slope of hearth
Another wierd thing my mason did was build a slight slope to the rear left corner of the dome. He did this because he said it was a traditional addition he learned from watching other ovens built. He said the reason is really for final fire placement. It allows for the ashe and firewood to stay in one place while fireing and cooking. I know there are tools for this now and various guards. Again I questioned this and he just told me to trust him.
Do you have photos? I haven't heard that one, but I'm sure it will work. As they say, it isn't rocket science. Still, I would recommend a symmetrical dome -- if nothing else, you can put the fire on either side.
Ill see if I can get one. The dome will still be symetric. He just might have to cut a tiny bit of brick in the front sid of the dome so that it levels itself out from the slope. The opening is between 19 and 20" or I can soldier 2 more bricks and bring the opening in and make it 16". What do you think?
Im still a little concerned that he opted to use the portland cement mix for mortaring the joints on the hearth floor. I have not seen too many ovens built that way because of the thermal expansion.
I think the 19" opening should be OK, as long as the oven size is relatively large (it's the proporation that matters). Our Casa100 has a 39" floor and an 18.5" opening. Some people enjoy having the larger opening for getting food in and out more easily, and the oven should still hold heat well.
I am guessing the portland-based mortar will crack and start to come out over time, but as Robert says, it will fill up with ash and should be OK. If the gaps are large enough to be a hassle, you could use the oven until the mortar starts to come out naturally, then scrape out enough that you can add a real refractory mortar, which will last longer.
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