves though, they do not make a lot of sense in the modern world unless you cut your own wood and enjoy a lot of extra effort. A modern or high efficiency wood stove would pay for itself in savings over time and would require much less effort to maintain.
Even with its reputation as the biggest and baddest of its time the Timberline wood stove is now more of a piece of American history and industrial art.
A beautiful reminder of a time when our country had to reassess its values on energy security and self reliance, but that is why so many people continue to use their Timberline wood stove. It has become a symbol of quality and utility in their homes. It was built to last which is a trait that can be hard to find in todays modern world.