What do you do if you get offered a historical tile stove that once was erected by your grand grandfather and in the holiest of the family has witnessed the anniversaries, weddings and baptizing of half of your kin?
Tile stoves have been the equivalents of altars in the forestry and agriculture centric near history of Finland. Just think of the importance of heat and fire for our ancestors fighting the freezing hostile climate. The source of that life-giving heat built in the very heart of man’s residence out of everlasting stone. I have just realized the fortunes and the respect these people invested in their most prestigous stoves. Just look at the picture and people there. Think about it. What is the role of the stove in hallowing the scene?
So, off we went. My father and I loaded my pick-up truck with a bit over 100 tiles from that very old stove and transported them to my home where I already since January had been renovating “the white bedroom”. That gorgeous glossy monument would fit perfectly there with the white interior and could now continue radiating its heat to our family also in the future.
Another interesting finding was that as recently as spring last year an old-fashioned tile factory had been established just 15 minutes drive frome my home. Hattulan Kaakelitehdas is a dream realized by two young ladies who had recently had graduated from a handcraft school and researched the traditional art of tile making. They helped by offering service to repair some broken tiles and otherwise provided valuable advice in building the stove.
My final lucky strike was finding the mason. Building a traditional monolithic counter-flow low-temperature stove that can support those hundred hand-cut tiles is not a job for your average brick and mortar guy. Pete proved to be a real master. He conducted a meticulous labor in finding a new shape for the stove, fitting and shaping the stones and tiles and fixing the century-old smoke pipe in the attic so that we could run the final smoke test for the beauty. In addition to this he managed to teach us novice hands hundreds of principles and practicalities about stoves, models and materials, consulted on several of my other open renovation questions and provided us with some excellent old books about traditional construction work and masonry.
Right now I watch the stove as it is standing up in the white midsummer night, dry, ready to take the heat, waiting for the yet distant but inevitably approaching winter. Renovation of the white bedroom is almost complete. The room is as beautiful as I ever imagined with its old wooden floors and traditional Swedish paper tapestry my wife carefully selected. But the stove I still like the most. The funny thing is that many people who used to visit the house and that room for decades now come and just disregard the stove - like it had always stood there! First I felt this quite insulting indeed. But the more I think of it, this just confirms that things are exactly as they should. And it makes me smile.