Ottertail Country

Ottertail Country
Ottertail South

December 25, 2011

Nearly there.


It's that holiday time of year again.  Hope all of you are having  good times with family and friends. 

Back to the heater....  I'm really lucky to have a good friend that also happens to be a mason.  The last time I posted, the heater core was almost complete and the face brick was up about 7 feet.

Ivan spent quite a few hours running the face brick up as far as we could go before having to install the shelf on the south face.  This would carry the face brick above it, so we stopped at that point until Paul cut and set the shelf.

Ivan is always upbeat and appears to enjoy the masonry arts.

As you can see, he had to work under that piece of plywood that was sticking out quite far on two sides.  It was there to hold the four plumb lines that ran all the way to the bottom of the heater.  All the face brick was aligned with these lines to keep it all plumb as they went up.

Paul did a little creative work near the top on the north and south sides.  These courses held six bricks standing on end and turned at 45°.

They looked pretty cool when they were done.

Here you can see the top cap that closed off the entire stack.  We screwed an anchor plate to this that would hold the insulated stainless chimney pipe.

All the face brick is on now and the boys were cleaning up, then the stone caps would be set.
I'll give you some views next time......

So that's it for now.  Have a good Christmas season!

I gotta go, Carlo


November 23, 2011

A foam adventure.....


I finally got the foam guy to come and spray some foam onto a hidden roof area.  This occurred on the Friday before hunting season when the weather was still pretty nice.

A spaceman emerged from the foam van, a full suit and a big spray hose.

The roof area I'm talking about is the original roof that covered the kitchen and bathroom areas, about 24 feet wide and running from the eave you can see above the kitchen all the way to the peak of the main roof.

Up on that lighter red area is a trapdoor that you can just fit through.  He had a hard time getting through there in his space suit......

Here he is getting a start at the north end of the 'attic'.  Uncle Russ built this second roof when he was in his early 80's, so I've been told. 

Jon was able to reach all the way to the peak from this position.

The foam stuff came out of the gun looking like deep aqua paint, and in a few seconds it had foamed up to 5-6 inches thick.  This should help keep the snow on the second roof from melting and making ice dam problems at the eaves.  I feel warmer already.

Tomorrow is the traditional feast day, I'm thinking Peg and I will be home alone, baking a chicken and making mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.  I have all the prep work done for the next masonry session.  I got all the brick carried into the house and the scaffold set and ready for plank.  There is a good chance that Paul can make it up here this weekend, I'm hoping we can finish the brick work.  Then it's a chimney pipe and installing the fire door, bake oven door, ash door and the clean out doors.   It's almost done.... kinda.

Well, that's it for now, have a good Thanksgiving!

I gotta go, Carlo


November 20, 2011



I have noticed that double clicking a photo now brings up all the photos from the current post. Try that if you haven't already. It gives you a bigger view.

I've also noticed an increase in email subscribers. If you haven't already signed up, consider doing so. The post you get will not be the official site, but will contain the essentials. One cannot comment from the email version either. You need to go to the official site to do that.

I gotta go, Carlo


November 18, 2011

We're making progress on the heater.


Hey, we're getting a start on the face brick.  We are using reclaims, they have that nice, warm, old time look about them.

This is where I spent most of my time, mixing mud, toting bricks and making all the cuts necessary to get around doors and stuff.

We spent some time figuring out how we wanted the fire door jack arch to look.  We layed it out full scale, adjusted for mortar joints and angles, then I cut out each little section to be used on the brick.  We traced the outline of each piece on various bricks so we could saw them to shape.

And this is my good friend, Mr. Bricksaw..... I got pretty good at cutting as there were many 'opportunities' at hand.

A look at the job from atop the stairway.  Note the plastic walls that we had put up all around the project.

It's starting to look like something now.

View from the north.

And a view from the living room.  This is the side that the upper half of the stairway will cross.  Note the little black thingie near the top left.  That's a bracket that will eventually hold the stair railing.  We'll put another farther up on the right when we get up that high.  I hope they end up in the right place.......


So this is how it's looking from the kitchen.  Hey, Dr. Bill, sorry I didn't respond to your comments on an earlier post.  As far as the outside combustion air goes, there seems to be a few differing opinions on this.  I must not have explained it well enough when you were here, as there will be air tight doors on the firebox and the bakeoven.  I questioned my mason on this before we started the project, and he and the designer of the heater felt that it was not necessary in this application.  Some builders even feel it could be a hazard in some cases in the event of a back draft.  Anyway, I appreciate your input.

The designer of this project is Alex Chernov, an accomplished heater builder/designer.  You can see his work and others here and here (Alex's site).

That's it for now, will post again when the masonry is complete.

I gotta go, Carlo

November 15, 2011

Let the heater begin.......


Ye-haa!! The first bricks go in..... Paul headed up here about two weeks ago and spent Thursday afternoon,  Friday and Saturday getting a start on the heater.  ghhd

A good, level base is esstential, and we had some elevation issues to deal with.  We had to take the bricks from concrete slab on one side, over the pebble floor section and back to the concrete.  I got my first taste of brick sawing to make some thin bricks (hamburgers) to go over the pebbles.

Once all the first course of pavers were in place, Paul layed a second flat course of firebrick.  The official base was in.

We started on the next courses, paying close attention to the plans.  There are numerous channels and chambers in the heater, as well as the under support for the firebox.

Planning and checking the dimensions for the first layer of the firebox floor.  You can see the start of notched bricks, angled cuts and such.  I was getting better on the saw.......

O.K., the firebox floor is done and the grates cut and fit. It's starting to look like something.

Most of the firebox walls are in and we started the jack arch over the fire door opening.  I think Paul is waiting here for me to get some more bricks sawed.

There he is, my nephew Paul and current hero.  The firebox is capped off with a precast slab and the floor of the bake oven will be layed on this cap.

Bake oven in process, there's a wooden form that I whipped up to hold the bricks in place.  That's another jack arch forming the top of the bake oven door opening.  Ivan came down to have a look at the project, and being a mason himself, he was quite interested.  I'm thinking he may be in on the face brick part of the project.  We didn't get much farther than that the first weekend, but it was a very incouraging start!

Midweek of the following week, Paul and his crew had a rain day in the West Bend area.  He dragged his co-worker, Doug, with him up here.  They got in about noon and worked until 9:00 PM
First we had to rig up some schaffolding, as Paul had worked up as high as he could last time he was here.

Doug is another fancier of masonry heaters, so he was glad to get the chance to work on another one.  He has built a bake oven in his backyard, and attended some workshops on heaters, so he knows his way around.

Still lots of channels and pathways being formed as they went up.  The main flu is right in front of Paul in this photo.

Paul and Doug worked until they were out of fireclay, and about as high as they could reach without changing the schaffold.  Fireclay, or refractory cement, is an odd thing.  It comes in buckets premixed, it's kind of gooey and sticks like grim death to anything it comes in contact with.
Anyway, after cleaning up, having a few, uh, refreshments and shooting the bull, we looked at the clock and it was midnight.  Everyone headed for bed, but only Paul and Doug set their alarms for 4:00 AM..... they had to work the next day in West Bend.  Oh well, they're young, they'll get over it.

Well, that's it for now, I have another weekend adventure to tell about but it will have to wait.... until then.

I gotta go, Carlo


November 11, 2011

One big catch-up post......


I guess we need to reach way back to the end of September to get this right.  Peg and I both had birthdays in September, and here is one of the 'birthday apple pie's, complete with its own candle.

We had a visit that day from Dawn, Donna and Russ B.  A little spaghetti, a little accordion playing, etc.

Here's a view from the top of the stairs, looking at the area that used to be occupied by the metal fireplace.  This pic was from a while ago, the new heater core now stands there, about 95% complete.

We cleaned and painted the wall that used to be behind the metal chimney.  See the little scorched spot on the beam near the end of the railing?

We went through the fall busy but taking enough time to enjoy our surroundings a little.   This day was in early October, bright sun, frost on the grass.

One of those days you could just sit out there with a cup of coffee and listen to the drops of water hitting the ground as the frost melted off the trees.   Every now and then you could hear the 'knick-knock-thud' of another black walnut bouncing off a couple of limbs on its descent to the ground.  Lots of walnuts ended on the ground.  It's odd, but I didn't think there were many on there.  I guess they blend in really well with the leaves when all is green.

A rather appealing path to the north field.

A good combo, the scarlet maples in front of the pines with that monster elm as a backdrop to it all.

Besides preparing for the masonry heater install, I have been designing and building a new stairway for the house.  With the new heater needing a larger bit of space than the old fireplace, we explored ways to get the heater in and still leave room to get around the 'kitchen-dining area-stairway' area.

So I am building a stairway that will start near the west door, go up to the south to a landing, turn left and head up to the bridge at it's south end.  The quarter turn iron stairway will be taken out, but we definitely are thinking of where and how we can re-use it..

Lots of parts and pieces and sawing and gluing and sanding..... one can not be too impatient when doing a project of this nature.  If you look close, you can see the motorcycles in the background.  We did not get to use them much this year..... next summer will be less hectic, I promise!!

Here are a couple of views of the landing.  I'm putting one angled tread on that landing to save a little horizontal distance on the main stair.  I copied this idea from my brother Tim's stairway.

Nephew Paul has been up twice to work on the heater.  A couple of weeks ago he was here for a long weekend, last week a rainy day down south allowed a day trip.  That day the core was nearly completed, only a couple of courses of fire bricks left to do up there.  Today Paul is heading up with face brick and we are going to get a start on the exterior.  We are expecting Ivan to show up on Saturday to assist with the bricklaying.  He used to do masonry work for a living.

Here is a little preview of the heater project.  Having access to Solidworks (3-D design and drafting program) has been indispensable on this job.  The heater in the picture looks shorter than real life, due to the angle of sight.  It will actually be a few feet higher than the bridge to the left.

So there you go, more later...............

I gotta go, Carlo