The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The project begins

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janij's picture
janij

The project begins

The concrete just got poured for my wood fire oven.  So I guess I have to wait a week to let it cure then we are on.  I think someone else was going to break ground on April1.  If you did how did it go? 

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Pics as the project progresses?


Keep us posted!


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

janij's picture
janij


I will also have lots of questions.  Esp about venting.  I don't get that but we are nowhere close.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Think they used enough steel there Butch? ;-)


This is one oven that'll never move! Hope those are basil plants I see in the garden so it'll be mature and nearby by the time the oven's done. Yum.


As for venting, make sure whoever is building it doesn't talk you into venting directly from the oven itself. The oven should have an inner and outer arch, and the venting is done between the two. Masons are not generally familiar with that concept and want to build ovens like a fireplace. That does NOT work. A friend of mine (who should know better) built a direct vent oven in one of his restaurants and regretted it. The oven loses too much heat with a direct vent.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

janij's picture
janij

on the rebar.  I don't think they were for sure how to space them so they put in extras.  Plus Kyle wanted it pretty secure due to hurricanes.  I don't think even a cat 5 would blow these things down.  But anyway. 


No those are squash plants you see.  The basil is in the herb garden out front.


What I didn't get about the venting is where exactly you put it.  I mean you build the arch, then clad it in concrete, then insulate it with the vermiculite mix or whatever, so you vent for the insulation area out?  I think we will build it.  You and your "lovely assistant"  have convinced me we can do it.  I just want it done by the beginning of summer so I won't have to bake in the house this summer.

cleancarpetman's picture
cleancarpetman

Dear janij,
    Yes, my groundbreaking was scheduled for April 1st but I ran into permit trouble not with the city but the "lovely assistant" dept.  It is on hold but not scrapped.  Hope to have a pretty slab picture soon.


ccm


Yes, more than a little envious but inspired nonetheless, looks great!!


 


  

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

If not, I can send you some drawings that may help.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

janij's picture
janij

Yes, I got the plans from Oven Crafters.  I have that and The Bread Builders book.  If we get hung up I am send an all call for more info.  But the photos you put on Flicker helped explain alot.  As well and the Frank G pizza guys site.

gavinc's picture
gavinc

Hi Janij,


Always good to see a new backyard brick oven project underway.  In case you want some ideas on the final appearance, check out this flickr group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/pizzaovens/


I don't have an Alan Scott style oven, I went with a dome style oven I built in 2005.  It's given many many hours of great times with family and friends.  Congratulations on getting started.


Regards,


Gavin (Rosebud Australia)

janij's picture
janij

Can't wait to look those those.  Thanks for the link.

janij's picture
janij

Okay, it doesn't look like much.  We got this done in the hr after we put the girls in bed.  But it is progress.


ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

The first row is always the hardest. You'll be baking in no time!


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA


PS: FWIW, you don't need to totally fill the cells between the blocks. In fact, that will be just about impossible as you go up since there won't be much under them. Just make the mortar a bit wetter and you can get it to stick to the edges of the block -- then you just bump it up against the prior block and your done. Masons have a trick -- get some mortar on the trowel, raise the trowel a bit, and then let it drop with a quick stop at the bottom so the mortar settles firmly onto the trowel. That removes the air and it sticks better.


Were you planning to put brick or stone over these blocks? If so, you need to hold them in from the edge of the pad to give the veneer something to sit on. And don't forget to install brick ties every couple of rows as you go up.


Since you've got all that steel, you may as well fill the cells where it comes through. I wouldn't bother reinforcing all the way up, tho'. Or, if you do, I'd only do the corners and maybe one cell in the center of each run, albeit overkill. That would qualify as a bank vault! ;-)

janij's picture
janij

Kyle filled the holes that have re bar in them last night.  He did it after the picture was taken.  We were going to fill those and then the top row.  I am not going to put a veneer on it.  I don't really have the room and didn't get the concrete poured big enough to do it.  I am going to paint it like the Frankie G guys oven.  Yours is beautiful, but I am not going to attempt much good stuff for the outside.  I am going to dome the top and paint.


We had some issues getting the mortar inbetween the blocks as we worked in.  I think the mortar was too thick.  We may try thinning it a bit this time.  I am a little confused about what you are saying about the mortar.  Are you talking about the space on top and bottom or on the sides?  I think you mean top to bottom connection.  I have a feeling I will be bugging you with questions.  So thank you so much for all the tips and help!  We are going to try to do the next 2 rows tonight since it is supposed to rain on Thurs.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I started out trying to write a description on how to lay block, but a picture's worth way more than 1000 of MY words, so here ya go:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VGjA66RSm0


Note that you rarely "work in" mortar between blocks -- you just butter the tips of the ends. The guy in the vid is using flat-ended blocks, but the process is the same for webed ends like you have. It helps a lot to set the corner blocks first, carefully level them, and then run a string between the tops of the corner blocks -- then you simply lay the ones in between just level with the string. Keeps things flat and straight. It's hard to see in the vid, until closer to the end, but this guy is using one.


Also note how "little" mortar is used, and only on the sides of the block, not on the top of every web. Using too much just makes it hard to tap things level.


Most beginners mix the mortar too dry. Look at the vid -- properly mixed mortar is pretty "high hydration", LOL! It's wet enough that it'll squeeze out a bit when the block is taped level. By the time you're done, you'll be a good as the guy in the vid! ;-)


As for painting, you might consider dying some mortar and simply parging the block after it's layed up. IMHO, looks better than paint (kinda like stucco) and it's pretty simple to do.


Have fun!


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

janij's picture
janij

So I feel like a total loser because after we started one of the mson guys called us and gave us a bid for a very good price.  With summer coming and a few employee problems with the company we decided our time was better spent doing what we do best and leaving this project to the professionals.  The guy gave us a steal!!  So here is the foundation and the hearth slab poured.  I feel like the lose DIY'er, but at least I will be able to bake in about 2 weeks tops.



 


ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

LOL! I saw the photo before I read the text, and thought "WOW!, Those guys have  gotten really good, really fast, at laying block!" ;-)


One thing to consider and maybe talk to your mason about -- Alan Scott doesn't really address it. You are including an ash drop, but have you planned on what to do with the ashes? After one use of mine, I quickly discovered that raking hot coals down that hole can leave you with holes in your socks from burning embers, and a real mess to clean up. I fabricated a "drawer" under the slot out of a deep stainless steel pan I picked up at a restaurant supply house to catch 'em, and that has worked really well. You may want to think about how you're gonna deal with the ashes during the construction stage.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA


PS: Another thing to discuss with your mason -- Scott's design does not include a smoke shelf -- if your mason knows anything about fireplaces, he'll know what that means. This makes for less than ideal drafting & some smoke escaping from the top of the door area. Since your oven is in your yard, this shouldn't be a big deal, since the amount of smoke escaping is not too bad. But if it's an issue for you, you may want to raise it with the mason and see if he can incorporate one in the flue area just over the inner arch. It's not really that hard to include one at this stage -- just a few extra bricks -- but will be tough to modify later on.


Also, don't rush the baking -- your oven needs at least a week of small fires to cure the masonry prior to getting to the baking stage. That's also a good time to start learning about the firing process and how your oven responds.

janij's picture
janij

Yes, I had been thinking about ash removal.  We will not use the underneath for wood storage dues to snakes.  We found 2 coral snakes and numerous copperheads in our compost pile last summer.  So the underneath is just for ashes.  I was thinking along the lines that you did.  Get a SS pan and put it on a stand or something.  I thought about a metal bucket or can but it may be too heavy.  I work out with a decorative welder so I think we may be able to come up with something.  Maybe just the pan and a stand.


I will bring up the smoke shelf.  And see what he says.  I don't know anything about that.


I am excited to start the small fires and see how things go.  I figured about 2 weeks after he finished for the first pizzas.  But when you mad the small fires, did you vary where you put them.  Say back and front and middle to try and dry it more evenly and thouroughly?


I am just getting so excited.  I am starting to collect long handled tool now.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Your welder should be able to mount some angle irons under the deck for the ash pan to ride on like a drawer. (My pan has a lip around the upper edge that rides in angle iron.) The only potential issue is the width of the pan you can find vs. the width of your opening in the foundation. Might be good to plan that now while things are still easily adjusted. You'll either need to put a few inches of water in the pan to kill the embers, or pull and dump the pan as soon as you rake the coals -- those coals put out a lot of heat that flows up the ash slot and can bake your door and hands in pretty short order. I mounted wooden (ipe - very heat resistant) handles on mine to make it easy to handle when full of hot coals.


I'll be interested to hear what you decide about the smoke shelf and, if you go for it, how well it works.


As for curing fires, I just started with a small fire in the center to get the oven up to a couple hundred degrees for an hour or so, and gradually increased it over a week to 10 days until I had a full fire going.


As for tools, check out restaurant supply houses -- I got a deck brush and peel for about 1/3 the cost of on-line sources. I made my mop by fastening a binder clip to the end of a long stick. I just clamp a damp towel onto the clip and I'm good to go. I made a pizza bubble popper by simply driving a stainless steel screw through the end of a wooden stick. I bought a length of clay flue liner for about $10 that I keep by the oven to stand the tools in -- looks cool and the price is right.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

janij's picture
janij

Well it finally quit raining here so they could get back to work. I have been to a couple restaurant supply stores and the last of my tools should be in. I just need to make a mop.


We decided against the smoke shelf.  I think with it outside and in the open we should be fine.


Hoping to start the small fires tomorrow or Fri.  They are going to finish the brick work tomorrow and clad it.




As you can see we have a minor size problem.  The hearth slab is a little big.  So we are working on how to over come it.  We may have to move the back wall up on the hearth slab and use the 8" blocks as a ledge.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Hmm. IIRC, you're just gonna cover this with stucco, not a masonry surround, right? If it was me, I'd just bring the oven box out to the correct OD with the vermiculite/mortar mix, and then stucco over that. Otherwise, I'd just stack cement blocks behind the box to bring things out to the proper line. I wouldn't make a ledge tho' -- just another opportunity for water to get in and cracks to form.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

janij's picture
janij

We started the first of the small fires to help cure and dry the oven.



 


ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Wow! An oxy-acetyene torch to start the fire. Hubby's my kinda guy! LOL!


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

Ford's picture
Ford

Having seen this, I thought you might want to view Someone who has built a pizza oven and regularily uses it.  In these hard times it serves as a sourse of income for his family in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia,


http://dogtownpizza.net/


Here is a copy of their email flyer:


**TONIGHT**

DOGTOWN PIZZA
in Downtown Floyd
5-10pm
(next to the Black Water Loft)


If you don't know what Dogtown Pizza is, we are a traveling wood-fired oven rig that makes old-world style pizza with local ingredients and authentic preparation.

We are now regulars at the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons (2-7) and Friday Nights in Floyd.  We frequent festivals, wineries, weddings, private parties, and local events.  We also build wood fired ovens for home or business.

The Pizzas are made with a slow fermentation style dough, organic tomato sauce, a variety of fine cheeses, local seasonal vegetables, local pork sausage, and fresh mozzarella.  They are then flash baked in a 800 degree wood fired oven.  They cook in less than 2 minutes and are served hot out of the oven. 

On the Menu tonight:

Authentic Margherita Pizza- $10 (fresh mozz, sauce, and fresh basil)

Local Harvest Pizza  - $12  (arugula, feta, and carmelized onions)

Fennel Sausage Pizza- $14  (with carmelized onions)

5-Cheese Pizza - $10 (mozz, cheddar, farmers, colby, parm)

Pepperoni Pizza - $10 (gotta have America's number one seller)



We will be in Floyd every Friday night throughout the summer, so if you can't make it this time, keep us in mind for Friday nights.

-DOGTOWN PIZZA

for schedule and updates see dogtownpizza.net

janij's picture
janij

I think the DogTown Pizza is very cool!!!  It sounds like so much fun!


 

janij's picture
janij

They finished up this afternoon.  I know you aren't really supposed to top it this early, but I couldn't really make them come back next week.  So we will build small fires for about 10 days and cure it.  Hubby got me my own butane torch!  The infared thermometer is really cool as well.  We olny heated the oven up to about 200 deg last night.  We will paint it if it ever dries out enought around here to get the cinder blocks dry enough to but the binder on and the paint!


Thanks ClimbHi for all your help.  I think I have found all my tools as well.  Pretty cheap at the restaurant supply stores.  I will post pictures of the first pizzas.  This week I am going to try out a new pizza dough recipe from Reinhardt.




Oh and I will post picutres of it once it is painted.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Just a thought - you may want to consider an alternative to paint. They make trowel-on topcoats for masonry that gives a monolithic appearance to block. It's pretty cheap and pretty easy to apply and more durable to boot.


I don't have any great pics showing this, but here's one of my "in progress" oven pics (the oven is just a pile of bricks here - I was working on laying out the size/shape at this point). But you can see the block foundation (pink-ish) with this type of coating. It only took a couple of hours to do and I think it looks way better than just block.



I know it's tempting, but don't rush the curing process. Soon enough, you'll be getting fat on bread, pizza, and just plain good eats. DAMHIKT! ;-)


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA


PS: Regarding pizza dough, one word - ciabatta. I use the PR poolish recipe, retarding overnight in the fridge. Just break the dough down into baseball-sized balls for the final rise. Wait until you graduate from baseballs to softballs and proceed as you would with any pizza dough. You'll never go back! ;-)

janij's picture
janij

I was going to put a concrete binder on it then paint it.  Hoping that way it would be smoother.  I will look into the trowel on top coat.  We want it to blend into the house better.  Plus with as much rain as we get in Houston I am worried about the concrete blocks always soaking up water.  It takes forever of the foundation to dry.


I was reading American Pie.  I am going to try two doughs out of it this week to bake in the oven.  Kyle really likes super thin crust.  I really do like the PR Ciabatta as bread.  I will try it for pizza.  We have been curing daily since Thurs.  Yesterday we took it up to about 300 deg.  So I am wondering if you think 10 days is not enough for curing.  Should we wait the full 2 weeks?  The start a big fire.  Or just keep getting warmer over the 10 day period?

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

If you burn every day, a little hotter each day, 10 days should do it. You can also keep small fires burning for longer so the heat gets deeper into the masonry to speed things up. I put a propane salamander in mine and let it run 'till it ran out of fuel two days in a row to keep the box warm for an extended period.


But believe me, at day 7, you're gonna be thinking "Boy, pizza would sure taste good tonight . . . ." ;-)


BTW, you can bake in your oven during the curing period -- just not stuff that requires heating up the masonry a lot. For example, you could put a curing fire to good use with some Dutch oven baking, or later in the cycle, something like cookies or brownies. So long as the surface temps have been over 300° for an hour or two, you oughta be able to bake small deserts like these. Also, take advantage of the curing fires to start learning your oven's heating profile -- keep track of how long it takes to cool down say, 50° after the fire goes out. (Remembering that the oven temps will generally be about 100° below the wall surface temps.) That'll help a lot with planning your future baking schedules.


ClimbHi


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Congratulations!  It is going along beautifully!  From what I can see in the garden, your loacation is very "natural" so wait a little before deciding to just paint it. 


Painted concrete block send chills up my spine!   The red brick work looks so precise and naturally becomes the focus of attention.  The gray brick building material on the otherhand has an unfinished surface and the brick mortar lines steal undue attention away from the oven front.   Their surface could easily be played down and simplified. 


Have fun with your new oven,


Mini

crazyknitter's picture
crazyknitter

Impressive.


Thank you for sharing. 


Just curious, do you have an approximate figure of how much you spent to build it?


 


 

janij's picture
janij

$3650 for the oven and $1500 for the concrete work.  That included cutting the existing concrete, removing it and pouring a new one.  The oven cost was for all materials and all the building except painting.  A little pricey, but I think worth it.  After watching them build it it was more complicated than I thought.  But now that I have seen one built, it might be different.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Did you cook in it yet?


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

janij's picture
janij

We cooked pizza nd bread in it last weekend.  We did not get the oven hot enough so the pizzas took about 5 min each to cook.  They were good but not the crust I was looking for.  And the crust of the bread was not as brown.  But it was also sourdough and I didn't let it proof long enough so that may have been an issue.  It all tasted good but needs improvement.  We have a bunch of coked wood.  We did not coke the wood last time.  We hopefully that along with a little bigger fire will halp next time.  Learning curve.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Sounds like a good start. Better than my first try anyhow, when the pizza burned to a crisp in under a minute! ;-) At least yours was edible.


Take notes on your firings so you can begin to develop some history -- helps with hitting the desired temps for various future loads and with figuring out your food prep timing.


FWIW, I bake SD almost exclusively (and frequently underproof -- the WFO makes up for it with oven spring), and I have to be careful it doesn't get TOO brown. So it sounds like your temps may have been a bit low.


I cook pizza with wall temps around 850°, and bread with wall temps around 550°.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

Roo's picture
Roo

Very nice thread!  I am collecting items to start our WFO.  In fact picking up the blocks this morning.  We are still debating the layout of the area so don't know when ground will break. 


But you have inspired me to keep plugging along.  You have a fine looking oven there.  Anymore pictures of the great food you are doing in there?

janij's picture
janij

We made tortillas the other night.  We built a fire out of coked wood to do some more testing on fire temps, length of time to fire etc.  The tortillas cooked up great in the very front with the fire raging behind it.  I forgot to take pictures.  We should start a WFO Pictures thread.