Just thought I'd post my opinion on the Hitzer 503 I installed this fall. I have to say that this forum was great to inform me an what I should get, and I'm happy with the stove. I was hesitant to go to coal, but with the 503 design, I can do wood if I want (although 2 tons down, I've burnt wood maybe 5 times). However I am a bit disappointed with the quality. I know Hitzer's got to be busy, but I don't think their quality should suffer, or maybe it's always always been this way. I've seen better welds from Chinese welders who don't know how to read a weld symbol. I go to China for fabricated parts, and I know. Hitzer's welds are adequate, but the big start-stops, cold lap, and general inconsitency in size and bead is sad, especially in visible areas. The craftsmanship should be better on the front, but it's much. I looked forward to buying a good American product, but when you get something made here that is worse than typical Chinese, it makes you feel like your purchase was somehow charitable. Beyond the welds, the fans both rattle and you have to wedge something in the grate to keep the vibrations down. My door gasket stuck to the frame when I fired it up, and when I opened the door, it tore. I called Hitzer, and they said they'd send a replacement. I haven't gotten it. I sent an email to check up, but haven't heard back yet (over a month ago). Mine still works, so I don't worry too much, but it's another annoyance. Other small annoyances are that the hopper bolt hole to hold the hopper in doesn't line up, the front vent grates that are nickle plated are so thin they look, well ,thin and cheap, and my cast iron shaker grate had an inclusion in it so that the end that you slip the handle onto chipped. Again, it works, but not worth messing with changing out, but annoying none the less.
Overall, though the design is good, and I love it's functionality. It does what I want, and should last, although I'd do a few changes. I'm not sure if the quality is typical of all the fabricated stoves out there, and for what this stove does, there doesn't seem to be any comparable stove, and the price was fair-good. I would like to add an additional vent on the surround though, and was wondering if anyone has any recommendations? Hope I don't upset anyone too much, and possibly if it wasn't me, no one else would notice, because in reality, these are relatively small issues, but it's what I notice, and I thought I'd give an honest opinion/assessment on this forum.