Friday, July 31, 2009

Ready to Fire!

Think of this like a TV cooking show, where there's some babble and some stuff thrown about in a pan for a minute before the cut to the swap out reveals a finished, ready-to-go version of whatever they pretended to be showing you the process of making:

wood fired oven

We have WFO! My apologies for being so completely lax as to not have taken a single in-progress photo since we last spoke. Turns out that masonry business is dusty and dirty and sort of consuming, and I sort of hand my hands full.
Of mortar, that is.
And I was preoccupied with trying to wash the brick dust out of my hair.

But as of now I am pleased to announce that we are just a few days away from starting to fire, and that means we're just a few more days away from a virgin WFO pizza event!

So there it sits, and so far so good with the dome and arches actually doing their self-supporting thing. The plan is to let it air dry for a week or so before swaddling it in a bunch of ceramic fiber blanket insulation and starting a series of small-to-big curing fires that culminate in a full on, white hot bricks blaze to get the oven up to pizza cookery temperature. At that point, in addition to cooking lots and lots of pizza and other stuff, and assuming no catastrophies, we'll start on finishing the exterior and making it look like something other than a tarp-covered lump.

I am SO excited, and so happy to have the masonry portion of the build over with, because honestly, all that negative space geometry was starting to make my brain hurt just a little and I'm sure my neighbors are totally over seeing me up on that platform bent over with my butt in the air looking like one of those redneck yard ornaments. Hopefully the pizzas I make them will be enough to make up for that horror.

And, as an added bonus, a WHOLE bunch of firewood just landed in our yard. Actually, some tree guys just happened to show up at the right time and with the right price and I gave them the go-ahead to cut down a big old oak tree that's been dead ever since we've been here.

lots of firewood

A mighty fine cord or so of firewood, no? Huge, HUGE props to Boy for becoming our resident lumberjack and splitting everything you see plus lots, lots more. Because really, it's a lot to ask from a computer geek who's about as far from your typical wood chopping dude as a guy can get. But he was totally into it. He even geeked out on the equipment end of the chore and went out and found a local specialty dealer and bought himself some fancy axe from Sweden that he refused to tell me the price of which means it musta been sort of outrageous. But I'm sure not going to complain, because needless to say, splitting, moving and stacking all that wood has been a TON of that brings me that much closer to a functional oven.

I need to make that Boy a pizza. Or several.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oven Floor and Going Up

Here's the hearth bricks cut and ready to set on the insulation base:
wfo cooking floor bricks cut

I'm building a 36" diameter oven so I just cut a paper template for that plus the area covered by the vent opening and landing, laid out a grid of bricks and then traced the pattern onto them to mark the cuts. It's recommended these hearth bricks be set in a herringbone pattern to make it easier to slide a pizza peel across the surface without catching.

Placing and leveling the hearth bricks on the insulation took a bit of time and a couple of do-overs. The ceramic fiber insulation board I purchased was claimed to be a flat, consistent surface but that was not at all what I received. Like At. All., which was sort of annoying, and I ended up having to put a layer of vermicrete (vermiculite+portland cement at about 8:1) on top of it plus a dressing of brick dust before I could set the hearth. So much for favoring time savings over cost. I'm sure the ceramic fiber board will be a fantastic insulator, but it ended up being a bit of a pain in my butt.

Anyway, on to the fun stuff! From here it's been a wet, dirty activity this brick laying business.
As suggested by some of those who have gone before me, I purchased a tool called "The Angleizer" to help me figure out the shape of the bricks for each circular layer. It's like four sliding, adjustable rulers attached together. Basically, you plug the diameter of your circle and the size of the bricks into a little computer program and it spits out the measurements of the trapezoid shape for the bricks in each course. Then it's just a matter of setting the tool accordingly and marking and cutting each brick. For a mathematically challeneged person like me, it makes things a whole lot easier.
first two courses in place

Another handy, not thought up by me concoction is the rod and angle bracket tool you see. There's lots of ways one could make this tool, and I cobbled mine together with a hunk of threaded rod, some repurposed IKEA parts and a hinge. It's set up to turn 360 degrees and through a 180 degree arc. The angle bracket fixed to one end allows each brick to be set at exactly (or close enough) the right pitch and distance from the center, ensuring a perfectly-ish circular, dome-shaped dome. Another super deluxe time saver, plus it holds the brick in place for as long as necesary until the mortar sets up.
progress on the third chain