Posts Tagged ‘Masonry’

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


Customers Share Forno Bravo Wood Fired Oven Progress as Well as Healthy Cooking Passion!

Lenoir, NC Premio 2G 110 Forno Bravo oven

It’s exciting for us to see the progress of  the Forno Bravo oven projects that Jim and Tom have worked on as well as customers. It’s the owners of the ovens that have the final vision to complete!  Some of the finish work and details that may be among the  finish “to-do” list include counter surfaces, lighting, surrounding landscaping, furnishings, cabinetry or metal work for oven tools and other oven accessories.  What can’t be shared here on a computer are the phenomenal smells and flavors. You just have to experience it! Wood-fired ovens are becoming increasingly  popular and one day we hope it to be true that many more ovens will find their place in homes and yards across the country.  It’s not a new idea as depicted in this old painting below. Yet, modern materials such as high temperature refractory cement and tested design forms have made Forno Bravo ovens an excellent choice as they are very efficient ovens which also translates into less wood use.

Many generations ago

The first photo above of the brick oven was built by Jim Erskine and Tom Silver in Lenoir, NC earlier this spring.  It is a solid and stately beauty and there will be some serious cooking, good humor and great fun shared by home owners  David and Mary Ruth Horn.  We hope to provide more details about their cooking adventures in the near future. In fact,  David has been involved in a cooking show called Two Men and a Stove , Fun in the Kitchen with Dave and Ram, who refer to themselves as “chef wannabes” with a focus on healthy eating and movement for overall health. They’ve worked with the Lenoir Fire Department cooking up recipes such as firehouse grilled chicken and firehouse salsa, and much more, all benefiting their community and beyond. We’re hoping to see a wood-fired oven segment!


This next photo is an outdoor kitchen in Columbus, NC, by Glen and Marilyn Lefeber.Their oven was shipped directly to them and they were responsible for the project from the ground up.

All the components coming together. Let’s get cooking!

They researched and planned their outdoor wood-fired oven area for quite some time before purchasing their Forno Bravo Casa2G oven and now the finishes are all coming together. With all this wonderful counter space they have ample serving and preparation area.

Glen with some of his first bread loaves from their wood-fired oven.

Glen has been a baker for decades and these are his first bread loaves from their oven.

We plan to share the progress of others if they can put their pizza peels down long enough to take some photos from time to time! We hope to share more images in future entries. Carry on!

For more images of these two oven projects click here.

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.

LeFeber’s Wood-fired Forno Bravo Casa2G90 Oven Project Thrills Culinary Passion

Fire it Up!

Glenn LeFeber has been baking bread for over thirty years and now he and his wife Marilyn have the opportunity to bake bread and a never ending list of savory dishes in their own wood-fired oven.  What a delightful challenge to master a wood-fired oven crusty bread that tastes like no other. Before the bread and before the roast chicken and before the pizza, they experienced what seemed like a very long W A I T for the oven to be fired up and ready to go!  Glenn had researched their project for most of 2009 and they visited a lake home in Western Michigan with a Forno Bravo oven which really got them fired up! Planning is important! Last February they hired a landscape architect to work with them. They shared with us that this was money well spent. Building of the oven was the last phase of the project, coming after the regrading, laying pavers for a big patio area, building brick retaining walls, and the pergola.  No wonder they were getting excited to fire up the oven!

The ARCH does offer a variety of pre-assembled ovens that once in place requires simply curing the oven with a series of fires and heat levels, though many if not most of  the interests we receive include interests such as the LeFeber’s- to customize the cooking and entertainment area the way they want it, including the purchase of an oven kit and making it an integral part of the complete design.   Glenn and Marilyn have been wonderful to work with. Once the final landscaping and construction of additional outdoor cabinetry is completed perhaps they will share a few more photos. Here are some images throughout the construction stages and the very first meals that came out of the oven.

Start of the project

Adding brick over insulating blanket

Dome completed with brick

Brick construction over dome

Once the dome was completed a stucco coating was applied and personal touches completed the construction phase of the oven.

Personal touches

Glenn with first roasted chicken from the oven

YUM!First of many pizzas!

Roast chicken!

Fire it Up!

Many thanks to  Glenn and Marilyn for sharing your project with us! Happy cooking!

For more details please call The ARCH at 828 253 5455 or vist

The ARCH  offers installation consultation and servces. Talk with Jim Erskine, experienced mason of over 30 years. To see another example of a Casa2G oven installation by Jim visit this recent blog.

Please note: The ARCH does not invite adverisements that may appear on this blog.

Behind the Scene- Forno Bravo Wood-fired Casa 2G Oven Installation

August 5, 2010 1 comment

Sweltering South Carolina summer heat and a fifteen foot rise  to the platform where a wood-fired oven would rest didn’t keep Jim Erskine and Tom Silver from working hard on  the  installation phase of this Forno Bravo oven project. This Casa 2G oven kit from Forno Bravo is a fabulous oven perfect for a custom surround within this  kitchen opening that will provide indoor cooking pleasure year round. Here is a one example of an installation with a number of structural considerations different from an outdoor on-grade installation. Discussed are  some of the steps of the process photographed  by Tom while on the job.

The foundation and floor for the oven was built first.  An opening for  select wood best for wood-fired cooking is on the  interior side. Placement of this oven allows for a metal stud wall that will frame and surround the oven built into the residence. The  siding and all the finishing design elements to come.

Building the foundation for the oven

Once the foundation was built and the floor surface, a 2 inch layer of high efficiency alumina silicate insulation board is placed on the foundation floor. This material, available through Forno Bravo, reduces the 800 degree cooking floor of a pizza oven to roughly 170 degrees at equilibrium making it twice as efficient as vermiculite board.   Jim and Tom then placed the oven floor pieces and began sealing with Forno Bravo refractory cement as shown.

Placement of the first Casa 2G oven dome sections

Oven floor over insulation board and foundation

Following completion of assembling the dome, the joints need to be sealed with more of the refractory cement.

Jim sealed the dome joints with refractory cement- sticky and perfect for the job.

Oven facing kitchen ready for next phase

He then added lathe for added stability with consideration to the construction that will take place around the oven.

Jim sealed the dome joints with refractory cement- sticky and perfect

We’ll provide some images of the completed oven once we receive them. These folks are soon to experience years of cooking enjoyment with their new oven.

Soon to come- we’ll be sharing another installation project designed by another couple about fifty miles south of Asheville. They created a fun outdoor cooking and entertaining area behind their home and are enjoying the mouth-watering results!

Anyone interested in learning more about this particular oven or any other Forno Bravo wood-fired oven including pre-assembled ovens  please call us at The ARCH 828 253 5455. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!