Building a Wood-Fired Oven

Building a Wood-Fired Oven

A wood-fired masonry oven, up until now, has been a mysterious and complex creation that seemed unfamiliar for someone with little masonry experience. But on Hurricane Island in Maine I learned first-hand the secrets to building a wood-fired oven.

Patrick Manley taught the Masonry Oven Workshop and he really delivered. He is an accomplished mason with over 30 years of experience. His teaching is concise and to the point. His knowledge in masonry ovens and heaters is vast. He also runs a non-profit that builds inexpensive cooking ovens for the Mayan people of Guatemala called Masons On a Mission.

Pat has probably forgotten more than I’ll ever know about ovens – Workshop participant

There were eight participants in the workshop and we assisted Pat in building a complete oven core is less than four days. The final hearth size of the oven we built was 4′ by 4′. The oven is pictured above. Most of the attendees were from Maine with unique and varied backgrounds; all drawn to the workshop by a common love of things wood-fired, especially pizza!

Here are some photos:

Foundation and hearth sub slab is ready

Foundation and hearth sub slab is ready

Pat explains the process of interlocking bricks

Pat explains the process of interlocking bricks

Building the arch form

Building the arch form

The completed vault arch

The completed vault arch

The vault arch from inside

The vault arch from inside

And more photos here.

Sam Hallowell, the manager at the Hurricane Island Center, runs a tight ship and he is so happy to now have an oven to share with future campers and students. Jim McCormack & Ladleah Dunn kept us well fed with their delicious and nutritious meals served up thrice daily in the galley.

Living on island time

My stay at Hurricane Island was outstanding even when the weather was being uncooperative.  The solar powered island is mostly untouched and sparsely inhabited the majority of the year which make the animals seem friendly and inquisitive. The stars at night were crystal clear and the surroundings super quiet. Most of us forgot what day it was and some commented that they didn’t miss civilization at all. That’s how remote it felt even though we were only an hour and a half boat ride to the mainland. For the five days it felt like I was an apprentice artist-in-residence whose sole focus was on firebricks and mortar. I forgot what day it was. I could have easily stayed on longer in the service of the island.

Wood-Fired Oven for the Farm

I’m home now and back at the farm I’m already planning where our vessel of flame and retained heat will reside. Lots to think about and materials to source unless I take a ride back to Maine!