A 3-year labor of love: CSIA’s outdoor bake oven at Sweeps Week

It takes patience – and time – for the Bake Oven at the CSIA Technology Center, being built brick by brick

PLAINFIELD, Indiana — Summer 2015 may finally be the time when the Chimney Safety Institute of America can take the wraps off its combination outdoor fireplace/stone-arched bake oven, a mix of granite trucked in from upstate New York that is enveloped in a brick with Flemish Bond pattern plus English corners.

This 8-foot-high labor of love is usually covered in blue tarp and protective plastic, since it is partially operational, but not fully weather protected. Work on the project began during “Sweeps Week” 2012 and has continued each June, a week at a time. The fourth and possibly final touches will occur this summer.

VIDEO: A 3-year labor of love: CSIA’s outdoor bake oven at Sweeps Week

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Tim Smith, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep from Indiana, works on the bake oven in 2014.

“It will be a showpiece for generations to come, I think, of what true masonry art can be,” said David Kline, a Greer, South Carolina-based chimney sweep who has had a hand in the structure each of its three years.

David Kline laying out a voussoir — in Plainfield, Indiana.
David Kline laying out a voussoir — in Plainfield, Indiana.

“The idea behind this was to have an example of the perfect fireplace and the ideal bake oven, you know, kind of top-quality masonry, and we want to make sure it turns out really well and is a good example of what can be done with a fireplace, what can be done with a bake oven.”

For chimney industry professionals who visit the CSIA Technology Center to receive training in all things chimney, it’s a visual way to impress upon them the concept of going beyond inspections and sweeping.

Bricklaying, mortar mixing, welding, and arch design are all covered during this Sweeps Week project.

Veteran mason Chris Prior has led the effort since its inception, leading a group of all volunteers whose roles and availability vary each day. “Before you start, you have to have a vision of what it’s going to look like, and work backwards,” says Prior. “You have to think fourth-dimensionally.  You have to see the bridge and then you start in reverse. We dug a hole and started out that way.”

Chris Prior, who has led the 3-year outdoor bake oven project.
Chris Prior, who has led the 3-year outdoor bake oven project. “Before you start, you have to have a vision of what it’s going to look like, and work backwards.”

Ashley H. Eldridge, Director of Education for CSIA, said the oven/fireplace timetable was footing and foundation in year one, concrete block-laying in year two (along with a bonus of being able to use the oven to eat homemade pizza led by Renee Brigman’s kitchen crew), and in Year 3, building arch forms, finishing the bake oven with the stone facing, cladding the veneer, and beginning to build the chimney.

“It was designed to be built incrementally, as it gives participants an opportunity to learn different techniques involved in masonry and masonry repair.”

The stonework, inlaid against the brick, is perhaps its most striking feature. Prior hauled 2-1/4 tons of Garnet (the New York state stone) in his truck from New York to Plainfield, a suburb of Indianapolis. Indiana, home of world-renown limestone, can boast of this import — a beautiful granite with beige and green tones that have clear formation levels, unlike the more homogenized type seen in far northeastern U.S.

“We expect this to be finished in year 4, but there is a lot we still want to do,” said Eldridge. The goals for June 2015 are to: apply stonework on the fireplace face side; stucco inside of the wood storage area; stucco the back side of the; structure; and form and pour a crown on its top, with an overhanging drip edge.

“Be there or be square,” said Prior.

Join us at Sweeps Week June 8-12, 2015, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN. To assist you in making a decision to come, view the “Sweeps Week” Facebook page. Also, watch this video of one of the primary attractions of the week – the Sweeps Week FOOD! 

You can take part in one day or one week the CSIA Technology Center doing volunteer maintenance projects and learning from one another. You get CEUs each day you are here. And a nifty shirt.

Ron and Renee Brigman.
Ron and Renee Brigman.

All invited regardless of affiliation or non-affiliation. Call (864) 682-5422 for more info.

-Tom Spalding


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