Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MHA 2011 Contest Winners

By Marge Padgitt
HearthMasters, Inc.
Seven winners took trophies home at the fourth annual Masonry Heater Association contest at Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina April 9, 2011. The contestants were required to design and build their own project alone or with assistance from others in their company. Entrants submitted their best work to be judged by a panel of experts who scored each entry on a point system based on skill in craftsmanship, aesthetics, creative use of materials, and overall design. The judges did not know who the entrants were. Judging was particularly difficult, because all of the entries were completed by skilled craftsmen and all of the work was exceptional. Larger photos of the projects are available at

The Winners are: 

Bell Heater by Jim Frisch

Masonry Heater Category:

First place- Jim Frisch of Western Masonry, Inc. in Spokane, Washington. Modification of existing fireplace and floor framing, installed a custom corner bell heater with heated hearth bench. The shell is finished with Eagle Mountain and Chief Cliff Ledgestone and a Bluestone mantel and hearth.


Second place-Dave Wilcox of Wilcox Masonry in Wapakoneta, Ohio.  
Third place- Sean Johnston and Juha Ahokas of Warmstone Fireplaces and Designs in Livingston, Montana. (photo coming soon)
Custom-designed bake oven by Jessica Steinhauser
Bake Oven Category:
First place
- Jessica Steinhauser of Stonehouse Pottery in Guelfph, Ontario, Canada.  This striking red tile indoor cook oven or “tischherd” was designed and built using eight shades of red for the kachel tiles, inspired by the famous French brand of Le Creuset cookware.  The corners are beveled and stainless steel doors and trim were used to finish the look in a modern style home.   

Second Place- Dan Givens of Stone Castle Masonry in Esther, Alaska. (photo coming soon)

Third Place- Marty Pearson of Stone Comfort in Cumberland, Rhode Island. (photo coming soon)

Masonry Category:
First place—Jeffrey Owens of JTO Masonry Construction, Inc. in Allen Park, Michigan.  This spiral staircase is a reproduction of a 12th century castle stairway. That is fully hidden with functional bookcases.  The stairs provide  access from the master bedroom to a fitness room on the basement. The owners wanted something unique so I cam up with this Gothic design with a candle niche at both entries.  For authenticity, the staircase was to rotate clockwise in order to put right-handed attackers at a disadvantage trying to wield their swords as they walked up the right side.

The Jerry Frisch Award

The winner of the Jerry Frisch Award this year was Doug Hargrave of Mid-Atlantic Masonry Heat in Troy, Virgina. The award is named for one of the MHA founders, Jerry Frisch, who has gone above and beyond in helping the Masonry Heater Association of America and its members, and who has willingly shared information about building masonry heaters and bake ovens. Each year the MHA award committee and current president selects someone who shares Jerry’s commitment to the industry.  Previous winners were Jerry Frisch, Tom Trout and Norbert Senf. Doug Hargrave has been instrumental in his role as Treasurer, getting the MHA on track with finances, and completing professional reports and systems for the organization.

The Masonry Heater Association of North America hosts an annual meeting and workshop in Wildacres, North Carolina and several workshops in different locations through out the United States where masons can learn how to build masonry heaters and bake ovens. The Certified Heater Mason program, also sponsored by the MHA, is available to MHA members. A new educational program has been released this year, which is designed to introduce masons to how masonry heaters work and how they are constructed.

Wood-burning masonry heaters are site-built high-efficiency appliances that utilize thermal mass and interior channels to contain heat, then release it slowly throughout the day. Masonry heaters, also known as Kachelofens, Ceramic stoves, Finnish Heaters (pystuuni), Russian Stoves, Swedish Heaters (kakelugn or “contra-flow”) have been used for at least 500 years in Europe, and made their way to to North America in the 1970's. There are now heater builders across the U.S. and Canada.

For more information contact Richard Smith, Executive Director of the Masonry Heater Association of North America at 520-883-0191 or

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