The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First step to my WFO

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Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

First step to my WFO

OK.  A journey of any type always starts with the first step.  Well yesterday I took the first step to my WFO and poured the hearth.  I skipped a step or two but that was hanging me up from getting things started.  I don't have a location for this WFO picked out so I have not dug the footers poured the footers or built the base.  My hearth is set on a trailer, it was handy because I put the form on the trailer and when we pored concrete for a job I just filled the form at the job site.  It was better then having a truck come out just for 3/4 yard of concrete.  I did leave a place in the form for the forks of my fork lift to go so in a way I should be able to move it around as I please and put it on the trailer if I want to take it somewhere.


Also I'm having a difficult time choosing a thermocouple.  I looked at Ovencrafters.com but you don't get specifications or a picture of their meter. I also went to Omega.com and got over whelmed with specifications and price.  I know I want 4 to 6 thermocouples so what are you using and what would you recommend.


Thanks Faith

wally's picture
wally

You're on your way Faith! Send us some pics next time.  At our wfo class I talked briefly with Dan about types of probes and he recommended a couple - unfortunately I can't find my notes.  You might drop him an email.


Larry

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thanks Larry,  That is a good idea I'll do that.  I pulled home my hearth tonight.  At the job site it has a very steep dirt drive.  With a one ton dully in 4 wheel drive it took me two shots to get out of the drive.  So life is always an adventure.


I'll send some pictures soon.  Not much to look at at the moment.  I also found the brick so I'll get that delivered this week.


I hope all is well with you.  Faith

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Great advice Larry,  I emailed Dan and he pionted me in the right direction.


I went with the  Omega HH-21A portable battery meter and the HH20SW-K Switch.


I'm starting with 4 thermocouplers I think that should give me enough to know when the oven is ready.  I also like that I can remove the meter from the oven for when it's not in use and I don't need an external power supply.

wally's picture
wally

Figured he'd help you out.  Now when and if I ever get around to building one, I'll be knocking on your door for advice.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Well my oven is off the ground and I'm slowly plinking away  at it when time permits.


I'm looking forward to the long weekend then perhaps I'll get some real time to put into my oven.


Even as an experienced builder I have found this project to be nicely challenging.  this oven is a blend of an Allen Scott/ Dan Wing and Pompeii and some others that by chance I stumbled on.  So I took concepts and advice from them all and used bits and pieces of each.  I went with the Pompeii shape only because I thought it would stand to travel on a trailer better.  With every brick I'm starting to think I'll need to use my 20 ton trailer just to move it around

wally's picture
wally

That's beautiful Faith, but you're probably right about the trailer.  What are the dimensions of the slab?


Larry

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thanks Larry,


The base is 6'x6'x 9.5".  I knew I would be moving it around so I made the base quite thick.  The base is not that thick all the way through primarly the thickness is 6.5" and the outer edges and some center lines are at the 9.5". Between the 1/2 inch rebar and the 4000psi concrete along with the beam like thickness I think it will take anything that I can do do it.  The slots in the front are where the forks go for my fork lift.  When I'm done I'll  roll it over a truck scale and find out how much it weighs.


Faith

Roo's picture
Roo

I like what you got so far.  I would add about 4 inches of insulation below the concrete slab whenever you get it to the trailer stage.  As it stands right now, you are going to have a heat sink with the concrete and the heat will then continue to bleed all the way through.  Insulation will well insulate ffrom heat loss and allow the concrete slab to store heat and give back to the oven as needed.

pdiff's picture
pdiff

Doesn't look like the insultation will be too bad to me.  It looks like the oven floor will be sitting on a layer of fire brick that is surrounded by vermiculrete mix.  Not sure you'd want a mobile oven to stay "fire" hot for days at a time anyway.


 


Is your fork lift going to be able to lift this when done?  We need to start a pool to guess the final weight.  I'm saying about 5700 lbs, dried and cured.  You have any estimates on it?


 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I have 3-1/2 inches of vermiculite/portland cement under the flat laying bricks and there is a large hollow area under the stove so the part touching the trailer is not as much as it looks.  We will see once I get it fired and I'll take some readings.


My fork lift has a 6000 lbs limit so that will be the first test...If I need bigger equipment  that will be my first clew...but I think you will be close on your guess.


The fun part now is getting the dome to intersect the arch....Ok not so fun...sometimes it makes my brain hurt trying to figure out how to cut compound angles on fire brick

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Faith,


Sure you will figure out the angles - your brickwork looks awesome!


Do you know of the traditional oven site, run by Rado Hand? He favours squarer ovens but is an expert on  refractory materials so has quite a lot on cladding and insulation, for example:


http://www.traditionaloven.com/building/details/refractoryheatinsulation.shtml


All the best for the rest of this project. Look forward to seeing more.


Kind regards, Daisy_A

pdiff's picture
pdiff

Daisy_A is right, your brick work is very clean.  I'm sure you'll want the archway to be the same.  I imagine that will improve the stability for moving it around as well.  Fortunately, I didn't have to worry about that!  Mortar covers many ills :-)  I seem to remember a few folks over at the fornobravo.com forum that created jigs for compound cuts.  You might try to hunt them down there.  Keep at it.  A mobile oven has always been a secret desire for me, so I'm glad you're taking it on :-)

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thanks Daisy _A  that is a great link to to really good information.

Roo's picture
Roo

That is good news on vermiculite and portland for the hearth layer.  Getting to the 700-800 degrees for pizza cooking would be difficult and use alot of fuel without it.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

well I had a good weekend and got 4 more runs done.  I'm past where the dome intersects the arch so things are running much smoother and as the rows go up less brick so it's a bit faster.  The top two rows I needed to switch from 1/2 block to 1/3 block.


So this has been a busy weekend 4 rows of brick, 2 loaves Vermont Sourdough, 2 loaves Cheese bread, 3 loaves Whole Wheat  Sandwich, 3 loaves rye bread, 1 smoked Pork Butt.


Here are a few more pictures of the WFO

thamnophis's picture
thamnophis

It does look great!


I'm starting to lay the fire brick for a vault style oven. Like yours, my mortar is rather thick on the outside of the oven. I know that the recommended thickness for refractory mortar is very thin - like 1/4 inch or less.


Did you find any re-assurance that this would be OK? Unlike you, I have no construction experience to speak of. 


Thanks!


 


 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Yes you can see my inside joints are very thin and my outside joints do exceed that 1/4 inch that your were speaking of.  I already made a number of cuts on each brick to get the inside tight it would have been even more cuts and angles to get the outside tight not to mention the extra brick I would need.  I just filled the gap.


I did my first full burn this weekend and had a few minor cracking.  I think it had to do with the uneven heating.  The area around the chimney go hot much quicker then the rest of the oven.  I'm going to add more cladding in that area to draw more heat from that space. So next weekend I'll insulate and make a door.


I also need oven tools.

thamnophis's picture
thamnophis

faith - was the cracking in the mortar joints? I was told by the manufacturer of the refractory mortar that they couldn't guarantee structural integrity if the joints were more than 1/4 inch thick. Mitering bricks is a boat-load of work though, so I decided to take my chances. I should probably rent a brick saw.

pdiff's picture
pdiff

There shouldn't be a problem with cracks along a dome built this way.  If the bricks are all staggered from row to row, the igloo design is self supporting.  Some people cut bricks exactly so that joints are all even, but it will work without that and is much easier.  I tried to get contact on the inside of the joint and then filled the backsides with mortar.  I can see some small cracks on the back inside of the dome, but they have been fine.  I'm sure the backside joints are cracked too, but I can't tell because it's all covered now.  The entryway is a different story and should be more stout, especially along the sides.  Of course, on a mobile oven, all these issues may be more crucial than a permanent oven like mine.


 


A brick saw is of great help.  You might consider a cheaper one from Harbor Freight with the possibility of resale after the build.  They have cheaper diamond blades too, which can be very pricey elsewhere.  I went through about 4 on my oven, but that will vary depending on your bricks.  Some are tough to cut while others are softer.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

The cracks are in the joints and are very minor.  The way my oven is built each ring of brick has a keystone and tapered so they can't slide if the mortar gives out.  The bricks are also staggered from one row to the next.


My largest crack is between the dome and the entryway and I know that is due to the way the oven works, the first place that gets hot is the line between the fire and the chimney.  So what I am going to do is to add more cladding at the junction of the dome and entryway. 


For cladding I'm using Tufshot and it's working quite well


I went through 3 blades for my oven and could not make my last cut on #3 so I had to put on a new blade for the one cut.  No problem because I would not have put the saw up with no blade.

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Faith


great WFO and a good write up to get us revved up and into gear to get building.


You mentioned aquiring TOOLS,  in the picture below are a selection of tools all made by hand except the aluminium pizza paddle which was donated.


The most important one that started life as a hat and coat stand was cut down to the level of the oven hearth and put a tee bar across and its job is to hold the peel when you are getting the dough pieces ready to load into the oven. Better than a third hand.The trick here is to face the peel exactly where you are wanting to put the loaves  ie facing the left hand corner place your dough piece(s) on the peel and straight in position for the next spot and so on. if you are going to have a full oven you have to make sure that you  fill the rows.


The other tool is the fire scraper for pulling the fire or cinders from the oven.


Not shown are a couple of wooden headed peels ,PLYWOOD with broom handles attached and A SCUFF for cleaning the floor of the oven, usually a hessian bag if you can find them or more recently a couple of tea towels attached to a broom handle with wire that gets soaked in water and then wrung out and with a circular motion flips cinders and dust from the floor of the oven, safety galsses a good idea here!  THE SCUFF is also good if you wring it out and twirl the handle so that the cloth is around the pole for pushing hot coals  cinders and ash to one side when baking pizza direct on the oven floor.



regards Yozza

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thanks Yozza,


I do plan on making my own tools but the oven took priority of my time. So these things are next on my to-do list.  I have ordered some stainless steel for some peels and I need to pick up some maple for the wooden ones.  I have some thoughts on sizes and shapes as well as some quick disconnect handles for the wooden ones.


I'm also searching for and old oven door with the glass in it and I plan on making my oven door with a window.  we will see how that works out.


That's a nice looking oven by the way, thank you for your advice.

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi again Faith with the peels i find that a head that will accomodate 2 x 500g boules works well as you can load 2 at a time but remember not to get snookered, you sometimes have to load just the 1 so that you can complete the row with a double. or have a narrow headed peel for the single spot in the row. you can also make a special longer narrow peel for baguttes, but it may require a swivel head to place the loaves in a straight live down the oven sides. You can also practice your peel handling techniques both with a cold oven or on a bench top, practice makes perfect and a well set oven of hearth bread is something to behold.


I guess a glass  insert would be quite good in a door, our one at the college is solid hardwood made from 4 x 2. You may be able to use glass from an old oven or one of those mini ovens that are pretty cheap to buy anyway.  One other thing i really need to make up for  the college oven is a decent light for night time that can be shone into the oven, but that is pretty easy there are plenty off the shelf items for that.   


Regards Yozza

Chuck's picture
Chuck

I agree it would be helpful to "see" through the door into a WFO.


But I'd be very leery of using glass, even oven door glass. Why?



  • ovens generate relatively even heat that never changes suddenly and that doesn't go much over 500F - WFOs do none of these things

  • the temperature handling capabilities of the glass in an oven door (glass doesn't "automatically" do this:-) are often partly added after it's sized - if you try to "cut" some recycled oven glass to a different size, you might destroy some of its thermal properties (and you wouldn't know it)

  • even oven glass cracks relatively easily when baking bread if great care isn't taken (for example if one drips steam water on it) - would your WFO still be usable if the glass broke?

  • the only way to see diddly-squat inside the oven through the glass is to have a lighbulb in the oven - but WFOs don't usually come with lightbulbs

  • I'd want the risk of glass shards in my bread to be zero; 0.00001% isn't good enough

  • the substantial oven door around its window absorbs most of the mechanical force of a shock before it can break the glass - will a WFO door similarly absorb most mechanical shocks?

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Chuck


I agree the last thing you woould want is broken glass in the oven  but i have seen plenty of the wood fired heaters that have had a blazing fire licking the glass and the temperature is pretty high. or perhaps the lid off a corning ware dish set into a heavy wooden frame. The door would only be going in place after the fire anyway when you are ready to bake.


The light will of course would only be something that either fits at the opening  with a back cover so that it shines into the chamber not your face or on a stand over the shoulder or even the head light using LEDS that fishermen use  for fishing should work well. 


regards Yozza  

wally's picture
wally

Hey Faith - I've been out of town and away from websites, so I just saw your update.  That's a beautiful looking wfo.  Your weekend was a lot busier than mine!


I wanna's see bread baking in the wfo next time!


Larry

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

If anyone wondered what ever happened to Faith In Virginia just know that I have been building my oven and baking bread so it did not leave much time for contributing to the conversation.


Well this is my yesterday.  My oven is not complete but it is very functional and every bake is getting better.  This is my second bread bake with the WFO and I can tell you the oven is still breaking in. This time around it got much hotter quicker with less wood.


This bake was a learning experience for me. Instead of just two loaves of this and two loaves of that I made 10 loaves of this and 10 loaves of that.  Everything changed as far as making the dough and things were quickly getting confusing as to how much of what I needed.  What I ended up doing is taking my recipes and breaking them down to 1-1/2 pound  single loaves.  So if I wanted to make 10 loaves I just multiplied by 10 and I knew how much starter I needed and such. So that was something I learned.


I also learned that my partner is very good at helping me load the oven and putting the dough on the peals even if the vocabulary is things like "Flopping out the dough, squishing the dough ='s kneading, and hacking the top.


I passed out a lot of promised bread last night and still have more to give away. It was great fun running around with a truck load of bread.  It's funny that I felt like a bread dealer on the street corner "Hay buddy, you want a loaf of bread?"


The second bake with the oven was also interesting because I had the outside insulation in place and a concrete shell over that so once the oven regulated it kept the heat quite well.  After 4 runs in the oven the temp was 425 ish and ready for more. After a cold night the oven this morning was 325 ish through and through not too bad after 12 hours.


The oven shot is Vermont sourdough and on the table is Vermont sourdough, poorly shaped baguetts, 66% rye, and 40% whole wheat. 


wally's picture
wally

What an oven!  That is just so professional looking.  To say "great job" seems such an understatement.  And the loaves look wonderful as well.  If I didn't know better I'd think you were running a commercial hearth bakery.


You should send some pics to Dan Wing, I'm sure he'd love to see the fruits of your labor and his KA class.


Happy Thanksgiving to you!


Larry

pdiff's picture
pdiff

Phenom!! It looks like you've got things spot on!  I understand the confusion :-)  Do you have a sizable mixer?  That's my biggest holdup to large batches. You're not using that cement mixer, are you? ;-)


Pdiff

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thank you!


No, The cement mixer is on another job...LOL.  Yes the large batches were interesting. It exceded the limits of my wooden dough bowl.  What I ended up doing is using a large stainless bowl to take the starter and water then mixed in enough flour to stiffen then I turned it out on the countertop and kneaded by hand.  The 40% W/W was a workout.  It was great fun and all the bread was gone by the next afternoon so I think the next big bake will be the day before Thanksgiving.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Great going with the oven and great looking breads.


Kind regards, Daisy_A

kmrice's picture
kmrice

Faith, do you know approximately what the size of you oven is? I see the base is 6'x6'. Looks like you can bake 6 pretty large long loaves - I'm wondering if I can do the same in my 44" diameter oven.


Karl

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Hay Karl, the interior is 42" diamater  and I fit 10 loaves in easly with out any real crowding. I was looking when I was loading the oven and I think I could fit 12 loaves if I was trying to concerve space.

kmrice's picture
kmrice

You must be prety adept with the peel; I don't know if I could get as many loaves in my slightly larger oven. I'll give it try, though.


Karl

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Karl


You can practise your peel handling  in a cold oven, try a variety of objects from pieces of wood to cushions, childrens toys etc (small children dont like to see their toys go into the oven even if it is cold) the fast retrieve of the peel is the main art to master without upsetting the article. it is a good idea to have an exclusion zone behind you, i have seen some very nasty bruises from the peel handle striking people that are either inquisitive or oblivious to the fact that the peel handle will move back a lot faster than it went in.


For bageutte practice try a simmilar length of pine 4x2 on its 2" side without tipping it over and get a nice straight row going , practice will make perfect for when the real stuff goes in, if you take the squareness off the ends it will make for an easier retrieval too! have fun regards Yozza

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope


Hi Faith in Virginia, this is Faith in Missouri!  Love your WFO!!  I am trying to build my own and finding that it is much more involved than I first thought.  I've been reading all the threads on TFL (also online) and am looking for where I can find more information.  Books, detailed plans, etc....


I am building up my base and was going to go to Lowes today and buy the cement to pour the foundation.  But am I not going to be able to use just regular cement?  I'm reading about all this "refractory stuff?".  I'm sorry that I'm kinda all new to this WFO stuff.


 I've been doing bread now for about 2 years.  With the rising cost of electricity I am having a difficult time and would like to just get my oven done.  Any help and advice to point me in the right direction from ANYBODY would be greatly appreciated!!


 Thanks so much everyone!


Faith in MO.

jcking's picture
jcking

Go to the library and see if you can fins; The Bread Builders, Hearth loaves and masonary ovens, by; Daniel Wing and Alan Scott.


Jim

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

On my way!  I live a bit "out of town" but today we're "going in" so I will go and look for those books!  Thanks for your help!


Faith

polo's picture
polo

..........look at this site.


http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/


They offer free plans and advice. If a Barrel vault oven is more your speed, then by all means get the book by Alan Scott and Dan Wing. Either way, there are plenty fo resources on and off of the internet for help in building your oven.

rya's picture
rya

Faith,


   I just came across your post from November when you were workign on creating your WFO, its gorgeous adn the bread you've eproduced is as well! I've just finished building a cob oven and I am about to start baking in it. I have done a few small fires to ease into a large--hot one. I am curious, are all the breads that you're baking made with a starter? Have you used any pre-ferment methods--poolish, biga? I love baking with these but only have done so in a conventional oven. Any info helps. Happy baking in your beautiful oven!

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope


Hey, thanks for the F.Brovo site! That's great!  Their kit is just way too much for me!  I have a place where I can get fire bricks for about $1.80 but I don't know where to get any kind of refractory cement?  I went to Lowes but they said they didn't have anything like that. Called some cement places, but no one new anything. I don't want to just use the Lowes stuff if it's not right. 


 


Faith


sphealey's picture
sphealey

A pottery supply store that sells/services kilns will be able to sell you reasonable quantities of refractory cement.


Here's a good one in the St. Louis area:


http://www.kruegerpottery.com/


sPh

polo's picture
polo

As you research further you will find that you can make your own high temperature mortar, using sand, fireclay, and portland cement. You should be able to find firebrick in the neighborhood of $1.15/brick. $1.80 sounds a bit high to me, you should be looking for medium grade brick. Take a look at this site (click on "links" and then the "other oven" html.), it is full of information and links to oven builds.


http://woodfiredpizza.org/


Definitely get "The Bread Builders" when you can.


Also consider joining the "Brick oven Group" on Yahoo. Many members willing to help and tons of photos of both Pompeii and Alan Scott (barrel vault) style oven builds.


If money is an object, I agree with researching Kiko Denzer's website. He can give details for building an oven you can build from materials found mainly in your yard (or close by and cheap anyway). Probably won't last as long, but doable.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Sorry, I misinterpreted:  I thought that the OP was looking for the type of cement that is used to seal in accessories, close up cracks, etc.  I agree a pottery store would be a very expensive place to buy the ingredents for refractory concrete, although they might be able to tell you where to find a builders' yard that carries those ingredients in bulk (some potters use wood-fired ovens very similar to our baking ovens). 


However, I will note that high-temperature refractory concrete tends to have components such as alumina which raises its temperature limit substantially; if you are working on a base for the firebrick (say) you might want to research this a bit.


Safety note:  don't use the same mixing container for standard concrete and refractory concrete containing alumina; the alumina can cause non-refractory concrete to "flash harden".


sPh

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

 Just ordered the book online!  Looked everywhere for it in book stores and libraries but found nothing.  Oh well, I figure it will be a good investment!  Thanks so much for all the help and direction.  I have gone to the different websites and found lots of good information!  I would like to pour my cement foundation soon, but have to figure out this whole refractory cement thing.  I appreciate so much everyone's help!!  I will look into signing up on that Yahoo group too!  Thanks so much everyone!!


Faith in MO

kmrice's picture
kmrice

"I would like to pour my cement foundation soon, but have to figure out this whole refractory cement thing."


You don't need refractory cement to pour your foundation. The foundation is done with standard concrete. The stand is built, typically out of cement block, on the foundation. The hearth is built on the stand, again from standard concrete. Insulation goes on the hearth, and your cook surface goes on the insulation. The cook surface will be fire brick or stone which can withstand the heat of an oven. Up to this point, though, you don't need refractory cement.


Take a look at the plans for a brick pompeii oven at Forno Bravo - they used to be free. You may or may not want to build a pompeii oven, but these plans will give you a lot of helpful information applicable to other types of ovens as well.


Good luck,


Karl

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope


Yeah!!!!! Thank you so much for that note!!! That is the answer I was looking for!!!  I did check out the F.Brovo site and I think the plans are still free, but I couldn't get to them at that moment. I just finished building up my foundation!!! MAN THAT WAS WORK!!!  So I'm ready for the next step!!  Ah, thanks so much for all the input!  I appreciate it so very much!  I'll put a picture on soon! :)


 


Faith


pdiff's picture
pdiff

They are free, as are several other pubs there.  You just need to go through the store to get them.  It looks like a purchase, but the price will be $0.00.  Then you'll get the PDF file.  My oven was built from the plans and it came out great.


 


Pdiff

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

 


Finally finished my base!!  That was A LOT of work!!  But it was all free from my backyard!!!  I think I about killed my little brother!!  Going to Lowes to get my standard cement and pour the base!!  Lowes gives 10% off to Veterans so that will be super helpful since my dad has his VA card!


Also found a place that will sell a FB for $1.15!!  The Heat Stop I found is $86-for a 50 lb. bag!!!!  Man!!  That's crazy!!  I also found fireclay for $17-for a 50 lb. bag.


This is pretty overwhelming.  Looking on the F. Brovo site those guys are pros.  Even the amateur guys are pros.  I have no idea how I'm going to do this!!  One little step at a time with the help of the Lord!!


Thanks everyone for you input and help!  I appreciate it!


Faith

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Um, can I come over to your yard and pick up a couple tons of those free stones? ;-)


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA