Basque Tour

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The beautiful town of Campo les Bains, France. Note the size of that stone cutting blade!

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More reinforcement images

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Voila

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Major Reinforcements

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Last week I had some fantastic support from friend Eliot Dumont, my Dad, and Prof O’malley. We got Edwin running, did some major rewiring, added some hardware, bolted down the 3000 pound oven, and did a lot of thinking and planning.

I’m currently on hiatus from the project to a little bit of capital-raising in Europe with Marty Jemison Cycling Tours. I’ll be guiding trips in Provence and Normandy. Right now we are in the middle of the Basque tour, enjoying the sea by Biarritz, France. Ill post pictures soon of the cycling side of things. After all, they make some good bread here, too.

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Oven Basics Complete: Laying the Hearth, Building Forms, and Casting

Edwin provides a dumping platform.

Laying out hearth brick, herringbone.

I know I’ve really let my blogging duties fall by the wayside. It has been a very busy month. Work and play duties took me to Spain and Big Bear, CA for two weeks in early June where I filled roles as tour guide and bachelor party guide, respectively. In between trips were sandwiched a handful of work days at the bike shop in NYC. Suffice it to say, I hit a major road block in the progress department for TRUCK Pizza. 

The finished brick component of the build.

Laying the firebrick hearth and first course.

Nonetheless, I’ve made up for lost time in the last two weeks: Today I had the pleasure of ducking my head into the cavernous interior of my new oven, in all its glory. Of course, the oven is but a small component of the project as a whole, and I am painfully aware of my quickly approaching starting date of the 15th of July. That was the goal anyway. I’ve put down my deposit for the lease with 3FortySeven, the retail lot space where I will be operating from. I submitted my application to the Department of Health for Columbia County. Edwin the step van has been delivered to the doctors office in Athens, NY, where I am hoping to avoid bankruptcy as he is updated and repaired for state inspection. I am working with designer and housemate Cara Turret on developing my logo and printed vinyl signage for the truck.

Sam delivers the oven to its new outdoor work space.

Chase Chase. Hanging out with her motorcycle.

But let’s back up. Let me fill you in on the oven. The oven build was far more challenging than I anticipated. I underestimated how time-consuming building forms would be. You see, the idea was to use the firebrick sparingly, and in geometrically simple areas, to avoid having to make a lot of cuts, and to create a more solid oven without joints that could be sensitive to vibration. The alternative has been building plywood forms that allowed me to cast refractory concrete in the shapes that I’ve needed. I also built up a mound of shaped sand to cast the dome shape around.

The vent form.

Here I've cast most of the form and set up the chimney vent opening form.

Both casting sessions were extremely stressful and nearly catastrophic. The first cast was for the oven opening and vent, which I did alone. It was my first time using my handy dandy new concrete vibrator, which looks and feels like a sex toy for an elephant. The refractory mixes very very dry– it almost appears to be sandy gravel.

Poseidon shapes the sand form delicately.

But once I shoveled it into the forms and inserted the vibrator, it liquifies and becomes pliable at once, self leveling in an instant. The problem was that it allowed all the pressure from the concrete’s mass to stress the seams of my poorly built forms. I panicked when I looked down and saw the concrete I had just painstakingly mixed spilling all over my clean brick hearth. I had to rip out the whole form and make some fast repairs by hand before the stuff set and became rock hard.

Paper mache with veggie oil to keep a waterproof barrier.

Mixing, slowly.

The second cast I had the help of my dear friend Gideon, a local musician with some mean building skills. He informed me that all Vermont boys grow up strong but sensitive. His other features include bearing a striking resemblance to Poseidon when near water. He generously offered me his assistance on the night of July 4th, if you can believe it. For six hours, we labored away with a rented cement mixer from Home Depot, using the back of the truck as a dumping platform. We worked into the darkness, desperately trying to prevent the concrete from sliding down the form and off into the grasses below. KO Campbell, the guest of honor for the weekend, was our photojournalist. More importantly, she oversaw the creation of vegetable sandwiches for us during our break.

Gideon showcases our haphazard technique for building up the dome-- we used the vibrator against this curved metal piece.

Today I dug out the sand from the inside of the dome. Once the concrete has some more time to cure, I’ll start lightly heating the inside to get the dome used to its large temperature fluctuations. More to come soon…

   

The baking chamber, with paper waiting to burn.

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Morels for Dinner after some Frame Building with Kris

Down at Fantastic Fabrication, Kris did some welding for me, tacking together parts of the frame that will support the oven hearth. It is exciting to see my steel plate and ring sitting on the ground down at the shop, imagining how it will turn quickly into a big oven! The pictures below show Kris throwing sparks and some of the set-up.

Also, on my ride home from the Wassaic train station yesterday, I found these beautiful Morel mushrooms when I stopped to pee. Beautiful! Kris and Chase and I made a delicious meal out of them for dinner.

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HOBART FOUND! BUSINESS NAME DECLARED!

I made a trek to a hospital in Goshen, NY to pick up this beauty- a 20 qt commercial mixer made by Hobart, the Cadillac of mixers. Yet another great craigslist find. I’ve got all of my craigslist search queries being sent as RSS feeds to Google Reader so I can keep tabs on what items come up that I’m interested in without having to check craigslist manually every day. Pretty dorky. I also got a great MK Diamond wet saw for cutting stone and bricks from Tommy the painter in South Blooming Grove.

I also went down to register Edwin at the DMV (the Hudson DMV is a dream come true after California). While there, I visited the county clerks office to fill out and submit a DBA form (Doing Business As). This is all you have to do to start a business. Miraculous! I had to first consult two huge books with a record of all the businesses that have been started in the county since the last Ice Age to make sure no one else has started TRUCK Pizza.

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Thought I’d post some photos of recent activity. I’ve shut inside doing research on my design and materials for most of the past two weeks, which is driving me a little mad. Fortunately, Sam Merrett of Full Circle Fuels came to my rescue and got me going on a nice juicy hands-on project. I rewired some of the rat’s nest of a wiring job from the last crazy owner, and put in a new brake line going to the back brakes.

Now it’s at Scott’s Aluminum, having the front end straightened out and the windshields replaced. They also fixed an electrical issue related to faulty wiring.

The next step is to take it to someone who can double check that the engine is doing OK, fix the loose brake calipers in back, and get it inspected for a NY state registration.

In other developments, I’ve trying to experiment with my dough production. See some of the bubbling action below. That batch was all naturally leavened, which is amazing considering how active it is.

Lastly, I’ve been spending a lot of time considering my oven options, wanting to create an oven that opens up to the side so that customers can have a real experience of open flame as they approach the order window.  Unfortunately, I got almost universally negative feedback from many of the premier masonry heater experts in North America, via email. So I’ve decided to go back to the traditional “black” single chamber design, and arrange the flow of pizza ordering so that customers still have an experience of the wood-fired baking process. Below is a copy of the doomed design. Updated layout sketches will be coming soon!

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