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Archive for August, 2008

Yesterday, I finished laying and filling the concrete blocks that are the support for the oven. It’s now up to about waist height which will make it much more convenient to  load bread etc. into the oven. A couple of working days were “lost” to rain, but we need it so badly here in Georgia that I won’t complain. With this step finished, I lost no time going to Home Depot to buy more materials for the next step – the hearth slab.

Thank goodness I have a truck to haul all this stuff. While at the Depot, I observed a guy buying sheetrock and a door and loading it all onto the top of his car! I offered to help him get the stuff home but he declined. Everyone should have a truck!!!

This weekend I’ll be building the hearth slab form and support. Pictures of that at the proper time. In the meantime, here is a pic of the block support.  Click on it to enbiggen. Yes, it looks and is wet!

Concrete block support walls

Concrete block support walls

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Gettin’ Vertical

Concrete fills the block cells

Concrete fills the block cells

Well, blogs aren’t the easiest things to manage. For instance I made the mistake of putting in a photo before starting to write about it and that messed things up. So, I’m starting again with this post.

Today, I started laying the block walls for the inner part of the oven. It was great seeing the oven start to get vertical. First step was to remove the forms around the base slab. After 5 days of curing, the slab was ready. I still felt funny stepping on it the first time but it held up just fine.  The forms pulled up and away from the slab quite easily thanks to the fact that I painted veggie oil on the boards right before pouring the concrete. I then used some of the dirt that was dug out of the hole to fill in around the slab so that I wouldn’t step in the form hole and turn an ankle or something. I used an old crowbar inherited from Vaughn’s grandpa to pry up the boards. It was great to think of grandpa helping out even if it was in spirit only.
Next step was to mark the center of the slab. I used a chalk line to do that. Easy and straight! Then it was time to fiddle around placing the first layer of blocks just right and making sure the tops were level. I did have to put a little cob “mortar” under the front two blocks to get the level’s bubble to center out. The cob is a mix of 1 part plain kitty litter (clay) and 4 parts sand. I will be using more of this cob around the oven chamber to add extra heat retaining capacity. The mortar cob had been a test “brick” that I made to judge the correct mix of sand and litter. We had a big rain the other day and the brick got wet and started to dissolve. That turned it back into mortar and I was glad to have it on hand.
After stacking the block two layers high, it was time to mix some concrete. The blocks were laid dry. In other words, no mortar joints between to hold them together. In addition, because of my block layout, I won’t be staggering the joints. Therefore, holding the blocks together will be accomplished by pouring concrete into the holes in the blocks, filling these cells from the bottom where it meets the slab and up to about half way in the second row. That makes a nice column of concrete. I only filled the second layer’s blocks half way because when I add the third and fourth rows, the fresh concrete that I pour in the cells at that time will bond with the column of concrete in the first two rows.
I didn’t get all the cells filled today. Got tired and decided to stop. Besides, it was really trying to rain. I covered the top with a couple of plastic bags held down with bricks. Will pour the rest tomorrow if the creek don’t rise. 🙂
Two rows of blocks in place!

Two rows of blocks in place!

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Well, it’s been 4 days since we poured the slab. It’s so boring watching concrete dry. Actually, I’ve been kept busy wetting it down so it will cure properly. This slab is going to support more than a ton of weight, so it’s very important to ensure that it will be as strong as possible.

The other thing I’ve started doing is gathering materials for the next step. I love going to Home Depot and searching out stuff like mortar mix, angle iron, metal roofing and concrete block.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the piles of stuff I’ve accumulated so far.

concrete block mock-up started

Couldn't resist doing a quick mock-up of the oven's innards. This will have to keep me happy until the slab dries

Bricks, Bricks and more Bricks

More than 500 bricks. The yellow ones are firebrick for the hearth.

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It’s Saturday, and we’ve passed a major milestone. The base slab has now been poured and there’s no going back.  Got up early today, ate a breakfast of Wheaties – breakfast of concrete champions – and got to it. I had purchased a very thick plastic bag that is sold as a way to mix concrete quickly and without mess. The initial plan was for me to be mixing one bag of Quikrete in the plastic bag while hubby mixed one or two bags of Quikrete in the wheelbarrow. We ended up doing all the mixing in the wheelbarrow one bag at a time. This wasn’t too bad because we ended up using only 14 bags of 60# Quikrete.  Vaughn worked the hoe while I poured the water in a little at a time. Then we both shoveled it into place. I tamped and worked the concrete around the sides to try to make sure there wouldn’t be any voids.

Here in Georgia, the weather has been quite hot as you can imagine it being in August. I was concerned that the first batches of concrete would start setting up before we could mix the last bags, so we used ice water instead of water right out of the hose. I had saved a big batch of icecubes from the freezer (could have bought a bag of ice) and I put those in a plastic grocery bag and tied the top closed. I wanted cold water, not chunks of ice, in the concrete.  The bag of ice went into a large cooler which I then filled with hose water. The cooler went on the tailgate of my truck and I siphoned off the water through a spigot on the cooler into some milk jugs that I used to measure the amount of water that went into each batch of concrete.  No contractor would have gone to this much trouble, but hey, that’s why I wanted to do this myself.

Base Slab poured and finished

Base Slab poured and finished

Inside the slab I placed rebar along all four sides. After another layer of concrete, the welded wire mesh went in at approximately half the depth of the 6″ thick slab. After screeding the top and letting the bleed water subside, I started finishing with a metal float. I also went around the edges with an edger tool to round them off. Pretty good job for a girl!

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Forms up !

Forms in, with gravel and reinforcing wire

Forms in, with gravel and reinforcing wire

Lots of progress to report from the last couple of days.

 On Friday, I installed the forms that I had constructed earlier in the week. I used 1×6 lumber and pre-cut stakes from Home Depot to make the form. Instead of installing the forms in place which is probably the usual way, I put everything together in my basement workshop. This way, I could get everything as square and tight as possible. I used screws to hold the pieces together suplemented with a few nails when I ran out of the right size screws. We had a couple days with rain earlier in the week and the form sat in the basement where it would stay nice and dry (and  unwarped) until it was time to put it in the ground.

Picture shows the form in the hole. I used an auger in an electric drill to excavate the holes for the stakes. The ground was just too hard to pound the stakes in without demonlishing them and wracking the forms. The drill worked like a charm and the stakes slipped into place with just a little pounding needed to seat everything firm and level.

Final step before pouring concrete was to “paint” the inside and top of the form boards with vegetable oil left over from my fryer. Last thing fried in this oil was scrumptious Vidalia onion rings. Maybe a good omen for future cooking in the oven 🙂  Oil on the boards will supposedly help keep the concrete from sticking too badly to the forms. I would like to try to re-use these same boards (trimmed to size) for the hearth slab in a couple of weeks.

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OK folks – so far my oven is just a hole in the ground. I hired two guys to dig this hole since our Georgia clay dirt is quite hard, especially since we’ve had less than normal rain this year. I had staked out the area ahead of time with puny sticks and string but it gave me a better idea of exactly how big the oven will be. This was great because now my husband believes that we two can pour the concrete slab ourselves!

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Hello world!

Hello Brick Oven fans. As my first project after retirement, I wanted to keep a log of the progress as I work on a small wood-fired brick oven. I’ll be posting photos and talking about the various steps as I work my way toward (hopefully) some of the best bread on the planet or at least in my neighborhood.

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