Author Topic: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build  (Read 6119 times)

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Offline ForrestM

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My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« on: March 07, 2013, 10:20:48 PM »
Hello all.

First I want to thank the members of this site.  When it comes to purchasing a WFO there are quite a few choices out there.  The differences can be a bit confusing for a newbie like myself.  This site has so much information that was instrumental for me to make a sound choice and avoid some of the pitfalls with regards to the ovens that I did not purchase.  In particular there are a few members that went above and beyond in helping me with my tireless barrage of questions.  I won't name names, as I am not sure that they would appreciate that, but you know who you are.  Especially one of you.  Thank you for your patience, and for inviting me and my family into your home to see your beautiful oven in action.  

Ok, on to my decision.  I looked at mugnaini, earthstone, forno bravo, la panyol, a couple different units from craigslist, and four grand mere.  I think that is it,  there may be a couple others in there,  it is a bit of a blur at this point.

By the time that you factor in all the costs, the pricing across the different kits are fairly similar.  Some are a bit more, some a bit less, but if you compare same size to same size, plus all the "extras" that you will end up needing, they work out to be within the same general range.

Every oven had its plusses and minuses.  The conclusion that I came to is that I likely would have been happy with any of them.  At the end of the day, it would come down to learning your oven and being able to manage it correctly.  Ultimately, I narrowed it down to the La Panyol, and the FGM.  The others seemed to have just a little more chatter online about issues than those two.  To be fair,  the LA Panyol is on the higher side of the price scale, and the FGM seems to be a new comer to the U.S. WFO scene.  So, it could just be that there are far less people using those models than the others and therefore less data on the inter webs.  

Both the La Panyol (via Maine Wood Heat) and the FGM (via Antoine at Bread Stone Ovens) have fantastic pre-sales support.  They are very patient, will answer any and all questions, and will even go do research if they donít know the answer off hand.  I have a friend who has the La Panyol and it really is a stellar oven.  I helped him build it when he got it years ago and I really liked the design.  I have only had bread and pizza out of his oven, but both were excellent.  

In the end, the feature that pushed me over the edge and made me choose the FGM was the raised door option.  I know that will make some of you NP purists cringe, but my intentions for this oven are more broad than just pizza (did I just blaspheme?).  I fretted a bit about it, as all the other ovens out there have a much more extreme dome to door ratio than the raised FGM, but I figured that really it would come down to oven management, and I could always dome my pies if needed.  Then Antoine came out with the throat reducer, so that seemed like a happy compromise.  Now I can fit my thanksgiving turkey, a suckling pig, etc., and also make good NP pies (all of which is yet to be seen, but that is my theory and I am sticking to it.).

I decided to purchase from Antoine.  So I went with the 950 raised, brick.  I also got the stand, his complete package, and an embers rake and oven brush.  I decided against buying peels from him as everyone on this site raves about the GI peels, so I figured I would go that route.  I went with the complete kit and the stand because I thought it would be nice to have everything I needed delivered to my doorstep, ready for assembly.

So, now that I have gone through the purchasing experience, and have built it, here are my thoughts.  I will add to this thread as I learn more through using it.

The good:

Antoine was absolutely fantastic with all my pre-sales needs.  He was patient, answered questions I had about the ovens, tools, and even did his best to answer questions that I had about some of his competitors ovens, which btw, he never had an ill word to say about any of them (I really appreciated that).  

This oven is beautiful.  The brick and the outer door really make it a show piece in my opinion.  

Although I have only really done curing fires so far, the heat retention on this oven is phenomenal.  It has been pretty cold at night at my place (well, cold for the west coast).  When heated up to 60 to 70 C (on the dome thermometer) overnight heat loss is less than 10C (over more than 12 hours).  Granted I went extra on the insulation in both the floor and the dome.  This seemed to hold true as the heat crept higher as well.

Assembly was pretty straightforward.  Putting the oven together is time consuming.  Be prepared for that.  Also, it is heavy.  Not just a little bit either.  I mean,  freakishly so.  I had planned on having another couple to come over and help me put the dome in place.  I am reasonably strong, as are they.  While we could certainly lift the dome pieces, there is no way we could have lifted it high enough to put it in place.  As luck would have it, I had a neighbor stop by the morning that I was planning on doing it.  He had some friends visiting, so we ended up having 5 guys lift the dome pieces into place.  

I had some items get damaged (the stand was pretty scratched up, and the door had some damage), either in shipping, or prior to packaging.  Antoine took care of sending me replacements/ways to fix them.
The oven shipped within a couple weeks of payment.  This was pretty fast as I know that he had to have the stand made, the throat reducer made, gather the items for the complete kit, and get it out the door.

The Bad:

While Antoine rocked during pre-sales,  that experience did not carry through to post sales for me.  He went from being very responsive to being hard to reach, and slow to respond.  To be fair I think he has been in the middle of some personal things, so I do not know if my experience would echo with what others would experience.  Also, I do not want to exaggerate things, its not like he went MIA completely, just that he went from same day responses before I purchased, to several days between responses after my check cashed.  Under many circumstances, this would be fine, but seeing as how I just spent a ton of money, I was a bit disappointed.  Since my experience with him pre-sales was so stellar, I did not expect this.  I have been in contact with him a bit, and whatever he was going through seems to have subsided.  He has returned to his previous state of being very responsive.  I am going to write this off as bad timing, even though it was frustrating as hell when it was happening.

The stand sways a bit.  This oven is big and heavy.  The stand could be a bit more re-inforced.  I will likely tack on some cross members to get it more stable.  I don't think it is going to tip over or anything,  but the sway when you push on it is a bit disconcerting.

I ordered some tools with the oven.  Those didn't show up with the oven delivery.  This was fine, as I figured that they were coming shortly there after.  The oven shipped on 1-21,  The tools didn't ship for a whole month after.  I had to follow up with Antoine about this many times before getting an answer.  I think this was likely related to the problem above.  Antoine did upgrade my brush that I purchased to a higher end one, free of charge due to the delay.  That was nice.

There was a considerable amount of mildew on the bricks.  This is not a huge deal as the heat will kill anything,  but it takes away from the over all experience to be handling mildewy pieces as you are putting it together.

The complete kit, is not really complete.  While it has the bulk of what was needed to put the oven together,  I still needed to purchase several things to get it assembled per the directions. This would have been fine if it were my expectation up front.  However, I was under the expectation that it would come with everything I needed to put it together.  


In a nutshell:

If I had it to do again, I would still get the same oven.  However, I would not get the complete kit.  Since I still had to go to the store to purchase items to get it together, I would just buy all of those components locally.  Also, I would ask around to see if I could get a stand fabricated locally.  The stand is nice, I think it looks good, but it needs more reinforcement, so I will end up getting a welder to do that anyway.  If I wasn't able to find someone local to do it easily, then I would purchase the stand again.

I am hoping that this thread will help those of you that are looking to take the plunge and buy an oven.  It would be nice if I could give something back to this site which was so instrumental in my decision process.  Thanks again to everyone that helped me.


Now on to the build pictures.

I cleared out my side yard to prepare the new space
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 08:57:05 AM by ForrestM »


Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2013, 10:22:45 PM »
Here is the crate sitting in my garage.  The back side had taken some damage, It looks like maybe it got rammed with a forklift.  You cant see that in this picture,  luckily there was no damage to the oven itself.

Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2013, 10:24:01 PM »
Next I put the stand on the pad, and filled it with fiberboard insulation.  I went an additional layer, just for fun.  After that, the floor went on.


Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2013, 10:26:42 PM »
Then I put the floor bricks in place, and leveled them with sand.  I didnt take a picture, but I used a level, and a pizza peel to ensure that it was level, and that no bricks would catch the peel as it slid across the surface.  Once the bricks went in, we taped them off and installed the grout around the perimeter.


Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2013, 10:27:21 PM »
Then came the raised sides.


Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2013, 10:31:22 PM »
Now for the heavy part.  The dome comes in two pieces and it is freakin heavy.  And of course you dont want to drop it, so lifting it up high, and getting it to sit on the sidewalls without making the sidewalls slip out of place was challenging.  We ended up using duct tape around the side walls to keep them from slipping out of place.

After the back, we put the front on.  We used two by fours through the wires to make this happen.  it was really the only way that we could get it that high, and have our fingers out of the way.  It is really helpful if you have some people lifting, and one person guiding the piece into place.

Also, here is a picture of the inside.  Which is sexy as hell.

Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2013, 10:33:25 PM »
Next went the insulating blankets.  I put three layers on.  After that came the foil layer.  I made a mistake here.  I stopped short of the flu with the blankets.  This gave me issues later on, which I will get to shortly.

Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2013, 10:36:44 PM »
I then started the curing process.  I built several small fires, never letting the flame touch the dome, and keeping the heat low.  Then a friend loaned me their heat lamp.  This was MUCH easier.  MUCH.

Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2013, 10:40:53 PM »
Then came the chicken wire.

After that I used 4 large bags of perlite and about 120 lbs of portland cement.  Or there abouts.  At first we figured we would spread it on, like stucco or mortar.  This ended up being super difficult.  So we taped up cardboard like Antoine suggests.  This is WAY easier.  I highly recommend this method.  The only issue I had was that I thought it had cured enough to pull off the cardboard, and it had not.  One side was still kind of clinging to the cardboard, and I lost a bunch on the side.  Which meant I had to build it back up by hand. Which was a PITA.


Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2013, 10:46:15 PM »
Then came the stucco finish.  This is where I felt the pain of my earlier mistake of not running the fiberglass blankets up the flu.  I ran the stucco all the way to the chimney, it looked great.  Well, just like they teach you in third grade science, when you heat metal, it expands.  Damnit,  I didnt think of that.  So, now I have some hairline cracks in the stucco leading from the chimney.  They are just superficial, but they suck.  Dont make this mistake.  It is easily avoided.  And since I dyed the stucco, not easily fixed.  I figure if it really bothers me a couple of months from now, I will either toss on a second coat of stucco, or tile it.  One note for those that are un-initiated at dying stucco, like I was prior to this.  When I put the dye in, it came out poop colored.  Literally.  It was nasty.  I was a bit paniced, but I had to put it on the oven.  I figured if it didnt change, I would just paint it.  Thankfully, it lightened up and I am now very fond of the color (the one that it turned into, not poop).

At this point I started some more significant curing fires.  But once the stucco started to crack, I stopped.  I didnt want to make it worse.  I have since removed the chimney, scraped out a half inch gap between the flu and the stucco, and am looking for some high temp caulk or something to fill the gap with.  Something that can take the expanding and will keep a seal to keep water out.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 10:55:12 PM by ForrestM »


Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2013, 10:49:24 PM »
So, I still have some touch up to do.  I need to paint the screws on the door, I want to build some counter tops.  Do something more with the base, etc.  If I can find some caulk tomorrow, I will put the chimney back on and fill in the gap.  Once that is done I should be able to bring the oven up to temp.  Then, pizza!!!!

I have cooked some bread and some skirt steak in it so far.  The steak was phenomenal.  The bread was nasty, but that was all me.  I was just being anxious and I put the bread in with active fire,  this made the bread super smoky.  Which I did not care for. 

That is all for now.  I will update it as I finish it out. 

Cheers!

Offline Qarl

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2013, 10:50:56 PM »
Frigging sweet. I have oven envy!

 :P

Offline wheelman

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2013, 10:52:07 PM »
Looks great. Really nice work.
Bill

Offline JConk007

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2013, 11:19:17 PM »
Congrats on the new oven!!  I love the 950B the brick finish alone separates the FGM from many of the competition! I am a salesman by trade ( day Job) and know how frustrating it is to not hear back, or any type of delay when you  are excited and have questions and need answers.  I speak to Antione quite often and he allway gets back same day that said,  In all Fairness to Antione he has just moved his entire operation across the country! from Maryland to Texas. and did end up with some container issues ...  which he can expand on if so desired.What  I really like about these FGM 950 is as mentioned the versatility for other cooking along with  the concrete bed that the floor tiles sit on/in that much extra mass ...  A little more heat up time but well worth it. I am sure he will work out the stand issues also with a new welder and feedback such as this.
I truly hope you enjoy the Oven and keep posting  here about your adventures of all your WFO cooking
Have fun !
John
oh if you need any other tools I know where you can get them  ;)
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 11:23:31 PM by JConk007 »
I Love to Flirt with Fire! www.flirtingwithfirepizza.com

Offline derricktung

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2013, 10:26:48 AM »
Thanks for the detailed review!  I'm in the process of getting ready to buy my first WFO as well, and Antoine has me hooked! 

I think you're right though.. he may have had something personal going on, as we were going back and forth on e-mail, and then he dropped off at some point, but then has been responding since. 

It's a beautiful oven, and I'm looking forward to placing my order soon!  (Oven envy here as well!)


Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2013, 10:34:23 AM »
Thanks folks.

As I mentioned Antoine did come back around.  He has done everything that I have asked of him.  Some things took longer than I would have liked, but the end result is that I got everything I wanted, plus some. 

I thought long and hard about whether or not to put that whole part of my experience in this review.  Ultimately I decided to include it because I figured if I was reading this as someone who was contemplating a WFO purchase I would like to hear about it.  Not only that there was frustration, but that it all worked out in the end.

Offline tuckerdog99

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2013, 03:04:36 PM »
ForestM
Thank you for taking the time to post such a detailed and thoughtful review.
I am in the process of deciding in a WFO and Breadstone Ovens are high on my list. Since I am mechanically impaired and have never enjoyed the problems associated with construction, I'm likely looking at a Turnkey Pkg. Other choices would include the Primavera 70.
Since I am a novice , pre and post dealer follow up is very important to me. In the world of outsourced customer service, having the individual or company stand behind the product is , at least in my mind, a major deciding factor.
I appreciate your honesty and completeness in describing the pre and post sale interactions. I also recognize the caveat of a small company making a major move and how that could play a role in some of the problems you encountered.
I also respect the words of senior members who have had long term relations with Antoine and continue to have only good things to say.
If other members would comment on the post ordering follow up, it would be appreciated.
Overall your review to me would rank as a positive, making me more likely to buy a Breadstone
Enjoy your oven with your family in only the best of health
Michael

Offline Jon in Albany

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2013, 04:06:15 PM »
If the rumors about moving to Texas are true that is disappointing for me. I was planning to stop by to see an oven the next time I am in Maryland (probably this summer).

Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2013, 04:34:15 PM »
Michael,  if I had it to do over, I would still order from Antoine. 

The FB ovens are nice, and I think I would have been happy with one, but from the research I have done and from the ovens I have seen,  the FGM was the best for my purposes.

Offline ForrestM

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Re: My new Four Grand Mere (FGM) build
« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2013, 04:39:25 PM »
Today I purchased some caulking.  I got two different ones.  One that is rated to 1380 F and one that is rated to 450F

I filled the crevice I created with the higher temp one.  Sadly, it is water soluable so I need to seal it with the 450 stuff.  Not sure that will be good enough, but we shall see.  I have my fingers crossed.  Might even be able to get it up to pizza temps on Sunday.


 

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