Archive for the ‘Masonry’ Category

A Smokin Idea for The Factory: Wood-Fired Oven Installation in a 97 Foot Chimney That Is!

97 Feet UP!

Interior 97′ Smokestack

This ought to be tall enough for a wood-fired oven chimney don’t you think? It’s not necessary of course, but….some ideas are BIG ideas and this one is BIG as well as TALL! Project Manager, Maxime Theberge of The Factory in High Point, NC  wanted a bold and innovative idea to come together for this restored old mill dating back to the early 20th century, formally the Adams-Millis Hosiery Mill.

The Factory

Now it is the home of a furniture showroom and is  soon to be a destination for the High Point Market. This oven installation will be part of an entertainment venue, that  not only has character but will be serving up some delicious fare to those attending  events.  Fire and wood-fired ovens are always a great draw and a crowd-pleaser and we’re thankful to have been a part of this project!  Jim Erskine with The ARCH, was contacted Spring of 2012 as he is known for his competent masonry skills and Forno Bravo oven installation work. Well, this isn’t a typical installation for wood-fired ovens, but Jim was definitely stoked, jazzed, excited, you name it!, and  between all the professionals looking at the engineering of this project it was given a green light!

Though I see a rather blue white moon light…oh wait, that’s not the moon at the top of that smoke stack, that’s daylight and that’s where climbers Michael Grosser and Leo Dupuis clipped their way up the interior rungs of the smoke stack  and then helped guide sections of the selected Forno Bravo Modena 120 commercial wood-fired oven down the stack! 

Four of the sections fit through the hole at the base, but the plan was to maintain a smaller opening and lower two of the six sections with the use of a crane,  guided by Michael Grosser at the TOP.  Several days prior  to “the drop”, Jim had to get through this massive wall. Not what you call a highlight but he made it through this thick wall and then built an oven floor after gravel was poured into the base, cement, re bar reinforcement, the works….

Building the floor

Jim accomplished the hole in the wall and oven floor days before the crane was scheduled to provide their expertise…. and expertise was the case. Hats off to crane operators!

Not a bump going down the stack, and with the assistance from Michael at the top (to start the guided lowering of the sections), they were received  by more brave souls at the base. (They waited until the piece was nearly at the bottom, stepped in and guided the final landing of the sections).

Going UP

With a lot of patience and teamwork the six section oven kit was in place. (There is also a side access hole about fifteen feet up the right side of the smoke stack.  Perhaps future climbing expeditions?)

Setting the Cap

Finally, a customized “smoke stack chimney cap” was lowered onto the top… another success!  This cap was beautifully constructed and a necessary component. This time Leo Dupuis braved the climb up the smoke stack  and guided the landing of the cap at the top.
The weather was drizzling most of the day but thankfully the wind wasn’t up. The next day more insulation and finish work was completed to the dome. Jim thanks all of those that helped with this project.

Jim Erskine and Tom Silver

Ready to start curing!

Next step…… to enjoy some phenomenal food and watch the smoke rise from 97 feet up!

For  more information give us a call at The ARCH 171 Weaverville Hwy Suite 103 Asheville NC 28804  828 253 5455
For more images visit Jim’s Wood Fired Ovens Facebook page album
For Forno Bravo oven and outdoor fireplace sales and installation information call Jim Erskine 828 768 4438 or email

Natural Hydraulic Lime – Creates Old-World finish That is a Perfect Finish Selection for Wood-Fired Ovens, Foundations, and Other Masonry Projects

June 21, 2011 1 comment

Many buildings over 100, even thousands years old built with Natural Lime, sand and pigment exemplify sustainability

The ARCH, known in part for it’s natural finish options, has recently gained more experience with a Natural Hydraulic Lime finish product that we offer.  Jim Erskine’s masonry experience spans thirty plus years, and as with most masons, his experience over the years has been primarily with Portland Cement products.  Since  2004 Jim began working with American Clay’s natural interior earth plasters and has since become a strong advocate for all natural finish products.  We’ve learned  Natural Hydraulic Lime is retaking its place on  historic masonry structures, and it is of increasing interest for  a wide range of masonry applications.  Recently we’ve enjoyed two applications on Forno Bravo wood-fired ovens as well as a residential wall foundation.  We’re thrilled with the more natural look, as it takes on the nuances of color from the sunlight of the day and we know it will improve with age and develop a character unlike a traditional cement stucco.

Limeworks products

Not pretending to be an expert on the properties of all the St Astier’s product options I can point you to a Chicago Tribune/ Washington Post interview with Andy deGruchy, president of Limeworks.US  since 2001 and masonry conservation specialist for over 25 years.

DGM Color Kit for Ecologic Lime Mortar prepared with NHL and sand

You’ll learn the difference between hydrated lime and natural hydraulic lime among other interesting historical aspects and views within the construction industry as they relate to lime products. Jim and I first met Andy here in Asheville, as he was demonstrating the application of Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) products over the Hemp Technologies Hempcrete wall sections, of which we have a wall portion displayed in our showroom. NHL breathes with wall systems as they should, not trapping the moisture into cracks and crevices that are a result of concrete construction over time, weakening the structure. Natural Hydraulic Lime is found on some of the oldest historic structures on this earth.  Featured here are a few photos from three recent projects . The first being a wood-fired oven of Rich and Kelly Lytle of North Asheville.

Lytle Residence of Asheville with Natural Hydraulic Lime plaster

This is a Forno Bravo Casa2G90 oven kit, it has high heat refractory cement applied to the joints, high heat retention insulation, lathe, mortar mix, two coats of Ecologic Lime (which is a pre-blended Natural Hydraulic lime including the sand and pigment).  The oven foundation work, oven assembly, oven finishes are all completed by Jim and Tom Silver. The attractive natural stonework is by local stone craftsman David Reed.  The second oven, is our  “slow but sure  progress” on our own oven (still awaiting tile for the arch, counter surfaces and lower stonework).

Oven in progress. Natural Hydraulic Lime- still drying

We chose to add American Clay pigment – two  color packs of Palomino Valley pigments to one bag of NHL 3.5 as a final coat to the process.

Burlap is used to retain the moisture while the St Astier pure and Natural Hydraulic Lime dries.

Lastly, the foundation photos are for a home in the area. Covering a block wall,

Block wall before application

a coat of NHL 3.5 was applied, then the Ecologic pre-blended Natural hydraulic lime.

The appearance is much more natural and appealing than cement stucco. As with the other projects it will continue to harden over the months to come.

Natural Hydraulic Lime finish

For more information on these products as well as natural lime paints, give us a call at The ARCH at 828 253 5455.

You can also look over for more information. A discount is provided to buyers if you use The ARCH code.   Give us a call and we’ll gladly provide you with information as well as our code for a product discount.

Application over block foundation wall with NHL 3.5 and Ecologic DGM100

Excitement Builds As Artigiano Hilton Head Installation Grows- Part II

March 25, 2011 1 comment

Excitement building? This is quite the understatement. Then too, you’d have to understand the passion owners Kathi and Jim of Hilton Head have for fine food and entertaining.  Just to set the stage,  we’ve had the pleasure of  joining Kathi and Jim  for several dinners  enjoying some fabulous flavors.  Most recently we enjoyed a fine meal prepared by Kathi who is a chef and lifelong student of the culinary world. “Food is my life”, Kathi has said several times.

Kathi Plomin and Jim Paolello mid-way through project. March 2011

As guests in their home we enjoyed many savory flavors. To name a few- on a wonderful antipasti platter Kathi and Jim shared an incredible  Auribella cheese they’ve been chipping away at for over two decades.  Down to the last few wedges we knew this was not dipped into often. We also enjoyed some fabulous Georgia shrimp in a saffron butter with melting sweet onions and Fennel  served over a creamy polenta. The conversation centered around not only our delicious meal, but  a spirited anticipation was busting at the seams regarding the outdoor oven project progress in the yard!   Several months ago we had the pleasure of getting to know Kathi and Jim over a fine dinner at Cucina 24 in Asheville. This was our earliest indicator that wood-fired Italian cooking was seriously  appreciated by Kathi and Jim.  We also enjoyed another fine meal at Pour Richards– which opened just a couple of months ago in the Bluffton area on Hilton Head.  Kathi worked for years with owner Richard Canestrari, Ally Rogers, and  several others now dedicated to the restaurant. The atmosphere was immediately welcoming.  The wood-fired oven (our common inspiration) was in view of our table and with high praises we will certainly be back when in the area again.

All this leads to the images of what’s being built in their own yard brick by brick, arches hand crafted,  and details carefully considered.

Interior dome of the Artigiano 120

Tom tending to grout

Arched dome over the dome

Details behind the counter wall.

They’ve put   more than “a little piece of them selves” into this project, they’re putting their heart and soul into a dream they’ve had for a very long time.

kathi and Jim placing the time capsule. This is their story!

A moment in time- capsule.

Not seen in the layout is what’s behind the bricks temporarily blocking the entrance of the oven-a space heater placed inside to achieve a head start in the curing process. They’ll soon begin burning wood fires increasing them in size to complete the curing process.

In good company

More finishes to go but a stopping point for the weekend.

It has been such a pleasure to meet Kathi and Jim  and to share their excitement throughout this project.  Kathi  said Jim may never come inside, but I have a feeling neither of them will.

Stay tuned for phase 3!

Artigiano Oven and Fireplace Installation Inspired by Hilton Head Couple

It’s no small project! It is, in fact,more than a project, it’s a vision and a passion of Hilton Head couple- Kathi and Jim. (What were the odds of Cathy and Jim working with Kathi and Jim?) Last Fall, with plans in hand and a dream in the making for some time, Kathi and Jim made a trip to Asheville to personally meet us  and make plans for an outdoor entertainment cooking area. We’ve appreciated their confidence and with a few good cups of coffee, the conversation quickly became lively. Instantly, we knew this project was not thought up on a whim. It was clear this was a project they had been planning carefully. What also became clear is Kathi’s absolute love of the culinary world.

Artigiano 120 has arrived! Jim Erskine and Tom Silver checking out the oven


Still getting to know Jim, I expect he’ll be a master of wood-cooking right along with Kathi.Two generous individuals from Chicago, they know their priorities, and have a sense of humor that may be coined ‘Chicago charm’ in Hilton Head if I may.

They are a lot of fun and from my understanding the golfers passing by are taking notice of the progression of their project.

Patience My Friend

Oven foundation

This series of photos will be the first of several.

Foor of the fireplace

Foor of the fireplace

With a little muscle...

They selected the Artigiano 120 brick oven which is gorgeous- a true work of art. For kicking back with a glass of wine and the evening sunsets they included the Calore2G105 modular outdoor fireplace kit which assembles within a day and can be finished as desired.

Calore2G105 Fireplace Kit

Jim’s masonry skills are evident as he works carefully  and is enjoying the installation of the detail brick that Kathi and Jim planned into their project.

Low wall with special detail

Their attention to detail is giving this design character and integrity. I love the special order brick selected, the water table brick detail, the herringbone pattern placed within the modular fireplace, and there’s more details to come in the next entry! At each end of the arched wall will be low walls at bench height creating a nice visual drop to the taller walls as well.  With some team effort the beautiful Artigiano brick dome was placed on it’s floor.

Detailed back for wood storage

Foundation work before oven set

Setting the oven on foundation

You'll notice Jim wanted a good look didn't he?

Progression of wall

Stay tuned for how this wall will progress northward with curves,  beautiful chimney caps, counters, and at some point glowing embers.

Snow Goddess Peely Watches Over Wood-Fired Pizza Enthusiasts

January 12, 2011 2 comments

Snow Goddess Peely

Heavy snow and cold temps hasn’t deterred us from ringing in the New Year with our newest friend …and that would be our Casa2G90 Forno Bravo wood-fired oven.

Sure, we’re still learning, the oven exterior isn’t finished (we ARE waiting for some decent weather for finish work), the roof that will extend to the oven still needs to be built and then with all the holiday company- who’d want to fire it up in a snowstorm? Well, this is just the thing- it made for great entertainment and delicious results.   Everyone got in on the fun.

Tending to the Holidays

After shoveling a path a short distance to the oven (I can tell you many reasons for installing your oven close to your kitchen), tending the fire for about an hour (we were maintaining 6-700 with temperatures around 20 degrees outside),   we all entertained ourselves with the process of assembling pizzas, hiking the peels to the oven, taking turns sliding them onto the hot oven floor, giving them a spin as they began to bubble up… …and, well, you get the idea.

My niece Lauren

Brother Tom tending fire

I’m learning a number of great tips about pizza making from Peter Reinhart’s book American Pie. Without a great crust you may as well forget it- so perfecting the crust is our on-going training,  sauces are really quite simple (no need to cook the sauce- as the oven brings out the best in the herbs and spices – what you want is a “bright” sauce ). On the other hand, the white sauce that I simmered  made for a wonderful base to the portobellos,  and red peppers. Mixing in a little fresh grated hard Asiago cheese with the Mozzarella brought everything up a tastier salty notch. Toppings- I’ve learned to follow the “rule of three” or it gets all muddled together. (This isn’t as easily conveyed to newcomers in the assembly line).  I’m pleased to say that we are really very thrilled with the entire experience and what is coming out of our oven.


We really haven’t had any cooking or operational disappointments to speak of. Don’t get me wrong, a few of us in this house are constructive critics at our own pizza school, but not in the throws of lots of laughs, a little wine, and the dog running back and forth to the oven looking for a cheese dropping.  In addition to our enjoyment cooking pizzas, the salmon has been phenomenal and the chicken, turkey, scalloped potatoes, even pies, have all turned out beautifully…. oh, and our newest hearth bread success by my brother Tom.

Tom's sourdough hearth bread

When the roof is on and we don’t need to shovel a path to the oven in a snow storm, perhaps we’ll be a little more subdued but for now the fire has us a bit hypnotized.

Artigiano Oven Project Inspired by Charlotte Couple

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Choosing to develop an outdoor wood-fired oven entertainment area requires careful planning.  Nilgun and Ray  from Charlotte, NC who have a  love for cooking and architecture carefully considered their entire layout for something they’ve put their heart into for their own back yard.  In November, after further conversations and consultation,  professional mason Jim Erskine,  and Tom Silver traveled from Asheville to Nilgun and Ray’s home in Charlotte with  mixer in tow and the necessary tools.  With warm greetings they then proceeded to build the outdoor kitchen structure and assemble the Artigiano Oven. Here is a slide show series of photos that shows the project from the slab up. Still to come will be the installation of an additional grill, counter surfaces, a pergola, landscaping and the best part- enjoying every bit of it.   The Artigiano oven is absolutely beautiful. The brick dome is handcrafted and arrives as one pre-assembled piece.   We hope to share more images as the project wraps up and share the joy that fine meals and gathering of friends brings from wood-fired cooking. Many thanks to Nilgun and Ray!

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Casa2G90 From Crate to Fire

November 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Aha! The big gift crate  exposed.

Further exposed

The nice thing about a modular wood-fired oven kit is that the weight is divided up making it easier to handle. It’s an advantage particularly if you have  difficult terrain to consider.  However, we absolutely love many of the  preassembled ovens. We chose the Casa2G90 because  the 36 inch oven base  is going to be a great size for  how we  cook,bake and it will be very suitable for demos. It’s  going to perform beautifully.

Ground  fill will cover the lower foot or two of the base so it doesn’t look so massive, and stone will cover the block.   We chose to build a center wall interior wall so the wood wouldn’t stray clear to the back and the benefit of added support for the oven floor is a plus.

Building the foundation.

Added interior foundation wall

Foundation process

After the dome is completed, the refractory cement is spread over all the joints and used up over the dome. Insulation is carefully cut and layered over the dome. It conforms really well but you have to be careful to avoid breathing the particulates. Lath and more refractory cement is layered over the insulation.   Jim continues with the brick arch, chimney and flue. It will all be covered with natural hydrated lime, stone, and tiles  so attention to the joints isn’t as refined as usual. But strong and level it is!

High efficiency Ceramic Blanket insulation

Layering the Ceramic Blanket insulation

Sealing the dome joints

The curing process involves gradual fires at very low levels and rises over the course of five days! At the end of the first day of curing you can bet a little celebration was in order!

Arch development. To be covered with tiles

Chimney and flue install

Curing process begins. First small fire