Friday, January 25, 2008

Brick Tricks (Fireplace VIII)

Yesterday, the mason started on the brick arch that will line the ceiling of the wood cook stove alcove. Other than a few of the firebrick in the firebox, I've left all of the brick laying up to him. I thought I would show his nifty secrets in this blog posting. First the form... it was his brainstorm to use masonite to line the arch. The 1/8th inch peg-board can be found at just about any hardware store, and it bends easily. It's lightweight, strong, and is full of holes that you can run drywall screws through. When we're done with the form, he's going to use the masonite to hang tools in his garage, so you could even say that it's recyclable. This form is actually two forms in one. Because the brick ceiling will be two inches higher than the stone facade, the bricks must span 48 inches, while the stones will span only 44 inches. The mason cut 2" off of the height of 2x6's in order to incorporate the smaller stone form into the larger brick form.

Earlier that morning, we stopped at the farm store and picked up 50 feet of 3/8" rope. After the form was in place, the mason proceeded to cut the rope into 20" strips. He then laid bricks edgewise on the form, using the rope as gauges to keep the bricks evenly spaced. I then cut some 7/16 plywood shims that he pushed into to cracks between the tops of the bricks. The wooden shims helped keep the bricks in their proper orientation. Before mortaring anything, the mason laid all of the bricks on the form. It's a good thing he did a dry run, because he discovered that the spacing wasn't going to work out perfectly. No worries though -- we decided that by turning the final course of brick sideways, the spacing did work out. In fact, bricks turned in this fashion matched the spacing for the light box that had to be mortared in at the top of the arch.

After he was satisfied that everything would work, the mason filled his grout bag and started mortaring the joints. He looked like a persnickety baker putting the final touches on an elaborate wedding cake, pulling out the wooden shims as he went. After I cut and place the stone arch, and after we have the next 24 inches of flues in their proper places, we'll pour concrete over this brick arch. A day later, we'll wreck the forms and pull out the rope spacers from below. Then the mason will tuck-point the joints with mortar and make everything look neat. Finally, the 6th and final arch will be finished.


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