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Reflector oven build

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This is how I built the reflector oven I recently showed over on the camp kitchen thread. On my very first oven I used aluminum that can be readily purchased at most hardware stores or home centers, the thickness is .022 and although it worked I found it a bit too thin and easily bent or deformed. It will work and make a lighter oven. I ordered a 2’x3” sheet of grade 6061 .032 from an online source. It was enough to make one stove and the leftover will go into another stove. It cost me $35 a sheet plus shipping. I used 1/8 brass rod for the frame because I had and still have about 12’ of it. It is a little thin but it seems to be stiff enough. Were I to buy rod I might try stainless steel in the same size. A possible source might be brass welding rod. The oven grate came from the thrift store. For the last couple months whenever I had a chance to go to the thrift store I always checked out the wire racks from toaster ovens and the like. I now have quite a variety of sizes and thickness.paid anywhere from $1-5 dollars tops. The size and design parameters all came from the materials on hand and the needs of using it with the fire box. Not a whole lot was planned too far in advance. The wire rack dictated the length and width, the height of the rack was so it could fit under the cross bars on top of the firebox and the overall height was what I could fit on the aluminum plate with minimum waste.
As I said I’ve made a couple ovens so far but two used identical racks and I’ll show how I changed the design.
First this is the oven, the baking surface is 9”x12”, a good size for a muffin tin or loaf pan.
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This one was the first and I used the cut ends of the rack to engage holes is the sides to support the rack. That of course left rod ends to poke things.
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On version 2.0 I cut the back bar flush and bent the front one to lock into the side. Much neater.
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This was the rack I bought and at the time they had two of them, I do not know what their original use was.166D58A5-3F91-4BBF-B7F4-32BFB25CCE40.jpeg
And I cut them here to have the long straight rods to work with.
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Then a piece of aluminum was cut to the width of the rack and a bit long because I still didn’t know what the angle was going to be to where it would ultimately tie into the frame. It was notched to fit the rack and the tabs folded over to form a connection and hinge. More about that later.
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That’s it for the first installment.
Feel free to ask questions whenever they come up. I learned a lot by doing this and want to share that knowledge but I too might learn from you.
Jim
 
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The next step was bending the wire frames. I knew from the fire box how high I wanted the oven rack to be was seven inches, and I knew how wide the rack was, so using that information I knew what to bend for the frames. The first one I just marked the lengths with a sharpie and bent them. It worked but they were not quite the same. So my solution was to make wooden spacer to bend the wire around. The wire was cut long so the last bends are a little bit easier than trying to bend a little 1/4” stub. On the first one I wasn’t sure of the final size of the upper frame so that wasn’t bent till after the sides were cut out. In this one based on what I learned from the first I knew what it would be so I was able to bend them both ahead of time.
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It is such a simple, and quick way to get consistent bends. The wire is soft enough to bend by hand but I did sharpen up the bends with a dead blow mallet just to get nice 90° bends.
Jim
 
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Thanks Rick. I forgot to mention a hardwood should be used and I don’t know if you can see it in the pictures but I eased the corner a little bit so as not to kink the rod too badly.
Jim
 
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Now on to the sides. On the first one I cut everything oversized and trimmed things down as I learned how to wrap the plate around the wire and the allowances needed for corners and such. In the second one I knew what I was doing so was able to lay things out directly with minimum waste. I knew I needed the roof to be higher at the back than my big reflector oven because the oven rack was much smaller. So considering a back wall as it were I figured 3” minimum would give me enough to handle a loaf pan. So with the rack 7” high to begin with add 3” and you get 10” high for the back edge of the side. Since I was using a 24”x36” plate if I cut in the 24” direction that would make the front of the oven 14” almost the same as the big oven so I went with that. At first I thought the angle of the top might be a little shallow but some eyeball geometry and figuring the fire would be closer, it looked like it would throw plenty of heat to the back of the oven.
On the plate I measure up 14” then in 1/2” to account for the wrap around the frame and made an ‘X’ then came over the width of the side drew a line the length of the plate and laid out another ‘X’ measuring from the other side. Then connect the two X’s with a line extending to the edge.

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Then cut the length of plate using whatever tool you are comfortable with. Some cuts I did with a jig saw, the long straight cuts I did with a table saw. A table saw will cut aluminum just fine with a carbide blade. Don’t forget safety glasses. And the plate I was using was thin enough that it could slip under the saw fence so I placed the plate on top of an aluminum angle that rode against the fence.
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With the long length cut on the table saw I used a jig saw to cut the angle to separate the two sides. The jig saw cut is a bit rough and will bee to be filed smooth.
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The different relief cuts for the roof wrap and corners were cut with the jig saw and filed smooth. When filing it is best if you can secure all in a vise. This is the way I did it. I think both side are clamped together so all will be consistent.
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And here are the two sides ready for bending around the brass frame wires.
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Jim
 
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When I decided to build the fire box I bought a sheet metal brake. I had several projects in mind and did I mention it was cheap? I thought it would be needed for the reflector oven to bend the sheet incrementally to form the the roll over for the wire. That was a disaster, it or I wasn’t up to the task. So undaunted I started hammering (lightly) the metal on the edge of the bench, bending with pliers and a hand seamer and then finally hammering around the wire. It worked, it wasn’t pretty (to me) and it took a long time. So that night I put my brain to work on what I learned and how it could be done better with what tools I had. I wasn’t going to buy a bigger better brake.
You know how when you want to make something and then have to make something else to get the job done? You know like building a strongback and molds before you can make a canoe.
What I came up with was to file the edges of a piece of steel the thickness of the rod to a roughly half round shape. It didn’t need to be perfect, just close. The rod was 1/8” and the grate was a 1/4” so I made two.
For wrapping the rod I knew I needed 3/8” to get all the way around the rod so the rounded edge of the bending form was clamped 3/8” from the edge. What you can’t see is there is another piece of steel bar clamped behind so the aluminum is sandwiched between the two and stays flat during the bending. I then hammered with a dead blow mallet along the length to roll the sheet all the way around the form. It worked great didn’t take long was spot on accurate and best of all both rolls of the side pieces were in the same plane. Not so much on the first one I did with just a hammer.

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Here is folding for the grate.
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That was the first step then I needed to compete the roll. What I made was a channel in the end grain of a piece of hardwood just a hair wider the than the width of the aluminum wrapped wire. It wasn’t sturdy enough to whack it right down so I placed a corner of the wood in the very edge of the aluminum and hit it with the dead blow just to get things started. Once it was angled down just a bit over the wire I placed the notch over the wire and set it home, not all at once but working my way down the wire and then back.It was the bees knees as they say.
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It worked very well and I was finished in short order. Care does need to be taken when rolling the hinges that the bending form is on the correct side of the plate. If the rolls are placed on the wrong side it will not want to fold up nicely. The sides and the top have the wire to the inside of the oven and the bottom has the wire to the outside of the oven.
Next up attaching the baking shelf and making the top.
Jim
 
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Now to finish out the build. With the side attached the next step was to secure the rack where it will attach to the front and then mark where the frame rod would intersect bottom reflector panel. I just realized I don’t have a good picture of this so I’ll try to describe it. In the space that is created where the two frame sections come together I cut the aluminum a little more and then drilled a hole on the lower side of the slot I created then I connected the hole with the slot. That is so I could slip the rack between the frame ends and then drop it down to secure it. I’ll take a picture later and add it. The whole thing was then put on the bench with what would face the fire on the bench. Again no pics as I needed all my hands. With the lower rod hanging over the bench (for marking) and the front of the rack in its slot I could slide the lower reflector panel back and forth adjusting the angle of the rack. Using a square on the bench and moving the panel till the rack was square to the bench (the front of the oven) I was able to mark the panel where the wire rod wanted to be. This was why it was a bit long to start with. That mark was then marked across the panel and 3/8” was added to that (for the wrap around the wire) and another line was marked. The excess was then cut off to that line. In this case it was less than 1/2” because I knew what was going on from the start. My rounding over bar was clamped in place and ultimately the panel was wrapped around the rod, same as the sides.
The top might be the most complicated piece as things have to be done in sequence. The panel was cut 3/4” wider than the frame of the oven and long to start. Same as the sides and bottom relief cut were taken out of the corners to clear the wire frame corners. The top edge was formed first but not completed. Then a length was figured to where a back wall would have a slight angle down so it would alway close. The length of the hinge wrap added to that, then openings were cut to form the hinge.
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Now the hinge will be rolled on the opposite side at the top connection to the rod because I want the door to lift up and lay on the top panel while loading or unloading the oven.
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The door panel is then marked out to insert into the roof panel hinge.

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Each half is rolled independently using a long enough rod so it can be pulled out. Once both halves are rolled, fit together and operate smoothly (I think I had to file some of the hinge sides for a smooth action) the hinge rod is cut about a half hing section short so when it is inserted the end of the hinge can be crimped to lock the rod in place. After that the side of the top was clamped between the steel plates and the sides were bent down, being mindful of which side is up and down.
On the lower edge of the door on the first one I just folded it over to stiffen it a bit but on this one I rolled it over a rod with a little way to grip it. You can see the difference here.
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Then the last step was to finish rolling the top over the rod to connect it.
Last job was to sew up a bag to keep everything neat. I also cut down an aluminum cookie sheet from the thrift store to just fit in the oven and of course it takes up no room in the bag.
Hope this inspires.
Jim
 

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Thanks for posting this. It demonstrates that you don't need "all the right tools" to achieve excellent results. Common sense, patience, and the willingness to try something new and then adjust as needed make it work. Well done!
 
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