Old 10-11-2009, 11:41 AM
jmhepworth's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Kaysville, Utah
Posts: 291
Default Re: More efficient brick cuts

Don't overlook the possibility of just using the string method. Following Ken's example, I took a piece of 1/4 inch plywood about 15 inches wide and long enough to go from the front of the oven to the back, found what would be the center point in the oven and poked a hole through that. I pushed a string through the hole and tied a washer to the string. Then I laid the plywood down on the floor of the oven, making sure the string was centered and tied a knot at 21 inches (for a 42 inch oven). I put some heavy pavers on the plywood to hold it in place. Then for each course I pulled the string tight. The knot told me where the top of the front of the brick was supposed to be, and the string told me what the angle of the brick was supposed to be. I used wedges at first to keep the bricks in place but quickly figured out that the mortar was both stiff and sticky enough to hold the bricks in place without the wedges. I used Heat Stop 50, so someone who used another mortar might have a different opinion. I was surprised that I never needed to support any of the bricks. In the ebook, James says finishing the oven without a form or without support is hard. I didn't find it to be. As the bricks got closer to vertical I went down to 1/3s instead of halfs, so they didn't slide as much, and I held them in place for a bit longer (sometimes as much as a minute) until the mortar set up enough to hold them. When I build my next oven I will probably use the string method again, although I readily admit to intense jealousy over the really clean, symmetrical look that the indispensable tool gives.

For me the bigger challenge was trimming the inside edges of the bricks to avoid those tall isosceles triangles between the bricks. I used the HF wet saw to trim almost all of the bricks, nipping off the edge at an angle to make the face of the brick into more of a trapezoid. I wish I had pictures of that to share, but I was busy cutting and only took pictures after I got things done.

The most important thing I could stress is that if I could do this anyone can. I make my living on my butt, and have very little experience with masonry. But I'm willing to read and learn. There's no better place to learn than on this site, and by diving in and making mistakes.

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Old 10-13-2009, 12:20 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Concord, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 23
Default Re: More efficient brick cuts

kebwi -
No, I knew I couldn't cut the same distance as 1/2 the radius because of what you describe - but the blade is 10" and I thought I met get away cutting 4 1/2"...but it appears the tank is only 3" deep... I'll have to mock up a firebrick and try it just to see how far it will cut...

Joe -
thanks for the info.... I've been impressed with Ken's "Old Kentucky Dome" since I first started lurking here on this forum.... and will definitely consider the string method... I'm just not sure at this point which method I'll use....
I also love the look you get with bricks properly set using the indispensible tool...but I love the simplicity you've described... (I believe in the K.I.S.S. theory - keep it simple stupid)
Oh well.... it's getting too cold here to build my dome, (unless we run into a spell of warmer "Indian Summer" weather), so I guess I'll have some time to make a decision...
I'm off now to research the problem of the isosceles triangles you mention.. I've noticed it in some posts... but am not fully aware of what it is, or how to deal with it...

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Old 10-13-2009, 12:42 PM
Lars's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Omaha
Posts: 255
Default Re: More efficient brick cuts

We are talking about the mortar joint, on the inside face ( either side) of each brick, as you get higher up the dome, say around the 8th chain.

Your first few 'chains' are nearly flat, and the bricks your place for the next chain sit pretty snugly on the sides with one another ( practically touching). As you get higher up, the circle ( surface) for the next chain is smaller and more tilted.

As you lay bricks side by side on the smaller and more tilted ring, the bricks which have a 'perpendicular' to the bottom edge, tend to meet at the top corner to the next brick with a triangular gap for mortar. This triangular gap is more pronounced the higher up you go. It becomes most noticeable around the 8th chain and beyond .That is where people tend to want to taper the sides to avoid that.

I took a different tack and arched over the top back and forth. It was not a perfect solution by any stretch, but it still will cook a pizza.

This may not be my last wood oven...
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Old 10-29-2009, 07:28 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: U.K
Posts: 8
Default Re: More efficient brick cuts


Special shapes that tend to disrupt the production line can now be made without slowing the manufacturing process and still increase output of specials. The automatic brick saw will greatly increase the output of sample slabs, which is a must in the brick industry.

For small-scale brickmakers perhaps the easiest step to improve efficiency and save money is to make sure bricks are dry going to the kiln. Then it's possible, without too great an investment, to work on kiln control: following a good firing regime and controlling air flow. Increasing insulation, particularly of clamps which can be scoved with a thicker layer of mud, offers a potential saving without a big cash outlay. Substitution of wastes for part of the primary fuel, and incorporating some fine fuel into the body of bricks can be done on a small, experimental scale to minimise the cost of any failures. Keeping good records costs only a little time and effort.

A radical way to save all the energy used to fire bricks is not to fire them at all! Where fuel is very scarce or very expensive, unfired, sun-baked bricks can be used for many applications provided good architectural design protects them from rain, floods, ground and splash water. The same is true of rammed earth construction. Stabilising soil with cement, lime or bitumen is another option.

Have a nice day
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