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Pompei build in Thailand

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  • Pompei build in Thailand

    Build a Pompei type oven in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Thailand last summer.
    Apart from a couple of places in Bangkok, finding good pizza in Thailand is still a challenge. With Smokey House restaurant in Khao Yai gone, I had no more options for good Pizza in the province, so I decided to get my own. Going through he buy or build analysis, it turned out that building it myself would be about 5 times cheaper than having it build by a local company in southern Thailand specialising in this. Turned out to be a fun experience.

    Took me about a month of work. I sourced all materials form Thai suppliers, except the ceramic insulation blanket which I ordered in Europe and took with me on the plane.
    I had an iron frame welded by the local welder. Choose to make a table based model, so it would still be somehow mobile if I choose to move it.
    Used same firebricks for both base and Dome. Used wet type premix refractory mortar. As mentioned here and there on the forum, it is indeed a struggle to do the bricklaying with it, as it does not dry at all, but adding sand made it just sticky enough. Used Styrofoam-like arches to hold the stones in place.
    Covered the outside of the dome with a layer of wet refractory, which cracked heavily upon drying. i then filled up the cracks and kept it covered for many days. then applied 2 layers of ceramic insulation blanket, then covered with a normal mortar+vermiculite (coarse form) mix.

    it takes about 40 to 50 minutes to reach required heath. I typically preheat by inserting a gas stove in it for a while till it reaches 200 degrees, then proceed with wood. I only use Eucalyptus wood, dry type if i can find some from my local supplier.

    Most ingredients come from Makro, but ansjovies and black olives are taken from Europe in large quantities.

    Produces great Pizza, the best in town, no doubt!

  • #2
    Wow that looks great! I'm not too far away in Roi Et and I'm hoping to start my build next year sometime, still working on the house itself.

    Where did you get the mortar? I found a place that sells refractory bricks, and I'm guessing they sell mortar too, but I haven't heard back yet from my email.


    • #3
      Originally posted by ThaiCapp View Post
      Wow that looks great! I'm not too far away in Roi Et and I'm hoping to start my build next year sometime, still working on the house itself.

      Where did you get the mortar? I found a place that sells refractory bricks, and I'm guessing they sell mortar too, but I haven't heard back yet from my email.

      I got everything (2 types of mortar, variety of bricks) from Bangkok, company called BST. Sales woman (see below) was very responsive, also regarding technical questions.Had the main delivery shipped from there, for additional stuff I had it picked up/taxi-courriered in Bangkok area and then drove it to the province. I found them very professional and fast.
      I have an unopened bag of dry type mortar left, feel free to pick it up. Got some sample bricks left too if you're interested. If you're south in RoiEt, you're not too far, we're to the very east of Korat near Lam Plai Mat.

      Any further questions, let me know. Let me know how you're doing with the build, maybe we can exchange cooking tips in the long run. Welcome for a Pizza anytime.

      good luck,

      BST contact:
      Chanipa Wisitnorapatt
      Sales Manager
      Mobile: +66-95-326-5451
      Line ID: @bsthai


      • #4
        Thanks for sharing the contact info.

        I am about to do a similar build in Loei (Northeast). Most of the brick I’ve found so far is the insulating “lightweight” brick, which might work to protect the base if I can’t find the ceramic fiber board. I can easily find everything I need from factories in China at bargain prices, of course shipping is cost prohibitive, not to mention import issues. Finding locally available supplies is very difficult because many Thais seem predisposed to make substitutions for anything that looks close. Yesterday, I was told, “mortar is mortar.”

        Where did you get the vermiculite?



        • #5
          Vinz - I contacted the sales manager at BST. Their written English skills are great. They provided the technical data sheets on the firebrick (31.88% alumina), and also had both the ceramic fiber board 50mm and the ceramic fiber blanket 50mm. So, with the refractory mortar, it was one stop shop. They're sending the whole ~600kg of material for delivery to my house in Loei for THB8500 (dedicated truck) - I think that is a fair price for shipping from Bangkok given the weight and distance.


          • #6
            Hi Brian,

            Thanks for the feedback. Happy to read that the idea is catching on and each province will soon have a proper oven! We should organize a tour some day :-)

            I got the Vermiculite from a shop called Accent Hydrophonics in greather Bangkok. It's located behind the Don Muang airport, so you'll pass nearby on your way to the provinces. they might have delivery services, but i did not try nor requested that.
            Costed a bit less than 1000 THB for a bag. Its fertilizer bag size, but incredibly light. Made in Belgium or Netherlands, judging from the language printed on the bag. I initially bought 2 bags, but need another half more, so go get 3 right away would be my advice (my oven's got a 95cm diameter). it's the coarse grained version they have, works wonders as insulation.

            Accent Hydrophonics, 137 Phaholyothin 48 yak 53 Tharang Bangkhen, Bangkok 10220. 02-9731444. Mobile 081-8361223.

            I had a total hassle-free and friendly dealing with BST, and that's why I recommend them. I guess they have no clue why recently they got contacted by quite a few Farangs now for small quantity deliveries. I paid 4000THB for the delivery for indeed about half the distance, so 8.5k to Loei seems very fair and in line with what I paid.
            They will off-load it on a pallet near the place where you want to do the build. When I opened the box with ceramic board, a scorpion jumped out, so be careful..

            I had some follow-up orders as I did not order enough quantities initially (mortar mainly). BST would then charge me to have it delivered to a relative in Bangkok by taxi (for 200 THB or so) and that person would then drive it up country on the next visit.

            Let us know how it's going. Any questions, just ask.


            • #7
              Hi All,

              I am living in Khon Kaen and I have seen you all also made a Pizza oven.... I have some questions and hope you can help me.

              I build 1 but that one did not last long. I used ready mixed fire cement from the brand SRIC.
     The problem was the fire bricks did not adhere to the cement so after 1 year it started to crack and fell apart.

              I did build a second one made sure the fire bricks are more in shape so it hold itself. I used no cement to attach the stones so all is constructed by its own shape. The outside I used normal cement (no insulation) to make it look more nice but now, after 2 years, it starts to crack on the outside. Inside looks good.

              Every year I make around 100 pizzas so I use the oven a lot.... (not only pizzas also bread, stew, chicken, pork, etc.) so its my outdoor kitchen ;-)

              I now want to build a much bigger pizza oven... and I would like to make it more professional so it does not crack on the outside and I want to adhere the fire bricks with glue or cement to each other. I will contact BST next week...., THX Vince!

              My questions....
              1. What kind / type (article name) of cement (mortar or glue) did you use to adhere the bricks to each other?
              Vince you used a ready wet mixed version and I worry about this because I had a real bad experience...
              You wrote..... "it is indeed a struggle to do the bricklaying with it, as it does not dry at all, but adding sand made it just sticky enough"
              This sounds so familiar... it does not dry.... and it starts to crumble when dry... the cement does not adhere to the bricks.
              Vince you also wrote... "Covered the outside of the dome with a layer of wet refractory, which cracked heavily upon drying. i then filled up the cracks and kept it covered for many days"
              Again... sounds so familiar... it cracks but did your adhere to the bricks?? Because I could peel the cement away after days of drying.... so it did not adhere to the bricks.

              2. How did you dry the cement between the bricks and how long did it take? (by normal air or fire up the oven)

              3. Vince I have seen you used metal pins or thick metal wire in the cement, why?
              4. I am thinking to use Vermiculite or Perlite, what is better? Vince you mixed the Vermiculite with normal cement was the formula 5 parts Vermiculite, 2 parts cement, 2 parts water?
              5. How long did it take to dry the Vermiculite.
              6. Vince after the Vermiculite layer you used a fire blanket, did you glue this against the Vermiculite or just place it loose?
              7. Vince when you fire up the oven to bake is the oven normal warm on the outside?

              Sorry for all these questions but my concern is that the oven will fall down if the cement to adhere the bricks does not work....


              • #8

                Welcome Khon Kaen, yet another province represented!

                The wet mortar type I ordered from BST was 30AM ('air dry'). I contacted the supplier again regarding the joint size and the answer was 2mm max. Now especially for the arch you easily get 5 to 10 times that size on the outer curve.
                My understanding is that the mortar only sticks properly once heated. Bricklaying was a bit of a challenge,especially if you expect properties of your everyday mortar, which this stuff is definitely not. I cut the bricks so as to make them as much self supporting as possible and in order to require as little as possible mortar in the angled joints. But again, on the outer curve, I put way more than according to specs, but I tried to remediate that by inserting some flint/stone cuttings in the middle of the mortar from the outside. Also made the brincks wet before putting them in place, I sprayed them during cutting process so as to limit dust. This would make sure the contact mortar/brick would not dry out too fast.
                Reading this forum there are many warnings about using wet type. Still, there are some reports saying that in the end it all worked fine. I preferred it as with premix at least I was sure it was well mixed and the alternative dry type mortar available at BST was heat dry only.
                I mixed the wet type mortar with sand so as to make it feel more like ordinary mortar. This way, at least I could build it up much easier. If you get the ratio just right, it really works well. My previous attempts building the arch with pure mortar failed miserably frustrating collapses.
                Regarding adherence, it definitely is a much weaker bond than ordinary cement, but spills of mortar that i forgot to wipe off now stick really well, so eventually it does stick. it's hard to check inside the thick joints, but i have no reasons to doubt so far.
                I'd say there were 4 weeks between the initial bricklaying and the first fire. When i covered the dome with a layer of mortar, i covered it with synthetic canopy for a week whilst travelling. Upon return it cracked like dried out mud. I filled these cracks, them wrapped it all in thin plastic foil to give it a chance to dry slowly for many days. I dont think there is a need for this outer mortar layer, but I had quite some left and wanted to add mass to the dome.
                The metal pins were just a thought of the moment; as the pattern of the arch is 2 parallel rows instead of a staggered pattern and there is a hole for the chimney, I thought it was better to connect them with the metal pin for stability.
                From my readings Vermiculite was better and it is indeed an amazing material (also read about some health hazards of Perlite). Regarding the ratio's... I found the reported ratios pretty unclear. Are these ratios by volume or weight? Weight makes little sense, seen that the vermiculite is so light. If we do ratios by volume, the I used way more cement than the published ratios. also the stuff absorbs water like crazy; even with cement, you can almost squeeze it like a sponge. I did some tests and came up with a mixture that works. I had a nice hard little black looking block, that was super lightweight. You can still carve in it, but it sticks together.
                I suggest you start with the official mixture, then keep adding cement till it sticks and feels just hard enough. I think less water and more cement than your quote above. It will dry and feel strong. I's say it takes a day, maybe 2 for it to dry.
                Regarding the blanket; i put the blanket on the mortar, not on the vermicrete; so: first bricks - 2cm mortar - 2 layers of fire blanket (5cm total) - 2 layers of vermicrete (5-6 cm) (note: also the area below the arch and on the outer sides of the oven, the base is vermicrete, rather than silicate board. I used the silicate board under the hottest part (dome) only). I did not glue it at all, but used some metal wire that crosses the dome from lest to right and back and forth held in place by some nails that I stuck into the outer mortar shell. Then connected the chicken wire onto that metal wire.
                I have done my 1 week curing in this phase up to real pizza baking. that is without any vermicrete on top. Started with candles, then slow fire, then inserted gas burner. All this to get the water out of the wet mortar.
                Regarding heat on top: the insulation is pretty amazing. As said, i baked the first pizzas without vermiculite insulation and that went well without any accidents. I was measuring everything with laser thermometer, but i cannot recall what I measured on top of the blanket. Perhaps 60 degrees C or so. With the vermicrete on top, this goes down to 45 degrees C right on top of the dome, that is with the oven full throttle near 500C.
                The hottest parts are near the arch (only vermicrete there or nothing at all on top of the bricks) and this can reach 90C. the chimney is double walled and around 75.
                The only crack i got so far is in the vermicrete and starts at a corner of the square chimney. I should have build a circular one, but thought square would be nicer. it is, but you are inserting weak points there.
                I do measure 60C on the bottom of my 'table', so it turns out the biggest heat loss is though the floor and not though the dome. Main advice would be to increase floor insulation to the maximum possible.
                Regarding your fear of falling down... both the the arch and dome are self supporting, so it should not fall down, unless big cracks happen. By not cementing the dome to the base, movement is allowed and this helps to limit cracks.
                Mine is under a roof. I noticed with a friend in Sakhon that when outside in the Thai rain, the water is affecting the mortar and it is slowly eroding away.

                Hope that helps. If it's not clear, i'll dig out some pictures which might be more clear than my thousand words above. Any more questions, shoot. You owe me a pizza!


                • #9
                  Hi Vinz, Thank you so much of your long message it really did help me !!!

                  My first dome was not under a roof, my second dome is and its a lot better for sure. We learn from mistakes we made ;-)
                  My first dome was also with wet premix and also had to be 2 mm in between which was a hard thing to do! The bricks here in Thailand are BIG so to cut them is a real effort.
                  Because of this I am investigating if I can use a different mortar, cement or glue.

                  I have been watching a lot of video clips to see how professionals make a dome and they are not using a thin layer of mortar....

                  I will do some more reading and return to this message for you and others to read, it would be good if we can create a good source for people like us in Thailand.


                  • #10
                    Regarding the cutting, I bought the largest size of circular diamond saw. For that, I needed to travel to the Do Home in Korat city, as the tinier supplies shops in the districts are not selling these. Damage was over 3000THB if I remember correct, but the blade cut all my bricks (at least 2 cuts per brick, but more like 3 to 4 on average for the whole project). It's still working fine. Limitation was more the engine suffering from overheating or dust, rather than the blade. I spray the blade and brick with water from a plant spray during cutting. Thai made bricks are large and heavy indeed, but we like that; lots of thermal mass making lots of pizza and bread the morning after!
                    Looking forward to hear from the alternatives you found. Make sure the binding material you use is non-toxic, we eat from it at the end of the day!


                    • #11

                      Depending on your budget, I found wet tile/brick saws at Hardware House in Bangkok. They have locations in Chon Buri and also north of Bangkok near Nakon Sawan or maybe it was closer to Saraburi. Anyway, they have a couple of models in the THB11K - THB12K range. They also have a much less expensive one, but it was being discontinued and I didn't get the price.

                      Alternatively, you are about 200km from me in Loei. If you bring your own blade, you can cut your bricks at my place. Just PM me to discuss.



                      • #12
                        @ Brian.... Thx for the offer I will be in touch with you in the future. For now I am doing the reading and investigation how to construct everything. So this project should start next year after May because then I have time.

                        @Vince.... Thx for all the info !! I will keep all of you updated about the process and progress.

                        If anybody else has advise please share so we all can benefit from the experiences of each other.



                        • #13
                          @ Brian > I have seen your post and photos looks solid! From my understanding you have not build the dome yet? If correct I would like to know if you also will use the 30AM or 30AM(D) like Vince did.
                          Did you tested the mortar if it will adhere to the fire bricks? The people from BST did not gave me any real good feedback on the questions I had... I get used to this.... According to the specs the mortar should be around 2 mm and Vince asked questions about this to BST and so did I. The answer I had was different from what they told Vince.... "you can go thicker" not telling how thick, etc.

                          I really worry about the cement because of the bad experience I had in the past..... So to be sure that the cement is okay do a test before you make the dome in total. Also I really advise you to cover the complete area you made with a roof so no rain can get on the dome and grill. I did this and it really helps A LOT. My future dome I want to build next year will even be with side walls so its really protected against the wet climate here.

                          If you are using the BST mortar or cement I would like to know why you chose this instead of the Portland home brew.

                          @ Brian and Vince... you are both not that far away from me... If I can and if you are okay I would like to visit you in the future. Can you share your location so I have an idea where you are in Loei and Roi Et area.



                          • #14

                            My apologies for delay in answering. I was traveling and didn’t receive notification. I am in Muang Loei, very close to Chevrolet dealership.

                            My line ID is txgr

                            Text me and I’ll send you my address/location.

                            My primary concern was getting materials with rated for high temps and suitable for ovens. I did my own searches, but the communications barrier is near insurmountable in technical matters.

                            Several Thais said I should just use regular, decorative brick. When I explained the temps involved, their response was, “You don’t need to cook that hot.”

                            So, for me, BST was the path of least resistance and really the only option with the language barrier.

                            You are correct, I haven’t started on dome yet. I hope to start in next couple of days. I’ll see how it goes.



                            • #15

                              Do you know Thai name for vermiculite? I thought I was buying some, but it turned out to be crushed pumice/lava rock. I can still use it in my project, but now I want to know real name.