Tag Archives: Maintenance & Repairs

Building a Beehive (Cob or Bake) Oven: Take Down

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The wooden old frame has been removed.

Some times repair work requires a little dis-assembly.

In the case of the fort’s well-loved beehive bake oven, almost everything, roof, oven, oven base, had to be  taken apart so that we might start anew.

The roof came off easily, tried from so many years of work.  The inside of the oven had already collapsed leaving only the outer shell to be broken up and removed.  The wooden frame which held the earthen base crumbled and required little effort to remove while the earth, long packed under the oven, held.

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Rebuilding the base for the beehive oven. Members of the 78th Regiment of Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders) work to rebuild the base for the new bake oven.

Members of Frasers Highlanders put in a long day’s work rebuilding the frame for the oven base.  The frame was rebuilt to the six foot by six foot specifications of the original frame.

The new base (below) awaits dressing (large, flat stones placed on the base, then  topped with a slurry of clay and sand).

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The new oven base awaiting top dressing.

Building a Beehive (Cob) Oven: The Fort’s Community Oven

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Building the Fort’s Beehive Oven
Tidings from the 18th Century (p. 204, 1993)

The fort’s community oven (beehive) has served the fort for more than two decades.  After so many years of hard service, our oven is ready for major repairs.  While we make plans to work on our oven, we thought that we might take a moment and look back at the beginnings of the museum’s famous bake oven as seen in Beth Gilgun’s work,  Tidings From the 18th Century.

Dearest Friends, …Chris was called up to the Fort at number 4 for a muster in June….  While we were there, an outside bake-oven was built so that the soldiers who are sometimes sent there will have a place to bake their bread.  It was quite a fascinating process, and it surprised us how quickly the project was completed … (p. 202).

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Construction of Fort’s Bake Oven
Tidings from the 18th Century (p. 203)

The day the oven was to be assembled, the men built a wooden frame shaped like a hunched beaver.  The frame was built from saplings split down the middle into long strips and tied together with twine (p. 202).  …

The clay used to build the oven … was mixed with water to make it workable.  [Clay and water were placed] into [a] trough.  When water was added, two men took off their shoes and stockings to mix the clay and water with their feet (p. 202).  …

[Hay was mixed in] to help bind the clay … and molded into long rectangles that were about seven inches wide, 18 inches long, and five inches high (p. 203).  …

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The first loaves of bread baked in the newly completed oven
Tidings from the 18th Century (p 205, 1993)

As the sides [of the oven] were built up the clay was molding itself around the wooden strips so that gradually the inside had a bumpy look (p. 203).

We were all surprised how quickly the oven was built but disappointed to lean that is could not be used for a bout four weeks (p. 205).

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Tidings From the 18th Century : Colonial American How-To and Living History
by Beth Gilgun
Published in 1993 by Scurlock Publishing Co., Inc.
is now in it’s 4th printing