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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 😀

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19 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
    restoration.
    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. 😉
      I’m off to learn about welding on YouTube as a primer as instructed by my teacher. 🙂

  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 🙂

    • 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. 🙂

  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 🙂 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… 🙂
    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!!
    Peter

    • Hi Peter. Thanks. 🙂
      I’m surprised that Geelong couldn’t help with the manual, it’s where I sourced mine! Fire me an email at rabidlittlehippy@aunix.com.au and I’ll email you the manual. 🙂
      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. 😉

      • 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, however the fire-box in our IXL is not very large. The thinner branches will catch and burn faster, thereby the stove and oven will […]

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