Soba Drama

Last night, shortly after having been lit, our soba started to smoke alarmingly.  We opened windows and doors, used fans and, after Ashley hit the pipes with a poker and increased the air flow the smoke dispersed and was seen coming out of the chimney.  We were not at this stage sure why air was not being drawn, obviously there was a partial blockage somewhere.

This happened several times over the course of the early evening and then, as we were eating dinner, the carbon monoxide alarm went off.  We threw everything open and left the building till we were pretty sure it had dispersed.  You can’t just turn a soba off.  You have to wait for the fire to die down enough to take the burning bucket out of the house.  Which we did.

The portable gas heater was brought through from the back house so, at least, we were warm.

This morning we headed for town to buy some of the stuff you burn to clean the chimney (not to be used till the blockage is definitely gone), a mechanical chimney cleaner (a ring of metal with a spring wrapped around it mounted on a stick) and some gloves.

We cleaned what we could, got a load of soot out of the chimney and could see more beyond our reach.  We phoned a man with a ladder to do the last offending blockage.  As you can see from the photo, this full length ladder was only just long enough to reach the bendy bit.  The bendy bit was full of tar.  It has been dripping tar onto the road under our terrace for about a week.  We initially thought this was oil from someone’s engine which is why we didn’t realise we had a flue problem.  We ended up buying a new bendy bit and it was not easy to fit.

We then spent some time reassembling parts of the chimney flue, cleaning out the soba, and using a vacuum cleaner to get rid the soot.  Fortunately we had managed to confine the soot to a relatively small area having been able to get the bulk of it straight into a big plastic bag.

Right now we are hoping this clean-out will have solved the problem.  It should do, there is no blockage to the air flow.  We won’t, however, know for sure until we try to light the soba this evening.

There is a moral to this story.  Every year in Turkey people die, poisoned by their sobas.  We will keep our chimney clean and continue to use our carbon monoxide alarm.

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5 responses to “Soba Drama

  1. When we lived in Cappadocia and the winters were long and very cold our soba was in constant use. We always dismantled all the pipes and cleaned them every week. It’s a rotten messy job isn’t it? But essential to keep the pipes clear and safe. The carbon monoxide alarms are an excellent idea of course..it’s a pity that most Turks fail to use them.

    • We couldn’t dismantle the pipework every week. We could do the top bit and the bottom bit, but the bit in the middle took two men and a ladder to reach. It goes underneath the balcony and up. We’ll certainly be more aware of the need to keep the pipes clean in future.

  2. Hi !
    Our bendy bit is inside, now i am worried. Friends say that as we burn peach & olive wood, there should be no tar (which comes from pine resin they say). But I will keep on alert, thanks

    • We also have a bendy bit inside. We can clean that quite easily. It’s the one on the outside that is difficult to reach. We burn mostly peach wood and, apart from the outside-bendy bit, there was really not a great deal of tar. We knw that the soba was used for coal in the past and we are not sure when the pipes were last cleaned. It is, by the way, burning beautifully and safely now.

      • It’s the coal that really causes the problem. In Cappadocia we had to use coal as well as wood to keep the soba burning 24 hours a day. Here we just use wood and it’s not a problem…until my husband stupidly throws all sorts of other rubbish in the soba (as do many Turks) and then we get smoke!

        The build-up of tar in yours was probably from coal being used in the past I imagine. You shouldn’t have any problems now if you are just burning wood xxx

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