Hearthstone is the only stove company that uses a solid 1 ¼” thick soapstone panel for the walls and top (the actual body of the stove). This is important because soapstone has extraordinary heat retention and transfer properties…it works better than any other material used for woodstove construction.
A Hearthstone stove stays warm to the touch hours after the fire goes out. Located in Vernmont (where they truly know winter), Hearthstone itself has reams of laboratory data to prove this out, which you can see on the factory website. But, that wasn’t good enough for us! Being down-home farm country skeptics, we ran our own informal test.
Here at our store, we often burn stoves from the time the store closes (around 6 pm) to when the first staff arrives onsite about 12-13 hours later. By that time in the morning, the fire is usually down to a few embers. Typically, the surface temperature of the stove is around 200°F. To our astonishment, our Hearthstone soapstone stove routinely has a surface temperature of a whopping 400°F.
How does it work? Soapstone (scientific name: steatite) is a magnesium rich silicate. It is formed under unimaginable pressure and heat over millions of years, at the joint between tectonic plates. As a result, it’s extremely dense and has very high magnesium content. Those two things provide unparalleled heat transfer and retention (heat life).
When the fire is extremely hot during the first few hours, soapstone absorbs the heat, leaving your room cozy and warm. Other wood stoves often produce too much heat at this stage, driving you from the room or making you do something that’s crazy in the middle of winter—opening a window to cool down! Later, when the fire dies down, Hearthstone stoves gently release the heat, leaving you with as much as 10-12 hours of comfortable, even room temperatures.
Surprisingly, soapstone is quite soft. That softness means it won’t crack like hard stone (granite, for example) would. It’s far more durable than the firebrick in a conventional stove. In decades of selling and servicing Hearthstone stoves, I’ve only ever seen one crack. (And that stove had been badly mistreated by the owner, who had severely over-fired it. The only drawback of the soft material is that it may scratch if used as a cooking surface.)
Of course, soapstone won’t warp from the heat, like malleable iron and steel can. During extreme hot-to-cold cycles, there is almost no measurable expansion and contraction. That means much lower stress on all of the stove’s components, throughout the cold-start-to-high-fire process.
To test this, I heated one of the stone panels with a propane soldering torch until it literally glowed red hot. To stress the stone even further, I deliberately heated only half of the stone. (Don’t try this at home! I severely burned my fingers in the process because I picked up the stone before it had fully cooled. I forgot about how well it holds the heat!) Soapstone is so durable that when the stone (finally) cooled, it showed no visible signs of damage!
Because it’s an all-natural material, every stone is uniquely beautiful. It’s no coincidence that soapstone has been a favorite medium for sculpture for thousands of years. Its marvelous allure means that it’s also popular for custom fireplace faces and countertops in decorator kitchens.
At Hearthstone’s Vermont factory, their artisans understand the importance of magnifying that natural grace. Every stone is polished to a mirror gleam, bringing out its natural striations and deep colors. The craftsmen and women who work there build each stove from the ground up. Instead of an assembly line of uncaring workers mechanically bolting on the same parts hour after hour, each stove is built by a true artisan, who then signs their name on the back of the stove. Over the years, we’ve learned to recognize the names and work of stove builders at Hearthstone, and our customers love their work.
Soapstone stoves are intensely practical, too. The mirror-smooth polished finish on the stone panels and their extremely high density means they don’t absorb dirt. They just wipe clean! The strong iron frame can be ordered with an optional porcelain finish that is also very smooth and highly rust and heat resisting. Your porcelainized Hearthstone is one of only a few stoves on the market that you can wipe off with damp cloth. It will hold its looks for years, without any significant maintenance or repainting.
Their easy cleaning nature is also enhanced by thoughtful design. Hearthstone stoves have among the deepest fireboxes on the market. That means ashes are less likely to fall into the room when the loading door is opened. Almost every model has an ashpan. What’s easier than just pulling out a drawer to clean it? And, their loading doors are huge, allowing you full-width access for easy loading.
As you can see, Hearthstone stoves are one of my favorites. Over my 40-year career here at Lehman’s, customer after customer has told me how much they revel in the beauty, bask in the comfortable heat, and trust the amazing durability of their Vermont-crafted Hearthstone stove. I’m proud to have been one of the first Hearthstone dealers in the country, and eager to help you enjoy your new Hearthstone stove!
Editor’s Note: Lehman’s is proud to carry a wide range of Hearthstone stoves in our Kidron, Ohio showroom and online at lehmans.com/hearthstone.