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Colonial Beehive Oven

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  • Colonial Beehive Oven

    Hello Guys

    I recently acquired a very old colonial home in PA that has a large 10 foot cooking fireplace with an attached beehive oven. The oven vents through the door opening directly into the fireplace chimney, as typical for a house of that period (1690). The oven was restored by an architect circa 25 years ago and never used by the previous owner. They just liked the historical look of it. I would like to use the oven but I am troubled by its odd dimension

    1) front to back depth 50"
    2) side to side width 40#
    3) Dome height 30" at the center where the last capping bricks were inserted; and 26.6 off center toward the beginning of the curved radial portion of the dome
    4) Door Height 14.5

    Looking at the outside igloo portion of the oven it appears to me to look like a primitive horno oven (see picture) and I was told that the architect reconstructed it based on the remains of the original one.

    I tried firing it up last weekend. It burns wood very well and it vents fine through the front door. It took though two full hours to clear the dome and the clearing was somehow spotty on the sides. It also never cleared the side walls next to the door opening.

    I am not sure whether this was the result of 25 years of not use or it is due to the unusually high dome. I do not have the money or time at the moment to take it down and redo it. So, I will be very grateful for any help or suggestion you guys can provide.

    Thanks
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

    Gudday
    That doesn't sound that bad at all. The ovens probably a bit damp that's why it has not cleared low down . 2 hours is not an overly long time either especially considering its damp. I would just fire it again and you find that it will come better with every firing.
    63 per cent is the perfect ratio of dome height to door hieght but your oven will still operate.
    I recon you should enjoy what you have and have a play with it and see what you can make it do.
    Regards dave
    Measure twice
    Cut once
    Fit in position with largest hammer

    My Build
    http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f51/...ild-14444.html
    My Door
    http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f28/...ock-17190.html

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

      Thanks Dave. I will surely try and today I will fire it again. Planning to make bread. I will post more on the result. Hopefully works. Consider also that since I did not build it, I do not even know what kind of insulation, if any at all, is on the dome. Hope for the best. If I can get a a few years of use I will be happy.

      Any other suggestion from other members with experience?

      Saro

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

        I have restored several of these...they were not constructed the way Pompeii ovens are.

        I would almost guarantee that the spotty dome has nothing to do with dampness, but is due to uninsulated mass. Early ovens never used insulation....fire the oven hotter and longer.
        Old World Stone & Garden

        Current WFO build - Dry Stone Base & Gothic Vault

        When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
        John Ruskin

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

          I would love to see more pics...the earliest one I worked on was 1692.
          Old World Stone & Garden

          Current WFO build - Dry Stone Base & Gothic Vault

          When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
          John Ruskin

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

            Gudday
            From what I've read the high dome and the "pear shape" encouraged the flame and hot gases to linger in the oven as long as possible so to pass on their heat to the brickwork. The ovens didnt have insulation as such but depended on storing their heat in the thermal mass where it would be released back into the oven. Insulation as we know it seems to be a pretty modern innovation. It makes for a weekend oven that can be taken from cold to pizza in a short time played with for a few days and the ignored again for a time
            Anyway that's the way I see it.
            I too would like to see some more pics and here anything that stonecutter could tell us about these ovens
            Regards dave
            Measure twice
            Cut once
            Fit in position with largest hammer

            My Build
            http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f51/...ild-14444.html
            My Door
            http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f28/...ock-17190.html

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

              Thanks Stonecutter. You are correct there is no insulation. The oven outside surface stay cool until the dome clears and then slowly reaches 150 F to the touch of the outside surface. Result is that after one batch of bread the oven drops temperature. As result also several airline cracks have developed on the outside cladding, not in the brickwork itself. The cracks are more noticeable when the oven is hot, but the shrink back again and are barely noticeable after the oven cools. Suggestions for the cracks? Should I worry?

              I will post more pictures tomorrow. I will post pictures of the oven door and the oven location within the fireplace.

              Thanks a lot guys for helping me with this.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                Gudday
                I was thinking could this oven be insulated say if only an inch of ceramic and stucco over what's there. Even if it just keeps the surface cool.
                On the other side do you really need multiple batches of bread?
                I wouldn't rush in to anything till you find out what suits and what you need.
                An insulated oven takes time to lose the temperature, it might well be advantageous to be able to do a flatbread/pizza then bake some bread and finish a slow roast to finish in one day?
                Regards dave
                Measure twice
                Cut once
                Fit in position with largest hammer

                My Build
                http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f51/...ild-14444.html
                My Door
                http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f28/...ock-17190.html

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                  There isn't anything you can do for cracking that will hold up long term. Not really something to worry about unless they open up and let excessive heat and sparks out during a fire. Keep an eye on it.
                  Old World Stone & Garden

                  Current WFO build - Dry Stone Base & Gothic Vault

                  When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
                  John Ruskin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                    I'm on my phone in rural New England with terrible service, so a good discussion my my end wont happen for a while...can't believe I got these in.

                    Briefly though...I'm suspect of this restoration. Personally, I have never seen a beehive built on a stand outside the finish masonry of the fp. That doesn't. Mean they never existed, but I think this is Retro fitted to the fp, and the original.was smaller...and was not outside the home.
                    Old World Stone & Garden

                    Current WFO build - Dry Stone Base & Gothic Vault

                    When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
                    John Ruskin

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                      Originally posted by stonecutter View Post
                      I'm on my phone in rural New England with terrible service, so a good discussion my my end wont happen for a while...can't believe I got these in.

                      Briefly though...I'm suspect of this restoration. Personally, I have never seen a beehive built on a stand outside the finish masonry of the fp. That doesn't. Mean they never existed, but I think this is Retro fitted to the fp, and the original.was smaller...and was not outside the home.
                      .......interesting. thanks for your reply and expert opinion
                      Regards Dave
                      Measure twice
                      Cut once
                      Fit in position with largest hammer

                      My Build
                      http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f51/...ild-14444.html
                      My Door
                      http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f28/...ock-17190.html

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                        Stonecutter

                        You might be thinking of the beehive oven located at the side of cooking fireplaces. Those are mid 1700 century. This is a Quaker house built by pilgrims in the post-medioeval English style and the beehive was located at the back of the fireplace wall often projecting outside the stone wall. We have quite a few of these left in PA, mostly in house museums. An example can be found at Chad House - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                        Anyway, I am attaching some additional picture of the oven opening as it relates to teh fireplace and I am also attaching pictures of the cracks that have developed, albeit I understand there is nothing I can do with that. Again the brickwork inside the baking chamber has no cracks. Just the outside cladding. I do like the look of the oven and I am happy to have one. I just wish had a better performance for pizza and bread. Thanks again guys for sharing your knowledge and helping with this.
                        Attached Files

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                          Thanks for the link. True, all the ovens I have restored were mid-late 17th century...all were inside the firebox, or off to the side of the box, in the wall. None projected beyond the outer walls.

                          Still in new England, heading to VA, but when I get home I have some ideas for your oven.
                          Last edited by stonecutter; 10-21-2013, 09:40 AM.
                          Old World Stone & Garden

                          Current WFO build - Dry Stone Base & Gothic Vault

                          When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
                          John Ruskin

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                            Originally posted by Saro View Post
                            I do like the look of the oven and I am happy to have one. I just wish had a better performance for pizza and bread. Thanks again guys for sharing your knowledge and helping with this.
                            Saro

                            Like others have commented previously, the oven may still have a bit of moisture in it, particularly if it has not been fired in a while. I would continue to have some smaller fires over multiple consecutive days and see if that helps.

                            When you say "I wish it would perform better for pizza and bread" can you elaborate on the actual performance? If you have a infrared thermometer take some readings and post them. Particularly after you've had a few fires to dry it out. Once you've done that, give us a dome and floor temp reading after firing the oven and the dome is clear then do the same after an hour or so after the dome has cleared also.

                            Lastly, what a cool structure to have as part of your home! There's is no equal to the character that an old home like that brings to the party. I would love to see more pics of the entire home.
                            Chris

                            Link to my photo album:
                            https://www.flickr.com/photos/hodgey...7646087819291/

                            Link to my build: http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f21/...nia-19366.html

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Colonial Beehive Oven

                              Chris

                              I did fire it last weekend. I got the dome and the base at around 850 F over a 2.5 firing. By the time I cleared the floor to bake some bread (ciabatta and semolina loaves, pictures attached) the oven temperature had dropped to 500 at the dome and 450 at he floor. The bread baked for 35-40 minutes and by the time I was done oven temperature was at 350-400F at the dome and 300 F at the base. By the time the bread was out of the oven, the outer temperature of the dome started to creep up reaching an average of 140F, that is very warm/hot to the touch. Of course there is no much you can do after one load of bread baking. Not even good to slow roast vegetable with residual heat. That is what I mean for more efficient.So I have concluded that the lack of insulation to the dome must be causing this including the cracks I see to the outer shell. Of course I do not know what is at the base of the oven (that is the large square stone box on which the dome rests). I am not sure if the support base is all filled with stone (huge thermal mass?) or empty.

                              Thanks for your nice comments on the house. I will post some pictures as I can. It is a special place that deserves historical respect. So moving forward I would like to maintain the oven structure in character and shape to the existing one. I just wish to make it more efficient in terms of use.I am sure you guys can help me with suggestions.
                              Attached Files
                              Last edited by Saro; 10-21-2013, 10:27 AM.

                              Comment

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