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Unread 05-26-2011, 03:29 AM   #1
phillee
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Default Ideas for a Modified Pizzahacker Frankenweber Clone

I'm sure a lot of people have seen the pizzahacker's weber mod:
http://www.thepizzahacker.com/

It got me pretty excited about doing something similar, and I've been doing a lot of research (ok, some research) and planning to get my own version started. Part of the research led me to this amazing forum in fact.

I found this guy as well who had more detailed directions on how to actually cast the parts of the frankenweber:
http://backyardpizza.blogspot.com/20...struction.html

He made a mixture of refractory concrete and perlite. He cast a dome using the weber top as a mold, and he cast the cylindrical body of the oven using a mold made of cardboard, resulting in a faithful clone of the pizzahacker's oven. The castable mixture is supposedly a very good insulator while also being extremely lightweight.

Now, I want to make some slight modifications to this process, and I want to get some feedback and suggestions from experts.

For the dome top, I will probably do the same thing that pizzahacker and backyardpizza did and cast it in a Weber lid. Another idea I had, to get a prettier surface on the inside of the dome and a more uniform thickness was to use two stainless steel mixing bowls as molds. A 30 quart and 20 quart bowl seem to be about the right size for the inside and outside of a 22" grill lid and can be found relatively cheap:
http://www.hotelrestaurantsupply.com/WNC-MXB-3000Q.html
http://www.hotelrestaurantsupply.com/WNC-MXB-2000Q.html

I think I would like to also add a handle to the top of the dome to make it a little easier to place the dome (and adjust it after firing the oven). Hopefully, the dome will not be too brittle and/or weak to drill two holes for a handle.

For the cylindrical body, I've been looking for containers to make the mold, but it was hard finding large enough buckets/trash cans/other containers that were the right size. Also, most containers that large are tapered, and have ridge surfaces for strength. Sections of steel drums and possibly plastic drums could be the right size, but they are expensive and probably not worth cutting for something like this. The cardboard thing worked for backyardpizza, but I think I want something reusable and prettier. I will probably be able to get access to a decent wood/metal shop possibly with cnc capabilities. I'm thinking of making a mold out of sheet metal and/or plywood. Even without access to a fancy shop, I have the tools at home to cut circles out of plywood to wrap sheet metal around.

For the hearth, I am thinking of firebricks instead of a pizza stone - more mass, cheaper, and easier to put away for storage. Also, I've seen plans for wood burning ovens that use firebricks as the hearth. My understanding is that the castable perlite material insulates from heat while the firebricks absorb, radiate, and maybe reflect heat. I played around in google sketchup to figure out how to place the firebricks on the grill inside of the cylindrical body.





The body has an outer diameter of 22.5", and the walls are around 2-3" thick if i remember correctly. The firebricks making up the hearth are 9x4.5x2.5. The four bricks around the edge on end are splits measuring 9x4.5x1.25. Not sure if those are necessary or even useful, but there was room for them. I may leave out the brick in the back of the oven and place wood directly on the grate. Hopefully the bricks won't slide apart too much. They can be strapped together possibly or held together with angle irons.

So far, this has all been very similar to pizzahacker, but the change that I really want to get some feedback on is something that seems to make perfect sense to me. So much so that I assume that there has to be something wrong with it or else somebody would have already thought of it - not just for making pizzas but for grilling in the Weber in general.

I want to line the bottom part of the Weber with the same castable refractory. Of course I would put something in there to make sure that the bottom vents are clear. Yeah, I'd have to do something to accommodate the charcoal and grilling grates (either modify the grates to fit, use the smaller 18" grates, or cast the insulating layer with the grates in place). But otherwise, wouldn't this be better for pizza and grilling and possibly even for smoking in the Weber? You'd use less charcoal, get higher temperatures, and possibly more even temperatures. Kinda like a cheaper, lighter ceramic cooker.

Being able to convert the weber from pizza to regular grilling and back was actually a big concern for me, which is why I steered away from the Little Black Egg mod or anything that involved cutting out the bottom (I forgot to mention that I might be doing these mods on a Weber that is not entirely mine unless I can find something on craigslist for cheap). That is also why I also like having a large heavy hearth that can still be taken apart easily and stored. I am thinking of casting the cylindrical body in 2 or 3 parts, again for the same reason (the opening is a 90 degree arc, so the 3 parts would also each be 90 degrees), although that would make it a less stable base for the dome top. I was also toying with the idea of drilling vent holes into the dome so that it could also be used for grilling and smoking instead of the metal lid. To switch the new lid to pizza-mode, I could maybe have plugs for the holes made of the same castable material or metal.

Sorry for the long post, but this is the first time I wrote any of this down. It's all been in my head up until this point except for the sketches I made in a notebook and the sketchup model. I was getting more ideas as i was writing, but I'll save those for later.

In any case, why doesn't everyone insulate the bottom of their weber with lightweight castable insulation, pizza oven or not?

Am I underestimating how difficult this will be to build?

Thanks for reading, and please help me.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 12:10 PM   #2
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Looking forward to your completed pizza cooker
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Unread 05-26-2011, 04:38 PM   #3
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I just realized there could be a problem with this design. Not having a solid hearth, I won't get the hot air moving from the back out the front opening the way that I would want. I will probably have to break some firebricks to fit them in the empty spaces.

Or as long as I'm making my life difficult and casting the other pieces, I am considering casting the hearth/pizza stone as well to get it more air tight. I found the material that they use to cast firebricks: http://www.acehardwareoutlet.com/Pro...aspx?SKU=40487

If my calculations are correct, $34 of this stuff can cast a 18" diameter pizza stone/firebrick/hearth that is 1.7" thick (and weighs 25 pounds). It will actually be a little thicker because the hearth will be smaller than 18" in diameter, and I won't be casting a full circle, instead leaving a space in the back for wood. Hopefully it'll be thick enough to bring the hearth up to the level of the opening. I might actually be able to get away with a shorter cylindrical body with the reduced hearth thickness, hopefully resulting in hotter air over the pizza.

Some more advanced ideas for future versions (probably getting a little crazy with these):
Anchoring eye bolts or something fancier into the dome and the cylindrical body (or parts of the body) that would allow me to attach the pieces together more securely.
Casting the pieces with interlocking grooves so that they sit together more securely
Casting the dome and body as one piece or somehow gluing or mortaring them together (I would assume that the cement I use to bind the perlite particles together would also bind the body and dome together). Perhaps attaching the hearth as well.
Casting a firebrick dome to sit inside the insulating dome. Or putting a thin layer of firebrick material on the inside walls of all the insulated parts.
Creating a standalone version with the same materials and design that is still inexpensive, lightweight, and portable.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 04:55 PM   #4
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This is a cool thread! I have a performer I am going to make into a dedicated pizza oven like the black egg but your ideas are interesting.

What about using the outside of the weber lid as the form? Then you could use a 55 gal drum as the inside portion of a form for the vertical part. Since I have a performer on a cart (gonna change the shelf to expanded metal) I could just rest all of this apparatus on top. Hmmmmmmmmm
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Unread 05-26-2011, 05:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbramm View Post
This is a cool thread! I have a performer I am going to make into a dedicated pizza oven like the black egg but your ideas are interesting.

What about using the outside of the weber lid as the form? Then you could use a 55 gal drum as the inside portion of a form for the vertical part. Since I have a performer on a cart (gonna change the shelf to expanded metal) I could just rest all of this apparatus on top. Hmmmmmmmmm
Using the outside of the lid is a great idea. You can cut a form for the outside surface out of plywood and rotate it around the outside. I think that's what they do sometimes for real wood burning ovens or casting metal in sand or something.

I was also toying with the idea of making two geodesic domes made out of sheetmeal. I've been looking at the website for NextFab Studio where I am thinking of taking a class or two. They have CNC plasma cutters that can probably easily cut the pieces for the domes.

But for right now, I really need to do less planning and actually build the first prototype to work out the real world problems before making it more complicated.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 05:46 PM   #6
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Here's an idea of the dimensions of the Chciago Brick Oven that Mario Batali has attached his name to. It kind of looks like the bottom of a 22" Weber would work as a mold for the dome.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 06:19 PM   #7
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The modified concrete with perlite and much of the directions you described sound like the design the Pizzahacker originally sold, before he stopped selling them and took them off his website. It all looks good. I do think the solid hearth with a fire opening in the back is necessary as proper drafting or heat is crucial.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 06:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landarc View Post
The modified concrete with perlite and much of the directions you described sound like the design the Pizzahacker originally sold, before he stopped selling them and took them off his website. It all looks good. I do think the solid hearth with a fire opening in the back is necessary as proper drafting or heat is crucial.
Did he sell the oven or plans? If he sold plans, do you have any idea how I can get my hands on those?
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Unread 05-26-2011, 06:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JD08 View Post
Here's an idea of the dimensions of the Chciago Brick Oven that Mario Batali has attached his name to. It kind of looks like the bottom of a 22" Weber would work as a mold for the dome.
very useful. thanks. I have to find a place where I can see one of these in person.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 07:17 PM   #10
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He sold the plans a couple of years ago for around $40 a pop, then one day he just stopped. I suspect it is not possible to get your hands on them.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 07:58 PM   #11
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If you go that route, you will need a LOT of wood to get that unit up to temp because the stones will take so much time to heat up. Not to mention another factor: The legs of the kettle might buckle under the weight of that firebrick.

You seem adamant about not cutting a hole in the bottom of a Weber kettle to build an LBE, so why not get an old beat up donor kettle?

I get great results with my FrankenWeber (LBE) and it uses very little fuel and is consistent very time. Here's a few threads that just might change your mind:

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=94116

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=94358

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=104971

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Unread 05-26-2011, 08:26 PM   #12
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Moose, I definitely saw those threads during my research. The pies look great.

My plan is to use charcoal for most of the heat on the charcoal grate and wood on the grilling grate for flavor and possibly to help draw air up from the bottom vents and into the dome. I was concerned with using too much charcoal to get the oven heated up, which is what made me think of insulating the bottom as well. I also think that the heavy hearth, although it will take longer to heat up, will also stay hot for longer.

Although I would buy another Weber on craigslist if I could find one for cheap whether or not I was making a pizza oven, I haven't had much luck with that. I also don't have a propane burner. I guess I would rather put the money for a second grill and propane burner into the dome and walls. I know it seems like a lot of work, but I'm about to start a leave of absence from law school and have some spare time in my immediate future.
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Unread 05-26-2011, 09:09 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phillee View Post
Moose, I definitely saw those threads during my research. The pies look great.

My plan is to use charcoal for most of the heat on the charcoal grate and wood on the grilling grate for flavor and possibly to help draw air up from the bottom vents and into the dome. I was concerned with using too much charcoal to get the oven heated up, which is what made me think of insulating the bottom as well. I also think that the heavy hearth, although it will take longer to heat up, will also stay hot for longer.

Although I would buy another Weber on craigslist if I could find one for cheap whether or not I was making a pizza oven, I haven't had much luck with that. I also don't have a propane burner. I guess I would rather put the money for a second grill and propane burner into the dome and walls. I know it seems like a lot of work, but I'm about to start a leave of absence from law school and have some spare time in my immediate future.
I hope this works out for you.

For whatever it's worth, I've seen similar approaches on other forums fail for the reasons I mentioned earlier, that's why I chimed in.

I also looked into building my own pizza hacker style oven, but it just seemed like too much work, and difficult to control stone temps consistently.

I have a total of $90 invested in my unit (donor kettle, turkey fryer, and Red Sky Grilling stone) and I'd pay three times that amount for the consistency, ease of use, and quality pizzas it cranks out every time.

Regardless, keep us posted on your progress!
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Unread 05-27-2011, 01:35 AM   #14
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If I may make a humble suggestion...

If you have the space, why not build a base out of concrete pavers and cinder blocks and build your castable pizza oven on it? Will be much sturdier than the kettle. i built a stacked firebrick oven in a similar fashion - not a lick of mortar or cement anywhere. the insulation is nothing to be proud of, but I can keep temps at 800°+ for 3+ hrs using 10 or less pieces of 18" long split pieces of oak (which to me is reasonable since I don't fire it up that often).
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Unread 05-27-2011, 08:02 AM   #15
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I don't really have the space, and I probably wouldn't be allowed by the development to build something that is even semi-permanent, unless it was really nice (i.e. expensive). I also plan on moving a lot in the next few years and would like to be able to take what I build with me. And building something portable is cool in itself.

If it does end up being too heavy (although most of the weight will be in the hearth which weighs only a little more than a cast iron grate), I would probably build a base out of angle irons or metal shelving or something to keep it more portable.

I also really want to see if insulating the bottom makes the Weber more efficient for grilling.
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