Comments on squirrel tail oven design
Hi Jim, I know of this design and played around with in once but gave it
up for the simpler version. This type of oven uses forced air into the
burn chamber to get a good fire going and because of the speed of the
flow through, the flames continue to carry most of the heat with them up
and away, hence the after burner/heat exchanger idea. If you just are a
little patient and let the fire burn out slowly in the first place then
there is no need for all the extra design and so on. It could be that
this oven would act as a low tech masonry heater in some situations, but
again its a bit too much of a compromise for me. The cast iron doors for
these ovens are still manufactured today under the name of "Dutch Oven" doors.
Your friend may have seen a "reproduction" bake oven that we use with our educational programs in an area outside the museum, or an oven installed as part of a baking exhibit on the 5th floor of the museum. The former is not a particularly good or authentic model, though built with the "squirrel tail" idea in mind. Unfortunately, we do not have existing photography for either. We do, however, have some materials in our research files here that we could copy for you, and our library may have additional information, perhaps in Henry Mercer's research notes.
There is a $15 fee for curatorial search/photocopying services, plus $.50/per page. If you are interested let me know and I will forward your query to our curatorial assistant to do the search and copying of materials. Of course, you are also welcome to arrange a research visit to the Mercer if you are able to travel east.
Thanks very much for your interest and let me know if we can be of service.
Date: 04 Oct 2002
To: Jim Buckley
From: Norbert Senf
Subject: Re: "squirrel tail" ovens
Don't have much info. Basically what you described is how the oven is built - a vent out the back, and then a brick duct to a front exit. There's at least two ovens in use at Old Salem village in Winston/Salem NC. A year or two ago got some email from somebody there about advice on rebuilding one. The ovens seem to work fine, but don't have any kind of comparison data. I took some photos a few years back - there's a photo on our Brick Oven Page http://mha-net.org/msb/html/bakeoven.htm
I remember discussing them with Dan Fisher, John Fisher's dad, who hails from Pennsylvania and is an excommunicated Amish.
Interestingly, Peter Moore's ovens are somewhat similar, except that he vents in the front, and then runs the duct down the back of the oven to a chimney at the rear.
Best ....... Norbert
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