Mortar Tips and Tricks

As I prepare for tomorrow’s oven activity, actually getting bricks on the form - finally - I am looking for tips and tricks for success in getting full joints, all the way through, between bricks. I have considered a mortar/grout bag, especially for the area closest to the form. I have read every thread in the forum, and I read about and see pictures that include everything from incredibly neat and full joints to voids and hanging mortar stalactites. So many have bravely gone before me in this oven endeavor that I would love to exploit those experiences to reduce my own learning curve.

Hi BillD,

Welcome. First I would say don’t weat it. I had the same thoughts as you. What I used was a tool that came with my very cheap masonry kit called a jointer. Its a thin piece of metal shaped like a L with a handle. It was 3/8 wide 1/8 thick and about 6 inches long

I used it too push the mortar between the joints. Making sure to get all of the pockets of air out. Worked great. But keep this in mind when I finally took the form out, I had extra mortar pushed out on the inside of the oven. It was a look I was not looking for. SO wanted to chip it away but as you know from reading the post here, you absolutely don’t want to do that.

My advice don’t push so hard like me. You will be fine. Happy building.

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Awesome - Thanks! I tend to over-think (I am constantly reminded), so your advice really fits!

Well begun is half done.

Pay careful attention to the first three courses on each side, which make what amounts to a knee-wall. Get those courses straight and true, and you’ll find it’s easier to line up your arching courses up the form.


When you get there, be very attentive to the angle of the form on each course. At the start of a row, lay a brick up against the form so that its inner face is absolutely flat against the form, then lay mortar in and under it. When the mortar is supporting that brick so that it can stay flat against the form by itself and the top is lined up with the guideline on the form, you’ve got the right angle and your remaining bricks on that course will also be angled properly.

The trick here is that your eyes will tell you the angle is off. But the form (like a mason’s line) does not lie. And your inner joints will look much better when you pull the form out.

I’ll have to remember that trick for my second Martone Barile…

Good luck, @BillD!

Good advice. How Matt explained it is perfect. That would be a good idea to print that in the instructions to give a better idea how to do it. A little guidance goes a long way.

Excellent tips and exactly what I was hoping for. Thanks to you both for taking time to virtually help me with this cool project. I also strongly agree that the tips offered would make the build instruction so much more complete, especially for DIY’ers. I have a strong building background but not a strong masonry background, so details and rationale behind the basic instructions would be a great addition and improvement.

Day one of dome building and all is well! The tips and other experiences posted in this forum are invaluable. Since I much prefer mixing mortar and pretending to be a brick mason to wearing a mask in public, I plan to take this stage slowly and methodically, over a few days.
Based on what others have experienced and posted, and on my overthinking disease, I decided to lay three courses on each side of the mold to address the mold potentially moving. Everything went smoothly - thank God!
Again, based on the tips and experiences of others, I mixed small batches of mortar and still found myself getting nervous that the mortar was setting up toward the last brick or two.
My last observation to share is that I might swear that the area for placing the third course of bricks against the mold is not perpendicular to the floor but actually contains a slight angle, much less noticeable than the subsequent courses. I mention this only because I didn’t seem to come across this anywhere in the forum. Granted, the angle is slight, but the bricks fit better at a slight angle than flat, and it will certainly help the mortar joint for the fourth course.
Again, thanks to all who continue read and help! Today was energizing after the yips and anxiety subsided!

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Good going, Bill! Just know you are in a large majority of folks who have never mixed mortar in their life, let alone laying two bricks together.

My mold is in pieces, of course, so I can’t swear to whether the third course angles, but you are the one on the ground, and as previously advised following the mold is your best course of action.

As you start to go over the arch, it will help to remember that the exterior surface of your arch will absolutely not be visible when you are done building. It looks like you have been very neat and workmanlike so far, and that’s great! But as your bricks start to arch over you may find that you’re staining some of the exterior faces with the mortar. Do not worry about that, because it will just slow you down with no benefit at the end.

And, glad the “yips” are gone. I found it’s pretty relaxing to start laying bricks instead of thinking about laying bricks. :slight_smile:

Good luck with your next set and keep us posted.

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Dang! That picture revealed my neat-freak side! I’ll be messier today! :smile:

Yup. Totally exposed. :slight_smile:

FWIW, I followed the mold pretty much exact. the only deviation was humand error. Once you get on the corner the mortar joints are thick, really thick! I had good luck buttering the brick I was laying down, and double buttering brick I was laying it on…I think in this way I got good coverage. It would always be a little high, then I would tamp it down a bit with a rubber mallet…then wipe away and compact joints at a the same time with a basic “patching trow”.

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Thanks, Carlo! I am hoping the inside of my oven looks like that!
I just want good good and consistent joint fill and coverage.

Sorry… I dropped the s in your name, evidence that even my budding masonry skills might exceed my typing skills!

Thanks, Carlos!

That’s cool, earlier I posted “humand error”. How ironic.