We last left off with the first curing fire. I did several
small fires and then they started to get a little bit bigger. I have a
temperature gun and I was keeping track of the inside and outside temperature
of the oven. As the fires progressed you could see the color of the top of the
oven change as the refractory concrete lost water. During one fire, the outside
dome temperature was in the low 200 degree range and steam was visible. There was
actually a low hissing sound too.
On Sunday, I started with a small fire and slowly built it
up. I noticed a little bit of steam leaving the oven, but not much. After an
hour or two, only one spot on the wall had a little steam still coming out of
the concrete. The weather wasn’t bad so I went ahead with the insulation
planning to do this steaming spot last. When I got the board insulation for
under the oven floor, I also picked up two boxes of ceramic blanket. The
blankets were rolled up like a sleeping bag in the boxes. Each blanket was 1
inch thick, 2 feet wide and 25 feet long. Through an absurd amount of
estimating, re-estimating and estimate checking, I calculated that 2 rolls
should give me 3 inches of insulation around the oven. I had read that this can
be nasty, itchy stuff. I was as covered up as I could be – long pants, crummy
work jacket zipped up all the way, gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask.
The first layer was the learning layer. I probably made too
many cuts, used smaller pieces and generally made a little bit of a mess. Once
that layer was on, I saw how I could cover most of the oven with 3 bigger
pieces and then fill in the missed spaces with trimmings. It worked out pretty
well. I got three inches of insulation around the dome and a little bit of
scrap in case I need to fill some extra space when making the oven door – the
current oven door is a stack of bricks.
Sunday night at 8:00 the dome temperature was just under 450 degrees. I
stacked the brick door up and left everything uncovered for the night since the
weather was supposed to be cold but precipitation free. Monday morning, the
temperature was about 320. Not bad.
On Martin Luther King Day (1/16/17), I started another fire
and was able to get the inside oven temperature to hold around 600
Around 3:30, I used a scrap
piece of 2x4 to move all the coals from the center of the oven toward the left
side of the oven.
I added another small
log and kept the fire going. The right side of the oven was holding in the mid
600s. Around 4:00, I soaked a crummy towel with water and used a garden rake to
clean the ash off the oven floor not covered with coals and burning logs.
You remember the Puffy Shirt episode of Seinfeld? The other
story line in the episode is George getting a job as a hand model. Toward the
end of the episode everything is going right for George and in his excited
happiness he exclaims, “I’m busting, Jerry! Busting!”
Just after 4:30, I slid a pizza into the oven. I was busting.
I made 8 pizzas. They were pretty good. I am confident they will
get better. My usual dough came out a little crisper too. I’ll have to mess
around with the hydration to see what that does. Also, I should have gotten the
dough a little warmer before I stretched it. All in all, a good first run. No
one left hungry.
Apple Pie dessert pizza cooking and finished
I left the oven door open so it could cool off before I
covered everything up. The dome temperature this morning was about 250. Not
quite cool enough to close everything up, but precipitation is in the forecast.
I’ve got everything covered except the door of the oven. The canopy should be
enough protection until the oven cools to ambient temperature. Now I’ve got to
figure out how to build a permanent enclosure.
About 24 hours later, I’m still busting.