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Farmer puts antique stoves back to work
A Kansas farmer has developed a fulltime business reconditioning antique wood burning stoves that were used in nearly all homes at the turn of the century.
"It just started out as a hobby and grew into a business," explains Steve Hund Jr., who with his wife Kathy operates Mill Creek Antiques, Paxico, Kan.
Old wood stoves are the main business for the firm although the couple handles all kinds of antiques and collectibles. They have over 50 antique wood-burning heating and cook stoves in stock. They vary from completely reconditioned stoves that look like they just came from the factory to ones in many pieces that must be repaired.
People throughout the U.S. seek out the Hunds to sell, buy or recondition their antique wood-burning stoves. "Most of our trade has come from word of mouth," Hund says. "We have a sign along the Interstate and a lot of tourists stop in during the summer, but the best advertising is one person telling another about us."
The fuel shortage in the late 1970's got people interested in burning woad again, according to Hund, who sold a full line of new stoves for several years in addition to the antiques.
"I was unhappy with the quality of materials in the new wood-burning stoves. There were problems with them and it was hard to get parts, even for some of the best-known name brands. There were about 400 manufacturers of wood stoves in the boom period 1979 through 1981 but that's back to about 125 now," says Hund who now deals strictly with antiques. "These stoves are proven. They have been around for 70 years or more and are still in use."
Hund, who also farms, says he's bought and sold or reconditioned about 1,000 wood stoves over the past 15 years. Last year alone he reconditioned and sold 85 stoves. Farm auction sales are a common place to locate the antiques, but they come from other places as well. He says there seems to be a plentiful supply.
Prices have changed a lot since Hund became interested in old wood-burning stoves. "Initially people gave their old stoves away. The first one I bought ata farm sale was in perfect condition and I only paid $14 for it. I have an identical reconditioned stove on the floor now and it would sell for $950."
Hund says the value varies considerably depending on the condition and the brand and model of the stove. It's not uncommon for popular stoves from the turn of the century to sell for $100 to $300 at sales now.
The process of reconditioning an antique stove usually takes about 2 months. depending on how much work is required. The Hunds have one part-time employee to help work on the stove repair, and usually have 8 or 10 reconditioning jobs underway at one time. Grates and liners in the stoves often must be repaired, and the nickel plating is frequently quite deteriorated. "I have to send those parts off to be replated and that takes time and can be costly," he notes, adding that while there is a large assortment of old stove parts to use in restoration work, he also frequently must have parts made new. "I have parts I use for patterns and send them to foundries where they make a sand mold and duplicate the part."
Some of the restored wood stoves sell for as much as $2,500. Round Oak and Great Western are the most popular models. Enterprise Leader, Chatman, and German Heater are other common brands. If you had the money, Quick Meal stoves built around 1915 were a good buy. Hund says the stove was unusual because it burns either wood or coal.
A 40 by 56-ft. building houses the stoves and replacement parts The building is nearly full so some of the stoves remain outside.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Steve Hund, Jr., Mill Creek Antiques, Paxico, Kan. 66526 (ph 913 636-5520).


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1988 - Volume #12, Issue #2