Radial Oven Construction
I’ve been watching Dmun’s geodesic oven construction with great interest as he’s come up with two major advances in firebrick based oven building. The first is the precision cutting of the firebrick to geometrically correct shapes and the second is the prefabbing of subassemblies. These two concepts allow a great degree of freedom in oven design and potentially more precise construction and enhanced dome structural integrity.
My background is in sailmaking, and inspired by the liberating concepts above have started thinking about a radial dome, similar to the radial head of a spinnaker, or maybe more familiarly, the roof of a silo. The surface of the dome would be divided into radial segments the width (at the base) of a firebrick (or a couple of glued bricks) lying on its long side around the circumference of the base of the dome. These segments would be shaped in tapered “slices” much as if you sliced the skin of an orange into even segments radiating from the “north pole” to the “equator”. They would be constructed of precision cut firebricks and assembled over a form. As the segments transitioned from the base to the top of the dome they would “facet” according to the size of the module used (a single brick, a couple of glued bricks, etc.). Since the outer surface of the dome is of greater girth than the inner (by the thickness of a brick) the segments would have a bevel toward the interior of the dome on each edge, which would make them, as subassemblies, self- aligning.
The advantages of this construction are the same as Dmun’s geodesic construction, with a different geometry. Once cutting and assembly jigs are constructed the rest of the dome assembly should be less skill based than a traditional Pompeii oven. The dome would be more “evenly” monolithic than the single brick assembled oven with evenly located joints, and should heat more uniformly. I think that constructing the vent chamber and the opening might be pretty easy with the radial geometry. I can envision a rowlock arch vault acting as both, smoothly joining the dome.
You may have noticed that this idea is currently visually challenged. I’ll get some cad drawings together in time, but invite comments and suggestions.
Is there an easy way or perhaps an easier way or a bit of software out there that would help me calculate the dimension of the panels I will need to make the copper sheting for my dome? What about doing an onion dome? I want to do mine in copper.
Are you visualizing something like this?
There was a pizzeria near our San Gimignano house that had a really old oven based on this design -- though I don't think any of the Italian producers build this design any more.
This is a really good idea
The core idea is that all the angles are the same, no matter how you facet it. The good idea with the radial design is that you could make a low dome neopolitan oven if you wanted one, whereas the geodesic oven is inherently semi-spherical.
By all means post drawings and sketches. Keep us posted.
Re Radial Dome
Yes James, that's exactly the idea, only "hard chined", built out of assembled fire bricks. Funny, I'd thought of building a mold and casting pieces out of refractory cement and firing them in a potters kiln but that's too deep into unknown territory. I want to build an oven or two, not learn the refractory casting business. What I like about the geodesic and radial solutions is their inherent simplicity-appropriate for my masonary skills.
Jan- If you are covering an existing dome with copper, I wouldn't assume that it is spherical. I'd divide the circumference of the base into a convenient dimension (some division of sheet width) draw some lines and make a paper or mylar pattern. Don't forget about seam width.
David- You're correct about being able to squash the dome with the radial method; it allows control of the vertical angle of the facets. You can start with a vertical base course and go as quickly horizontal as you like. Even could do an onion, but why?
Another thing one might want to do is make it somewhat egg shaped in plan view, there might be some benefit in having the fire in the "narrow" end of the egg. But whether that would be worth having more than one set of patterns is questionable.
Thanks for the feedback, guys.
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