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For our cabin this year we built a masonry heater/cookstove designed for us by stove mason and designer Alex Chernov (http://www.stovemaster.com/html_en/home.html)
This heater has an interior core built from firebrick and refractory mortar, which is encased with an external "facing" layer of solid clay bricks laid with clay mortar. The two layers are separated by a slim layer of mineral wool insulation.
In operation hot gasses from the firebox pass under the cast iron cooktop giving first direct heat. Then with the bypass damper closed these gasses are sent down below the bake oven and into the rear bell, warming all the surrounding brick mass, before finally escaping up the chimney. These warm bricks then store and release the heat over the next hours.
In contrast to a metal woodstove, these masonry heaters burn small amounts of dry wood a few times per day, and radiate this heat out into the house for a long period of time. Since the dry wood is burned at a very hot rate (not dampened down) these stove produce much less creosote and burn more efficiently, and use less wood to heat the home.
Also as there heat is radiant vs purely convective, the heat produced is more healthful and comfortable, more like the suns rays than the harsh dry heat from a convective metal stove.
Thanks to Alex for a lovely and understandable design even a novice such as myself could build.
Thanks also to Chuck from woodland direct for helping us with our pipe needs and questions.