Monday, July 23, 2018

Another Pizza Oven Update: Some Progress and a Counter

Looking back, the last oven update was almost a year ago. There has actually been some progress and last week, I made it one of the oddly self-imposed benchmarks warranting another update. We last left you with a topping party – the structure had a roof.

Next up was the soffit. Using scrap pies of 2x4s and 2x8s to have so wood framed into the metal. This was a huge pain in the ass and another reason portions of the framing would have been easier. Or maybe if I knew what I was doing I could have planned a little better. Had I known what I was doing, I could have raised everything roof-framing related up a little bit and then just attached wood to the metal framing in large pieces that could have been easily installed. Instead, I had cut pieces to length, use a router to cut a groove that the flange of the steel could fit into and screw in lots of pieces. It took a little while. Curse words were involved and I only recall one tantrum.

Here's a closer view and I'll try to clarify what was done. The closer end of the wood has a routered line in it so sthat the flange of the closer steel stud can fit in and the 2x4 can be flush with the bottom. The far end of the 2x4 is cut to length so it is snug and screwed into the the back steel stud. I don't recommend this method of construction

I found some tongue and groove pine boards at 84 Lumber in Guilderland. The people there are really nice and I think their lumber is a little better than you find in the box stores. I stained a bunch of the wood with a cedar outdoor stain that was light enough to show the grain. I put on two or three coats. With the steel frame, there was nothing to nail the first board so I countersunk a few self tapping screws to the front steel framing. I cut the next piece to length and made sure it fit. Then I laid out the centers for three holes for the lights. The wholes were cut out with I bit I bought that fit the lights. That board went up (I used a borrowed compressor/nail gun and Joe came back to wire up the lights.

Once the lights were in, the rest of the soffit went fairly quickly. Boards were cut length, tapped into the groove of the previous board and nailed into position – nails go through the tongue/groove connection and into the wood I framed into the steel roofing system (if that makes any sense). Ran into a little problem when I got to the front wall because nothing about this project is square, level or plumb, but hoped some trim work would take care of it later. The shorter fascia sides went up very quickly. That was just cut, tap, and nail. I managed to cut a decent transition to go from the short side pieces back to full sized pieces at the back wall. All that is left there is one last piece to cover up the last inch. Nothing other than laziness is why that isn’t done yet. If you aren’t me, you probably wouldn’t have noticed that piece is missing. 

I wanted to over up the front before a bird thought that would be a good place to build a nest. The idea was to get a 2x6, use the router to hollow out where the steel framing would go and then put it up. It worked for the most part. To help hide the sins of the builder, I cheated a little. One end of the 2x6 is a little narrower than the other end. It kind of hides some of the not square, level or plumb. So that piece went on and I think it looks pretty good.

Next up was raising the counter in front of the oven. The goal was to make a flat ledge the was 1.25 inches below the oven floor. I used scrap pieces of 2x8 on the sides and a piece of scrap roof plywood in front. To over-engineer it and make it absurdly stronger than it needed to be, I drilled concrete screws into the existing ledge and left the out about an inch to act as a shear stud and connect the two concrete pours. I also put in some leftover wire mesh that I had from making the concrete ring around the oven brick. This was the last concrete pour of the project and it went the best.

The oven door is coming along. I made a template out of wood and a friend who is good with a torch is making the door out of steel in his free time. He's pretty busy and on the road a lot for work but the door is coming out great. I made to panels out of scrap luan board. The smaller one will fit into the oven archway. The larger one will rest flush against the outside of the arch. The two panels will be two inches and will be filled with two layers of the insulation board that is under the oven floor.

Here's what is made out of metal so far. All that is left is to make handles and weld those to the outer panel. Shouldn't be much longer.  I'm told when welding with the insullation already in place, it too over 45 minutes to cook down to where the door could be handled with gloves. Successful test of the insulation.

In the mean time, I have been stacking bricks as a door and messed around with a few residual heat dinners the next day. I have been dialing in making ribs, done a few loaves of leftover dough bread and this beast makes a mean baked potato.

Back in June, I contacted a Kitchen Counters Express in Latham to come take a look and give me their thoughts on the best way to put in a small counter.  After the initial visit, I went to their warehouse/workshop to pick out a piece of scrap that I liked (it’s not a big counter). I looked through all these pieces thinking that I wanted something light because the counter in in direct sun. I had taken temperatures with a IR gun of the concrete that would support the granite and it was in the 120-150 degree range. Kind of like pavement in the sun. I picked a light piece and drove off. I got about 2 miles away before having buyer’s remorse. If I went too light, I thought it would get lost in whatever finish I chose to cover the walls. So I turned around and went back. A very nice lady talked me down. Looked at a picture of the oven and recommended another piece. I went with that.

Unfortunately, my folder got misplaced and lost in the shuffle. I called back after not hearing anything for a bit and made an appointment to take more detailed measurements. The person taking the measurements was the same woman that helped me pick a color. Having seen it firsthand, she thought it would still be good. That was Wednesday. On Friday, the counter was installed.

This counter was the next milestone. I’ve got to tell you, it is hard to take a day that could be spent messing around with different doughs and making pizza to finish the oven. I’m already talking myself into finishing the top have of exterior work and taking on the base next year.

Here’s what’s next:

  1. Finish that little piece of wood in the back.
  2. Build a decorative arch around the opening of the oven.
  3. Make an outer protective door with scrap from the soffit.
  4. Put either stucco or a stone veneer on the top half of the oven. (next milestone)
  5. Make the bottom half look nicer than concrete block. (next, next milestone)
  6. Make pizza as often as possible.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Baby, if you ever wondered..

Keeping up with current events is awful. I feel that it is still necessary to do even though it is painfully soul crushing. Late at night after everyone goes to bed, I find odd comfort in re-watching episodes of the sitcoms I grew up with on TV. For a long time, MeTV aired episodes of Taxi once a week some time around 3 AM. It's amazing how much of that show I remember. And some of the bits still made me laugh even though I knew the joke was coming.

What does a yellow light mean?
Slow down.
Whhhhaaaaaat doooooeeees a yeeellllow liiiiiight meeeaan?

Gets me every time. I'd argue the Louie DePalma is one of the best sitcom characters of all time. The episodes of Taxi were thrown in with some Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Get Smart. I'd throw one of those in too once every so often. As much as I loved the old Bob Newhart show when he was psychiatrist in Chicago (the theme some is my cell phone ringtone), the episodes don't seem to hold up that well. And then they suddenly stopped showing Taxi reruns.

But what absolutely thrilled me was when I found they were airing episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. Some episodes I remember completely. And others I don't really remember at all. They are currently starting the 4th season and I hope the wrap around and start at the beginning in a few weeks. I remember a lot of WKRP too.

WKRP...more rock, and Les Nessman.

I think Mother Carlson might have been the inspiration for Montgomery Burns. She's fantastic. All the characters are fantastic. I actually stayed in Cincinnati once for a conference. The hotel was across the street from the fountain in the credits. I vaguely remember having the theme song on a 45 too (along with the them from The Greatest American Hero). What's weird is that I even remember some of the names for the credits. I'd guess that's from always watching the credits because the music to the closing theme is great and ends up with a cat's meow. I recently discovered a long running joke with the show I had missed. While the music and tune to the closing song are very memorable, I never picked up the lyrics. It was one of those songs that the words had a tune but were just kind of there. I thought the opening line was something like, "Head to the bartender something something up tonight." Never really gave it much thought. Turns out the lyrics were intentionally gibberish. This is my favorite interpretation of the closing song lyrics.

There are more. Another version uses "whack-a-mole" instead of this version's "wackamo." Anyhow, if you get MeTV they are airing WKRP weeknights at 9:30. It's a nice way to wind down the day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

House Beer

I spent Sunday afternoon pretty much neck deep in a pool. Occasionally I’d get out, drink a little beer (stay hydrated, kids) and then get back in the water. For the most part, I don’t drink beer that often. I like beer. Buried in the basement is some homebrew equipment. I made several homemade cases back in the day. Some were good, some ended up being over carbonated and turned into what I would call a “beer flavored spritzer.” Some beers are delicious. Plus, hot weather and beer go together very well. Unfortunately for me, over time I have kind of aged out of beer. Some beers make me very sleepy sometimes followed by a headache and others go straight for the headache. It’s kind of like being hungover from one beer about 3 hours after I drank it. The curling club has Stella on tap – it’s a decent beer (on tap), but a guaranteed headache for me. I spaced Sunday’s beer drinking well enough to avoid any headache. I was a little sleepy around 7, but that might not have been the beer’s fault.

Even though I don’t drink beer regularly, that doesn’t stop me from having some strong opinions. For example, I’m opposed to fruit in beer. if a beer requires a piece of fruit to be added to it to make it drinkable, it’s a crappy beer in my book. Corona and Blue Moon fall in this category for me. And I don’t get the current sour beer trend. I still like to keep at least a six pack around the house in case a guest would enjoy a beer . I needed a beer that:

1. I thought tasted good
2. Doesn’t give me an instant headache
3. Goes well with pizza
4. Is able to be enjoyed by people that are kind of into beer but
5. Not intimidating to someone that just wanted a decent beer – nothing fancy.
After some trial and error, I have settled on what I call my House Beer. My House Beer is Bass Pale Ale. It’s a 12 pack I can get in a supermarket. It’s good enough for people that are into beer to enjoy, and it’s not a flavor bomb so people that mostly buy Bud or Coors enjoy a bottle of it too.

Anyone else crazy enough to overthink the 12 pack in their basement fridge? If so, I’d like to know what it is. The right beer probably will not bump the long reigning House Beer, but the it might expand my extremely limited beer list.