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Can a complete beginner build a 36" Pompeii? - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community

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  • Can a complete beginner build a 36" Pompeii?

    I am a newcomer to this amazing forum community, and am hoping to build a 36 " Pompeii oven roughly following the FB online plans up in Norfolk, UK. Unfortunately I have no building experience whatsoever beyond the odd DIY tasks that I have failed to dodge over the years. I started baking bread about a year ago, and when involuntary redundancy coincided with my 60th birthday I determined to build my own outdoor wood fired oven just to show the bastards.
    Now comes the hard part. I am embarking on the project with my neighbour, who has some building experience, but I am initially overawed at the skill, the ingenuity and extraordinary designs on display in this forum. Clearly we will be depending on the wisdom and kindness of strangers. I shall be following the best advice I can find in the forum and reading and re-reading the published plans online, but I feel I will be learning everything from scratch, and I wonder if we have gone wrong already.
    We have the beginnings of a plan, and a site up against an old brick outbuilding, and one initial worry, have we actually started off with the wrong kind of hollow concrete blocks? These shown in the photographs [Photo 1] are 440mm x 215mm x 140mm and were from Travis Perkins, a builders merchant chain in the Uk and obviously do not correspond to the US dimensions. It seems so strange to be jumping back and forward between inches and millimetres. We have tried to adapt, and come up with the plan shown in the first photograph, which is explained in more detail in the caption. Because space is tight we are going with an igloo style which will have to be suitably coated and waterproofed, i.e. not built into an enclosure. we don't want the oven support to be a full rectangle, and are hoping to have chamfered corners on the edge away from the outbuilding. We hope to use local flint on the facade of the support uprights. To complicate matters, there is a waste water inspection point built into the foundations which we have to leave accessible in the floor of the wood store. One idea we came up with so far to solve some of these issues is to extend the surface of the table beyond the supports, cantilevered out far enough to allow a brick's width of flinting and then some, perhaps by having an underlying structure of wooden sleepers underneath the insulating layer of concrete and fibre board. [This is shown in photo 2. ] It may be possible to achieve the same effect with concrete, I'm open to advice.
    Of course, there is always the option of buying a Vitcas Pompeii kit , or a fully constructed imported WFO to plonk on top of whatever structure we end up with, but, for now, we are heading for the fire bricks. We're not mad are we? I look forward to hearing what you master builders think, and thank you in advance.
    Photo 2.  Travis Perkins blocks shown in pink. Table top shown with wooden sleepers. Photo 1. The blocks on the foundation slab. Photo 3. The site. Another question. Will the fact that all round access is limited by the outbuilding prove too inconvenient during the build?

  • #2
    every one on this site is a first timer, of various experience and skills, plan seek advice from the members and take your time and success is assured

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    • #3
      I also bought my blocks from TP but went for the wider version (215 wide) which have larger cores; they are probably a little better for the task but I would think you'd be ok with those you have there.

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      • #4
        Thanks jonv, that's reassuring, when I see the vast amount of concrete being poured into the American sized cores, it did make me wonder. Is your project finished now?

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        • #5
          i don't think its "american sized" cores per se. over here we have a veriety of CMU types sold (and i'm sure you guys have a good selection as well). CMUs come with hollow cores, they also come as solid blocks, or as in your case "60% filled". nothing wrong with blocks you got, but i wouldn't advise drystacking them as there isn't much room for fill and i don't think that much grout can provide enough strength.

          as to the main question of "can a complete beginner..." - i think yes, if the beginner is motivated enough. this beginner right here is building a 36" Pompeii. I'm not yet finished, but i think the worst is behind me - just about passed above the entry yesterday. my bricklaying experience started few weeks prior to that with face brick for the base. it was very frustrating at the beginning, took several tries to get the mortar mix just right, had to remove bricks and redo. but i'm glad i did get to practice before starting the dome - while homebrew high temp mortar is much easier to work with, installing angled dome bricks is somewhat harder then laying flat. but obviously not impossible

          good luck on your project, you are about to embark on amazing adventure. don't forget to post pictures as you move along
          Anton.

          My 36" - https://community.fornobravo.com/for...t-bg-build-log

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          • #6
            Thanks agrasyuk, I guess by "American sized" I just meant the ones I had seen in all the American build logs. Bottom line is, I should have tried harder to find that wider style with more room for poured concrete. I think I'll take your advice and use mortar between the courses with these particular blocks. I'll study your build log carefully too, it looks amazing and I like the idea of the Argentinian roast - not going to work in our space though. Can I ask a really basic question, did you have to cut and shape every single fire brick in the dome? Some builds seem to have a high degree of precision in the measurement and shaping of the bricks as they go into the upper courses, but I'm not sure that everyone bothers. I guess the answer will be in the forum somewhere.... Thanks again for the good wishes, and we'll try to post as we go.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by wolvis View Post
              Thanks jonv, that's reassuring, when I see the vast amount of concrete being poured into the American sized cores, it did make me wonder. Is your project finished now?
              Almost finished... the oven is done and the outer shell. I still have some more work to do on the base to cover the block work and then it's on to the rest of the outdoor kitchen, but I'm not in such a hurry with that now.

              As to your question about cutting bricks, it really depends on what you want to do. You can get away with little cutting if you're happy with large mortar joints on the outside of the dome. As you go up you will probably want to taper the sides of each brick a bit to avoid a pronounced 'inverted V' that will otherwise appear on the inside. I cut mine to a fairly close fit, but only because that's the way I wanted to build it - it won't improve the performance and it takes a lot longer to build.

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              • #8
                Hi Wolvis, I am in the UK too and based in Essex. I am building a 32" Oven as I didn't quite have the room for anything bigger. I bought standard solid concrete bricked from Wickes and I have just built the upstanding this weekend. I too am a complete beginner, I am having a window bricked up at my business address and I am using the security bars as my top slab reinforcing, I will weld lugs onto it and screw it down on top of my upstanding to tie everything together. I have purchased a Evollution 210mm mitre saw from B&Q (124) and fitted it with a diamond blade purchased from eBay for 19.99. I soak the bricks first in a bucket and they cut like a dream. I have put a taper on each end of the bricks to avoid a large mortar joint.
                i am using heat proof screed from vitcas which will allow for a fairly wide mortar gap, Good luck with your build I will follow with interest.
                regards Roy

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                • #9
                  Does anyone in the UK have a view on who is better to go with as supplier of fire bricks and refractory materials: Kiln Linings or Vitcas, or are there other sources out there in the UK that I haven't come across. It seems that delivery charges can be a bit of a factor?

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                  • #10
                    I bought all of my stuff from Intocast (based in Sheffield) - I found Jim Allen there most helpful. They have more available than their website suggests and no minimum order (which put me off Kiln Linings). Some stuff, such as insulation, I thought was particularly well priced. Delivery of a couple of pallets to the south coast was around 40 due to weight but it's not so far to Norfolk... worth checking out anyway.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks Jonv, much appreciated I'll take a look and contact them.

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