Meet Sonia

Meet Sonia. Sonia is the newest member of our household. She came to us about 15 months ago where she has languished in the back shed ever since. Last weekend though, with some severe nagging at a little bit of pressure on my husband to help, we dug her weighty body parts out of the shed and assembled her near our pergola. Sonia is a wood fired stove.

Armed with a wire brush I started to clean up some of the accumulated filth on her cast iron cook plates and a flat head screwdriver cleared out the fat and filth under said plates. This is when we discovered her name. Well, her model and brand to be exact. Sonia is a Backwell IXL 72. πŸ™‚

Bacon and mushrooms frying for jacket potatoes, our first meal cooked in Sonia.

Bacon and mushrooms frying for the jacket potatoes that are in Sonia’s belly.

Ebenezer Backwell began building stoves way back in 1852 and you may recognise the brand as the company is still going, creating heaters, coolers and bathroom heater lights. You can check out the company’s history here. The IXL 72 is a model made long after Mr Backwell passed away, sometime around the 1960’s. The dying end of wood cooking I would say.

She is a very small unit, designed to fit into a brick chimney with a small but spacious oven, a very small firebox and then the ash catchment area. Some of them come with a plate warmer but Miss Sonia didn’t have one when she was rescued from a house lined up for demolition.

A small firebox and ash compartment.

A small firebox and ash compartment.

Firing her up on twigs and bits of bark

Firing her up on twigs and bits of bark

She is, under her grime, in rather good condition to my inexp-
erienced eye. She is still in need of restoration. Now, please don’t laugh, but I have decided I want to restore her myself. I cannot weld, I have absolutely zero experience in restoring wood stoves and indeed no metalworking experience bar a little year 7-8 metalworking classes (I attended a school with a strong technical focus). I do however have a desire to learn and a friend who welds who is more than willing to teach me. πŸ™‚

Aside from a hole in the base, the sides are rusted but still in tact and we have a perfect damper box on the top so Sonia, now moved to our pergola and with a little extra flue to divert the smoke, is being pressed into action on weather appropriate days instead of using the gas barbecue. She eats rather little all things considered and so far we have used a mere handful of logs as we can run her on twigs and larger wood chips. A basket full of this fuel will see us through 3 meals!

We are using a second thermometre as the current one is in Fahrenheit (this stove was built in the 1960’s) which I cannot read or work out in my head and it’s also not working very well.

This is the only clearly broken part. However, it still works so it can stay until we find a cheap or free replacement.

This is the only visible broken part. It still works though so it can stay until we find a cheap or free replacement.

Doors off. It’s big enough for crunchy spuds, a leg of lamb and some pumpkin I say.

So far this week we’ve had breakfast cooked on her heat at least twice and brunch, a sultana laden gluten-free damper, cooked in her belly for Australia Day Breakfast. Milk warms in a minute or two and my coffee takes only a moment longer. We made the deal that unless she could cook the “hot oven” foods though that she could not stay. I’m pleased to advise that her Yorkshire puddings were perfect!

Under her top (blush) you can see how the heat spreads across to warm the whole oven. It's definitely hotter on the top shelf and on the left but it's no hardship to turn a pan around half way through cooking.

Under her top (blush) you can see how the heat spreads across to warm the whole oven. It’s definitely hotter on the top shelf and on the left but it’s no hardship to turn a pan around half way through cooking. Up the back, under the flue box there is a place (the curve at the front) for the damper (we have it) and in the back it can take a hot water jacket which I am in the process of sourcing.

I’m really enjoying learning how to cook in and on her and each time I do I spend a little more time de-griming her. I’ve just acquired the instruction manual from IXL in Geelong (I love that it’s a locally made) and I look forward to learning more about her as we work together. Not to mention learning some new skills with welding and metalwork. πŸ˜€

53 thoughts on “Meet Sonia

  1. Lucy says:

    Love it! I would love to do the same, but it’s so hard to source old wood stoves. We have an old pot belly in the house that we use during winter but you can only cook on top. I want to do exactly what you’ve done and if I can get one to heat water that would be great! I’m only new to your blog, but enjoy it, although we are in Central Qld, so your gardening is a little different to mine!

  2. Yvonne says:

    ooooh I’d love a stove like that although I’m not so sure I would have known how to get it going. Looking forward to seeing the full
    Cheers Yvonne

    • I’m sure you would have figured it out easy enough. It was kind of like a puzzle, each piece shaped to hold or butt up against the next. Don’t tell anyone but we forgot the baffle first time around then dropped it down into the water jacket area when we tried to fit it to a hot stove. πŸ˜‰
      I’m off to learn about welding on YouTube as a primer as instructed by my teacher. πŸ™‚

  3. foodnstuff says:

    Well done, you. Looking forward to episode 2. (After the first couple of sentences, I thought initially Sonia was going to be a new duck, chicken or goat!)

  4. Lynda D says:

    Woo Hoo at last its in action. Sonia hmmmmm interesting name. I’m sure that you and Sonia will become firm friends.

  5. fergie51 says:

    Good for you! What a great project. I had a similar Sonia years ago, and loved learning to cook wood-fired style in it. Are those handles original, very different style to what I’ve seen. Looks pretty good nick considering. I tried blacksmithing 2 years ago but it just did NOT agree with my dodgy arthritic hands. Good luck, keep us posted on her progress πŸ™‚

    • This stove will need welded steel, not worked iron thankfully but I’m impressed you tried blacksmithing. What a great skill to have, even if it’s not one that agrees wwith you. Do you have photos of your work?
      Those handles look lovely and sleek but they sure pick up the heat when the firebox is full. I’ll make some cloths to hang there soon.

  6. Chris says:

    I’d like to cheer you on your restoration project. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. πŸ™‚

  7. chrissieheyn says:

    Love it!! I haven’t had time to read any of your wonderful stories and love this! Need to catch up! Can’t wait to see your place and family πŸ™‚ xx Chrisdie, Leigh and furbabies x 2

    On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, Rabid Little Hippy wrote:

    > rabidlittlehippy posted: “Meet Sonia. Sonia is the newest member of our > household. She came to us about 15 months ago where she has languished in > the back shed ever since. Last weekend though, with some severe nagging at > a little bit of pressure on my husband to help, we dug her w” >

  8. Linne says:

    Popped in to catch up with you and was delighted to see this post. I am positively drooling… Glad to hear Sonia is working well and am impressed by the work you did to get her to this stage. No pic of the Yorkshire puddings, eh? They must have been tasty… πŸ™‚
    Looking forward to your welding adventures; my Dad was a master welder, but I never thought to ask him to teach me…

  9. Peter says:

    Hi Jessie,
    My partner Kristy is completing a reno on an old cottage and it has one of Sonia’s siblings in it. We are now living in the cottage and would love to get our IXL72 (once we remove the possum), up and running, it’s not in bad nic. We rang Geelong but they said they couldn’t help us with the manual?? I presume it is not an online manual?
    Our 2 big questions are, which direction do you flip the lever in the flue to open and close it and the little lever (damper?), right down bottom right of the stove, how and when do we use that? Will let you know how we go when we have it up and running. Love your blog!!

    • Hi Peter. Thanks. πŸ™‚
      I’m surprised that Geelong couldn’t help with the manual, it’s where I sourced mine! Fire me an email at and I’ll email you the manual. πŸ™‚
      I would also suggest getting into that area near the bottom right of the stove, removing the damper and clearing out all the creosote etc. Our damper wasn’t working due to all the gunk in there. Also, that lever seems to be a pull and push as well as turn adjustment. Took me a bit to figure out how to make it stay where I wanted it. πŸ˜‰

      • paula says:

        Hi I too have an iX 72 with the dinner plate warmer and absolutely love it but wonder if I could get a copy of the manual so I can use it properly I not sure what should be open and what should be closed just trial and error at the moment
        thank you in advance

        • Hi Paula, At the moment I am having computer troubles and can’t access the drive in which the manual is stored. I’ve got your email address now though so as soon as I can I will forward the manual to you.

        • Paula,
          I am so very sorry it has taken me so long to send the manual to you but finally I have been able to access our external drive and locate the instruction manual for you. I have sent it to your email address. If there is any problem, please leave another comment and I’ll follow up immediately.

  10. […] house with a wood stove upon which we will cook in cooler months, howeverΒ the fire-boxΒ in our IXL is not very large. The thinner branches will catch and burn faster, thereby the stove and oven will […]

  11. Michael says:

    Hi there,
    My name is Michael and I have been searching for a manual for an IXL 72.
    I’ve just come across your page from 2016 re bringing Sonia back to life.
    I have tried a few avenues looking for one, including IXL Geelong, Wood2burn (a retired chap in Geelong who reconditions stoves) but no luck.
    I see you were able to find one. I’m wondering if you still have it on file, and if so, would it be possible to email me a copy.
    I’ve been able to figure out where most of the pieces go, but theres 1 or 2 that have me baffled, lol, no pun intended.
    Sonia’s story was a good read.
    Cheers Michael

  12. Nathan says:

    Hi I have got a iXL 71 and can’t find anything on line about it ?

  13. Andrew redpath says:

    I would like to know where you got or can get the curved fire brick that goes up over the oven in the fire box.

    I am a great lover of the combustion stove

    • Hi ANdrew. To my knowledge there isn’t a curved brick that goes over the top. The heat needs to rise from the oven to help heat the stovetop to my knowledge. There is a gentleman, Peter in Geelong who works on the IXL’s and other stoves and he may be able to provide more information for you.

  14. Andrew redpath says:

    Hi I am Andrew
    I have already sent you one message regarding the fire box bricks, I was also hoping that you may be able to shed some light on a operation manual and or parts manual?



  15. Ben says:

    Great blog. Hope Sonia is happy and well. We have also bought a second hand ixl 72, and will give it a clean and trial run, then hopefully connect it up to our hot water and get cooking, heating and eating! I am also wondering about the operation of the little lever at the bottom, and would really love a copy of the manual, hope it s not a bother? Need her to stay alight through the night as it’s pretty cold here on the edge of the Victorian high country!
    Cheers Ben

    • Hi Ben. We actually sold Sonia earlier this year as we are packing up and moving to live in Wales. 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Sonia however lived on our back deck and cooked roasts, Yorkshire puddings cups of tea and all sorts and is off to get a new lease of life from a man who rebuilds stoves.
      I’ll forward you the manual. The lever at the bottom is about airflow. I’m not sure you will keep her going overnight as it’s such a small wood box but loading in some red gum overnight might do the trick. She’s more a stove than a heater if you know what I mean. Alternatively, the wetback can also link up to a hydronic heating radiator. πŸ™‚

    • Jay de Gier says:

      Hi Ben we have also purchased and IXL 72. Just wondering if you have found anywhere to get spare parts? Cheers Jay

  16. Jay de Gier says:

    Thank you for your blog about Sonia, we are looking at purchasing the same stove and your blog has certainly helped. Thank you for sharing.

  17. John Martin says:

    Hi Jessie
    We have just purchased an old IXL 72 and have just read your blog about restoring yours, what we’re after is a manual that you mention you have.
    If you could email it to us we would be so grateful.
    Regards John.

  18. Cam says:

    We have just bought a IXL number16 we found. Trying to find info like build date ECT.

  19. Grace Valenti says:

    Hi Sonia I don’t know whether you’ll see this post as I I have read your blog from about 2015 in regards to IXL wood stove. I just purchased an IXL 71 and was wondering about the manual you have could you give me more details kind regards

  20. Steve says:

    Hi Sonia, Ive also struggled to come up with a manual. If you don’t mind sending me a copy I would really appreciate it. In the process of restoring mine now.

    • Jason says:


      I just acquired by chance the same oven last week end. I plan to cook in it today. Any chance you can send me a photo of the instructions?

  21. Jason says:

    Hi Sorry to bother you I would really appreciate if you could send me a copy of the manual as well I just picked up a IXL 72 and would love a copy of the manual please please please

  22. Jackie Heaysman says:

    Hi thanks for sharing this information on your blog. We also have an IXL 72 and we love it! We use it all the time and it cooks an awesome roast. Ours is missing the damper in the flue which makes it a little hard to regulate. We are hoping to get one made but are not sure what it should look like. We would appreciate a copy of the manual if you wouldn’t mind emailing to me as it would be great to know more about the stove and it should help us with that part. Many thanks Jackie

  23. Chris J says:

    Hi All,

    Interesting read, we recently moved to a property with the identical stove, hoping to use it over winter, would anyone who has a copy be so kind to email it through??

    Cheers Chris

  24. Fran says:

    Hi, hope you’re still loving you’re old IXL, we have a 71 model & was hoping you could email me the instructions you have for the 72 model,
    Many Thanks

  25. Linda Dyer says:

    Hi there not sure if you are still seeing comments but would love a copy of ixl72 manual if by any chance you see this!
    Thanks so much,

  26. Clayton says:

    Hi there, could you please tell me if you ever managed to get a new wet back box for your stove, and if so where from? Also if possible could you please email me a copy of the manual you have? I am currently looking at a model 127 which is a bit later than the 72, but it may still be similar in it’s operation. Possibly about to head down the same path of restoration that you have already done, so really looking for anything that may help the process. Cheers, Clayton.

    • We never did get the restoration completed but Scandia stoves were the place to go. We’ve moved internationally so I haven’t kept the details. I will email you the manual now. Good luck with your stove. I must say I miss Sonia; she was a real beauty to cook on.

  27. Deepak says:

    I am new owner of used IXL 72 wood stove and have to restore it. It will be really helpful if you can share the user manual.

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