The Copper Oven Collection
A collaboration of Maine Wood Heat & Barry Norling
We built our first Le Panyol oven in our backyard about ten years ago. We knew we might want to move it around from time to time, to show it and share it with others, so we did not pour a footing, build a foundation or create an oven veneer or an oven structure or even a roof. Instead, we set the oven carrying antique wagon wheel rim and plate on a red painted 3′ tall concrete well tile. For the annual Common Ground Fair, we wanted to be able to lift the oven up and carry it safely one hour away to the Fair Grounds in Unity, Maine.
The new oven traveled well and worked beautifully at the Fair, but the lifting, palletizing and strapping and loading and unloading were a lot of work. Ultimately, we made a decision to explore a new idea when we saw that the stucco skin wasn’t holding up well and the inner elements were going to suffer from water damage during freeze thaw cycles.
Albie came up with the idea of a copper skin and began to search all over for a gifted copper designer and fabricator. He eventually found a European immigrant in Florida who thought he could make a copper dome. Negotiations were underway when Albie remembered that not ten miles away, we had a copper sculptor friend in Norridgewock, named Barry Norling, whose specialty was custom made sculpted copper weather vanes. We called Barry and he came over and looked at an oven core dry stacked in the barn and said that he thought he could make an attractive weatherproof copper dome for our Le Panyol oven. He showed us his unique welded wire and brown paper design and templating system and soon had a template built for our model 83 dome.
Meanwhile, we were also researching the possibility of making the oven not only fully weatherproof, but also roadworthy on its own custom made trailer. A local family business, Nichols’ Trailers, had already made a 10,000 lb flatbed trailer for us that we were very happy with so we went to Nichols with our design needs for our oven trailer. We wanted a rotating base for the oven so we could land the trailer anywhere and turn the oven to the best side for the public present at that site. We wanted a removable tongue so people wouldn’t trip over it and so the oven landed would look more like a float with a canvas skirt around it, and we wanted springs that wouldn’t let the oven shake and bounce badly as we went down the road with it. Nichols created the trailer we wanted.
The new copper domed portable oven was a hit wherever it went. It looked like an oven. It was rain proof. It was shiny and said…