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Help, need advice!!

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  • Help, need advice!!

    Hello fellow brick oven enthusiast, my name is Mark I?m from Michigan but I currently reside in the Dominican Republic more specifically Santiago. I have always enjoyed taste of wood oven pizza and the art of cooking which has led me here to start my own restaurant. I recently came a crossed the Forno bravo website and was pleasantly surprised to discover a group of intelligent people who share the love of all things tasty. Even though I am an experienced chef, I must profess I am not the greatest builder in the world and recognizing that weakness I have asked a friend of mine who is a civil engineer to help me in the process. That being said I have a few questions that may seem silly to all those experienced in the art of wood oven building so please bare with me.

    1.The local brick supplier here only sells a light red fire brick not the ones I see so often in the websites or photos from the forum. I asked him if it was a fire brick and it is indeed not to mention it matches the texture and weight description I have read about in other threads. He stated that he uses that exact brick in his ovens where he makes the bricks . Does that make sense? And if so does that sound the kind of brick I should be using in my oven? I have to be very careful buying materials here because sometimes people like to sell junk. They look right and feel right but sense there is very few brick ovens in this country I am not sure what exactly he uses those fire bricks for whether it is for fireplaces or other things and I need to make sure that type of brick will work for a wood fired oven. Can anyone help me? I have a few bricks he gave me for example purposes, is there anyway I can check or anything?

    2. I know this question maybe very silly but could anyone tell me the materials needed to build a 42in high dome Pompeii oven? I read the oven plans and they describe how to build the oven but a material list is not included. Normally that would not be a problem but buying things here can be very stressful and sometimes I have to travel long distances to remote places to get certain things. So I have to try to get it all right in the first shot as far as purchasing supplies are concerned. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    p.s. Any of those people who can help out a little are welcome to a hot slice in my restaurant
    and a good tour around Santiago!!

  • #2
    Re: Help, need advice!!

    Welcome to the forum, I hope you find the information you need for your project.

    If you have downloaded the plans from fornobravo you can look on page 58 and see a materials list.

    Plans can be found here: eBooks & CD ROMs :: Forno Bravo Store

    You must register with the forno bravo site before you can download the plans.
    Last edited by CajunKnight; 07-12-2008, 11:08 PM.
    Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste
    like chicken...

    My 44" oven in progress...


    • #3
      Re: Help, need advice!!

      Welcome Mark,
      I'm sure there's several people here who can answer most of your questions.

      I have a partial answer about your brick merchant. When he says that he uses the same bricks in the ovens he uses to make bricks that is not uncommon. The proper name is a "scove kiln", one stacks bricks in a specific order to create a structure with tunnels and passages. These are filled with wood and which is then set ablaze. In Egypt I've personally seen where they pour used engine oil and other poor fuels over the scove saturating the bricks which then is set ablaze. After the fire is out and the bricks cool they unstack and restack with the bricks that were inside now outside and those that were outside now inside. And they repeat the burn. A type of kiln that used a similar process but where the walls are permanent is called a "clamp kiln". Regardless of the type of kiln, depending upon the quality of the clay, the heat of the fire and how long it burns one can get everything from very poor to OK bricks using these processes. Where I live, which in Washington State USA near a small town named Port Townsend local bricks were made this way, so it's not totally a third world process. Although it is a very old method or process. Note the bricks of which I'm speaking were made this way in the 1890's and 1900's. So he is probably telling the truth about his bricks they are probably used in his ovens. Is it possible to visit where he makes his bricks?

      Doesn't mean they are suitable brick nor does it mean that they won't work either. Remember the original Pompeii ovens used low fired red bricks. I would guess if the bricks he is selling are soft they would work. A potter friend explained to me if when you strike the brick and it gives a higher pitch sound or ring then it's high fired and if gives a dull thud sound it's low fired and would probably work for a oven. Low fired bricks take thermal shock better than high fired bricks which tend to spall or flake off. High fired bricks are for exposure and wear (outside buildings and streets) and soft for thermal expansion (fireplaces and chimneys).

      An important question: what are you planning on using for mortar?

      Hope this has helped, and welcome.


      And for those wanting a reference here's : Scove Kiln


      • #4
        Re: Help, need advice!! Making Progress

        I can?t believe the response time on my thread finally help has arrived. To answer your question Wiley, Yes I am free to visit the place where he makes the bricks, should I be looking for something or asking something? I tried your method that involved tapping the bricks listening for low or high pitch and it sounded low but then again I?m not really qualified to say which is high or low since this is my first brick tapping experiment. You information was incredibly helpful and informative thanks so much for answering so quickly. So when I return to the brick yard is there certain things I need to ask or look for? Oh I almost forgot to answer the other very important question concerning mortar. I read that I need to use Portland cement or refractory mortar. So that?s what I was planning on searching for is there something else I need to be using or looking for?

        Thank again Wiley and Cajun Knight for helping a novice!!


        • #5
          Re: Help, need advice!!

          Its the middle of the night go to bed you guys

          A lot more people are more qualified to answer your question than I am. First, I am walking the other path a little bit. I can say that if you view utube there are many using non fire brick. I am trying to do the same at least for the dome. I expect some spalling but so what. I hope I can live with it. The ancients did not have fire brick. If the problem is to great you can (or I will) coat the inside with a fire mortar I have seen reports where this worked well
          That application was not commercial however and mine is not either. Fire Mortar is easily made and consists of different mixtures. I am using parts as follows 12 sand. 6 fire clay. 3 portland cement. 2 lime. Your brick maker may have the ingredients

          I would want to look at where the local brick is in use under fire conditions and see how it holding up. Perhaps you can talk them into make fire brick for you.



          • #6
            Re: Help, need advice!!

            Hi Mark!

            Try asking around for a refractory supplier. The Dominican Republic *might* have a supplier; it's a pretty big island (perhaps Santo Domingo?).

            Your bricks sound like the right ones... Ask the guy if they are light, medium or high duty. Can you post a picture of them? Does the supplier know you intend to build a 1000F oven out of them?

            If you are using the oven for a restaurant, you need to be sure you aren't using house bricks. Serving customers pizza with shrouds of brick in it would NOT be a good thing .

            2. ...could anyone tell me the materials needed to build a 42in high dome Pompeii oven?
            Page 58 of the PDF plans (Ver 1.2) has a materials list for the stand and dome. The amount of material can vary a bit depending on how you do the build. I have a spreadsheet that I posted with the materials I used (link below). I don't include the enclosure materials since everyone's is unique.

            If you need to mix all your own materials from scratch, take a look at ASUDaveW's posts. He mixed his own concrete and refractory mortar. He also posted a spreadsheet of his materials and costs. The link is at the bottom of all his posts.

            p.s. Any of those people who can help out a little are welcome to a hot slice in my restaurant and a good tour around Santiago!!
            I'm IN! I've been to La Romana and would love to get back for a visit.
            Ken H. - Kentucky
            42" Pompeii

            Pompeii Oven Construction Video Updated!

            Oven Thread ... Enclosure Thread
            Cost Spreadsheet ... Picasa Web Album


            • #7
              Re: Help, need advice!!


              Ken is right, ask him if they are true refractory bricks. I know what you are saying about being sold a bill of goods, in many places of the world people are more interested in making the sale than in you getting what you want and need.... sort of like a stock broker.

              However, there is the chance that the guy is honest and is selling what you need. Or can get what you need. If however, he is honest but doesn't have true firebricks or something that will work as well, and you can't get what you need elsewhere, and he is willing to work with you and his operation is small enough to do some small "custom orders" at a reasonable price and if you are willing and want to experiment (enough caveats?) You could try this:

              There will be bricks that do not survive the firings. Hire a local kid to bust up the broken bricks from previous firings, grind them to fairly small size. Have the brick makers people make some bricks using a high percentage of the ground up bricks in the mix. The ground up bricks will be what is called "grog" and make for a stronger more fire resiliant brick. That's what potters due with their clay to make it more oven proof. It's what I would do if I was in the third world and needed to make an oven that was going to last. You are not talking many bricks here.

              This may sound absurd to someone who isn't familiar with the third world scene. I've lived in places where you could hire a full grown adult for a couple of dollars a day and so if that's the situation where you are then it might be worth exploring. In India the "pug mill" at most brick yards are people's feet and the bricks are molded by hand in wooden molds. Don't know how it is where you are. Post photos of the bricks and if you get to visit the brickyard, it would be interesting to see that too.



              • #8
                Re: Help, need advice!! The wheels are turning

                Thanks for the insight Ken and berryst, using the fire mortar as a coating it a good I idea. I just read about spalling and its effects and the materials lists found in Ausdavew?s thread is a life saver. I told the brick yard owner the bricks are going to be used for a wood fired over whether he fully understands the concept is still unknown. I am planning on going back there to check his oven and how he makes the brick. I also plan on explaining to him in detail what I?m using them for and the temps involved. I?m going to post a picture in my threat so you can see and maybe make a determination. I have another question, I just read in the plans that?s its not good to use the light red fire brick on the floor of the oven. What should I be using on the floor because I don?t have access to the other types of fire bricks at this juncture?

                P.S. La Romana is a great place but if you think it?s beautiful there you would not believe Las Terranes or Constanza. I have lived and traveled all around the world last count 25 countries and I have to say the beach in Las Terranes is in my top three tropical pristine beaches that I have visited. Constanza is a mountain town located about 5000 feet above sea level and not what you would expect to find is such a tropical country. It?s like an alpine resort with year around low temps around mid 70s and beautiful scenery. In fact constanza is where all the flowers, fresh fruits and veggies are produced, so it?s like a hidden valley of sorts and packed with adventure. The crime is extremely low people are so friendly and fresh food is in abundance. It?s truly a hidden treasure.


                • #9
                  Re: Help, need advice!!

                  Here are the bricks in question; I have also included a picture of Constanza. Thanks for all your help guys!


                  • #10
                    Re: Help, need advice!!

                    Anyone out there? everyone must be enjoying their pizza except me of course!!! hahaha


                    • #11
                      Re: Help, need advice!!

                      Hi Mark,
                      I appreciate your problem with your brick supplier and choice, particularly for your Restaurant.
                      I know I am going against some of the other members (sorry Ken and other devotees), but experience says to explore a suitable high fire house brick. Check out one of the postings that I placed for Russell Jeavons Restaurant, here in South Australia. He has 2 ovens built with 50 year old solid house bricks and has been using his ovens commercially for the past 5 years and NO CRACKING NOR SPALLING!!!!See:


                      Check out the photos in the last permalink. I have put one in this reply. He cooks around 100 pizzas a night.
                      Russel also has published a book on how to build a wood fired pizza oven and has built 5 I think.
                      With that said, you still have to ensure that the bricks you select and use have been fired at a higher temperature than what you will be using.
                      We also have a firebrick manufacturer in the Adelaide hills and they sell 10 times as many solid 4" pavers that are manufactured at 1200˚C for people building ovens.
                      I leave it to you.
                      Sorry if I have confused you or caused you concern.

                      Prevention is better than cure, - do it right the first time!

                      The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know

                      Neillís Pompeiii #1
                      Neillís kitchen underway


                      • #12
                        Re: Help, need advice!!

                        It's hard to tell from the pictures. They are clearly handmade bricks, and hence they look quite different from the bricks in the states. Proper firebricks have a percentage of alumina, instead of silica. The ones that we are used to have a certain look, like speckled when they are diamond cut. Any chance of getting a material data sheet from your supplier? Maybe a silly question, I know.
                        My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


                        • #13
                          Re: Help, need advice!!

                          Wow I am learning a lot from this site and fast. Does anyone have any ideas about what I should use as a floor in the oven because the plans said it?s not good to use red fire brick for the floor? I will be visiting the brick maker tomorrow can anyone suggest a list of the most important questions to ask him? I would try to ask for a materials data sheet but they don?t exactly keep those types of documents here. So when I see his facility what should I be asking about and looking for? I really want to be careful about buying these bricks as I heard those types of bricks take longer to heat up and I really don?t want heat loss or any time of heating problem that will cause Inconsistency in my cooking and food quality regarding my restaurant.


                          • #14
                            Re: Help, need advice!!

                            Oh I forgot to mention if he is willing to make me custom bricks what should I be asking him to make exactly? Is it normal that he would carry silica or is that something I will need to provide? Also I noticed the bricks I have are a different size than the firebricks in the states, what dimensions should I ask him to make the bricks assuming he will make some for me?


                            • #15
                              Re: Help, need advice!!

                              Mark, I didn't use bricks in the construction of my dome (I'm the "Steel Dome Oven" thread) so I don't know what to advise regarding brick size. As to what you should have him include in the bricks should he be willing to try a special order: I would suggest you try a google search of "grog" which is ground up previously fired stuff. Seattle Pottery Supply has some info on their site. I remember that from a project I was involved in regarding slumped glass molds a few years ago. You would be looking for percentage added.

                              What the "perfect" proportion for your bricks would be I haven't a clue. How often does he fire? If it is often and if he is close by you could spend some time (learning a new trade :-) and make a test series of bricks with 25 % grog and 50 % grog and then build a quick stacked brick "test" oven (somewhere online I saw someone who had a five minute oven of stacked bricks, wasn't pretty but seemed to work). Give it a good harsh heat up and see how the bricks do. Won't tell you long term durability but should give you some idea of short term life. You haven't mentioned how much he wants for the bricks. If cheap build three test WFOs (what he offers, a 25 % and a 50%) if they are expensive then build one with three different bricks. Bash and trash, give it years of abuse and accident in a short time. R&D (research and development) isn't always cheap but it can be fun. It would be terrible to spend the time, money and effort building an oven that doesn't do what you need it to do. Venture the lost time doing some R&D and feel good about the project. Oh, and if he only fires every couple of months buy some bricks and see how well the ones he has work. You might get lucky and find that the local clay works just fine. Oh, and I try to practice what I preach... I built my dome and had a test fire(s) before even starting my WFO stand.

                              Check out the thread about the people who tried building a clay oven without properly drying their bricks. Blew up and thing is they knew better, but got in a hurry. Haste makes waste and all that. Wear eye protection!

                              Oh and one last thought... is there a local potter? if so see what he's using for his kiln, he might be a valuable lead.