Saturday, May 14, 2016

Restaurant Brick Oven: Part Eight

As the TBO 48" nears completion, there are still some vital details that are worth attention.

The visible face of the oven consists of the wood box, framed in dark granite, the hearth, the face arch, and the stone veneer flush with the future walls of the kitchen.

Veneer stone offers a beautiful solution that, just a handful of years ago, was not available to masons. Real stone is sliced into pieces about 3/4 of an inch thick.  This gives the exterior a traditional old stone look without the accompanying weight.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Talk to a Brick Oven Builder

When people interested in brick ovens find this blog, they may also go to my website:

From there, they may contact me via email or the TBO checklist option.  None of these are personal and in this digital age that works for many.

However, I do get calls the archaic way, on my cell phone, sometimes from places as far off as Belgium and Australia.  Rather than the potential distraction from my work as a designer/builder, these calls are enjoyable because the conversations are on common ground.
This coming weekend, in Fryeburg, Maine, I will be demonstrating brick oven cooking and a number of professional chefs will join me at the Northern New England Home and Garden Show.

I've met thousands of people there over the years and look forward to a weekend of cooking and assisting chefs at the Meet the Chefs pavilion.  You can't miss the oven.  It's just inside the entrance adjacent to its own event tent.  I look forward to meeting you.

Buono appetito!
David Neufeld

Post Script:

The weekend of brick oven cooking with chefs and talking was fruitful.  For any of you who met me and spoke with me, thank you.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Restaurant Brick Oven Build- Part Seven

Preparing for the stone hearth, the granite arch (or brick, or tile, or other choices) requires preparing the entire plane of the front for masonry.

In many cases, the brickwork of the oven doesn't extend to the ceiling or limits of the structure in which the oven in contained.   Steel framing, standard at most lumber yards, is used to frame the space and this is covered with cement board, both of which are non-combustible.
pre-fitting the granite arch stones

Hearth supported while arch is set
This structure needs to be stiff and I most often place the framing on 12" centers.

A smooth stone hearth is set on a granite lintel and then the primary face arch is constructed, in this oven of two types of granite with the thermal surface out.

Part eight will show the remainder of the veneer work.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Brick Ovens Cost Less than Fireplaces

Fireplace by TBO
Brick oven in kitchen by TBO
Both fireplaces and brick ovens contain visible fire.  Both burn wood.  Both come in either insert or hand built traditional versions.  Both require work by masons for decorative exterior finish.

Fireplaces are notoriously inefficient.  They are located in living rooms and often compete with the widescreen TV for attention.  They are cozy and attractive in cold weather.

all brick oven in colonial house by TBO
Brick ovens are the MOST efficient cooking device I know; they use a small amount of wood for a lively fire and days of cooking.  They are commonly located in kitchens, in or outdoor, or in entertaining areas.  They make food.  AND they cost almost exactly the same as any comparative fireplace design.

Entire room w/oven by TBO
Locating a brick oven in a kitchen or entertaining area creates a natural focal point.  The fireplace, often seen as the place to sit in front of on a cold night, has slowly become obsolete.  Brick ovens brings the gathering into an eating area and if you are making food, it becomes an ongoing place of activity, even participation.

TBO oven in Art Deco loft

Monday, May 2, 2016

To Steel or Not to Steel?

I do not use steel in the construction of my brick ovens.

Some oven designs, like sprung arch vaults and of course the metal wood-fired ovens that roll around your patio, require steel to contain the structure.

Given that a brick oven will last as long as the brick lasts (in many cases hundreds of years), why would a necessary component be made of steel which can corrode or distort under the strain of firings?

Why not use the strength of the arch and force of gravity?

The engineering for buttresses and domes is very old.  The Roman aqueducts and the vaulted churches of the middle ages are testament to the strength of well-placed arches and buttresses.  There are many structures older than three thousand years.  The ovens of Pompeii are a couple of thousand years old.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

California Brick Oven and Wine Cellar

Some years back I built a brick oven and wine cellar in southern California.  I had the wonderful experience of working with Latino masons (U.S. citizens) on the wine cellar I designed in the hillside where a concrete tool shed had been.

Wine Cellar before door (veranda on top)

St. Charles MO oven and Charcuterie

As often happens when I go far from home to design and build, local masons are invaluable as both assistants and capable master masons for parts of the project that are within their experience.

I've done this with the ovens in California, Missouri, and West Virginia.

Then years go by.  When I see the ovens in action, I recognize nearly every stone that I placed even though I am not present for the food cooked.