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Mahootna 12-31-2009 08:56 PM

Paul's Canberra build
Hello, my name is Paul, and I'm a pizza oven addict ... (chorus: hello Paul).

I don't remember exactly when or how my addiction began. I discovered the forno bravo forum several years ago and have been lurking in the background ever since, mostly satisfying my cravings by following (with more than a little envy) the exploits of the many master builders who have contributed so much to this forum.

I am happy to say, however, that I have not been entirely idle during this period. My own pizza oven has gone through a whole bunch of planning stages - decide on a style and location, ... hmm ain't gonna fit there - rethink the design ... oven too small - move it up the back, ... storm water drain!!! who puts a storm water drain in the perfect spot to build an oven?? Damn you local council.

Then there's the materials. Australia is a big place, and it's pretty well spread out. Whilst I live in the Nation's capital, Canberra is really just a country city of around 300,000 people, mostly public servants, defence personnel and their families. Even with the surrounding towns and cities, there just isn't the population to support a brickworks willing to produce the all essential fire bricks needed to build a pompeii oven. The refractory suppliers are all located closer to the larger population centres - 5-6hrs drive to Sydney/Newcastle or Melbourne, or further afield in Brisbane and Perth/Fremantle. At around 4kg a brick, and needing 120 or so for the oven I want, freight on top of the purchase price was going to add up.

So, even after I decided on a final plan ... err or several 'final' plans, the issue of getting materials always raised it's ugly head. Then came the breakthrough.

Trawling through some local classified ads one day, I came across a bunch of ex-kiln firebricks for sale, just half an hour's drive down the road from my place. With trailer on, I grabbed 200 bricks for just $1.50 a piece. Most have rounded edges, some worse than others, but I should have enough flatish, even, sharpish-edged bricks to form the cooking floor.

With 200 firebricks piled in the backyard, there could be no more excuses.

But before I begin describing my build (which I expect will continue to be a slow process), I would like to express my thanks to all those who have contributed to my enthusiasm for this project and enabling my 'addiction'. I look forward to sharing my learning and will no doubt seek assistance when I get stuck. This should be fun, so let's get on with the journey ...

Mahootna 12-31-2009 09:05 PM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
1 Attachment(s)
Here's a photo of my babies ...

Mahootna 12-31-2009 09:34 PM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
5 Attachment(s)
So anyway, big pile of bricks, no more excuses.

This build will be a part of a wider backyard redesign. We got sick of weeding the sparse lawn that we couldn't keep in good condition due to water restrictions. So out goes the grass, in go some raised beds and a series of paths.

After quite a bit of digging, I built some formwork and bought some reinforcing mesh. This I cut up and turned into a shaped box type arrangement. The slab was 15cm (6 inch) thick and the box shape means there is metal about one inch from the bottom and going up to about one inch from the surface. We've decided on a corner type slab with a bench to the left.

Unfortunately, we have fairly restricted access into the backyard, so couldn't be certain we'd get a mixer in to do the heavy work. Instead we opted for the handraulic method, using a plastic shell pool, bucket, hoe and shovel. In hindsight, I DO NOT recommend trying this. The wife and I started at around 7 one morning with the intention of getting it done before the day got too hot. Eleven 20kg bags of cement, mixed one at a time with four times the sand/gravel volume, by hand. It took much longer than I expected because I found I had to mix the dry ingredients thoroughly before adding water, then mixing all over again. Very heavy work. We finished a little after 1pm as the temperature rose to around 35 Celsius, a little sunburnt, quite a bit dehydrated (despite our best efforts), and also somewhat lime-burnt around the fore-arms. It really didn't take much exposure to my lily-white, office-worker arms to make the skin red raw. Will most certainly be trying a little harder to get a mixer into the backyard for the next concreting stages.

Some progress photos attached. Yes, you can see how long it has been between stages by the height of the corn plants.

Mahootna 12-31-2009 09:42 PM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
5 Attachment(s)
... and some more photos ...

The mesh box went in once I got the hole about half filled. Then I pushed it down, levelled it and covered it over. The finished slab ain't real pretty. We were too wrecked from mixing to do much smoothing. Just made sure it was flat and level and didn't have too many holes in it. I figure I will just cover over the the shoddy work with a bit of render once the oven is done.

cook21 12-31-2009 09:51 PM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
Great work Mahootna i will be following your progress i to am new here and doing some research on diy wfo . I am amazed how many aussie's on this forum ohohoh :-)

david s 12-31-2009 10:56 PM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
Have you checked with your local council? Ours require 1.5m inside any boundary fence. By the look of your pics it seems pretty close to your neighbour's fence.

DaveW 01-02-2010 05:48 AM

Re: Paul's Canberra build

Originally Posted by Mahootna (Post 75645)
... and some more photos ...

We were too wrecked from mixing. . .

Judging from the looks of your helper in the "Filling the bucket" photo, I'd say more than a little dehydrated.

Looks great.

nissanneill 01-02-2010 04:23 PM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
Hi Paul,
great to see another Aussie getting into it.
Take it easy especially in this hot dry weather that we are having and likely to get again next week.
Don't knock yourself about other wise you might not get it finished. and end up like your mate.

Judging from the looks of your helper in the "Filling the bucket" photo, I'd say more than a little dehydrated.
There is always numerous ways to do and get a job done. Always elect for the smart way rather than the hard way!


... storm water drain!!! who puts a storm water drain in the perfect spot to build an oven?? Damn you local council.
Today, (I'm not sure about Canberra Council) but over here you can build over an easement however, should they have to get to it for changes, then it is at your expense, but how often do they come in and dig it up. Make it so that it can be moved with the right equipment and the contractors certainly have access to that. Also, the materials that they use in the easements are much better and have processes that reduce the maintenance that once used to plague the home owner.
Don't necessarily change your plans from your 'ideal setup' for something 'alternative' just because of the circumstances, work with and around them.
Happy building.


brung99 07-17-2011 03:26 AM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
Hi Paul,

We haven't had any progress updates from you in a while. I was wondering how your build is going and would love to see some photo's.



Mahootna 07-18-2011 02:26 AM

Re: Paul's Canberra build
Ok, I shall post some more photos over the next couple of days. Been a tad busy lately. The reason(s) should come clear as you read on.

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