Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Brick Oven Improvements

Improvements to the brick ovens I build often are the result of a new or different location challenge.

Wood set for the test firing
This most recent build required that I build the oven core outside before opening the wall between the  oven mouth and the room in which the bakers would work.

The result, which I may carry forward in future projects, was a three arch design.  It also resulted in a keystone design that is new to me (few masonry designs are new to history).

Inspecting the interior PRIOR to lighting

Perfect draft as evidenced by blackened area around flue

Oven dome at full temp.  Wood box stuccoed.  Double doors.
Note air channels at sides of mouth.
Carpenters will finish drywall around oven.

Exterior enclosure

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Art of Brick Ovens

There are plenty of technical aspects to building a brick oven.  I've covered many of them in the over three hundred posts prior to this.
Then there is the ART.

Because each oven I build is intended for a different and unique person or situation, it makes sense to finish the oven in a different and unique way.  Note: this doesn't require weird designs.  The variation on the traditional face arch and keystone as well as the exterior treatment is sufficient.  Sometimes, one element is sufficient to make it personal to the owner.

Thus follows some examples.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Brick Oven Chimneys

Any brick oven with a mouth and a face, which between them creates the flue, needs a chimney.
Vented into existing chimney
The chimney serves to move the smoke away from the face of the oven and the baker.

The height of the chimney determines how far away the flue gases go as well as the draft of the chimney.

For indoor ovens or ovens attached to homes, the 2 in 10 rule applies; the chimney must be 2 feet above the ridge of the house or 10 feet away from the building and roof.  Higher chimneys create better draft.

short chimney
Chimney materials vary.  Outdoor ovens with low chimneys typically have clay flue tiles with stone or brick exteriors.  Indoor chimneys typically have insulated stainless steel chimney for ease and safety.  Occasionally it is possible to vent the oven flue into an existing masonry chimney.

metal chimney and two makeup air ducts
A chimney chase is a wood structure built around the metal chimney to either conceal the metal or create a substrate for a stone or brick veneer.

All chimneys are capped with a metal or stone cap.

Stone veneer over wood frame chase

Metal chimney alone

Vented into existing chimney

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Triple Arch

Admittedly, I enjoy building arches and domes.
In this current project, I've built three separate arches.  This will enable the owners to both close the mouth (which isolates the dome) as well as the face arch (which is in front of the flue).  This does not replace the damper in the insulated metal chimney which will still function to close the chimney when the fire is out.

As will all current ovens there are two air channels on either side of the mouth.  These will be closed by specially cut bricks and the second door as well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dome Was Built in a Day

Judging from the number of visits to posts describing details of building brick ovens, I can guess that a fair number (New Englandese for 'a lot') of people are looking to build their own ovens.

In the past, I've spoken or consulted with people who have built their own and the consensus is that it takes a long time, like months, for a owner-builder to finish.

This may be the reason that on many occasions where a project involving both extensive masonry and a brick oven I am asked to build the 'core': the technical part of the oven.  I've worked with expert masons all over the country because it made sense for them to pass on building the central part of the oven to me rather than build a one-off themselves.

In the case of a homeowner building one him or herself, the equation that measures the time and precision it takes for a one-off is weighed against the cost of my building the core.

In addition, I've offered advisories suggesting that a professional mason, although expert at fireplaces, walls, etc., if hired, may not know the engineering and physics of brick ovens, thus leaving the owner with a brick oven that is NOT a brick oven in the functional sense. (Was that a long enough sentence???)

This project in New Hampshire, is a 42" interior diameter oven core that was completed in one long day.  Additional work to bring it to completion is needed, but it demonstrates the efficiency of experience.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Brick Oven Building Workshop

Two Gurus


A collaboration with Don Lewis of Wild Hive Farm

And David Neufeld of True Brick Ovens

September 8 and 9, 2018 
in Clinton Corners, New York.

Learn the intricacies of building brick domes in the thousand-year tradition of European and
North American wood-fired baking

Baking demonstrations and food by Chef Cassandra Purdy with her True Brick Ovens 48” portable.

Saturday lunch, dinner provided
and baking demos
$480 pp, workshop capacity 15 people

Send form request to:

A brick oven will be built during this workshop;            

it is a hands-on experience.
Topics covered: dome brick cutting and fitting, refractory mortar mixes, oven dimension calculations, floor and dome insulation, mouth and face arch construction, flue and draft dynamics, oven enclosures, portability, firing methods, and many more details, including your specific questions.

Wild Hive Farm was founded by Don Lewis to promote sustainable agriculture in our region by promoting grain-based local agriculture.  Wild Hive is committed to the production of locally grown and milled high quality flour. Wild Hive operates a flour mill using traditional stone grinding equipment and has received considerable recognition for its flour, which is milled in small batches from organic grain purchased from local and regional farmers.

Monday, April 16, 2018

What is an Authentic Brick Oven?

I have become accustomed to mass manufactured products.   I think we all have.  Really, do I want my books to be made on a Gutenberg press?  Or my lumber to be 'hand-hewn'?  Uh, maybe.

When a manufacturer uses our desire for authenticity to sell something that is not authentic, whether it is craft beer or brick ovens, I trip over the accepted idea that some things are true and others are more true.  "Truthiness" is now a word.
TBO 54"

Up front, I cannot satisfy the market need for thousands of authentic brick ovens.  I build each oven authentically, yes, but there is a limit to my strength and time, so I have a limit on ovens-per-year.

TBO 36"

I still balk at companies such as Chicago Brick Oven and many others claiming both brick and authentic.  If they claimed inexpensive, cast shell, wood-fired oven kits, they would be telling the truth.  But they don't.

Chicago Brick Oven shell
The ovens sold by most of the manufacturers of brick ovens are akin to tract housing.  Modular, identical, and cheap.  They offer none of the cultural warmth that we associate with the ovens we see in old Europe or the Southwest.

TBO dome roof
I have also given open-source access to my building techniques so that anyone with gumption and grit... and a limited budget can build one themselves.
This September, the 8th and 9th, I am offering a brick oven building workshop in Clinton Corners, NY at Wild Hive Farm.
See next post for info on registration.
TBO oven in progress

TBO oven mouth arches in progress
If you're wanting authentic, you can have it.  If you want something to be true, don't buy the 'truthiness' products.

We are drawn to authenticity.  Even today.
Greek style oven by TBO

Back two thousand years, the brick makers in Pompeii turned out millions of bricks.  Some of them went to build the 26 bakeries still standing there.  Yet, however modular the bricks were, each oven had its own character and exterior design: the trademark of the bakery. 
Pompeii brick oven 2000+ years-old