Firespeaking

Masonry Heaters, Wood-Fired Ovens, Natural Building

OAEC Medium-Sized Professional Wood-Fired Oven

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This oven was built in October 2014 at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center.  The OAEC has inspired many through its courses and example over the last three decades.  It was an honor to be invited to build this oven which is well situated next to their newly remodeled kitchen facility.

The deck of this oven is 36″ x 40 1/2″ deep.  It features a firebrick core with a vault and steel harness.  High-temp insulation surrounds the entire core, optimizing the oven’s efficiency.  The facing is classic looking recycled red brick with two wood storage arches facing the front and back and keystone for accent.

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A highlight of the build was getting to help the community to experience their new oven by throwing it’s inaugural pizza event.  We easily fed 75 people.  The oven’s mass-to-insulation ratio is designed to make it efficient but not overwhelming.  We made a fire for three hours before starting our pizza session at about 750 degrees.  We made roughly 60 pizzas over the following two hours with a live fire in the back.  One nice thing about breaking into these bigger oven sizes is the ease of management of the fire and pizzas.  There is not the risk of getting pizzas too close to the fire or mixed up with ash, and it is easy to have 2 to 4 good sized pizzas going simultaneously.

The next morning at 9 am, I opened the insulated oven door and read an average temperature of 425 degrees.  Without lighting another fire, we cooked 12 loaves of bread… and then followed that up with 2 hotel pans of beans…. and after that whole winter squash and many pounds of potatoes.  At the end of that following day, the oven was still at close to 300 degrees.

Thanks to Alex Chernov of Stovemaster and Marcus Flynn of Pyromasse for being continual sources of inspiration as well as lending design and technical advice on this build.  And thanks to the entire OAEC community for making this project a big life highlight!

“Hey Max! Just a quick note to tell you that we have been using the oven lots, and loving it so much! The oven works perfectly. It is all we dreamed of. We feel you in every brick, and every slice! Thank you Max!

We’ll send some party pictures too. If you need any promo photos or testimonials, let us know – we are your biggest fans! Please come visit when you can.”
-Dave Henson, OAEC Excecutive Director

 

Further Reading:

Photo Credits: Oven with Fire and Pizza Close-up in main spread and 5th, 7th and 8th images in mosaic by Tali Aiona.  2nd, 3rd and 4th images in mosaic by Jim Coleman.  6th and 9th images by Brock Dolman.  Thank you!

Lodge Style Masonry Heater

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The clients really wanted the performance of a masonry heater but they also wanted their heater to be reminiscent of a lodge style open fireplace.  It would have been easy to build the core vertically and then just made the masonry thicker at the bottom but this would have made the heater less responsive and less even in its heating. We designed and built the core with a taper so that the facing could be a consistent thickness and then a local mason named Evan Grainger did the fabulous stone work you see on the outside of this heater.

Smoke Path

Like in many masonry heaters…. when the bipass damper is open, the smoke goes pretty much straight up.  When it is closed, however, the heated gases fill the cavities and then find their way up internal chimneys into another bell above the bipass damper and then find their way into the chimney.

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Here are some photos of the firebrick core.  The design is a modification of the 5-run system so that the sides are actually tapered bells.  Firebrick and ceramic kiln shelf construction.

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Big Bear Camp Barrel Oven

We were very happy to get hired by our neighbors Hal and Tonia of Big Bear Camp to lead a workshop to build a Barrel Oven.  We took the opportunity to make our first glass door for the Barrel Oven Kit and are thrilled by the result.  We think it speaks for itself….

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CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO BELOW OF THE BBC BARREL OVEN IN ACTION!! -

 

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In its last year of existence, the oven has already cooked food for a number of monthly neighborhood pizza parties, been part of the October menu for the Epicurean Bears Club, as well as helped prepare the feast for a pre-Thanksgiving get-together. We love seeing the glow of the fire as the food is cooking. Hal and Tonia report that they often just sit with the oven and a cup of tea as it is pre-heating. Stay tuned for a post about the neighborhood kids and their Big Bear Camp Barrel Oven baked gingerbread houses!

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Further Reading:

Written by in: Recent,Wood-Fired Ovens |

Blacksmithed Shelf Brackets

shelf-brackets-web I am excited about these recent results from the metal shop.  I’d like to make more of these for this holiday season and have them both in stock and as something of value that I can take to fairs, exchanges, etc.  Shelf brackets are a great way to mount shelves and so many of the options available at the hardware store are not as solid as you would like them to be.

Written by in: Inventions,Portfolio,Recent |

Masonry Heater in Bend, OR

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Masonry heaters are a relatively new tradition in North America. We do not have the same tactile memory that many Europeans do of experiencing the warm, thorough heat. As such, many of us builders spend a lot of time educating potential clients. This was not the case with the Allens!

This was their fourth masonry heater in as many homes! They knew exactly what they wanted and knew all of the benefits of living with a masonry heater from their many years of experience with them. Their first heater was a “Russian” heater and their second two were built from Tempcast kits. Although satisfied with the Tempcasts they had, they hired us because they were interested in the Masonry Heater Association’s 5-run design due to its compact footprint and top-venting chimney.

Process….

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Oven at Wise Acres Farm – Eugene, OR

   

We built this wood-fired earth oven at Wise Acres Farm, a beautiful place and home to Dr. Sharol Tilgner, author of “Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth”! The beautiful brick oven base was built by Max and the earth oven project was led and finished by Eva during a workshop. The clay, sand and straw for the oven were gathered from the local area. The oven is well insulated and is functioning beautifully.

Custom Masonry Heater at Abundant Solar (Corvallis, OR)

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the beginning

stainless steel hot water pipes carved into replaceable firebox liner

oven/core detail

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layout for the jack arch

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flue liner detail

(process photos by Dylan Boye)

Have you ever heard of Earthships?  The term refers to a grouping of design principles that aims to make houses as self-sufficient as possible.  They were pioneered by a man named Michael Reynolds, a creative architect genius from New Mexico, who wanted to move away from homes being consumer boxes that demand resources like water and electricity from a grid and require connections to such things as septic dumps and trash collection.  Instead, he made concepts such as rain-water harvesting and storage, grey water treatment, micro-power generation and extreme passive solar design for heating and cooling shape the form and function of “earthship” homes.  The specifics of his design principles are honed for the climate of the southwest which includes very cold but sunny winter days and a scarcity of water.  I have always felt it an interesting challenge to understand how we might apply these same principles to other climates.  In the Pacific Northwest where we live, for example, the sun rarely shines in the winter time but the forests that abound are extreme accumulators for the solar energy that shines during the rest of the year.  As we worked on this project, influenced by the clients’ affinity for earthship design and a shared interest in applying these ideas to our bioregion and our lifestyles, I came to see the masonry heater we were building both as this vessel’s navigation deck from which they will be able to stay warm and steer through the colder parts of the year.

This masonry heater was built at the home of James Reismiller (owner of Abundant Solar) and Cassandra Robertson (environmental engineer and excellent singer-songwriter).  They did a great job of researching and planning for this heater.  The outside air source and reinforced foundation had already been installed before we were brought on.  In fact, the house was pretty much completed except for this central element.  They wanted a heater that would flow with their modern clean lines and be consistent with an ecological way of building.  They wanted to heat water, they wanted an all-season bake oven, and they wanted a configuration of heated benches that would flow well with their stairs as sitting space for house concerts.  So…. we got to work and designed and built the heater.

It is based on the Contraflow with the 22″ replaceable firebox from the Masonry Heater Association Plan Portfolio.  The interesting design challenge was to both provide for the heated benches as well as preserve access to the ash box, especially while needing to meet the low height of the second stair which meant that the bench’s flue could not cross above the access to the ash drawer.  The utility room which houses their hot water tanks for distributed radiant floor heating and domestic hot water is directly the other side of the back wall so the natural thermosiphon loop for the hot water was very simple and straight forward.  The bricks we used for the facing were very dense recycled pavers that beautifully reveal the flame patterns of the kiln they were fired in.  The bench and trim details are soapstone that were cut and polished on site from slabs that were seconds at a counter top shop.

Stay tuned for photos with fire as well as possibly a stop-motion video of the process!

This heater begs to make gracious acknowledgment to the following:

  • Cassandra and James for the opportunity to participate in their home’s construction and their hospitality.
  • Dylan Boye for his hard work, precision in cutting, and general assistance.
  • Kiko Denzer for his assistance especially in laying out and cutting the soapstone
  • Eva for coming at the end and helping to finish up and giving it her special pretty touch.
  • Marcus Flynn of Pyromasse for his generous documentation, tutorials and correspondence.  See this great tutorial on how-to-build a jack arch.
  • Norbert Senf of Masonry Stove Builders and Steve Bushway of Deerhill Masonry for their readiness to offer advice especially in the design stage… and to the whole MHAMembers chat list for great discussion which contributed enormously at various points in the build.

Read more….

Firespeaking - 89242 Fir Butte Rd, Eugene, OR 97402 - info (at) firespeaking.com - (541) 688-0948 - OR CCB# 200122