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Old 07-16-2012, 07:21 AM
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Default Building a Mobile Brick Oven

So, I'd like to start a small catering company in my local area, and I'd like for the centerpiece of that business to be a wood-fired brick pizza oven, which I plan on building myself.

And, I must really say... It's daunting, trying to learn all the possible variables which are relevant, and make the best oven I can make with my budget... (Which is shoestring, btw)

I've decided that a round oven will be best in terms of efficiency and cost, since it provides the most surface area and heat reflectivity for my needs, as well as being the most economical in terms of materials... But, I don't know how the best way to construct this shape would be.
I should also note, btw, that I'd really, REALLY like to buy just fireclay, instead of bricks, since it seems to be much cheaper... Unless I'm wrong? How many pounds of fireclay goes into a brick? And how many bricks should I need? (Design specs farther down)

Now, I know I could just cast the whole thing as a single solid piece, but I've heard that that runs the risk of fractures from the constant firing-cooling periods the oven will inevitably endure. Plus, since the oven will be mobile, and I plan on taking it on the road often, won't all that jostling around also cause, or at least exacerbate those fractures?
Besides single-piece molding, I can also see the possibility of using nearly any other number of pieces as well, and don't have much knowledge regarding which would be best to use... Bricks, if I do make them myself, would have to have molds built for them, which would add to the cost. Casting larger pieces would still provide the pre-made fracture points which are the primary benefit of bricks, and they could probably be large enough to not require any more molding then the single-piece. Or, are these benefits irrelevant?

Which then brings me to what I should actually use in the oven walls...
To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of a purist, and, from what I've reasoned, using nothing but fireclay with a bit of lime for the hearth itself sounds like not only a good economic route, but also provide the greatest heat retention. Unless I'm mistaken?
And for insulation, the concrete-vermiculite which is so prevalent seems to be a good economic choice. Are there any other low-cost insulation ideas you guys could pass by me? And what would be the best way to apply this layer? Could I really dilute the stuff, and have something like 9:1 concrete:vermiculite for more efficient insulation? Or even just no concrete, or just concrete on top?

As for my actual plans, with dimensions and such, I was planning on building a wheeled frame of steel with the oven on top of it. Then, having the hollow interior of the oven be 2 feet in diameter, with 6 inches of fireclay, then 3 inches of insulation then a layer of decoration/water-proofing. (So I'll be able to store it outside, if needs be.)
The slab on the bottom would follow the same plan, with maybe a little more insulation, and something else I thought of...
What if, instead of just making it a cylinder, what if I sloped the sides inward, like an up-side down trapezoid? But as a cylinder.

It would probably help if I drew up a plan, but I figured just describing it should be enough.
Any comments or questions, or really just any relevant info would be nice.
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  #2  
Old 07-16-2012, 11:55 PM
brickie in oz's Avatar
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Default Re: Building a Mobile Brick Oven

Quote:
Originally Posted by abculatter_2 View Post

that I'd really, REALLY like to buy just fireclay, instead of bricks, since it seems to be much cheaper...

Bricks, if I do make them myself, would have to have molds built for them, which would add to the cost.
It been disused before about making your own fire bricks, its more expensive and not worth the effort.

As for your other questions, are you sure youve read the the posts on this forum because you have some really weird ideas that are not the consensus here?
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  #3  
Old 07-17-2012, 04:20 PM
Peasant
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Rockford, IL
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Default Re: Building a Mobile Brick Oven

A two foot diameter catering oven? Sure people can feed a crowd at home with that small of an oven because they are partying and can wait around, for a business, you want something bigger.

Starting a catering company is going to involve some capitol, you can minimize that with sound ideas but I would expect to pay 3-5k for a completely diy catering startup business. Is it worth it to you spend 6 months casting fire bricks and building the oven or spending a little more and get your business rolling faster. The amount of money you will save gives you some greatly diminishing returns at some point.
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Old 07-19-2012, 06:17 PM
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Default Re: Building a Mobile Brick Oven

Quote:
Originally Posted by brickie in oz View Post
It been disused before about making your own fire bricks, its more expensive and not worth the effort.

As for your other questions, are you sure youve read the the posts on this forum because you have some really weird ideas that are not the consensus here?
Not many, I figured I read and knew enough that I could just throw this out first and then I'd get more personalized responses as I read the rest of the forum, but apparently I didn't know as much as I thought...

Quote:
A two foot diameter catering oven? Sure people can feed a crowd at home with that small of an oven because they are partying and can wait around, for a business, you want something bigger.
I figured that pizzas will only be in the oven for a few minutes, and can feed quite a few people, so it wouldn't be that big of a problem... But I suppose thinking about it, yeah, I would need to be making more then that, especially since I'd like to be able to offer both by-the-slice and whole pizzas...

Quote:
Starting a catering company is going to involve some capitol, you can minimize that with sound ideas but I would expect to pay 3-5k for a completely diy catering startup business. Is it worth it to you spend 6 months casting fire bricks and building the oven or spending a little more and get your business rolling faster. The amount of money you will save gives you some greatly diminishing returns at some point.
How would it be 3-5k? The oven shouldn't be more then $500, though since I have to make it bigger then MAYBE it would be $750, but really probably the most expensive part of the entire thing would be the steel frame...
I don't need a permanent kitchen for selling at a stand, just somewhere inspector-certified where I can mix and store my dough, as well as store my ingredients. Rental kitchen rates are generally around $10 an hour, and I've found a place with that AND free storage, and they accept ingredient shipments so I can buy wholesale and in-bulk. Though, it's kinda far away...
It shouldn't take me more then an hour or two to mix pizza dough, cut veggies, and grate cheese.
It might, however, take awhile to make my own sauces, which is something I'd like to do, plus there's the meats to cook beforehand as well...
Another option is to find some place like a church, which has a certifiable kitchen I could use, and offer to bake bread for communion, and give discounts for other baking services for breakfasts and events and such.
I'll probably have to buy a chest refrigerator for dough, and maybe another for other ingredients. (Which are kinda expensive...) Though, the free stuff and discounts should equal about the same as the cost of renting a kitchen.

Depending on whether or not one of the cars I have access to now are up to the task of hauling so much weight on a regular basis, I MIGHT have to buy a car specifically for the business... That would be a pretty significant chunk of cash, even with the cost broken down into years of payments... Plus, there's always the chance of the business not working for whatever reason, so I'll want to avoid this... Though, it may be a requirement, and could in and of itself easily raise the start-up cost a thousand or two dollars...

Besides that, though, there's ingredients, which shouldn't be more then a few hundred dollars, especially since this is a pretty nice agricultural area, and I plan on farmer's markets being my primary location, so I should get plenty of exposure to farmers, and I'm sure they'd LOVE to have a restaurant as a patron... And flour's really cheap as well.
I should be able to recruit my brother and/or sister to be cashier, and besides that, I really don't need any other employees. They'll probably need food handler's licenses, and I most certainly will need those as well...

But anyway, yeah, I didn't know that making my own bricks would necessitate 6 months of... would that be drying? Curing? I'm not really sure...
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:11 PM
david s's Avatar
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Default Re: Building a Mobile Brick Oven

Anything larger than a 2 ft int. diam oven will probably require a four wheeled trailer, with brakes and a V8 to tow it. My little 21" mobile is easy to haul and is extremely fuel efficient, comfortable to cater for parties up to about 30 or so, but if I wanted to do mobile catering for bigger crowds I'd be looking for something about 3ft int diam.in which case you'll need 2or 3 people prepping for you and maybe another to handle the money. Visit your local authority to find out what is required. You will find there is a minefield of regulations and requirements.
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  #6  
Old 07-20-2012, 06:17 PM
Peasant
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Rockford, IL
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Default Re: Building a Mobile Brick Oven

Quote:
Originally Posted by abculatter_2 View Post
I figured that pizzas will only be in the oven for a few minutes, and can feed quite a few people, so it wouldn't be that big of a problem... But I suppose thinking about it, yeah, I would need to be making more then that, especially since I'd like to be able to offer both by-the-slice and whole pizzas...
The oven needs time to recoup its heat, even though a pizza takes 90 seconds, you need about 3-4 min before you throw another pie in that spot otherwise you will see your floor temp dropping and pizza will take longer to bake and turn out much more crunchy.

Wood fire pizza isn't typically a by-the-slice business, the pizzas need to be fairly small to cook properly and only serve one or two people, I can eat two or three of them in an evening.

Cooking for friends at a party and having a business are very different, friends are having a good time either way, customers need their food as quickly as possible. Plus the throughput of your oven will determine the profitability of your business. There is a guy locally who has a FB oven on a professional trailer, his is 48" and his oven is a massive limitation for his business, he is completely maxed out at every event.


Quote:
Originally Posted by abculatter_2 View Post
How would it be 3-5k? The oven shouldn't be more then $500, though since I have to make it bigger then MAYBE it would be $750, but really probably the most expensive part of the entire thing would be the steel frame...
I don't need a permanent kitchen for selling at a stand, just somewhere inspector-certified where I can mix and store my dough, as well as store my ingredients. Rental kitchen rates are generally around $10 an hour, and I've found a place with that AND free storage, and they accept ingredient shipments so I can buy wholesale and in-bulk. Though, it's kinda far away...
It shouldn't take me more then an hour or two to mix pizza dough, cut veggies, and grate cheese.
It might, however, take awhile to make my own sauces, which is something I'd like to do, plus there's the meats to cook beforehand as well...
Another option is to find some place like a church, which has a certifiable kitchen I could use, and offer to bake bread for communion, and give discounts for other baking services for breakfasts and events and such.
I'll probably have to buy a chest refrigerator for dough, and maybe another for other ingredients. (Which are kinda expensive...) Though, the free stuff and discounts should equal about the same as the cost of renting a kitchen.
It is good that you are thinking these things through, yes there are ways to make it viable, not ideal by any means but viable by renting kitchen space or using a church. I am in the same boat as you, however, my church has a certified kitchen 5 min from my house and I already am sick of the process of using someone else's space, they let me store there as well.

The tools for the oven alone will set you back a few hundred bucks, then you have all of your wares for the business ect. You will likely need a workspace, three sinks, hot water and a covered area for your prep as a minimum. Your oven will need a proper trailer to pull it, have you checked on the prices of steel to build your stand? How about insulation? I have only seen ONE person successfully build a BRICK oven to be mobile on a trailer. Most of them are modular or they start falling apart after a few trips, successfully deploying a real brick oven that is mobile requires very sound planning and proper execution. This is not something done with pennies, you would be surprised where your money starts going. Then you need to talk to the powers that be and see what hoops you need to jump through to get certified.

Like I said, you can spend forever and source everything for cheap, or save a little money and do things properly from the get go.

I took some of my last bonus and invested in my modular oven, so far I have about $2700 in the whole setup and I still am not done yet. But when I am done, I will have a cast modular 48" dome oven that is extremely will insulated and take the rigors of catering use and transportation.
Quote:
Originally Posted by abculatter_2 View Post
Depending on whether or not one of the cars I have access to now are up to the task of hauling so much weight on a regular basis, I MIGHT have to buy a car specifically for the business... That would be a pretty significant chunk of cash, even with the cost broken down into years of payments... Plus, there's always the chance of the business not working for whatever reason, so I'll want to avoid this... Though, it may be a requirement, and could in and of itself easily raise the start-up cost a thousand or two dollars...

Besides that, though, there's ingredients, which shouldn't be more then a few hundred dollars, especially since this is a pretty nice agricultural area, and I plan on farmer's markets being my primary location, so I should get plenty of exposure to farmers, and I'm sure they'd LOVE to have a restaurant as a patron... And flour's really cheap as well.
I should be able to recruit my brother and/or sister to be cashier, and besides that, I really don't need any other employees. They'll probably need food handler's licenses, and I most certainly will need those as well...

But anyway, yeah, I didn't know that making my own bricks would necessitate 6 months of... would that be drying? Curing? I'm not really sure...
Try actually building it and let me know when you finish, you would be amazed at how the time can drag on. Sure you could have a pro do it in a few days but doing it yourself involves a lot of learning along every step of the way, learning takes time, re-doing things takes time, not re-doing things when they need re-done takes even more time down the road.

Last edited by clg763; 07-20-2012 at 06:32 PM.
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Old 07-20-2012, 07:00 PM
david s's Avatar
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Default Re: Building a Mobile Brick Oven

If you want to go cheap how about getting some firebricks for a floor, approach the church and build a cob oven for next to nothing. That way you can learn how to operate it and the church gets a free oven that they could use as well. Once you've done that then you'll be confident enough to take the next step.
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  #8  
Old 07-21-2012, 10:13 AM
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Default Re: Building a Mobile Brick Oven

@clg: Thanks for that post, sounds like you do know what you're doing... I would be very interested in learning more about the actual engineering and such which is required, if you don't mind, though I should probably read through more threads in this forum first...

And, btw, for the steel, I would like to be able to attach a price to it, but I just don't know what to look for, nor where...
Insulation I just haven't looked into prices yet, though I'll go ahead and do that now.

I should also probably look into a job first, since this sounds like it's going to be a learning curve, with an uncertain ending and yield, so getting a loan to do it would likely be a bad idea... (And probably impossible, anyway)

@david: Now, there's a good idea! I think I might just do that first...
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