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My quest to make a beautiful rocket oven

 
steward
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When I visited Wheaton Labs in early June I found out that there was a half finished rocket oven near Seattle, languishing on a shop floor.  I felt that there is a whole audience/market for rocket ovens that is likely to be turned off by their sort of steampunk aesthetic.  

Say, a family of four living in Portland, with a cob oven next to their deck.  Turns out they've had 4 pizza parties in 5 years (and 2 of them were in the first summer) because it's kind of a pain to heat that thing up, and the neighbors don't like the smoke.  And yet, when I tell them about how cool a rocket oven is, they look at the sideways barrel on a metal framed heat riser and say "Yeah, no.  I don't want that in my back yard."

So, I arranged to buy the half finished oven, for a different installation.  A permanent installation next to the deck of the ranch house at Ten O'Clock Acres.
rocket-oven-at-ten-o-clock-acres.jpg
Functional rocket oven, but it ain't pretty
Functional rocket oven, but it ain't pretty
 
Julia Winter
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OK, so that definitely looks more permanent, but is it beautiful?  I'd say no.

In the meantime, however, this oven sure is good at pizza!
Insertingpizza.jpg
Making pizza in the rocket oven.
Making pizza in the rocket oven.
 
Julia Winter
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Here's the plan: we're going to encase the oven body in a box, and cover that box with mosaic.  Ironically, I came up with mosaic because I thought of it as a heat resistant art form, but as it turns out the box is made of plywood (well insulated from the fire - have no fear) covered in duraboard and then tile.  

So, we prepared the front panel.  I covered the duraboard with black thinset mortar, to help me visualize the design, since I'm planning a dark grout.
Mosaic-beginning.jpg
Beginning the mosaic
Beginning the mosaic
 
Julia Winter
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There will be mosaic on the side panels as well, but at the rate I'm going I don't know when those will be finished.  

(Maybe if I buy more little precut mosaic tiles.  See, what you see used above is bits of a bowl that I cut up using tile nippers, and pieces of bathroom tile (the white and yellow) or mirror (the outermost row) that I cut with either those same nippers or by scoring and breaking with a glass cutter.  When you make your own tiles, mosaic is a very slow and involved process.)

I'll add a picture of the oven taken from the side, so you can see how it's got a big shed roof, to keep the pizza cook mostly dry if it's raining.
Tyler-plus-oven.jpg
Tyler with the rocket oven under construction
Tyler with the rocket oven under construction
 
pollinator
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Julia, this is a great solution to the beautification of the humble oven inside! It's also an accessible sort of project for many folks, cheap/free materials, entry-level skill requirements, and endless possibilities for designs.
The best part, however, is selling the rest of the family/household on the oven. Just how you lucked into your oven, the NIMBY potential for bricks and tin over a barrel is strong.
Keep on posting updates! (you had another photo of further progress in another thread?)

This may be how I get to put my oven (which I'm building regardless!) in a prominent location. ;-)
Amy has been wanting to do a mosaic project for a long time now... this could be it!
 
Julia Winter
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You're right Kenneth, there's more to show!  I'm building this thread as I find the time.

Mosaic can be made from lots of things.  I started out using found materials and breaking them into bits.  I also found a place, https://mosaicartsupply.com/ and made a small purchase (you can see it in the plastic bags).

When I started to work, I had to spread out what I had:
MosaicTiles.jpg
Mosaic tiles
Mosaic tiles
 
Julia Winter
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I used some cool tiny random shaped tiles that I bought to make a spiral:
SpiralTiles.jpg
Spiral tiles
Spiral tiles
 
Julia Winter
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When I'm working on the mosaic, I'm mostly perched on a cushion placed in the opening where the oven door will be:
MosaicWorking.jpg
Working on the mosaic
Working on the mosaic
 
Julia Winter
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I got about this far done, and then the Kickstarter was over.


So much for my hope of inspiring more people to back the Kickstarter.  Luckily, the thing did very well without my help.
 
Julia Winter
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OK, stuff is still happening, I've just been really busy.  Here's where I'd gotten by August 8:
Mosaic8-11.jpg
Mosaic progress
Mosaic progress
 
Julia Winter
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On Sunday the 12th, my teen daughter and I had a pajama party, where we camped out at the farm (the ranch house has one toilet that works, no sinks that drain, but it does have cold water via the kitchen faucet - you just have to catch the water in a bucket) and worked on the mosaic.  We were hoping to see shooting stars from the Perseid meteor shower, but that was a bust.  I saw one.

Still, we watched a couple of episodes of the first Queer Eye season, and had a good time!
PajamaMosaic.jpg
Mosaic pajama party
Mosaic pajama party
 
Julia Winter
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We got this far that night (mosaic is a slow process).  I did apply a tip I'd picked up from a book: loading the thinset mortar into a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off.  This made it easier to apply thinset mortar to the tile pieces.  Previously I was dipping a stick and awkwardly dabbing it onto the backs of the tiles.  

The big slowdown here is that most of these mosaic pieces I'm cutting from larger tiles or even from pottery.  When there were two of us, I was cutting tile and laying it out, and my daughter was gluing the pieces down with the thinset mortar.  
Mosaic8-12B.jpg
Rocket oven mosaic
Rocket oven mosaic
 
Julia Winter
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Then two nights ago we had a little pizza party and I stayed behind to keep working on the mosaic.  I watched 4 more episodes of Queer Eye (love those good good boys) and got a few more rounds down.  I'm getting to where I have to do a fair amount of tiny tile cutting to fit within the borders of the planned wooden trim:
Mosaic8-16.jpg
Rocket oven mosaic progress
Rocket oven mosaic progress
 
Julia Winter
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I've got good news!  I finished the mosaic for the front panel.  It was a while ago.

First, I had to cut lots of tiles into pieces (you score them with this tool, then use another tool to break along the score line):
Cutting-tiles.jpg
cutting tiles for mosaic
cutting tiles for mosaic
 
Julia Winter
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Then I had to squeeze a bit of thinset mortar onto the back of each and every tile:
Mortaring-tile.jpg
Mortaring tile for mosaic
Mortaring tile for mosaic
 
Julia Winter
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And then finally, it was finished.  OK, it's not really finished.  It needs to be attached to the rocket stove frame, and I plan to grout it after it's up.  I'm thinking I will stain the grout blue.  I was surprised how much a few rows of bland colored tile brought the brightness of the whole thing down:
Finished-mosaic.jpg
Finished mosaic front of rocket oven
Finished mosaic front of rocket oven
 
pollinator
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Incredible project, thanks for sharing. The bag idea is great too. What a fun family project and Queer Eye watching to boot. Awesome. Wait'll you get to season two. The church episode is a tear jerker for certain.
Brian
 
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What a great idea Julia! Thanks for sharing the progress.

A lot of people have asked about the j tube and frame. Based on what you've done, it seems like you can build the frame out of wood or whatever material works if it's a permanent installation. Is that the case? As long as the weight is supported?

I'm thinking of building the full 4' high riser, but eventually burying the bottom of it (wood feed/ burn tunnel) in an area next to my deck that I'll be laying brick or stone in anyways. So the wood feed will be flush with the ground,  reducing the overall height. And then I'll figure out the frame. Since it's not really portable, there's no need to weld together that steel frame, and wood or something else will be much easier to construct.

Look forward to seeing yours completed.
 
Julia Winter
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Yes, I think the frame can be built of wood, as long as things are well supported and also shielded from heat.

We built our heat riser from brick, and the plan is to cob over the outside of the whole thing.  To be more precise, the plan is to wrap it in chicken wire and then cob over it, incorporating the chicken wire that is all across the bottom of the frame, to keep out critters.
 
Julia Winter
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Progress!  It took a while, but the tiled face board has been attached to the frame for the rocket oven:
Tilefacefirstup.jpg
Mosaic applied to rocket oven
Mosaic applied to rocket oven
 
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