Earthen Oven for our Outdoor Kitchen: the 'Stoven 2'


| 6/24/2015 10:22:00 AM


Tags: Kyle Chandler-Isacksen, cob, natural building, stoven, Be the Change Project, Nevada, fire bricks,

With the outdoor cooking season almost underway here in Reno it was time to rebuild our Stoven.  About three years ago I created a rocket stove/cob-oven hybrid (see blog post here) to meet our summer food cooking needs.  We live without electricity and fossil fuels at our Be the Change Project and when we can't or don't use our Sun Oven we fire up the Stoven.

For three years our original Stoven was great - it performed well and generally aged well.  It was made mainly of cob with some firebrick used in the burn chamber.  My impetus for making this second version was threefold: First, to make a more durable model; second, to add a water heating cooktop; and third, as part of an overall redesign of our outdoor kitchen.  

While the first Stoven aged well overall - the exterior was perfect (and protected under a roof) and the interior dome showed no damage from three seasons of firings - the shelves which held the grill grate had worn away considerably on both the front and back of the chamber.  This caused the door to fit poorly and made it more difficult to place and hold the grate once the fire was burning.  Now, admittedly, I could have simply mixed up a little cob and repaired the area and gotten years more use but that wouldn't have been nearly as fun as making a much better Stoven and more functional outdoor kitchen.  For this new-and-improved model I incorporated much more firebrick including for all of the grate-holding surfaces.  I had about thirty salvaged bricks left over from my mini-masonry heater project (including halves and pieces) so I used them to build the interior frame of the new Stoven.  The halves and chunks were great fillers (along with regular old red bricks) which save a lot of cob and mixing.  

Construction

 

I started by laying a layer of regular red bricks over the existing wood platform that held the last Stoven.  Then I played with firebricks for a while to see what shapes I could get.  I wanted a burn basin that was small enough to keep it efficient but big enough to handle some decent sized sticks and a good amount of charcoal for when I roast a rabbit or two.  I wound up laying a layer of landscape pavers for the basin floor and then standing fire bricks all around it save for the wood feed slot.  The pavers were just a little wider than the firebricks and seemed to make a good-sized basin.  This gives me two layers of bricks above the plywood base, more than enough, in my experience, to prevent damaging heat from reaching the plywood.  Also, any gaps between the bricks are quickly filled with ash once I start cooking with the Stoven which act to insulate further.  

I continued building up with bricks for the burn basin (the bottom half of the burn chamber) and then laid some cob on the outside to create a shell and to hold the next layer of firebricks which was reset back from the grate-holding first layers.  In dry Nevada I only had to wait an hour or so for the cob to firm up enough so the bricks could be set on top without causing any splooging.  I should mention that I re-used the cob from the old Stoven.  After hacking it apart with my two young hammer-wielding sons, we collected the pieces in large basins to which I simply added water and used a shovel to break it down further.  I took a little break and let the water do the work of "melting" the cob (overnight is great if you can plan ahead) and then mixed it up a bit with a shovel again.  I love this about cob: it's infinitely re-usable. 




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