One of the more exciting moments from Herbert’s Dune Messiah novel was a nighttime attack with the Stone Burner. The second book in the series, it lacked some of the foreboding intrigue and suspense of its predecessor, and so the few action scenes stick out more vividly in my memory.
The Stone Burner, like most of Herbert’s pseudo-tech, was a rather ambiguous device, hinting at nuclear power but never really confirming. The terror lay in its unique ability–exploding in some pillar of fire, then emitting a radiation which liquefied eye tissue, thereby blinding everyone within range (this was a plot device I suppose, as the traditional law of Fremen was to abandon their blind in the desert).
In the SyFy miniseries, a late night rendezvous is interrupted by the ominous silence of a pre-storm, followed by the crescendoing wind, and a character’s sudden utterance of realization: “Stone Burner…!”.
This post is far less interesting. But I always think of the Stone Burner when loading my new, somewhat less destructive, wood burner, which releases…controlled infrared and…clouds of noxious fumes…at least until I get the vents adjusted properly. For comfort!
Okay: the point now. We had the chimney swept. We do this periodically as we enjoy using the fireplace. And it should be noted at this point that the chimney passed home-buying inspection (which is a nonsense cursory review at best), followed by some company that proved to be not so legit after our first cleaning (a couple rednecks with shop vacs). The time after that, a most apparent professional, or so it seemed anyway, completed a thorough examination of the chimney with cameras, concluding that we had at some point suffered a chimney fire due to excessive creosote, which conveniently put us in the position of being able to file an insurance claim for money to pay him to either do repairs or install a wood burner insert.
The insurance company, balking at a 5-figure claim, sent out their own inspector, who concluded that there was no chimney fire, but agreed that the creosote buildup, combined with ageing mortar, rendered the fireplace unusable.
We, not being chimney experts, weighed our options, and ultimately settled on the wood burner insert option (albeit without insurance money to pay for it), which bypasses the chimney entirely with it’s own metal piping (well, not bypass as it uses the path of the chimney, but it doesn’t rely on it’s insulative properties). The burner itself is entirely self-contained–essentially an oven which traps the heat, catalyzes the smoke for a clean burn, and employs a fan system to pass house air around the system to heat the room. This solution was not only half the price of a prospective chimney repair, but it actually heats the house.
It did have its learning curve though. Wood has to be split much smaller, I often have to override the fire vent’s automatic shutoff to keep it burning, and I have to leave the door open long enough for the fire to reach a self-sustaining size before closing (this is all contrary to the official instructions). Then it requires multi-stage feeding to build the coal bed.
It also works much better to burn large fires, and to not periodically feed them. It’s more of a burst system, and function over form. Still…
The whippet approves.
And no eyes were melted yet.