Basically I have reopened an old fireplace and want to build it back up for use. I have gutted it out and I went to a builders centre for fire bricks & fire cement.
I was informed I would have to use fire clay which I bought 2 x 25kg bags. I filled the base of the fire yesterday afternoon and pointed the old brick work. Its still not set after 14hrs? Have I missed something?
Also the smoke catcher fell out when I opened up. It is angled. Is the slop at the front or the back.
The only fireclay I know dries, it does not set. I would have used a mortar with a high proportion of lime in it.
The smoke shelf probably should slope up at the front with a gap at the front.
Don't forget to allow the fireplace to dry for a considerable time and then fire it up gradually.
From your description it sounds like the flue is too big and all the heat is being sucked up the chimney. If you can find one buy an adjustable throat unit so you can restrict the air going up the chimney.
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