We began building the proposed two chamber baking oven one month ago, beginning with a concrete slab on top of a two and a half inch think insulating pad. The slab itself was 6 inches thick with a length of fourteen feet. It took seventy bags of cement, at eighty pounds each, and mixed by hand to lay the slab; this was after we moved the earth beneath in order to level the ground (no small amount). By “we” I am referring to my sons Ethan and Samuel who have always been there for me when two strong backs are required, and whom I am proud to say are preparing to serve their country in the Navy and Marine Corps.
After allowing the slab to “cure” for a week we got busy preparing the base for the oven. The base consists of just under one hundred cinder blocks, four courses high, formed in a rectangle with two areas for wood storage. For those who are curious, yes cinder blocks were in use during the Civil War, although they did not become popular in constructions until the turn of the twentieth century. On top of the base rests the oven hearth which consists of three inches of insulation, four inches of cement, a think later of refractory mortar, followed by a layer of fire brick placed on the sides with no mortar between them. The fire brick is the baking surface. The walls and dome of the oven chambers are also made of fire brick held together by a series of arches and refractory mortar that can withstand heat up to 2,500 degrees. Over the domes are poured of five and one half inch thick layer of reinforced concrete, and five additional inches of insulation in order for the oven chamber to retain the heat for baking. The last bricks were laid today, and a flat roof (temporary) cut around the chimneys will be put on today. The sky is clear today after several days of rainy weather. I hope to start baking in earnest tomorrow. I have fired the oven and baked several loaves of bread and hope to perfect my technique in the coming days. A load of wood was delivered and I have started stacking it behind my quarters.