After a lot of deliberation about what I would tackle as my next DIY project I settled on one that would give me the greatest return over the longest period. My wife was supportive of me finding something fast, as she knows better than I that I need to keep myself busy with something or I end up driving everyone mad!!
I need to say that I like to do a lot of pre-investigative work before I commit to large project. I scan the internet looking for tips, advice or recommendations. In this case I am glad that I stumbled across the Melbourne Fire Brick Company(MFBC) website and quickly navigated to the short instructional videos. I immediately decided that these guys were leading the pack. But as I said earlier, just looking at one on the computer wasn’t good enough, so I went to the distribution centre in Hallam to ask a few more questions. There I was met by Ben and we chatted for about half an hour about their products. I was hooked.
A couple of weeks later I took possession of my D105 kit!
One of the key decisions was where to locate the oven. Because of the unusual shape of our building allotment and the location of our outdoor dining area, we decided to build it where it was easy to access. It just so happens that it is where everyone can see it as they go past.
The base was made from hollow concrete building blocks as per the easy to follow instructional plans. I thought I would modify the footprint by adding an extra half block wide and half block longer than recommended. This was probably my biggest challenge because as I found out the hard way, the form ply comes in standard sizes, and the size of the gap following my brilliant idea suddenly wasn’t standard!! All it meant was that I had to buy bigger sheets than what I needed to if I had followed the plan, and cut them to suit. No great drama…
Working only on weekends and waiting for the concrete to cure, the base probably took three weekends to finish. I even managed to stack some wood into the base before the oven was built. This was because the wood collection area was about to close in the nearby forest, so I had to ensure I was ready for the winter.
Once the base was completed I then jumped into the main construction. I would read the downloadable plans the night before and then watch the instructional videos to confirm my understanding of what the next steps were. On a couple of occasions I actually stopped mid work to run the video again so that I reminded myself how certain bricks around the entry arch etc were positioned. This I found to be extremely valuable.
Over the following weeks I continued to toil away bit-by-bit. My wife would remind me that “it was a project that was intended to keep me busy for more than just one weekend”. I made particular note to clean up the oven at the end of each day to ensure that I wouldn’t have a mess the following day; or the following weekend after it had set.
As the rows of bricks went down I became increasing worried that I wouldn’t have enough mortar; so I started to be over particular with how liberal I was with it. The funny thing was, when I finished the dome I found a whole second bag that must have misplaced; so hadn’t needed to worry after all! The amount of materials provided in the kit are spot on; and where you need to be careful about the use of any of the products, you are reminded so in the instructions.
Another challenge was the rendering of the dome. Not because it was difficult, but because I knew that I was close to the finish line and I wanted to smell pizza. Unusually though for me, I resisted the temptation to put it all on in one go to speed up the process. So over five days (two and half weekends) I slowly built up to the recommended thickness.
It was an exciting day when I was able to start the curing fires. I made sure that it was after work one night so that anyone driving past could witness the event. My neighbours refer to the oven as the “temple”. They are probably right!
A couple of coats of “Classic Cream” acrylic render finish on the dome and my place of worship was completed.
I couldn’t be happier with the result. It was a project that went smoothly all the way through. If it didn’t, it was because you didn’t follow the easy to read instructions; which can bring event the best bike assemblers unstuck on Christmas morning!!
The team at MFBC are a great bunch of guys who have confidence in their product; and rightly so too. When I first met Ben at the Hallam distribution centre he told me two things that were important to in my decision making:
1. As I was tossing up whether to go for the D105 (middle size) or the D130 (large) he advised that he “spends half an hour talking people out of the larger oven if it is for home use as it takes longer to heat up”. Even though he acknowledged that they would gain from the sale of the larger oven, he wanted to ensure that I, the consumer, was happy with the end result.
2. He also said “that while their ovens weren’t the cheapest, they were the best”. My experience has taught me that good, reliable support and information is invaluable. Therefore I believe that I have installed the best product at a price that equals or betters inferior ovens on the market.
I cannot recommend the oven kits made by the Melbourne Fire Brick Company more highly. We will be enjoying our oven for many years to come.
Thanks again for all of your assistance. I will certainly be an advocate for your ovens in my area.