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SuperT 07-30-2007 07:02 PM

Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada

I'm a 35 year old Ital-Canadian and both my parents were born near Naples, Italy but immigrated over 40 years ago. We live in a little city called Sault Ste. Marie, ON and the Italian, Polish, Ukrainian immigrant population was strong here due to the Steel Industry which employed many of them over the last century. Dad and Mom have owned a local barbershop/salon for years and have managed to instill the heritage in us to the point where, like many transplanted Italians, we still make our own salami, capicollo and tomato sauce every fall. In 2005 the family bought a cottage on the Shores of Lake Huron Ontario, in a place called St. Joseph Island and have been talking about a Wood "Forno" since day one. There are many on the island who have also made them, but from what I can tell, the majority are the Barrell type, fairly crude and finding an craftsmen to help has proved difficult.
Finally after a lot of talking and reminiscing about how bread was made in the old country my father, with the best intentions, unparalleled vision, and minimal building skills, and I, a Corporate Manager with a few high school courses in Wood working construction, decided to do the unthinkable and break ground for what we will call "Porta Fiume"(named after one of four entrance doors to their hometown Alife, Caserta which means "door to the river" - one could confuse with door of smoke)- This will be our wood oven.
We have done very well in my mind, but it is time for me to use technology to complete this labour of love which my father and I started. Here is where we are so far.
-We sunk 5 level 14 inch footings marking where five pillars would sit, sinking re-bar into each footing several feet with enough sticking out to rest sono-tubes over.
-We leveled off the ground (mainly sand and gravel) around the footings and laid a 4 inch 5' x 7' pad with 5 pillars emerging from the re-barred footings.
-We built a suspended concrete hearth slab which is 7' x 7' and 4 inches thick and with plenty of re-bar connected throughout.
We are now ready for brick work, and neither of us have ever done this, but I think we can do it as I have been reading and think the Pompeii is the way to go. Here are a few questions.
-I know my father wants to go as large as possible and with a 7 foot slab to work on, size is not an issue, but I want it to be efficient too. Can I go to 50" or stick with the 42" diameter?
-We got a lot of the fire brick from the local steel plant. They use it in their ovens and sell it to workers. Apparently everyone uses it, but I am worried about asbestos contamination? How can I tell what they are made from?
-Does there need to be an insulating layer on top of the hearth-slab and before the cooking surface? If so, how would I no adjoin it to the already formed concrete slab?
-I have never laid bricks and while I think I can research it enough, how do you apply mortar and use the wood shim to set your chain layer angle at the same time?

Hoping to become acquainted with all of you and share the memories...


SuperT 07-30-2007 07:29 PM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada
1 Attachment(s)
Pictures of me and Dad pretty happy to have the stand started.

dmun 07-30-2007 08:40 PM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada
I've never heard of asbestos contamination of firebrick. Even if there were some fibers in the clay, it would be throughly encapsulated by the time it were fired. I've heard of asbestos in vermiculite, but never in firebrick.

There's a bunch of ways to establish your brick angle. Your refractory mortar, whatever you use, will be stiff enough to hold the brick up - the wood shim is only an angle guide, and doesn't go the whole width of the brick. Some makers have dispensed with shims and just lined the bricks up to a string secured to a center point of the floor.

Yes, there absolutely has to be an insulating layer below the firebrick cooking floor, or you will leak heat and waste wood. Two inches of refractory block insulation (cal-sil) or four inches of perlite or vermiculite concrete. The weight of the oven holds all this down, no mechanical connection or rebar needs to tie this layer to the slab. A notched trowel layer of sand-fireclay mixture can help level things up if needed.

Sounds like you're off to a good start. Keep us posted.

james 07-30-2007 10:21 PM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada

It sounds like you are on your way.

I think most ovens range between 35" and 43" (90cm - 110cm). The 43" precast (or 42" Pompeii oven) gives you a lot of scope for making pizza and baking multiple pans. We have catered some pretty big events in a 43" oven, and the oven never gets in the way. If you go larger, it might be difficult to fire and keep hot.

Would anybody recommend going bigger than 42-43" for home cooking and entertaining?

Also, double check the plans -- you definitely need an insulating layer between the brick cooking floor and the concrete hearth. It is not difficult, but you need to do include that layer. Hey, it's in your blood. You'll do great.

jwnorris 07-31-2007 09:10 AM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada
Welcome aboard Tony, glad to have you here.


Originally Posted by james (Post 13127)
<snip> Would anybody recommend going bigger than 42-43" for home cooking and entertaining?

I have a Casa110 [43"] and feel that it is the ideal size for home use and entertaining.


Also, double check the plans -- you definitely need an insulating layer between the brick cooking floor and the concrete hearth.
To reiterate the obvious, the key word is INSULATION, either the CalSil board or the vermiculite/concrete layer. Both work.


SuperT 07-31-2007 10:13 AM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada
Thanks guys...super pumped to be aboard. I was pretty sure I needed it the layer of insulation and will get right on that. The only people I know around here who have built them are relying on what they remember from the old country, and likely never seen a computer. I have heard that they put the cooking (fire) brick right on the cement slab and mostly build everything square, with mortar joints sitcking out on the inside. I think this design is fantastic and will be novel around these parts.
I think with my ability to research and tap into some of this modern expertise on this forum, I can build something much more efficient. Just have to overcome the nervousnes of never having laid brick. Have done quite a bit with cement and wood, but no bricks...

Thanks again and will reading feverishly to get caught up...


SuperT 07-31-2007 10:21 AM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada
Sorry...last question for now...I have printed out most of the Pompeii plans, but is there a link where I can download them in one shot?


Mr_Steel 07-31-2007 11:22 AM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada

Since I'm also in Canada and have to address frost, what was the depth you put the tubes to also is your slab is on grade or did you do but gravel under it.

Fire Bricks you might want to do some more digging into them, Since I deal with steel everday and have some good contacts in the steel industries I asked about get a hold of some of the brick they use at the mill near me. When they asked what I was planning to use them for I was told not to since during the making of the steel get cantanmated with lead and other harmful materials.
Not sure if thier is any truth behind it or just rumor but maybe do a little more digging into it.


Mr_Steel 07-31-2007 11:23 AM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada
Also the plan can be download but you go through the purchase part of the site and they send you a download link once you check out. Also the same process for some of the E-books.


CanuckJim 07-31-2007 11:46 AM

Re: Porta Fiume-Hello From Northern Ontario, Canada

I'd just like to add my personal welcome to everyone else's. I'm in southern Ontario, north and east of Toronto. I have to agree that where you are, and I am, frost is a key consideration in your foundation design. Hope you went deep enough to prevent any heave. I'd have to agree, too, that you can't have enough insulation, and you absolutely must have an insulating layer of some sort between the hearth bricks and the slab. Today, I posted some information on a refractory material supplier here that might be able to help you out. FB, of course, sells refractory materials, and I'm certainly not trying to take business away from them, but shipping and duty become fairly serious issues for imported materials, not to mention shipping time and hold ups at the border. Have a look under the posting for vermiculite prices.


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