July 2008

Fast forward, and the oven walls of the inside of the oven are going up, done in firebrick. I am doing the arches, and it is by far the most satisfying part of the build process - I really feel like I know what I am doing, putting these arches up. It feels good to create arches.  
This is the Inside view, while the 2nd row of the arch is setting. Here I've mortared in corner pieces into corners to make ash removal easier.
The arches are done using a wooden frame that I had to build, following images will show it better. 

A little better view of the mortared back corner of the inside of the oven. 

Top row of bricks is cut at 45 degrees, to support the arch, so that the arch bricks butt up nicely to the oven wall.  The wall is also supported by a wooden framework, temporarily put in place to hold everything in place. Otherwise, the arches may push on the walls and push them out and collapse - I do not trust the freshly set cement mixture strength yet. 

The 2nd finished arch. The arch is held together more by the bottoms of the arch bricks pushing against each other, rather than by mortar, and this is how arches are and should be built. 
The edge bricks are laid first, working up to the final center brick, called the keystone brick. The keystone needs to be carefully tapped in with a rubber mallet, which slightly shifts the rest of the current arch into position. You need to work fast when laying the arch, so the mortar remains soft, otherwise the keystone brick will shift everything and break the already-hardened mortar bonds with other bricks.  
Note the wooden template and support framework, holding everything up - As I build each arch, I stack them on top of this framework and apply liberal mortar. After about 2 hours, when a sigle arch is finished, the framework is carefully removed by removing the little shims first, and the next arch can be started.

Front view. Wooden framework is in the way.
I also completed the front front of the oven with the regular red brick.

This is what the whole thing looks like at this point. 

2 hours later I finished the 3rd and final arch, with my dad's help. I also did the front opening of the oven, and the angle bar is visible here - it will support the bricks on top of the oven opening. 

Inside view of the final arch - looking pretty sweet, for not having laid a brick in my life. The bricks fit together perfectly, and are all facing at the right angle, making the arch almost round. The mortar needs to be cleaned up, but it needs to harden a bit more first. Note the little corner insert, to make ash removal easier.

working on the oven door while the dome arch sets.
The ash slot opening is visible here on the right side, I had to cut the firebricks a bit to make that opening. 

Front view, with beginings of door archways and transition brickwork

Closeup view of the arches, before I cleaned them up.

Thermocouple hole, that will measure the heat of the oven by measuring the heat retained in the brick. The hole stops about 1" from interior surface of the oven. I will place a thermocouple in this opening before covering everything up, and run the wires to somewhere outside of the oven, where I can use a meter to get my temperature readings. 

Back view of the oven. The wooden frame will be removed shortly. I can smell the pizza already - hoping to fire the oven up in a few weeks!!!

Finishing up the oven arches. I had to cut the firebrick so it sort of locks together, while resting on the metal angle bar. 

Side view of the front transition.

That's what the inside looks like. Cool!!

Top view. The little firebrick shims are sort of visible here, that I used to do a smoother transition for this top piece to the oven arches. It also helps with support. 

The next weekend, I am closing up the front and working with the red bricks to design and implement the oven opening. I am using regular mortar at this point. These bricks also need to be dipped in water because they instantly suck up moisture from the mortar mixture and dry it out.  

This is what the front looks like after a few courses of bricks. The piece of rebar is there to support the course of bricks that will be laid on top. 

Few pieces of cut firebrick make for a reasonable base to continue laying bricks on. All of this will need to support the chimney, which will be next. 

The arches for the front opening are put in place, using the same technique with the wooden framework. I cut the supporting bricks at an angle to give the arch better support, as well. It looks better too. 

The begining of the chimney is also visible. I keep using my level every course, trying to keep everything square and perfectly level. So far, no mistakes. 

This is the arch, coming together. I marked up the wooden framework with pencil marks to guide me where each of the bricks is supposed to go. No need to panic yet until the cornerstone brick is placed in as it should shift all the other bricks into perfect alignment. 

Front arch complete!! The wooden framework is still in place, but it's starting to look good. 

One week later, July 18th, and lots of changes in this picture. The arch is complete, and I've covered the entire inner fire brick structure with 4" of concrete. This was done by building a plywood form and shoveling concrete into it - back breaking work!!!
Then, I laid a course of thin blocks to continue the outside structure of the oven. Here, I am playing with the 8x8 blocks and their fit, which will form the corners of the oven. The left side ready to be set in place. 

The side of the oven is shown here, with the cured concrete covering the firebrick as well as the outside wall shown. The gap will be filled with vermiculite mixture to provide heat retention. 

The wire is the thermocouple wire that I buried in the cement, about 1" from the surface, in addition to the deeper thermocouple in the firebrick. These thermocouples will give me good readings of the heat immediately inside the oven, as well as retained heat in the structure of the oven. 

Figuring out how the corners will look..

Putting together corners. It's ugly now, but it will be beautiful when I cover the whole thing in white stucco. 

Almost the end of the day.. I will start setting small fires inside of the oven on a daily basis to begin drying the structure. There is so much moisture in it now that if I fire it up fully the entire thing will crack. 

Finally, finally, all of blockwork is all done, and I hope I don't have to pick up another block again for along time. Time to lay some chimney bricks!!! Starting to add onto the arch.


The facade is complete, along with some decorative bricks. Time to start on the chimney!! 

This is the view of looking down into the beginning of the chimney. The metal angle brackets will support the clay chimney flue. 

July 19th, and the chimney flue is in, just resting on the metal angle brackets. 

This is what the top looks like. I filled it in with bricks. 

Looking up into the chimney.

My nephew Mark is helping me with the vermiculite mixture as we mix and dump a huge amount of this stuff on top to insulate the oven. 
The mixture is 6:1 vermiculite/portland cement. 

The thermocouple wires are sticking out. I am really glad I gave myself a way to measure oven temperature. 

Yours truly, working on the vermiculite insulation layer. It is almost done, and I am just smoothing it at this point. 

I decided to do a chimney arch, to protect the chimney from rain/snow, and also I thought that it looked really good. 

A bit of cleanup...

Hey, stop looking at my butt. 

Ta-daaa! July 20, 2008, and I am done building. Much work still remains, ofcourse, but I am absolutely elated to have come this far on nothing but library books, some tools, and lots and lots of sweat.