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Japan, Ito Peninsula: Contraflow Masonry Heater

12 August '14 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Fire Works Masonry recently had the good fortune of a return trip to Japan for an opportunity to once again work with our friend Aki Yoshimizu of Peak Home Builders.

Our first project was a contraflow masonry heater with a white bake-oven, heated bench and wood storage box. The rough stucco coat is still drying in the photo of the completed fireplace below.

Japan Ito Finished Contraflow Masonry Stove 03634

The project was in a small home on the hillside of the lovely coastal town of Ito, Japan.Japan Ito Masonry Heater Hillside IMG_0491

The hillside location made for great views but tough material access.

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Power Ladder P1080434

Our competent host and project manager Aki secured a power ladder to assist with the material loading. Several tons of material are required to build a high mass, heat retention masonry stove. A view down the long run of the power ladder is in the photo below.

Japan Ito Power Ladder 1080440

Fortunately, we also had great help from local chimney sweep and MHA members Hiro and Yuichi. Yuichi unloads two clips of firebricks for the core from the power ladder in the photo below.

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Power Ladder P1080451

The masonry heater starts with the layout on the concrete base pad.

Japan Ito Masonry Stove Layout P1080476

With the layout establish the high temperature core begins.

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Contraflow Core Start P1080482

The contraflow core goes quickly with a seasoned team of heater builders. Marty and Yuichi lay the final brick course on the core in the photos below.Japan Ito Masonry Heater Core P1080538

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Contraflow Core P1080544

The team stayed onsite during the project, so the worksite doubled as our campsite. The team relaxes after the first long day in then photo below.Japan Ito Masonry Heater Campsite P1080533

Our Japanese hosts were great cooks despite the simple kitchen. Yuichi mastered the charcoal grill behind the masonry wet saw while Aki prepared fresh, local sashimi for us.

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Camping P1080505

Japan Ito Aki Cooking P1080664

Once the contraflow masonry heater core is complete, the external facing is started. The facing will be local, dense red brick.

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Brick Facing 03590

The photo below shows the completed red brick masonry heater shell, ready for a stucco coating. The heater has a heated bench, white bake-oven, and a wood storage box.

Japan Ito Masonry Stove Brick P1080753

Hiro took the lead on the metal chimney installation. He is a member of the MHA as well as the Chimney Sweep Guild. He works on installing the chimney while the red brick facing goes up in the photo below.

Japan Ito Hiro Chimney P1080660

Once the chimney installation and brick facing are complete, the rough stucco coat is applied. The masonry  heater door hardware is installed next. Yuichi works on installing the large loading door in the photo below.

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Door Installation P1080772

Finally the heater is complete and ready to warm the home this winter.

Japan Ito Masonry Heater Complete 03615

Japan Ito Masonry Stove Complete 03636

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Levittown, PA: Backyard 48″ Wood Fired Dome Oven

08 August '14 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Our client in Levittown, PA was building a serious backyard kitchen and called Fire Works Masonry for a serious backyard wood-fired oven. The oven is a 48″ diameter, commercial grade brick oven. The oven is perfect for pizza parties or roasting an entire Thanksgiving dinner.


The oven starts with the firebrick core. The completed inner dome is photographed below.


A view of the external dome is below. The outer dome will be covered with high temperature insulation and a stucco outer shell.


Finally, the brick facing and final stucco coat are completed.


The first small curing fire begins to warm the spacious oven in the photo below.



Finally, the outdoor oven and kitchen are covered by a spacious and convenient roof.


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Jim Thorpe, PA: Double Bell Masonry Stove

16 January '14 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Our latest project is an energy efficient, wood burning, masonry fireplace in Jim Thorpe, PA.  The fireplace has a heated limestone bench, mantel, and capping stones. A natural thin veneer stone will face the simple block shell. A small curing fire warms the home for the first time in the photo below.

Jim Thorpe PA Double Bell Masonry Stove 4534 Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania Masonry Heater 4540

At the heart of the fireplace is the high temperature double bell core. The hand-built firebrick core is completed in the photo below.

Jim Thorpe PA Double Bell Masonry Stove Core 4531

The photo below shows the completed core. The core is ready for the block/brick facing.

Jim Thorpe Double Bell Masonry Heater Core 4514

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Hackettstown, NJ: Energy Efficient Fireplace, Masonry Stove Core Installation

29 December '13 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Fire Works Masonry recently completed the installation of the heart of an energy efficient fireplace in Hacketsttown, NJ. The photos below show the completed firebrick core for a clean burning Finnish contraflow masonry heater core. This fireplace has a “white” bake-oven, two heated benches and an offset chimney to the left of the firebox.

The firebrick core will be faced will locally sourced field-stones.

Hackettstown Masonry Heater Core 4476

This masonry stove warms and divides the kitchen, on the bake-oven side, and the family dining room.

Hackettstown NJ Masonry Stove Core 4482

Hackettstown NJ Masonry Stove Core Rear 4478

Check back for updates after the stone facing is completed.

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Nagano, Japan: Stucco Contraflow Masonry Stove

11 August '13 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Fire Works Masonry’s latest job was an outstanding opportunity to build a masonry stove for our friend and Masonry Heater Association colleague Aki Yoshimizu in his lake cottage in Nagano, Japan. Aki is a builder in Japan and is the owner of Peak Home Builders. The photo below shows the functioning, almost complete heater.

Aki Japan Masonry Heater

The heater was designed by and built with MHA founding member Norbert Senf of Masonry Stove Builders from Quebec, Canada. Norbert also posted a detailed photo report of the entire project on the MHA News E-zine.

The energy efficient fireplace is a Finnish contraflow core based on the Masonry Heater Association’s Heater Plan Portfolio. The fireplace is faced with dense brick pavers. The rough stucco coat will be finished in a local Japanese clay plaster. The photo below shows the first small curing fire burning in the firebox.

Japan Masonry Stove Complete Facing 0922b

The lakeside cottage is located in a beautiful rural setting. Like many homes in Japan, the home is not well insulated and can be a challenge to heat in the winter. The mountainous area regularly gets heavy snow falls and temperatures as low as 0F. Aki became interested in the possibilities to heat efficiently and cleanly with locally available firewood.

Japan Fireplace Cottage 0431

The photo below shows the great view of the quiet lake from our workroom door.

Japan Masonry Heater Lake 0805

The heater starts with the layout. The masonry stove will have a very unique heat exchanger design for the upper bedrooms designed by Norbert.

Japan Masonry Heater Core Layout 0766

Once we establish the layout, the base courses of the fireplace begin. The photo below shows a new layout design for the contraflow base designed by MHA member Eric Moshier.

Japan Masonry Stove Core Base Courses 0818

Aki hosted the build as a workshop and several interested and adept volunteers attended. The photo below shows Norbert Senf, Mamoro Ooishi, Yuuichi Kada, and Takeo Onozawa.
Mamoro is a chimney sweep and woodstove salesman from Hokkaidou. Yuuichi is a mason and garden craftsworker
from Aichi, about four hours away, and Takeo (Ono) is a chimney sweep from Nagano. They met while doing volunteer
work after the Tsunami.

Japan Energy Efficient Fireplace Work Crew 0887

With so many helping hands, the build goes quickly.  The photo below shows the completed firebox and the start of the throat behind the white oven.

Japan Masonry Heater Core Bake Oven 0857

The white oven slabs are installed. Aki is a carpenter and builder. He made excellent forms and castings for the high temperature concrete slabs.

Japan Energy Efficient Fireplace Bake Oven 0881

The final courses and secondary combustion chamber are completed above the bake-oven.

Japan Energy Efficient Masonry Fireplace Core 0899

The two side downdraft channels can be built next.

Japan Masonry Heater Core Side Channel 0916

Once the side channels are complete the crew installs the heavy high temperature capping slabs.

Japan Masonry Heater Core Capping Slabs 0009

With the core completed, the crew enjoyed a great evening campfire and cookout.

Japan Masonry Heater Full Moon 0294

Japan Masonry Stove Campfire 0196

The masonry stove work begins again the next morning. Locally available dense, red brick pavers will face the core.

Japan Masonry Fireplace Face Bricks 0947

The bricks are delivered to the jobsite. The local hardware store allows customers to borrow this small pickup for 90 minutes with no charge. These useful small pick-up trucks are everywhere in Japan. The truck gets about 50mpg, carries over 700lbs and costs under $9,000.

Japan Masonry Heater Delivery Truck 0873

The photo below shows the start of the face brick, chimney connection, and small heated bench.

Japan Brick Fireplace Facing and Chimney Start 0146

The heater installation is in a seismic zone. Threaded rods are drilled and epoxied into the base concrete slab. The rods will be buried in the mortar slush between the core and facing. A steel plate on top of the heater will bond the masonry and rods together.

Japan Masonry Heater Facing and Seismic 0268b

The brick facing is about halfway complete after a long day. The jack arch spanning the door openings is the next step.

Japan Masonry Stove Brick Facing 0308

Norbert inserts the keystone into the jack-arch. The jack-arch is left proud from the brick facing for a design element.

Japan Masonry Stove Jack Arch 0353

The brick facing progresses. The photo below shows the closing keystone for the second jack-arch above the bake-oven door.

Japan Masonry Stove Bake Oven Brick Arch 0481

Norbert’s heater design also includes a unique curved brick wall surrounding the chimney connection. The curved section is seen in the photo below.

Japan Clean Burning Fireplace Curved Chimney Design 0517

The final brick courses are nearly complete in the photo below. One of the threaded rods for the seismic reinforcing can be seen above the brick to the right.

Japan Masonry Heater Brick Face0535

With the brickwork completed, the stucco plaster coat begins. Aki looks admiringly at the brick face while he holds a fiberglass mesh in place to reinforce the plaster facing.

Japan Masonry Stove Plaster Coat 0564b

Later that evening the crew burns the first small curing fire around the completed rough coat heater.

Japan Stucco Masonry Fireplace First Fire 0702

With the rough plaster coat completed, the doors are installed into the brick facing.

Japan Masonry Stove Wood Fired Oven Door Installation 0732b

The photo below shows the nearly completed, clean burning, energy efficient fireplace with another small curing fire. The heater still needs the final plate for the seismic reinforcement, a small top for the heated bench, and a final decorative plaster coating. Aki will most likely use a local, traditional clay or lime plaster.

Japan Masonry Stove Complete Facing 0922b


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Jamesburg, NJ: Custom Brick Commercial Vaulted Wood Fired Oven.

31 July '13 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Fire Works Masonry latest commercial wood fired oven is a large 48″ x 72″ vaulted brick oven for the Hearthstone Grill in Jamesburg, NJ. The oven will be used for a variety of foods including pizzas, cast iron dishes, roasted meats and vegetables as well as fresh in-house breads. The large oven and newly renovated restaurant are seen in the photo below.

Hearthstone Grill New Jersey Oven Exterior 4402

The oven starts with the firebrick core. The oven was designed by MHA founding member Tom Trout of Vespa Masonry. The photo below shows a view through the loading door into the newly built brick oven. The oven’s firebrick floor is also ready to start cooking. The rough chimney connection is visible in the far back left hand corner.

NJ Custom Wood Fired Vaulted Bread Oven 4176

A strong steel frame permanently supports the outer thrust of the long vaulted span. The completed oven core and steel support structure are pictured below.

NJ Custom Commercial Brick Pizza Oven Core 4191

The photo below shows the top of the oven vault. This oven will be heavily insulated with commercial, high temperature thermal blankets.

New Jersey Custom Commercial Wood Fired Brick Oven Completed Vault 4159

NJ Custom Hand Built Brick Bread Oven Complete Core 4166

The oven facing will be based on steel studs with cement board after the thick insulation for the sides and top. The front of the oven is faced in an additional layer of firebrick. This oven facing can be nicely completed with many options such as thin veneer stone, tile, mosaics, or plaster stucco to match any interior.

The owner and his crew will complete this oven exterior with a cultured stone and tile veneer.

NJ Custom Brick Wood Fired Pizza Oven First Fire 4201

The photo below shows the completed oven core, front brick face and the steel stud frame underway.

NJ Custom Commercial Wood Fired Pizza Oven First Fire 4206

After hours of heat storage, the oven heats up to operating temperatures for cooking pizzas in minutes. The photo below shows the vault burning clean.

Custom Brick Wood Fired Bread Oven _4268

NJ Custom Commercial Wood Fired Pizza Oven 4400

The oven has a custom insulated stainless steel door for use between shifts or overnight to maintain the oven’s heat.

Custom Wood Fired Oven Door_4392

The door fits tightly into the vaulted opening for loading the oven. The owner’s custom stained glass and cultured stone finish is also completed.

Custom Wood Fired Oven Insulated Door_4395

New Jersey Custom Wood Fired Oven Final Exterior 4404

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Bath, Pennsylvania: Fieldstone Double Bell Masonry Stove, Energy Efficient Fireplace

05 May '13 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Fire Works Masonry’s latest clients are building a low energy home in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. While researching energy efficient fireplaces, they discovered the clean burning masonry stove. They contacted Fire Works Masonry for a custom, field stone faced masonry heater. The fireplace is a double bell layout, designed for great efficiency.

One of the first curing fires burns in the firebox in the photo below.

Energy efficient fireplace

The masonry heater has a wood-box to the left of the firebox and and heated bench to the right. The optional bake-oven sits directly above the firebox.

The wood-box, heated bench, and oven shelf are all shaped from colorful slabs of Tennessee sandstone.

 Pennsylvania masonry heater

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Chadd’s Ford, PA: Custom Commercial 60″ Dome Brick Wood Fired Pizza Oven

18 February '13 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Our latest project is a hand-built, custom 60″ dome brick wood-fired oven. You can find the new restaurant, Johnny’s Wood-Oven Pizzeria, in Chadd’s Ford just outside Philadelphia, PA. The photo below shows the completed oven. The oven exterior is a tile mosaic with a brick base finished by the owner.

The oven is the focal point of the new restaurant, directly behind the bar counter. The photo below shows the view directly through the front entrance.

Once the masonry block base and concrete hearth slab are complete the oven begins. The oven floor and walls are built on top of 4″ of load bearing, commercial grade insulation. The photo below shows the firebrick floor and walls underway. The first course of the form free dome construction has begun.

The dome is built entirely of high duty firebrick. Every brick is cut to achieve tight, long lasting joints. The dome is about halfway complete in the photo below.

The arched door opening in the dome is shown below.

Once the dome is complete, 4″ of commercial ceramic wool insulation covers the oven.

The insulation is covered with a rough stucco coat. The oven is now ready for any type of final facing.

The owner, John, finished the oven in a combination of brick, tile mosaic, and stucco. He’s working the new oven in the photo below.

One of the first hot fires rolls over the dome in the photo below. Notice how clean the oven ceiling is, indicating a hot clean fire burning in the oven.

One a the oven’s first pizzas after just a few seconds in the hot oven cooks on the firebrick floor in the photo below.

In about a minute, the pizza is out and ready to eat.

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Glen Mills, PA: Stucco Finnish Contraflow Masonry Heater

15 December '12 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Our latest project is a Finnish Contraflow masonry stove in Delaware County, PA. Our clients were building a unique addition onto their existing home. The large masonry heater is both the primary heat as well as the visual focal point for the new space. The owner’s designed the heater inspired by our King of Prussia masonry heater installation. The fireplace has long sandstone heated benches, stone mantel and shelves, a white bake-oven, and a large wood-box for wood storage.

The fireplace starts with the high temperature core. The core is made entirely of firebricks bonded with high temperature mortar. The photo below shows the nearly complete core and the heated bench firebrick lining channels under construction. The combustion exhaust gases exit through the chimney to the far right of the firebox.

Once the core is completed, it is faced with masonry blocks.

After the block shell is completed, the colorful sandstone benches and accent pieces are set.

The entire heater is plastered with several coats of stucco. The first small curing fire burns in the photo below.

The photo below shows some detail of the colorful sandstone bench tops.

The heater has a large wood-box to store the week’s firewood.

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Phillipsburg, NJ: Outdoor, Wood-Fired 36″ Dome Brick Oven

20 November '12 by , under Fire Works Masonry News.

Our latest project is a large backyard wood-fired oven. The hand-built dome oven is constructed entirely of long lasting, high duty firebricks. The oven floor has a 36″ diameter, plenty of room for a large pizza party or an entire Thanksgiving meal. The photo below shows one of the first hot fires rolling over the top of the oven as it heats the firebrick dome.

The tight brickwork is built form free. The every brick is cut to ensure very tight, strong joints. High temperature refractory mortar provides the joint strength between the bricks. The high quality of the firebricks and construction method assure a very functional, long lasting oven. A well made oven lasts for generations. The photograph below shows the dome nearly halfway complete.

The high mass of the oven works great for cooking but requires a masonry foundation to carry the load. A block foundation supports this oven. The oven is insulated from the foundation by 4″ of industrial, load bearing insulation. The dome continues to roll in as the door opening begins below.

The photo below shows the completed wood-fired oven core. The door opening and chimney throat can be seen on the right hand side of the core in the photo below.

The photo below shot through the door opening shows the completed dome from inside the oven. The smooth firebrick floor is also ready to start cooking.

With the core completed, the oven facing can begin. A simple block shell will be constructed around the core. The firebrick core will also be wrapped in 4″ of industrial quality ceramic wool blanket. This helps lock in the oven’s heat for long lasting, efficient cooking.

Finally the oven is fired and the first pizza sizzles on the hot floor.

Once the pizza party is over, the very versatile oven is ready for almost any type of food you can imagine. The oven can roast meats and vegetables as well as bake excellent breads. Fresh pita breads expand on the hearth in the photo below.

NJ Backyard Wood Fired Oven Pita Bread 4409

You can perfectly roast meats as well, such as the tender oven roasted chicken in the photo below.

Wood Fired Oven Roasted Chicken 4410

Oven roasted garlic is another favorite.

Wood Fired Oven Roasted Garlic 4427

Garden tomatoes are roasting in the photo below before they are sauced and canned.

Cast iron cookware gets great results in the oven. A cast iron skillet roasts garden garlic and asparagus in the photo below.

Garden Asparagus Roasted Wood Fire Oven 4457

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