I started my curing process yesterday. Finally! Yes! It was 21 says from when I finished the dome on my Mattone Barile Grande with the fire bricks. I waited to cure untill I closed the front. Used fire bricks on that.
First fire slow to start but followed instructions to the tee. Got it going, went well not alot of heat but good fire.The log did not burn away as I found out today. Today was windy so to keep paper in place. I put to small pieces of wood on the sides to keep all in place. Did the normal day two process. It was a little more wood than the standard kindle and two logs. The fire took of like a forest fire.
My question is… Did I get the fire too hot or will I be ok? Wish I can put some gallery pictures on this to better illustrate.
It is SLOWLY removing any moisture in the castable refractory or that super-wet firebrick. If that water gets to hot, it will turn into steam and steam can crack brick and mortar as it’s exiting the oven (think… hot water on a frozen windshield)… Even if your oven looks super-dry, it could easily be wet on the inside
The curing fires are turning those high-temperature mortar joints into rock! The hotter the fire gets, the harder your mortar joints get.
Finally! Curing fire time, and… of course, questions! I started my first fire with super dry oak kindling and added one piece of equally super dry oak, following the directions to the letter. While it was instantly obvious how hot this oven can and will eventually get, my fire didn’t last very long, and sort of smoldered more than burned, once the kindling was gone. My plan is to proceed with Day 2 directions tomorrow, but I am hoping to get either a thumbs-up or some other perspective before doing so. The oak has been in my shed for at least two years, and I split it to specs, but it just didn’t seem to take off and burn.
As always, and genuinely, I appreciate the support and knowledge!
I have been really patient and deliberate along this journey, so I don’t mind taking time to get things right. My fire only lasted about an hour or so, with about half of that time being a smolder. Onward! Pizza for Labor Day may just be in the cards!
Seeing that I started this post let me give you some assurance and advice. I too had the same situation. I had oak logs too. Bought them split and were told they were seasoned.
First the assurance. Your fine.
Curing fires are designed to start off slow and low. There is so much moisture in your oven believe it or not it that has to be drawn out slowly. To quickly and your risking thermal shock. Having you fist log not burn down completely is fine. What I found out that worked for me is split that 4-5 inch thick log down to 2-3 inch thick. They will burn better and more complete plus a little hotter so don’t build a log cabinin there. Oak is a hard dense wood so the bigger the piece the longer it will take to burn. Plus you need more heat (coal’s)to keep it burning.
So here is my advice.
There is a wood fire pizza place by my house and I got to know the owner. He echoed what brickwood tells you about curing but he said “keep this in mind.” His oven is indoors and he cured it for a month. Ours are outside and pick up moisture so don’t be surprised if the fist couple times you are cooking the oven drops temperature to fast. So what I recomend is after the 6 curing fires use the next 3 to 4 fires learning the oven before you start holding parties. While your cooking a few pizzas or bread you continuing the curing.
P.S. That restaurant I mentioned, he keeps his logs about 2 to 3 inches thick.
Thanks so much for taking the time to provide such a detailed response, and the reassurance is huge! I was thinking and hoping that the density of the oak was a factor - phew!
I really appreciate your time - on to fire number two tomorrow!
Perhaps I over-cured my oven. I did 6 days of curing fires, each day I kept the fire buring for 5 to 6 hours. The first day I kept the temp about 250, then 300 for day 2, 350 for day 3, and so on for days 4, 5, and 6.
Day 2 of curing was vastly different from day 1. I did split the oak just a bit smaller, but, whatever the reasons, from the onset, my fire burned better and the oven cavity warmed up and even held some heat. I was judicious in tending the fire, keeping the cavity right around 300° for 4-5 hours. Closing the front a bit, off and on, helped to maintain a consistent temperature which also led to my ordering a door!
I see a hairline crack in the mortar in my arch, two bricks to the right of the center brick. This seems not be uncommon, but I take everything personally and believe I must have done something wrong!
Throughout this process, I have been advised (thank you, Matt and others) to trust the process, and that mantra proved valuable again today, after questioning everything yesterday.
Looking forward to day 3 and narrowing down the dough choices to start with in a few days!
I’m going to get more into detail later regarding hairline cracking during the first year of your oven… but don’t worry about the cracks and resist the temptation to fill / fix them. Wait for a year (after a year of use) and then fill the crack(s) w/ an inexpensive tube of high-temp mortar.
But wait until the house settles first… Then approach those cracks.
Reading about some of the “challenges” early rounds of pizza making seem to include, I do have our local joint on call, and I definitely have not made the first attempt a party - though those who will be working through the experience with me are pumped and ready!