Template for the Temporary Brick Pizza Oven Arch, How to Determine the Radius of an Arch, and Removing the Jig

The temporary brick pizza oven I helped build got a lot of attention and a number of questions about the jig used to place the bricks into the arch. Here are the details and a rough blueprint:

-Legs: 2×4, approximately 12″ long (extending 9.25″ below the arch). Qty: 2
-Arch:  1/2″ plywood, 32.25″ wide, 5.25″ at its peak. Qty: 2
The legs extend below the bottom of the arch 9 1/4″ – however, the exact height was adjusted on-site (by cutting part of them off) by the instructor to match up with the size of the bricks he used. In order for the arched bricks to lock into place, you want the bottom edge of the arch to be just below the walls. On our oven, we did a stack of bricks on their side (about 9″) and one layer laying down (about 2″) . Measure your bricks and adjust the height of the arch accordingly.

The two legs are screwed in between the two sides of the arch

To draw the curve, you want to know the radius of the arch you’re building. After doing the weekend class, the instructor gave me the jig we used, but no specifics on the dimensions. Using an online circle calculator with the measurements of the arch height (5.25″) and the chord length (straight-line distance between the two ends of the arch; 32.25″), I was able to determine the radius of the arch to be 27.39″. With the radius, you just need to make a line at that length, one end fixed and one with a pencil attached to it,  and use that to draw the curvature.

If you don’t have internet access and need to figure out the radius, here’s the equation:
radius = (rise2 + (1/2 width)2) / 2 x rise

rise is the height of the arch
width is the length of the chord

Attach the two pieces of plywood with a few screws before cutting, and cut them as one piece to ensure that the curve matches. Use a jigsaw or a router set up to cut curves. Ultimately, the bricks will settle a bit so the curve doesn’t have to be cut perfectly, but try to get it close to make things easy.

Finally, I’m finished using my jig and am selling it cheap – anyone who is looking for one but doesn’t have the tools/time to make it (which would be weird, if you’re planning on building this oven), contact me via the link at the top of the page.

Good luck building!

18 thoughts on “Template for the Temporary Brick Pizza Oven Arch, How to Determine the Radius of an Arch, and Removing the Jig”

  1. Funny coincidence. I had to use exactly that formula a couple of weeks ago. I had to layout a cutting template for a couple of pieces of aluminum to be shaped to fit over the top of a dome for a tool custom tool I had made.

    I have a pool filter that gives me fits whenever I have to take its lid off. The new tool exactly fits the shape of the part I have to turn, so it can apply even pressure all along the contact points, letting me use a long handle to apply a lot more torque without breaking the lid by applying it all in one spot.

  2. Hey FirefighterGeek –
    That sounds like a cool project. I’d love to see some photos, as would other pool owners with the same filter system I’m sure. Shoot me a note!

  3. This is crazy! I just started building this oven based on your descriptions TODAY! The one thing I was worried about was the jig. I came here to re-look at some of your photos and dang if you didn’t just hand me the answer.

    Thanks!

  4. I tried the online calculator for a arc height of 5.25″ and chord length (or width) of 32.25″ and it gave the radius as 27.39″ (not 23.83″).

  5. radius = (rise² + 1/2 width²) / 2 x rise
    If one uses standard arithmetic order of operations, there’s a small error with this formula, it should in fact be:
    radius = (rise² + (1/2 width)²) / 2 x rise

    IOW, you need to multiply by 1/2 before squaring

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  12. A Catenary Curve/arch is what you want
    like the St. Louis Arch

    all you need is a chalk covered string and hand it between 2 nails – inverted
    make the arch as big as you want – it doesn’t really matter – just to look nice
    then flip it 180 degrees so the arch is up

    forget all the math…

  13. Hi Mike,
    I have been working on a gas-augmented brick oven in Panama for a couple years now. First off, thank you so much for the arch equation. I was looking around the web for it and found all sorts of complicated trigonometric equations, some of them were even wrong (assuming right triangles rather than isosceles triangles). Not sure how you simplified to eliminate the trig, but I like it (and I imagines the ancient Romans did not have TI or HP scientific calculators in their pockets)!
    Anyway, I need help figuring out my arches. I tried last year using an arch with similar parameters to your low-arch but I could not keep it from collapsing when removing the form (bricks tilt back).
    This year I tried a higher arch and was slightly more successful in that it “almost” did not collapse. It seems like it should be simpler. Maybe I need to cut more off the legs and use thicker shims?

    Any advice would be appreciated. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3d31801f14ff9a7bda0f29cff0715feda306639cd946271527c34ad43a11aa69.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/420ee431e0daeb5e64199d26d28b073ac29f2f7384466242dd0c6e53c8aec76e.jpg

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