This is a log of my building of a brick oven, as described in the "The Bread
Builders" (Alan Scott). I have not been as diligent about keeping track of
some of the small steps, so as I recall things I will add to this.
If you have any questions/comments, you can email me
and I'll try my best to answer.
Note : there are 50-60 30KB-ish images that are going to be loaded here...
Last updated : December 7, 2003.
- New pictures added (starting at #239)
- Some pictures removed from "autoloading" and replaced with a hyperlink (for those
that just can't get enough).
Asked township about zoning/permit needs for outdoor cooking oven. Found
none were needed.
Talked to fire marshall re any setbacks, etc. None specific. Suggested use
of a spark arrestor.
Got "The Bread Builders" and "How to Build an Earthen Oven".
Decided on masonry oven using "Bread Builder" dimensions.
Found source for firebrick and fireclay. => okay, it can be built
Sunday May 18 2003 1pm-4:30pm
Picked spot in yard for footprint of oven (not the same as footprint
Posted question re climate in Doylestown, PA area. Answer will
determine size and depth of slab (i.e. whether or not it
should be insulated).
Dug out lawn under the oven footprint
Get exact brick dimensions
Draw out plan and elevation of slab+main oven. Allow room for facade and
enclosure finishing at end.
June 22, 27, 28, 29, 2003
Decided to be conservative and dig out 2" for insulation.
Excavation also needs to be larger. But not going to do the full
120" by 130" inches in book. Soil is too hard - like concrete.
Getting a level base takes awhile : 2, 3 and 3 hrs each day.
All told, about 20 wheelbarrows of dirt are take out, as this
is being built where the ground slopes away.
Settle on 8' by 8' excavation, with the foundation slab about 2"
longer and wider than called for, as I might face the
cinder blocks with thin stone. (Not sure that 2" will
June 22, 2003
Excavating for the foundation slab ...
June 27, 2003
June 28, 2003
June 29, 2003
July 3, 2003
42 bags of Quickrete (non-fast setting) concrete delivered.
I calculate 32 bags will be needed for foundation slab, but
haul 35 down to the site just to be sure.
July 4, 2003
6:30am - 8:45am
Melanie and I mix and pour foundation slab. Concrete is mixed
by hand in a wheelbarrow. Instructions call for 3/4 of
a gallon per bag, not to exceed 1 1/4 gallon per bag.
3/4 seems too dry, so we start using about a gallon per
Rebar is tied together ahead of time, and mesh is secured to
rebar ahead of time. When 16 bags of concrete have
been mixed, we put the rebar and mesh in. Doesn't seem
to need to be supported by stones, but inner ring is.
July 12, 2003
Looks like I might have over-troweled the top, as there is dusting.
I put a coat of concrete sealant on.
This coming week I will order cinder blocks and firebrick.
Week of July 12, 2003
Get specs for what is sold as fireclay. Looks like it will work.
Ordered 60 cinder blocks, 16 pavers, 50 red brick, 225 firebrick,
fireclay, sand, mortar.
Week of July 19, 2003
Brick, etc. delivered.
July 26, 2003
Put down 1 and a half rows of cinder blocks with the help of my sister-in-law's
July 27, 2003
... almost there
Aug 9, 2003
Finished up the third row of cinder blocks, cutting lath strips to provide a base for
the concrete that will go into the voids in the top row.
Aug 10, 2003
Finish putting down cinder blocks. Top of third row get a row of rebar and
a layer of lath. Top row is filled with concrete (4 bags, if I recall?)
Aug 23, 2003
Cut the wood for the hearth form/platform. Compensated for being
a slight amount off-level by making one side about 1/4" taller
than the other.
Aug 24, 2003
Set up wood form for vermiculite layer, press fitting rather than using
screws/nails. Plywood base itself doesn't run exactly to
to sides, but rests on a frame. That prevents vermiculite/cement
mixture from running down the sides.
Set plastic down on plywood, then 6x6 steel mesh. About every foot,
one of the wires was clipped, bent up in a random direction,
and then turned to a hook at the end. Also checked to make
sure that none would end up above the top of the concrete.
Chisled out notches for the front-to-back rebar.
Laid out 5/8" rebard and wire-tied them together Made the ash slot form 12"
wide and the rebar at this point 14" apart. At the other end,
the rebar is just under 12" apart. Used a carbide masonry blade
(which is basically a wire embedded with carbide) on a hack saw.
Along with a masonry chisel it worked like a charm.
Made hearth form. Used masking tape under rebar to prevent concrete from
running out of the slots for the rebar.
Vermiculite layer and hearth get poured. Used about 3/4 of a 6'
bag of vermiculite and about the same proportion of Portland
cement. Mixed it until it was wet but not soupy.
Hearth needed 9 bags of standard concrete, about 1.25 gallons of water
per bag to be workable, and some much-appreciated help from a
This is my neighbor, Mark, who - unbeknownst to him at this moment - is about to learn more
than he ever thought he'd want to know about mixing and pouring concrete. Actually, he got
quite a kick out of it...
Aug 30, 2003
Took hearth form off. Needed to break it out as some of the spacers
had swelled or broke off (note : don't use wood. If need
to, make sure grain is running along the length of the wedge
not the width.) Also, some of the screed concrete had gotten
down between the wood form and the cinder blocks, making for
a too-tight fit.
(Yup, this is me, looking ready for a tryout with the "Village People"...)
Took the underside form out next (wanted the hearth form off first so
that there was no chance it could get wedged in if - for some
bizarre reason - the whole thing decided to sag!). As all the
supports had been press-fit, they knocked out fairly easily.
The most difficult two were those in the center. Here, it would
have helped to shape the bottoms to a point. There were no
problems once the form came out - the vermiculite held, despite it
appearing like some spots could have been better mixed. All in all,
it looks okay.
Aug 31, 2003
Did a partial mock up of oven. Need another 40 or so firebricks.
Red bricks are too red, so I'll get different ones along with the
firebricks. Can use these elsewhere anyway ...
A question comes to mind though : is the space that is left enough for
the cladding? (It's about 2.5") Keeping in mind that firebricks
are wider than standard red brick (longer, as well), I think that
I'll have enough mass.
Inside dimensions look like they'll be about 32.5" wide and 40" deep.
September 7, 2003
Fireclay mortar is spread on the hearth ...
Place-holder for the hearth surface thermocouple. Note : don't
inadvertently try to drill a hole through the rebar!
Hearth is down. Now the real layout begins ...
The wall are now mortared together, but before it can set, it starts to rain...
September 14, 2003
Test fitting the template ... The wedges allow for it to be removed after each
arch is set up. The form of the template is basically an ellipse. In other
words, the top is not flat and there is an odd integer number of bricks
used, so that there is a center keystone.
September 30, 2003
Starting to mortar this puppy up ...
I used masking tape to provide a temporary form for mortaring the large
joints around the walls...
While everything seemed to be going okay, the problem at this point was the
fireclay mortar. It didn't really seem to be setting up like the mixture did
that was used on the walls. Nevertheless, here are pictures of that arch.
I thought the difference might be due to the fact that I had now dry-mixed a
large (100+ lb) batch, whereas before the amount had been relatively small.
As a result, the proportions might have favored more sand than cement.
As a check, I weighed out one quart of sand, cement and fireclay and found the
ratio to be roughly 4:3:4. So while I was mixing out 10, 3 and 1.5 "quarts"
of dry ingredients, by weight I was using too little cement. I ripped this
arch down, added an extra quart or two of cement and an extra quart of fireclay
to the existing mix, and started all over again. Things went much better!
October 1, 2003
Yippee!! The arch holds. After I took this picture, I stacked a half-dozen
bricks, one on top of the other, over the center brick. It held.
The second arch is done ...
The third arch is done. Do a mock up of the lintel and chimney supports.
Saturday, October 4, 2003
Sunday, October 5, 2003
My neighbor's son, Andrew. Way to go!
Saturday, October 18, 2003
What appears to be a successful stress test :
The last time a live bird gets this close to the hearth of the oven :
Sunday, October 19, 2003
Monday, October 20, 2003
The cladding is poured!
Mocking up what the support structure for the chimney will be. The flue liner
is 8" (inside diameter; 9 3/4" outside diameter) by 24". That puts the
smoke comfortably above my head when I'm standing at the oven. For what it's
worth, the flue liner cost about $9 at a local lumber and building materials
supply yard. (It did take some calling around to find someone both stocking
them and open on a Saturday.)
The front edge of the flue liner is resting on a piece of spare rebar. I was
really puzzling over how to support this without having to build or pour
another arch. Then I spied the rebar sitting in the garage and it all fell
into place. At least that's the game plan at the moment...
Sunday, November 2, 2003
Saturday, November 8, 2003
Sunday, November 9,2003
Form for the back of the facade. Fireclay here seals up the throat
of the chimney, provides a mortar backing for the top of the facade
arch, and protects the rebar.
The keystone ...
Putting the final brick in place!
Finished facade arch ...
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Okay, the PVC was a bad idea. Each time a hole was drilled to insert
a spacer (to maintain a 6" distance from the cladding), the PVC snapped.
So I decided to go with a conduit skeleton, pipe flanges, "TapCon" screws,
sheet metal screws and aluminum braces. Not the cheapest alternative (and
if I was willing to spend a month or two scrounging around I could have
probably gotten similar pieces for free). But the point is to get the darn
thing done ...
For anyone curious : 5 ten foot lengths of 1/2" metal conduit were bought
at Home Depot. A conduit bender was also bought (~$30), since I didn't know
anyone who owned one. After much fiddling, drinking of beer and scratching,
4 45-degree bends were put in the conduit - two beginning about 31 inches from
each end and then another two about 10 inches closer to the center. Finally,
a roughly 10+ degree bend was put in the center. This was to provide some
tension, as well as a peak for the dome ridge. Plumbing flanges were anchored
to the concrete, spaced about 9 and 1/2 inches apart. Two were also placed
on the back part of the oven.
Each arch template was placed in its respective position. Then I "eyeballed"
how much they each needed to be trimmed down to give a rough rounded profile.
(I'm figuring that all this will get smoothed out once the lath is attached
and the stucco is applied ...)
After this, thin strips of aluminum were screwed on to provide some support.
And to all of this, metal window screen was screwed. This will keep the
loose insulation in place, as metal lath has holes that are too large. At
least that's the game plan at the moment ...
Saturday/Sunday, November 22/23, 2003
Today the insulation was poured in. Because of the time of year, it was
tough to find coarse vermiculite. I ended up buying all the vermiculte
(fine and medium) and perlite that a local Agway had. The fine vermiculite
went in first, as we figured that the top and sides needed the most "dead
air". The perlite went in next and then the coarse vermiculite.
Over this went metal lath, screwed and tied together in such a way as to
maintain (as much as possible) the rounded shape that was the goal in
the first place. (Not pictured below. Also not shown is a change I later
made to where the metal meets the front facade.)
Also, a form was made for the chimney and the remaining extra concrete I had
on hand was poured in. The only purpose of this is to provide a surface for
the "Quickwall" finish. Anything that could stand the heat of the flue could
have been used - I just happened to have this on hand. (Not pictured below)
In the evening, the first two pizzas were made, after having gotten the bricks
up to a bit over 1000F during the day. These suckers cooked fast and came
out a bit well done, but they were quite satisfying. The next morning at 7:30
even without a door the bricks were reading 280F.
All that remains now is to finish attaching the last piece of lath, shape the
front of the facade and apply the exterior coat. A door, a meter and a bit of
landscaping and that should FINALLY finish this project.
November 27, 2004
Chimney structure is poured around the flue and dome sub-structure is
almost ready for the final weatherproofing coat of masonry/stucco.
Copyright October 2003, Matt Considine. All rights reserved, blah, blah, blah