Stovepipe Was Made to Order: Early Hardware Stores Custom-Made Stovepipe

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An old-fashioned stove.
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Patent 733,131: Corrugating tool patented by James Blumer, New York City, N.Y., July 7, 1903. The portable device was used to corrugate sheet metal, especially the ends of stovepipe joints.

How many Farm Collector readers have ever installed a damper in a stovepipe?

How many don’t even know what I’m talking about? The damper adjusts the flow of air going up a stovepipe, thus adjusting how hot your fire is burning below. Like a modern-day thermostat, this non-electronic device can save a lot of fuel when set correctly.

Recently I visited with Robert Adams of the Adams Hardware Store in Shamrock, Texas. The store was established in 1934; the Adams family took over in 1947. Robert has a small but very interesting collection displayed in the store. Be sure to drop in sometime to see it.

Old stovepipe-making equipment is part of the display. In the old days, customers brought in stovepipe measurements and the store owner made the pipe to fit. Why did the pipe have to be made? Because finished pipe took up too much room in shipping. Raw tin was cut to size and shipped flat in a wooden crate.

To fill an order, both edges of the 3-foot piece of tin were cranked through a crimper to make the edges clip together. One end was inserted into another crimper and cranked, sizing one end so it would slip into another joint. A shorter piece of pipe could be cut on a cutter device. Ells, 45-degree ells and tees were stocked separately along with dampers, stove bolts, stove wire, stove blacking and the tin-covered asbestos pad the stove sat on.

There were numerous styles of ash buckets, stove shovels and pokers for sale, along with a coal shuttle where coal could be stored out of sight under lids. Many merchants gave away lid-lifters as a premium, especially to good customers.

Modern handy gadgets were available, like a “warmer oven” that could be installed in the stovepipe to warm food, or a cast iron pyramid trivet that could be set over an open hole on the top of the stove to heat three sad irons when ironing.

Stovepipes were dangerous but the problem was remedied somewhat when brick chimneys came into use. First, you blocked up under the floor where the chimney would stand. Next, build a three-sided trough out of heavy lumber about 6 feet tall. Set it on the floor, nail it to the wall, add shelves, put a heavy top on it and start laying brick. Leave a stovepipe-size hole in the brick wherever you need an inlet for a stove.

The chimney was fireproof, and reached through the attic and the roof, making sure the smoke and heat got out safely. Little lids that looked like Frisbees could be snapped onto unused chimney outlets. Ours had pink flowers on it.

After all was installed and ready to fire up, you still had to install the damper. Most store owners left that up to the owner, so it would be the correct height for the “missus.” FC

Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164;

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