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I was told when I made my oven (just completed) that the pre-mixed high heat mortar was better, but at $100 a bucket, and having to partially tear my oven down during construction (joints lining up.. a no no), so that I purchased 3 buckets, then I switched to the homebrew. So, I can say I know both. Use the homebrew mix. For about 20 bucks, you can make enough mortar for 2 ovens. I feel that the stuff is strong, easy to work with, easier than the premixed stuff ( premix seemed to dry too quick).
homebrew is so inexpensive that most don't do the intricate cuts on their bricks and fill in the big gaps outside the oven with homebrew. Take the time for the cuts. It's fun, you will look back and be glad. Look for posts by a member called JCG31. He has a chart that shows the bevel, angle and slope cuts for each course. Really smart guy. Also, look at PizzaBob's build, superb.
I used heatstop50 which is really nice to work with. There's nothing wrong with the homebrew mortar, though. There have been lots of successful builds with it, and there's even talk that it has far less cracking than commercial mortars.
Six months ago I researched Heatstop 50 and found that virtually no one carries it here in Orange County, CA. I also found that had I been able to source it, the Heatstop 50 would be $80 + tax for a 50lb bag. Incidentally, I ran into a fellow basketball dad whose employer had two pallets of #120 silica sand it was throwing away. I ended up with eight 50lb bags, gratis. Now that I'm four courses into my oven, my homebrew has been nothing less than a joy to work with.
Heatstop 50. I paid a buck a pound. 50 pound bag for $50.00.
I used 4 bags which included a 1/2" parge over the dome which I still say is
sort of a waste and may or may not add to a longer dome whitening cycle?
View my pictures at, Picasaweb.google.com/xharleyguy
I used a product called Darby 3000, a pre-mix that comes in a 50# pail. i used 2 pails and i think they cost me about $35.00 each. the beauty of the stuff is that i could open the pail and work for as long as i wanted.. set as few as 2 or 3 bricks, and close the pail. no clean up, no mixing, no waste. i did not however fill the entire gap with pre mix, i used home brew for that with a grout bag and a plastic float to work the mortar in. i also parged the entire oven with about 1/2" of homebrew. i have no cracks in the oven, one small one in my vent..