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We should have asked Martha Stewart - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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We should have asked Martha Stewart

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  • We should have asked Martha Stewart

    Why didn't I think if this. We could have asked Martha about seasoning firewood. She knows. It's six months to a year, and you know your wood is dry when you can see tiny cracks along the cross setions. It's a good thing she got out.

    Here is an article that appeared in our local paper. (With all rights noted).


    Winter fireplace: Building the best blaze
    Please discuss the proper way to build and feed a fire in the fireplace. There are those of us who still struggle with this task.

    Like anything else, building a fire is easier once you understand how it works.

    The fire's fuel - what you will burn - can be divided into three categories: tinder, kindling and logs. Tinder is highly flammable. It's the first thing you light, and it lights the kindling, which lights the logs. Black and white newsprint, brown bags, wood chips and dead pine-branch tips all make fine tinder. Newspaper knots, which burn a little more slowly than balled-up pieces, are easy to make: Roll a sheet of newspaper into a tight tube or pleat it; tie a knot in the center. Take a moment to make lots of the knots. If you keep them in a basket by the hearth, you'll save time before building each fire.

    Use sticks and branches for kindling. They can be as thin as your finger or as thick as your wrist.

    The best logs are hardwoods such as oak, maple, ash, beech and birch. Fruit and nut trees like cherry, pear and pecan burn well and are fragrant. Hardwoods weigh almost three times as much as softwoods, such as pines and spruces, burn more slowly and give off more heat.

    Softwoods are easier to light because they contain a lot of flammable resin. They also make good tinder and kindling but should not be used as logs. As the resin in a softwood log burns, it accumulates on chimney walls, forming creosote. If the chimney isn't cleaned, the creosote can catch on fire, destroying the chimney, the fireplace and perhaps the rest of the house.

    The logs should be dry and aged for six months to a year to be in the best condition. If they're freshly cut, or green, they will burn unevenly and produce a lot of smoke. They also won't smell very good. Tiny radial cracks along cross sections indicate that wood has aged.

    In addition to fuel, a fire needs oxygen. Many fires go out due to lack of oxygen. This happens when a big log is tossed directly onto a few little pieces of burning kindling. The key to building a fire is to allow some air to circulate through the burning pieces, which must still be close enough together so that one lights the next.

    Here's the best way to build a fire:

    Create a pyramid, starting with a layer of newspaper. On top of and around the paper, add pieces of wooden tinder, then kindling, crisscrossing the pieces to allow air to circulate.

    Light the paper. (A long-handled wooden match works best for this.) Once the kindling catches, place a couple of small, split logs on or next to the flames - but not directly on top. Once they're blazing, add a few more logs, leaving at least an inch between them, and your fire should soon be going strong.
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  • #2
    She ought to know!

    We could have asked Martha about seasoning firewood. She knows. It's six months to a year
    Yup, Martha knows what she's talking about when she says six to twelve.


    • #3
      How hot is hot

      I'm really new at firing my oven, so don't laugh. The oven has four thermocouples and a thermometer from Alan Scott. It's high mass and refractory clad, well insulated, although I haven't added rigid board insulation on the underside of the vermiculite layer yet (any suggestions on thickness?). Alan Scott advised against it for a few months.

      Anyway, wood in rural Ontario is not too much of an issue, and I have access to both pine and cedar, as well as maple. The maples around here are reaching the end of their lives, and the electricity supplier (Hydro One) is very busy limbing many, and cutting down quite a few. Some are standing dead and ready to burn. They're pretty liberal about leaving it by the side of the road to be scooped. The length part for the oven is new to me, though. Therefore, I start with softwood, then add hardwood.

      I'm careful about seasoning my wood (been heating with wood a long time), and usually give it six months to cure, but our winters are dry and cold, so it happens fairly quickly. Even built a second woodshed near the oven that's four feet deep, by 22' long, 8' high. Not full yet.

      I got a great reply on firing from Jon Hartzler, but he doesn't use thermocouples. Given the fact that I used refractory cement for the hearth and cladding, and if I want multiple bakes, what temperature should the hearth, dome and cladding reach, and approximately how long should it take? One burn or two? I'm a tad worried about making it too hot, but I don't foresee any cracking. (I hope!) I talked to one man in Toronto who says he needs 8 hours in winter, but I don't know what he's burning.

      I realize it's got to be trial and error to some extent, but I'd appreciate any comments the members might have.
      "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


      • #4
        I can't wait to hear how your firings progress. This sounds fun.

        You have about 9" of mass to work with. Right? How deep are your thermocouples and where are they? The depth and temperature should tell you how far you are driving heat into the mass, and how much you have "filled up" that resevoir with heat. Are you going to use an Infrared to get the termperature of the face of the dome and floor?

        What temperature are you planning to bake the three loads? Something like 550F, then 500F, the 450F. (500, 450, 425?) I'll bet you will get a sense for the heat fall-off after a couple of firings. My memory is that there are heat fall-off curves in Bread Builders.

        For newer members who might not know Alf, Alf Armstrong (Forno Bravo UK) has built the brick bread ovens for many of the high-end bakeries in the UK. There is a nice photo of one of his ovens on the About Forno Bravo UK page. My understanding is that those are Scottish ovens, which use a separate firing chamber.

        I would be curious how those ovens work compares with a fire in the oven bread oven.

        Last edited by james; 01-28-2006, 12:33 PM.
        Pizza Ovens
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