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Early Arkansaw Reenactors Association

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Building a Masonry Bread Oven


In the first half of 2001, three of our intrepid members (namely, Ed Williams, Chuck Martin, and Nick Scott), with other members in tow, built a wood fired masonry oven at Cadron Settlement Park. The oven is patterned after the French ovens still found on farmsteads across the province of Quebec, Canada. We began hand hewing the logs for the oven base in January 2001 and laid the concrete foundation in March. We finished the oven in July and made out first loaves of bread the first weekend of October. EARA regularly holds events at Cadron Settlement Park that feature the use of the oven.

 

The paragraphs below describe how the oven was built.

 

Ed Williams started the process in January, 2001, by hewing logs that would become the foundation of the oven. 

This hewing process took quite a while, so in between whacks, we poured the concrete foundation in March. It is 4- by 6- by 6-feet. 

Everyone got into the act. Josie Rice helped with the hewing and when she got tired. . . . .

 her younger sister Katie took over.  

The hewn timbers were laid on the concrete foundation, with the rows of timbers alternating to provide better support. 
The finished platform is now ready to be filled.
The platform was back-filled with clay and rock, ready for the next layer of concrete.
Another 6 inches of concrete is poured on top of the base. Pool cooping brick is laid in the first row. Firebrick is set on the side to created a 4-inch base of firebrick. The side and back of the oven are mortared in. This was finished in July. 
The first three courses of the dome are mortared in. Since the dome exerts pressure on the outside wall, boards are in place to hold the oven together until the mortar sets. This was in July and the temperature was over 100 degrees! Chuck set up his modern dining fly to help us stay cool. Chuck also thought it was time to get Ed in the picture. The next step is to fill in the front of the oven with firebrick
Chuck, "You know, the oven would work better if you had used firebrick." This is an old joke, ask Chuck about it the next time you see him.

Laurine Williams put stucco on the upper concrete slab.  The bricks are lined with foil to give a space between the bricks and the concrete top to allow for heat expansion of the bricks. Wire is in place to give the concrete strength. Also, look at the door and you will see a wooden form used the build the arch. We used another arch to build the dome. The process is to start laying brick at each end of the form and the last brick, the one in the middle, should fit real tight.

Wooden forms are placed to allow for 3 to 4 inches of concrete to cover the bricks.

Ed, Chuck, and Nick mixed concrete and shoveled it into the form. Chuck pounded the sides of the form to work the concrete down. 
The form came off and the oven is ready for some stucco. 
Look inside the oven (some cracks still need to be filled). Can't you just smell the bread baking?

On July 21, the oven was finished with a stucco coat of earthen red. 

We built a small fire to test the draft.  Everything went fine, so we let it cure for a while.
Since completion, we have gotten much use of the oven and have added a shake roof shed over the oven to help protect it from the elements. The oven resides at Cadron Settlement Park, located just west of Conway, Arkansas, on the north side of the Arkansas River. Scheduled activities at Cadron are included in the link "Upcoming Events". Hope to see you there!
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