Chuck Stokes, a wood-stove manufacturer in Medford, Ore., loathed telling good workers to take an extended vacation every time the slack season rolled around. For one thing, he was never quite sure they'd be available when the orders came tumbling in again.
Then two years ago he hit on an idea that largely eliminated the perennial problem. He developed a stove that folks would find useful primarily in those warmer months when conventional wood and coal stoves were not in use. It's a portable wood-fired cook stove for the outdoorsman and it doubles as a heater when necessary.
While it was developed initially with the elk hunters in mind, Mr. Stokes found that everyone who loves the great outdoors has a use for it - campers, fishermen, picknickers, and those who shoot game only through the lens of a camera. In some homes it is used in tandem with the backyard barbecue because ''it does a whole lot more cooking for the fuel consumed than an open fire ever will do.''
The Sunfire Sportsman, as it is called, was the only portable displayed at the recent wood-energy conference here. It weighs 32 pounds and can be set up in less than 5 minutes, says Mr. Stokes. The 10-inch-diameter fire chamber will take logs up to 16 inches long. It is airtight and cooks, boils, and even bakes to a limited degree (corn and potatoes go into two parallel baking tubes) with controllable temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees F.
Wood, charcoal, buffalo chips, and paper logs are all effective fuels in the Sunfire.
Just how well thought out is the design shows in the way the kettle can be slung up against the rear of the stove. The idea is to bring the kettle to a boil on top of the stove and then hang it at the back where it continues to simmer as long as there is fire in the box. The top of the stove is then freed up for other cooking.
A slightly larger version of the Sunfire Sportsman, the 42-pound Sunfire Pro, is scheduled for introduction later this year. Where the Sportsman has 140 square inches of cooking surface, the Pro boasts 266 square inches. For details write to: Sunfire, 4820 Crater Lake Avenue, Medford, Ore. 97501.