A few weeks back, I posted this video on Instagram. It shows Mildrith’s magical ability of springing to life in the morning when it’s time to bake bread.
She’s fired to about 900ºF the night before. Just before I go to bed, I shut her down with enough wood to smoulder through to the early hours. I close the air vents and damper. I plug the oven entrance with a heavy wood-steel door plug.
When I open the oven at about two a.m., I can see a few embers glowing inside. The rush of air brings immediate life to the fire, though, without my even touching it! A spark, a blue flame, and before you know it, the fire is roaring and ready for more wood!
I love Mildrith, but her high heat efficiency has taken its toll on the wood door plug!
Damaged oven door plug
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a corner of the oven door plug had burned away. And last week, there was more evidence of burning along the top. So much, that the screws attaching the wood to the stainless steel shield had broken loose. There was even a small flame visible inside the plug which I doused with water. It continued to smoulder for another half hour.
The oven plug is a crucial part of Mildrith’s functioning. It takes the brunt of her substantial heat. Without it, heat leaks away, even with the air vents closed and the damper shut. The steel doors aren’t the greatest at retaining heat inside the oven. Without the oven plug, Mildrith’s baking ability is compromised.
Some customers may have noticed their loaves weren’t as dark-coloured as usual. Mildrith wasn’t hot enough because the oven plug wasn’t able to keep as much heat inside as usual!
Jacques to the rescue!
The plug was designed by Jacques Marmen, who built Mildrith with my minimal assistance 1. It’s made of charred Pender Island fir with an attached shield of stainless steel fabricated by Callum McKay of Stainless by Design. A layer of rock wool insulation makes it a solid thermal seal.
But six months of high heat and regular firings finally wore it down.
I’m lucky Jacques lives here on Pender. He responded immediately, even though he’s busy with another project. In the next day or so, we’ll be back in business with a fresh new oven plug … and Mildrith will be back to turning out the chestnut-coloured loaves we’re used to.
In the mean time, we’ll be turning our minds to designing a new heat plug that won’t have to be replaced every six months!