North Carolina Custom Bell Heater facing

I just recieved finished photos of a heater I had the pleasure of helping face with fellow Masonry Heater Association Members following our annual meeting.  The build was led by Edward Small of Sheridan Brick and Stonework based in Maine.  Edward is a great guy and a restoration specialist.  The custom design of this heater was done by bell expert Alex Chernov of Stovemaster.  The design incorporates a traditional fireplace (with a more efficient modern design; notice the sway forward and back in the rear wall of the fireplace) as the center piece of the project, wrapping the heater around the fireplace.  This design places the actual heater firebox on the side of the heater with bells wrapping around the fireplace.  The heater core was built by Edward before the annual MHA meeting.  Following a week of heater/oven building, experimenting, testing, workshops, and meetings along with some hanging out and a big pizza party, I had the pleasure of working on the facing with Edward Small and Steve Cohen of Hot Rock Masonry.  The stone proved to be much harder then expected and as a result much harder to shape with a hammer and chisel.  This led to a lot of dust and noise as we had to do much more grinding then desired.  I am personally not a fan of grinders and prefer a hammer and chisel.  We had to rough out the stone with grinders and saws and come back and dress the stone with a chisel.  Working long days, breaks were spent admiring the view and a proper tea break or two.  On the road we spent evenings in a beautiful log cabin on a ridge in the blue mountains.  Steve and Ed are great guys to spend time with.  I, of course, tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could from these older master masons.  A few evenings were spent with Steve schooling us on the game of pool, as he is know to do.  I believe he lost one game that week.  I was able to stay on the job for 8 or so days and had to continue my east coast trip before it was finished.  The end result is gorgeous.  Steve Cohen deserves the credit for the beautiful arch work.  The hearth and bench stone is a Tennessee sandstone called crab orchard sandstone.  It is just gorgeous in person.  Thanks again to Edward Small and Steve Cohen for inviting me on the project.


Getting started facing the core


A good view of the crab orchard sandstone, and arch work of Steve Cohen


Coming up in the back and setting the selves


The finished heater



And the views of the beautiful Blue Mountains of North Carolina

From the jobsite


From the cabin



Oak Harbor Soapstone Masonry Heater part 2


Once the firebox is complete the lintel is set.  Ceramic wool allows for the core to expand while functioning as a gas tight gasket.  After the firebox, the throat is built corbelling back and bringing the gases from the fire-box behind the oven.


Once behind the oven the hot gasses travel up spilling over top of the oven into the two (side) down channels.



A top view of where the heat travels from the center channels into the side channels and then down the side of the heater.  The circle in the back is the up channel which connects to the chimney.

This heater contains what is called a white oven as no fire or gasses actually go inside of it.  A white oven is heated by the hot gasses that surround it.  In this heater, the oven is heated below by the fire-box, then the gas travel behind it heating the back, they spill over the top and then travel downwards along side of the oven thus heating the oven on four sides.

Next the capstones are placed, the chimney connections are made and the heater is complete.

Soapstone contraflow masonry heater

Soapstone contraflow masonry heater

Oak Harbor Soapstone Masonry Heater part 1

Soapstone contraflow masonry heater

Soapstone contraflow masonry heater

This past week I had the pleasure of traveling to Oak Harbor, WA (on beautiful Whidbey Island) to build a masonry heater with master mason Steve Cohen of Hot Rock Masonry.   We built a soapstone Contraflow with added passive bells on both sides of the chimney up channel.  Soapstone is the most efficient material for masonry heater building as its density allows for maximum heat storage capacity.  This heater contained (I believe) around 9,000 lbs of soapstone so it should store quite a bit of heat.  Due to the massive amount of weight (ie thermal mass)  every heater needs its own foundation.  We built up a foundation out of CMU and then poured a concrete slap up to the height of the subfloor.  We did this a few weeks before the actual heater build so no pictures.

The base slabs of the heater were put in first, followed by the bottom course of the down channels which connected to the two heated benches the wrap around the heater.  An ash dump doubling as an air input into the fire box was built in the center.


Next the core (interior) bench channels were capped


From there we put the exterior bench in place and began building the firebox and down channels.  The holes on the back of the firebox provide an additional air input into the back of the fire to further aid a complete combustion