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RTflorida 03-14-2007 11:26 PM

Finding oven materials
I'm starting this thread in hopes of hearing stories such as mine about locating the key elements to oven construction.

As you may have read on another post, I am at the stage of beginning my hearth and dome: Slab, block stand, and supporting slab/insulating slab are done.
My first problem was locating HeatStop 50 mortar (recommended by James as a very good substitute for the Refrax which FB is currently out of. I visited and called 8 different 'authorized' dealers as well as one refractory supplier. Only 2 carried it. The first rock/stone yard only had 15# pails would not order the 50# bags I needed, this place also had what turned out to be a very high price on light duty firebrick (fireplace brick as they called) - $1.38 each. Another dealer offered the HeatStop 50 at $95 per bag (I will use plane mud before I let anyone rob me for so much.

Finally, the 8th call landed me a cement products company 50 miles away in Lakeland FL. The have HeatStop 50 at $55 per bag...SOLD, I will be there soon as possibly...These guys were great, turns out they have the exact same firebrick (light duty fron Carolina Ceramics) that the first (very large) Tampa supplier would sell me for $1.38 each at a LOW .77 per brick...SOLD again, I purchased 210.

The refractory supplier was an experience in itself. They 'trotted' out the fireplace/oven expert who insisted I needed the Alsey unbranded MEDIUM firebricks at $2.25 each. OUCH!! Also recommended to products that have been 'ripped' by other members for ther poor results, thos being Super Hi Mul refractory mortar (airset, premixed in a tup) for setting my bricks and another product Greenpatch 421 for coating the dome, another water soluable airset mortar. Even did his best to convince me that the only way to REALLY do it right would be to cast the entire dome out of castable refracory. With nothing to sell me that was on my list, I was outa there...with them sarcastically wishing me good luck with those products you 've chosen

Bottom line...spend alot of time calling and visiting these suppliers, Here in central Florida, they are only vaguely familiar with fireplace building with no clue about ovens. Everyone I called could only tell me they had 'standard' fireplace brick, and didn't know any of the specs. I had to call the manufacturers to get the Temp rating and alumina content.

The only drawback to my 77 cent brick is that they are wire cut - making the edges,length, and width a little off on some of them.
Also, the size is slightly smaller 2 1/4 x 4 1/4 x 9

Let me know how easy or hard it has been finding the right products, i'd like to hear about it.:D

redbricknick 03-15-2007 12:56 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
Exciting times, RT. Sounds like you've done your homework. What size oven are you building? What kind of saw are you going to use? Have you seen the "NO Form Oven" series of photos? The heat stop is a curious bird. Not as sticky as I would like, but a fine refractory none the less. If I had it my way, there would be a refractory mortar which was as badass as Refmix when dry, and as sticky as 1,3,1,1 when wet. I think i'm going to try mixing a little fireclay in with some refmix and see what I come out with. Heat stop dries slower than other mortars in my experience. It may be that i'm mixing it too wet.. Things which have been invaluable to me in my build... Extra sand... Dont want to be caught without it on your slab pours when the Depot is closed.. Rubber gloves.. Turn the left ones inside out if you are a righty.. Vinegar, to neutralize the alkali on your hands after working with cement all day.. Tool"s newest album, 10,000 days. Couldn't have built the oven without it.. Adequate tool cleanup and mortar mixing area... Learned that one too late.. been chipping away at errant mud for weeks now. Decent system for catching brick dust.. Lungs do NOT count.. Wear a good respirator.. Keep your dust and brick offcuts.. You'll find a use for them.. My favorite tool by a country mile? The dead blow hammer. You'll see. When do we get some photos?

DaveHI 03-15-2007 02:47 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
You've got it good. Try Hawaii for sourcing anything to do with a fireplace/oven. I figure just the dome/floor materials + insulation will be $1.5-$2K if I'm lucky. At least you can use UPS ground!

Best I've been able to do for firebrick is $3/each (roughly) delivered to the local freight forwarder. That's starting from $1 ish in California at the maker (Castaic near LA). Was promised an offer based on some seconds sitting in San Rafael but after 3 calls tracing I gave up. I guess selling $200 worth of brick isn't worth the effort for them. Funny since they shipped over 2 samples almost instantly. Seems weird they'd spend $30 to send 2 sample bricks but then can't follow through on the rest. C'est la vie. Wife found one guy who may have some fire brick from an old sugar mill stack. Decided that given all the crap those guys burned over the years, we'd pass--heavy metal pizza?? no thanks. Not to mention they've probably been sitting for a decade+.

No fire clay available, no refractory mortars, no stove pipes -- nada. There is perlite, but it's expensive. I could use crushed lava, but figure the high tech blanket is probably less trouble and more efficient. Ace hardware's website shows they handle the Firestop, but shipping in here turned $50 into $200. And that's based on waiting for their usual freight delivery. Bit greedy. If I'm going to pay up, I'd rather have the Italian stuff. Some hardware stores near Hilo carry fireplace supplies as people live up at elevation near the town of Volcano, but nothing at all nearby. So it's back to the web + trying to finagle shipping as best as I can.

When I get serious about starting I'll have to go see the people that build kilns for the local glass artist. They had bags of Harbison Walker cast insulation so maybe there is some supplier on Oahu I can't find.

Good thing the wife has a good job!

dmun 03-15-2007 06:23 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
I have to say that some brickyard is missing a real business opportunity here. What would it cost to put a hundred and a half low duty firebricks and two bags of refractory mortar, shrink wrap it, and send it to any freight terminal in the country? Throw on top a couple of sheets of insulating board, a roll of blanket, a length of flue tile and two bags of pearlite, and you have a complete oven kit. You could drive over to Rodeway in your pickup, and have them forklift it into your truck, and you'd have everything you can't buy at home depot.

What say you? Someone from the building supply business must be reading this.

james 03-15-2007 06:34 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
FB could do it. We have a good material supply company in the neighborhood, they have an FB oven on display, stock bricks, are a Superior dealer, and Tammy is friends with one of the owners.

Do you think there would demand for this? And, the shipping costs wouldn't send the total cost too high?


dmun 03-15-2007 08:02 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
My experience with shipping heavy things is that the last mile, in a van with a lift gate, is the most expensive part, hence the suggestion to ship to the nearest freight terminal. Since the skid can be taken apart and unloaded on the truck, you don't need street level delivery.

james 03-15-2007 08:50 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
All true. Thanks. Let's see where this goes. I am very interested hearing what other folks -- past and future builders, think.

DrakeRemoray 03-15-2007 08:50 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
Hey RT,

The good news is you did you homework and knew what you needed!

I could only find the Alsey Medium bricks in Denver, and I did a lot of looking and calling around, so I ended up paying about $2 per brick.

Also, the heatstop, after shipping 2 bags from some distributor in Alabama (I think), a place here started carrying it. I think I used 3 bags total, maybe 4. I think I paid 55 per bag but shipping set me back another 30 bucks.

I found insulating blanket and castable refractory locally at a pretty good place, though I ended up using an insulating castable refractory for the vent, and while that worked, I wish I had paid more for the regular refractory castable. I am always worried that the vent and lintel I cast will break...I had a bad dream about that the other night.

On a side note, I grew up in Miami and went to school at UF so I know central florida a bit. My roommate was from Lake Wales...
I would put a lot of thought into how to keep the oven dry with that crazy rain you get down there...


CanuckJim 03-15-2007 09:17 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
James, Dmun,

If my experience is anything to go by, chasing down materials can be frustrating, expensive and time consuming (in my figuring, time is the most important factor). Not only that, but you end up dealing with five or six different suppliers, five or six different delivery charges, five or six different delivery dates, markups and so on. In my case, all that involved way too much phoning, driving, gas, fuming, waiting, getting hung up for missing materials, kicking stones in the driveway, etc. There's a lot to be said for setting up a central source, because builders would know that the people putting the stuff together know ovens and, therefore, know exactly what's needed. That way, a lot of the substitutions, making do, head scratching, comparing apples and oranges, different brick dimensions, varying terminology, wouldn't be necessary at all. Sure, shipping would be something of an issue, but think of the convenience and certainty of not going through all of the above. Also, the sometimes wild variations in prices would be avoided. The Pompeii plans are at such a state that a pretty comprehensive "Pompeii Package" could be put together that could be tailored for individual requirements and oven sizes. Might even work to Hawaii:D . I guess if FB can ship fully assembled Modena commercial ovens from Italy, then assembling a skid of materials would be a piece of BREAD :D by comparison.

Time for another poll, I guess.


RTflorida 03-15-2007 11:40 AM

Re: Finding oven materials
After seeing Dave's plight in Hawaii, I agree, its not so bad here. The products are available...there just isn't any knowledge to go with it. As for a single source, that would have been the refractory supplier, and I still wouldn't have the best suitable mortar...not to mention his prices. Although I think that I'm on an unlimited budget with this project, my wife is questioning every purchase. She still thinks its a big deal and expense "just for pizza"; how quickly she has forgotten our trip to Naples and Capri last year.

Besides the 77 cent firebrick, I was also very happy with an ebay purchase - $18 for a 2" thick, 25 sq ft. genuine Insufrax blanket (still sealed in the box). Should be just large enough to cover my 35" dome one time.

Rain is a terrible issue here in the summer. I will either be sealing the dome with type 'S' mortar (I have alot left from a tile job) then 2 coats stucco OR if my wife has her way, sealed with the type 'S' and then mosaic tile (wait a minute...what about the budget:rolleyes: Still have not figured a way to keep the driving rain out of the entry.....just using a typical door probably won't do it

I'll post some pics now that the 'real' costruction is about to begin.


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