One weak spot in the design is the use of angle iron to span the top of the oven mouth. Iron and brick expand and contract at different rates, which can and probably will lead to cracking over time. I'd suggest instead building a simple form of the same size and casting a lintel out of the high strength refractory: Kastite. Basically, you'll be making a super strong giant firebrick. Let it cure for at least a week before removing the form. Three inches of high heat ceramic blanket like Durablanket one brand name among many is more efficient than six inches of loose vermiculite and is soft enough to conform to the curve of the dome.
Once done, make a cage of galvanized chicken wire over the blanket and trowel on three to six inches of the castable refractory insulator Matrilite Believe me, this really, really works. Have a look at Chicago Fire Brick on the web to find a dealer near you. Alternately, contact the local potters' group; they've been using this stuff for years.
Jim can you clarify the hearth slab construction? Are you only using the 4 inch SuperIsol and then placing the fire bricks on top of that to creat the oven floor? That depends on what you're building. An AS oven uses a suspended refractory slab below the hearth bricks as a heat sink. Scott has a formula for a fireclay and sand mix to bed the hearth bricks on the slab. That works just fine. These ovens heat fast but don't retain heat as long as an AS oven. Thanks for the information - by the time I need it I will hopefully understand it all a bit more but in the mean time I will definely keep the information noted.
I looked at your website at Mary G's - a beatiful oven but even nicer bread. You are truly and artisan of artisans at both brick and flour - tour breads are really really nice. It sounds like you have evolved professionally over the years with the necessay experiences to become a great baker and produce bread that is not only beartiful to look at but I am sure wonderful in taste too. I had a really close friend, Susan, who grew up in Parry Sound abot K north of you.
I know the summers are pretty but the winters can be extremely cold. Do you do all your baking for yous bakery in your WFO? Do you have a bakery store front or do you sell in some other manner? How big is your bakery - peoppe and number of loaves per week? I am not being so noisy as wanting to get a feel for you operation. My goal is to learn enough to hopefully in 2 to 3 or 4 years open my own bakery. I have been at the task of getting experience for about a year and a half now and love it. Thanks for the kind words.
I've been at it quite a while. My area 50 miles north and east of Toronto in farm country simply does not have the demographics to support a high end wood fired artisan bakery. Anyway, tried retail for a while and got pretty beat up doing it. Now I do large restaurant orders and catering.
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Generally, my partner, Wendy, and I do all the baking, but I sometimes call in more people for really large orders. However, I'm so busy giving workshops on weekends and installing WFOs during the week in good weather, that commercial baking has been pushed somewhat to the side. The web is a curious experience: Among others this past weekend, I had Tom a member here and Charlynn from near Omaha, Nebraska, at a workshop.
Week before that it was Mary and Cookie from Beaumont, Texas. Even had Ros from New Zealand a few years back.
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Great way to meet the world in rural Ontario. I've found it's impossible to duplicate the loaf volume, crumb and crust from a wood fired oven in a commercial gas deck, although I do make pan breads and such in an appliance with dials. The oven really isn't that affected by cold weather, but I am. February is out, therefore.
I demo a few pizzas, pitas and such, then turn the ravenous crowd loose on a degree hearth. We sure get some unusual looking pizzas think the shape of Africa , but everyone has a great time. Anyone on this forum is welcome to attend. Wood fired types from all over the place, even my refractory supplier, show up. It's a BYOB event. Shoot me an email and let me know how many people are coming, and I'll return with location and accommodation info.
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Taking a bit of time to explore Toronto afterwards would be worthwhile. Stay out of the cheese shops or leave your credit card home. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times, and his self-description as an "aging hippie" was quite accurate. He was a bit stuck in the past and darned proud of it. Even so, he was a pioneer plus guru, and his death has put a large and gaping hole in the wood fired oven landscape, which he did most to describe and populate.
His work is carried on by his daughter and son at www. I see that you're an East Coast guy.
Jim Wills at Mary G's teaches classes at his place in Canada and is extremely knowledgeable about Alan Scott ovens and breads. You can find him here on the site somewhere.
I teach wood-fired oven classes in Sonoma County, California. There are many differences, I find, between wood and gas ovens, but the learning process is the most fun there is IMHO. First off, the idea that the Scott design is "generally" regarded as flawed just ain't so. I've been in this business for over ten years, and I'd like to know who these generals might be. In the last while, WFO building-supplying has become a very competitive arena, with lots of new kids on the block, each one with an agenda and a crying need to be "expert.
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Properly built, both will work just fine. Thing is a round low dome design is more efficient for pizza, while a barrel vault is more efficient for bread. That does not mean you can't bake pizza in a bread oven or bread in a pizza oven. I've used both and built both. The key word is "efficiency," not the design per se. The idea that steam will cause brick deterioration is another red herring. If that were true, why are there so many truly ancient WFOs in France that have steam injection systems?
I've been steaming my oven for a decade, and there's no deterioration whatsoever.
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It is true that a full oven won't need much steam. Anything less, though, and steam is required to keep the crust moist for the first half of the bake. Otherwise, you will not get maximum volume in your loaves. Try it both ways and compare results. The term "thermal shock" should be retired from the lexicon. As for the dreaded suspended slab, Alan designed it this way for a "high mass" oven, one capable of repeated bakes over time, one that would not bleed heat into the block oven stand.
It works, period. The thicker the mass, the longer the heat up times, but the longer the retained heat is available days in my case.
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