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Mike the Boilerman

Boatman Stove review

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Ok, seeing peeps keep asking me for my Boatman Stove review, here it is in a thread all of it's own.

 

(I originally posted it in the iPhone 5 thread biggrin.png )

 

 

 

Ok, you've prompted me to write my promised review of the Boatmans Stove...

 

Now I've used it for a few weeks I have to say the £299 price tag remains very attractive and represents good value for money, but it will irritate the hell out of the 'more discerning stove user' like moi.

 

Eddie runs Northern Fabrications. He is a lovely bloke who makes them personally, one at a time, to order and will deliver each stove personally too, to wherever you are within reason for a pittance. He drove mine down to me from Manc to Banbury for £35 and pointing out the downsides in this review feels very disloyal but there we are, that's life and that's business.

 

If Eddie reads this and fixes all the faults, his stove price will have to rise, I'd guess, to close to the £900 or so a Squirrel costs. But I'd still buy one from Eddie because his stoves are welded steel not the splitty cracky cast iron Squirrels are made from. And he deserves the business.

 

Ok, here we go.

 

First impressions are it is a lot smaller than the cracked Squirrel I removed. Eddie told me his stove chucks out just as much heat as a Squirrel though, and I agree with him on this despite the much smaller size and smaller firebox. The small firebox brings a different irritation though. Although the Boatman Stove stays in all night ok, that's as far as it goes. If you lie in until midday (not that I ever do this, obviously) it WILL have gorn out by the time you get up. The old Squirrel would stay in for 24 hours easily, sometimes even 48.

 

On the upside the stove is neat and tidy-looking, and the matt black finish is superb. I chose the cheap basic fittings but Eddie will supply it with brass bits and bobs, and a fiddle rail too IIRC. The glass in the door is kept clean with an airwash control on the top of the door which Eddie set for me and I've never adjusted. After a few dozen hours of burning the glass is a bit grubby but that's fine with me. It just looks used, that's all. Still see the fire inside easily. Another GREAT feature is the feet come with lttle angle brackets welded on so one can screw the thing to the floor to comply with BSS. I don't know of any other stove with this, meaning one has to devise a way of fixing down any other make of stove. Not simple or easy for some peeps. Eddie makes it easy with the brackets.

 

Next, the Squirrel had separate firebox and ashpan doors. The Boatman has one single door covering both, so to get the stove roaring hot quickly, one no longer has the option of opening the ashpan door alone and keeping the firebox door shut to force feed a newly light fire with air. Not a big problem but a faint irritation all the same.

 

Next, a much bigger irritation. The ashpan is only about half the area of the space under the firebox. So 50% of the ash falls around the ashpan, not in it. Grrrr. And shoveling up the loose ash which missed the ashpan chucks up a load of ash dust into the air which messes up the inside of my already messy boat. I want my Squirrel back.

 

Another thing the Squirrel does better than the Boatman is griddling out the ash. Basically, the Boatman doesn't have the externally operated rotating griddle the Squirrel has, so you have to open the (single) door and manually poke out the ash with a poker. And more ash puffs out into the air and wafts around one's boat before settling on all one's crap.

 

Now another detail thing that doesn't matter, but does. The three bars across the front of a Squirrel to retain the coal are flat bars sloping inwards at about 45 degrees, so ash on them falls back into the firebox. The Boatman bars are not like this and let ash fall freely outwards, again puffing up into the air and settling al over all my guitars, hifi, and other general crap in mebote.

 

Further, any ash falling outwards on a Squirrel is caught on the little shelf that sticks out to catch it. I never noticed this little shelf on the Squirrel until I missed it's presence on the Boatman... The Boatman ash falls right down onto the floor and puffs up everywhere once again messing up all my mess in my cabin. I now really appreciate that little sticky-out shelf on the Squirrel. So much so that I'm considering buying another Squirrel, or something with all the features of a Squirrel which are missing from the Boatman, but fabricated from steel. (The Big Problem with Squirrels is the body castings crack when heated up rapidly as I like to do. Fabricated steeel stoves like the Boatman don't do this.)

 

Anyway, in summary, it's a great little stove for £299. But if you want to compare it to a Squirrel, don't be a cheapskate like moi, and buy a flippin Squirrel...

 

Tin hat on now.... biggrin.png

 

 

MtB

 

 

 

 

(Edit to correct errors appearing after pressing 'SEND'.)

  • Greenie 1

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I agree with all of the above, lovely stoves for a fantastic price and Eddy is a gent but all of the above niggles bug me as well.

For all their faults I like my squirrel

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sounds like they are almost as good as they look (and cost)

Pity about the lack of a separate ashpan door. Is there no forced draught facility at all?
Something that could be fixed easily enough I would have thought even without ashpan access.

 

Still worth considering in spite of the problems you highlight

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Every single niggle could be put right at extra expense. A separate ash pan door would be by far the most expensive thing to put right. I'd guess it would put the price up to approaching £400. I'd say the door on it is by far the most expensive single component on the stove and two small ones would be about the same price each, as one big one.

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Yes. In particular he offers extra height legs so the stove stands the same height as a Squirrel. An extra £35 IIRC.


That's not £35 for four additional legs, that's the extra cost of making four legs the same but to a different dimension.

 

Illustrates the high cost of changes to the standard design.

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Now I've used it for a few weeks I have to say the £299 price tag remains very attractive and represents good value for money, but it will irritate the hell out of the 'more discerning stove user' like moi.

 

I am an indiscerning cheapskate.

Can I have it?

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I should have looked closer at the specs not just the pictures on his site. sad.png

There does seem to be vent control so I could live with the single door

 

My house has a open coal fire so I reckon I'd cope with the dust issues especially at that price.
Something else I can add to my what I want list
Thanks for the review

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I have one from new and like it so much I'm ordering another one with a back boiler for the other end of the boat.

I like the little disc on the front that gives very precise control of how fast the fuel burns.

At the price of these stoves highlighting the faults just seems pointless as it's not a £900 stove just like an escort is not a BMW.

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After making stoves for Boatmans Cabin Co I cannot see how you can compare cast iron to welded steel. Cast iron will last a lot longer and still be around when the others have rotted away.

When we made the "Premiere" and used welded steel for the inner parts we soon found out what started to rot first.

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I have one from new and like it so much I'm ordering another one with a back boiler for the other end of the boat.

I like the little disc on the front that gives very precise control of how fast the fuel burns.

At the price of these stoves highlighting the faults just seems pointless as it's not a £900 stove just like an escort is not a BMW.

 

 

You obviously didn't read my review then.

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I have one of the original Boatmans stoves from Northwest narrow boats which is now about 20 years old and still all original apart from one or two modifications of mine. The modifications are a four bar inward sloping front bars, easy to cut with a hacksaw to fit. homemade fiddle rail made out of 8 handrail staunchions left over from my making a 5'' gauge model steam locomotive, these are screwed into threaded holes drilled around the periphery of the top plate, the rail is 1/8'' gas welding rod threaded through the eyes of the handrail staunchions, 1/8'' brass brazing rod could be used if you like polishing brass. To increase draw when firing up, the bottom air control needs to be fully unwound plus the door needs to be ajar by about 1/2''. To facilitate this I drilled and tapped the original 1/8'' plate door handle 2BA and screwed in a bolt with locknut, this bolt head closes down on the outside edge of the door holding it open by the 1/2'' already mentioned until the fire is underway, then lift the handle a touch and close the door as normal. The ashpan width is a problem as MTB mentions, half the ash misses it, but this does not effect me because I have my grate bricked out on either side with Fletton house bricks to reduce heat and fuel consumption which makes the ashpan the perfect size and captures all the ash.

Incidently even with the grate area reduced to almost half the fire will stay in easily for 12 plus hours without attention once prepared.

I also drilled and tapped the door 2BA and fitted a solid brass knob.

The stove stands on a 4'' high plinth that sticks out about 5'' in front of and below the door, upon the this ledge that sticks out sits an aluminium tray the width of the stove and pop riveted together to catch ash and which poker, scraper, trivet and pliers are stowed.

Yes a brilliant stove for the money and better still with the mods.

Apart from the trecherous cast iron of squirrel stoves and the like the ashpan area and ashpan behind the lower door is far too shallow usually meaning that the ashpan needs emptying twice a day, possibly more. For the exstortionate cost of those stove an extra couple of inches of height to allow for a deeper ashpan would be a boon even at the cost of omitting the bl--dy squirrels on the sides

And as for the stupid position of the boiler in the back boilered squirrel which almost eliminates cleaning soot from its top without a load of messing about is quite balmy and bad design.

Edited by bizzard

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As someone who used a Boatman (on my boat) before a Squirrel (on other people's boats), I disagree with a lot of what you consider a pain, Mike! I hate the clunky Squirrel riddle thing and it's cracking grate. I built my fire surround to have a small hearth - I don't feel any need for a little shelf on my stove to catch ash. It is also definitely possible to keep it 24-48 hours with a clean flue and a good heap of Taybrite. Also I think the Squirrel is a big lump of a thing. And I've never needed a separate door for the ashpan in order to control my fire. Why you find it an issue I think is because that's what you're used to. And as for the baffle plate on a Squirrel that's a complete pain in the bum. And unlike the two fellers I know best who own Squirrels, nothing has ever cracked on my stove.

 

There a some things I like about the Squirrel. The long ashpan can be emptied less frequently than on the Boatman. And the hotplate is slightly bigger.

 

All in all I'd go for a Boatman again not a Squirrel if I needed to choose

Edited by BlueStringPudding

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We've had our Boatman for 8 years and love it.

 

The small ashpan doesn't worry us as we don't use it. As half the ash misses it anyway we just leave it behind the stove and get it out when we want to roast potatoes. I've made up 2 bits of ply, one goes on the hearth, cutaway to fit between the legs, the other cut so the bottom edge fits into the stove with the door open to deflect any falling ash back into the stove.

 

When lighting the stove we, like others, leave the door ajar by 1/2 inch until the coal has caught.

 

We've never needed to keep it for 24 hours but have kept it in fine for around 18, generally with Excel or Taybrite if we can't get Excel.

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I removed my boatman and my other half has it in the house she loves it like I did for the money a great stove. For me the cast iron fire is a accident waiting to happen, in a boat the bolts burn out, the vibrations and knocks weaken the joints, and then one winters day whilst cruising the stove falls to pieces and your boat is on fire and you dont know it. This has happened to people on here. In my boat I have a Rayburn Royal and a oil fired bubble both work well and thats all that matters Ps the Rayburn was 200 squids now that is a bargain all that real stove which heats water and central heating for so little clapping.gif

 

Peter

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One other little modification I did to my Boatman stove was to the bottom air control which had a bolt screwed through the door from behind and into the knob tightly on the outside, which meant that the knob turned by turning the bolt on its thread in the door which caused it to quickly seize up with goo unless I kept it oiled. To fix this I drill right through the knob, re-tapped the its thread, screwed the bolt up tight in the door so that the knob spun on the fixed bolt stub instead, as do many other stoves today. Problem fixed.

I remember my stove being delivered to my garage by a youngish chap who'd come all the way from I think Preston (Northwest Narrowboats) in a wee Honda Acty microvan delivering the stoves darn ere darn sarf. I expect that Eddie made them at Northwest Narrowboats before they closed down and he went on his own making them, not sure about that though.

Three cheers for Eddie. HIP HIP---

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We've had our Boatman for 12 years, and initially had problems keeping it alight all night. Although we improved it experimenting with different fuels, it wasn't until we'd had it for a couple of years that we realised what the real problem was. This may sound a bit silly, but I didn't realise how VITAL it is that the chimney seal at the top of the stove should be 100% leak free. Instead of drawing air from the bottom of the stove, through the fuel, air was being drawn in at the joint between the chimney reducing the essential draw.

 

I cured this problem by knocking half inch fire proof rope 'wetted' with chimney sealer into the joint. Using certain fuel 'nuggets' we can easily get 16 hours heat. When it's very cold we tend to use a mix of fuels that always contains either pet-coke or anthracite, neither of which was any good until I sealed the chimney.

 

We too found the ash tray no good so ditched it. One small criticism is the lack of a suitable back boiler. I ought to speak to Eddie to see if he's made one available yet. If I'd thought about it at the time I would have bought the version with the boiler already fitted. I'm not prepared to replace our existing stove for the sake of the back boiler. I may have to have one made.

 

All in all I think the Boatman stove is a good bit of kit that would be made so much better if the small gripes mentioned and the aftermarket back boiler question was addressed.

 

It still gets my thumbs up.

Edited by CygnusV

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Can anyone suggest a steel stove which is a bit bigger than the Boatman, with similar features to the Squirrel. I routinely keep my Squirrel in for 24-48 hours (to keep my cat warm) and it appears that the Boatman won't do that, which is a deal-breaker for me.

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There a some things I like about the Squirrel. The long ashpan can be emptied less frequently than on the Boatman. And the hotplate is slightly bigger.

All in all I'd go for a Boatman again not a Squirrel if I needed to choose

 

I believe that a bigger hotplate is available.

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OK. Many have waxed lyrical about Squirrel stoves but come on, the price difference makes comparison ridiculous. Be fair!

 

For a more reasonable comparison how about 'Hamlet Hardy 4' (£299 from Midland Chandlers) v's 'Boatman' (£325). Both are fabricated but Hardy does seem to have more features (look it up on Mid. Chandlers web site).

 

I've plenty of comments on the Boatman and none bad. But these are the two on my short list and I'd particularly like to hear feedback on the Hardy. Anyone out there got one?

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The website states Boatman stove is £299 on one page and £325 on another!

Edited by pearley

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I've plenty of comments on the Boatman and none bad. But these are the two on my short list and I'd particularly like to hear feedback on the Hardy. Anyone out there got one?

We have a Hardy. It's manufactured by Arada who have a number of different brands at different price ranges. I think Hamlet is the cheapest brand, so the design is fine - easy to light and very controllable - but I suspect that the differences are in the details. The only problem we've had with the Hardy is the door catch. This depends on a small tube of metal engaging inside the body of the stove to hold the door closed. This is fine in normal use, but on ours when left closed for a spell over winter it rusted up,and sheared on using some force to free it. No experience of the rest of the arada range, but if I was buying again I'd be looking for a more positive catch.

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Is it not the case that the boatman is £299 if its black & £225 if its one of a range of colours . Either way its then plus £35 for delivery . I ve been considering small stoves lately , to heat the back of my 58 ft boat & remember this stuff during my research .

Another smallish stove to consider maybe - Becton Bunny . I have one & im happy with it . On the boat when i bought it so ive no idea of cost etc

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