mortar for tiling over brick fireplace?

Hello,
What type of product should I use to level/smooth out the face of my brick fireplace prior to installing ceramic tiles on it? The brick is pretty bumpy. I've read other posts that talk about using mortar. Is this the same mortar that you find next to cement bags, the kind used for laying bricks? I've never used this before, so I don't know how well it works on vertical surfaces.
I've already tried using some Mapei Planipatch, which was recommended to use. It sets too fast for this type of job I'm finding, and the 10lb box doesn't spread too far.
Secondly, the hearth of the existing fireplace sticks out about 18" from the wall and is about 3" high. It had lousy broken tiles that I removed this morning. Now there is an uneven surface (looks like mortar) left. What should I use to level this? Again, I think the Planipatch will set too fast and it's coverage will be poor. I've never used a leveling mortar/compound before and I'm not sure it's suitable for this. It seems to me that a self-leveling mortar would run off the edge of the hearth and onto my hardwood floors.
thanks
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telus wrote:

Just using plain old thinset mortar and combing it out with the proper notch trowel for your tile should be fine. _______________________

Hammer and chisel. Or, if not too thick, same as for the brick (above).
-- dadiOH _____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.0... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico ____________________________
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Done.
thanks

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telus wrote:

What's done? The hearth area or the brick face? If the latter, I hope you also applied the new tiles as you were applying/combing out the thinset.
dadiOH ______________________

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