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The Brick Arch

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  • The Brick Arch

    A lot of folks use a traditional brick arch to form the entry into their oven, sometime both at the opening into the oven chamber and into the vent/oven landing area. So, I wandered around S. Gimignano and took photos of the brick arch that forms many of the doorways and window frames around town.

    There is an almost endless range of options, with multiple layers for brick, bricks set back or brought forward, bricks on edge and bricks on their side, bricks set on stone, stone set on brick, bricks set on capital. There are arches where the top arch bricks are cut at an angle, where the jamb bricks are cut at an angle and arches where none of the bricks are cut. It's a lot of fun to see.

    Part of what motivated this series of photos was a stack of bricks and two arch froms that I saw at a building site outside of Florence. It felt like the definition of potential. Give a mason a pile of bricks and an arch to form, and look at the great things that can happen.

    I attached that photo to this posting, and create a click-through series of photos for the 20 photos. It's a lot of fun, and some of the ones in the back are really good.

    Pizza Ovens
    Outdoor Fireplaces

  • #2
    unusual arch

    I found a very cool looking arch here:
    Renaissance Man
    Wholly Man


    • #3

      James, Chad,

      Thanks for the great pics, especially from you James. You failed to mention that the wall work, street stones and doors ain't bad either. I'm especially fond, and respectful, of Tuscany 18. Go ahead, make me weep with jealousy.

      "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


      • #4

        Originally posted by james
        So, I wandered around S. Gimignano and took photos of the brick arch that forms many of the doorways and window frames around town.

        As a newcomer to this forum, I continue to be amazed by the sheer volume of information! I?ve just come across this thread, and thanks ? surely a great photographic essay which makes me want to go back there again ? and I was only there last June, staying at an ?agriturismo? mid-way between San Gimignano and Ulignano! I too have photographed many doorways, arches, door knockers and so on ? one never tires of the variety of designs. It?s interesting that most brick arches have the bricks on end, and are tapered. Definitely a good look. My favourites are to be found at the amphitheatre at Ostia Antica ? beautifully preserved, delicate, thin ? just magnificent.

        And don?t you just love the way windows and doors sometimes end up within arches built within arches? (The last photo was taken at Certaldo Alto).

        I?m now definitely going to incorporate a nice arch or two in my design. I plan to use red bricks for the outer veneer which will match the house bricks, and a contrasting dark grey glazed brick, set a little proud for the arch bricks. Pavers nearby will be a charcoal colour, so the arch bricks will pick up this colour ? and hide any smoke stain in the event the vent (sorry) doesn?t do its job 100%.


        • #5
          Those Roman sure knew how to build an arch. And they're all still standing.

          I've joked about this before, but thousands of years from now, when Florida has gone under water, then come back up, someone will find one of our brick ovens still standing -- and marvel at the craftsmanship. (My apologies for the bad joke to our Florida members).

          Pizza Ovens
          Outdoor Fireplaces


          • #6
            and james should be talking. Uh for your info those who live near "The City That Waits To Die" shouldn't be talking about Florida drowning.

            Not sure if you ever saw the doumentary, "San Francisco, the city that waits to die". It starts out with a most excellent shot of the citys Hell's Angels riding down the streets towards the Golden Gate Bridge. It is an engineering geology movie about earthquakes in California. Unlike the popular belief that the state will break up and the west coast drift off and drown leaving the San Jauquin valley flooded and the Sierra Foothills the new beach front property. What will happen one year is that SF and Los Angelels will be neighbors. The question will be is LA a burb of SF or visa versa.

            So for us west coasties the question is did we over build our oven enough to withstand not just the drowning but the shaking too!


            • #7
              More arches

              While on vacation we traveled to Jerome, Arizona - I believe their current claim to fame is "America's largest ghost town". I Ran across these arches. The second picture is interesting because you can see the effects of having an arch and not having one in the windows. We tend to associate arches with vertical strength, the Hoover dam uses the arch in a different way - pretty impressive considering the vast amount of pressure being exerted against it. Still standing strong after 70 years.

              Last edited by Les; 10-18-2007, 07:28 PM. Reason: spelling
              Check out my pictures here:

              If at first you don't succeed... Skydiving isn't for you.


              • #8
                Re: The Brick Arch

                I wonder if back when these arches were constructed was there a bid process? Doubtful. Now, lowest bid price gets you a makeover soon after. Quality work from many of the photos posted.
                An excellent pizza is shared with the ones you love!

                Acoma's Tuscan:


                • #9
                  Re: The Brick Arch

                  Here is a pic of my dads arch for his oven (nothing special). He liked a wall frontage so he decided to build that, still not finished but it does the job.



                  • #10
                    I've recently taken on the task of building a flue gallery and outer decorative arch from a customer who attempted his own solution which failed. My approach is rather different than building in brick units which have three big drawbacks. Firstly the problem of the alignment of vertical brick joints and secondly the thickness of the brick units contributing to a large thermal mass acting as a heat sink drawing valuable heat from the oven. Lastly it is almost impossible to create a smooth compound curve with brick units and therefore a smooth smoke flow. However casting enables all three of these shortcomings to be avoided as the attached pics show. Also the labour involved is considerably reduced. Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1318.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	99.8 KB ID:	435724 Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1321.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	95.0 KB ID:	435725 Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1323.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	125.2 KB ID:	435726 Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1322.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	98.6 KB ID:	435727 Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_1325.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	105.9 KB ID:	435728 The first stage was to create a mould plug from 8:1 vermiculite and casting plaster. Then use a suitable form to create the inside diameter for the flue gallery casting.So far only 3 hrs labour.
                    Last edited by david s; 02-23-2021, 02:34 AM.
                    Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.


                    • #11
                      Next step was to create the flue gallery casting using castable refractory. Then cut the bricks for the decorative arch, insulate the gallery with blanket and vermicrete and render over it, using wire ties in the brick joints to help tie the render to the decorative arch. I was there for 3 hrs today, with most of the time spent dry cutting arch bricks with an angle grinder and diamond blade.A render coat and acrylic fishing coat to go. Notice how using this method you can get a really shallow entry which makes the oven so much easier to cook in.

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                      Attached Files
                      Last edited by david s; 02-23-2021, 01:25 PM.
                      Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.


                      • #12
                        david s really nice work! I can definitely see the advantages of casting the flue gallery, especially for a repair/replacement. I remember member gastagg had his vent area fail and with an assist from you he did a similar cast repair. Here is a link to that repair if anybody wants to see another cast vent.
                        Questions and comments on building the Pompeii Oven chamber and vent.
                        My build thread


                        • #13
                          Click image for larger version  Name:	image_94066.jpg Views:	73 Size:	788.8 KB ID:	435824 I did the last coat of render today. Notice the temporary cardboard around the flue pipe which will be removed and the space filled ,with high temp silicone. The entry is only 9” deep and half of that is from the outer decorative arch bricks.
                          Last edited by david s; 03-07-2021, 05:37 AM.
                          Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.


                          • #14
                            All finished. Click image for larger version

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                            Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.


                            • #15
                              It's a 750mm oven and should really have a 150mm flue. I didn't have any available at the time so went with a 125mm.
                              , of which I had plenty. Because of the generous funnelling of the gallery the draw from the flue is fine.
                              I use a 125mm for the 540mm diameter ovens I build. I don’t believe a 100mm diameter is sufficient for any oven.
                              Last edited by david s; 04-14-2022, 03:57 AM.
                              Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.