23 Aug 2010

Making an earth oven. Part 1

The earth oven with insulation layer and door.

After having a delicious pizza cooked in just a few minutes in my nephew's breeze block pizza oven, I wanted to be able do this.

Build Your Own Earth Oven, 3rd Edition: A Low-Cost Wood-Fired Mud Oven; Simple Sourdough Bread; Perfect LoavesWe bought a book on earth oven making, Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer and Hannah Field. It's a very good book; it covers every aspect, and gives a good general feel of the job whilst leaving plenty of scope for your own ideas. There are photos showing some of the sculptural shapes in which others have built their earth ovens: these include a turtle, a phoenix, a frog, a squirrel, a lizard, a snail and a pig.

There are plenty of drawings, sketches and photos covering all aspects of the task, as well as a section on making bread. All dimensions, proportions and materials are given, as well as info on earth ovens used around the world.

The base

First stage is construction of the base, which is well insulated using empty bottles and jars packed together with a clay and straw mixture. (we particularly like one brand of coffee here, so its jars made up the bulk of the insulation.)

The insulated base will help retain the heat in the oven floor (for crispy bases on pizzas).

The concrete foundation slab for the earth oven.
Digging out the bank and laying a foundation (shaped with a length of plastic bent into a curves and pegged in position). The metal disk is the top of a patio lamp that fell over and broke. It's used here as a guide because it's the approximate diameter that the oven will be.

Breeze block wall for oven base and two-slab bench.
Breeze block wall to contain the base insulation. Paving slabs for seats, with fuel wood storage under them.

Digging out the clay for the oven.
We have a lot of clay here below the topsoil, so the main material was right on hand.

Pummelling the dried clay to smash the lumps.
Pummel the dried clay to smash the lumps. (Makes mixing easier.)

The clay and water mix.
Clay mixed with water.

Children love to help out with the mud - clay.
Helpers are willing.

The insulation mix: wet clay mixed with wood chips.
Insulation mix: wet clay mixed with wood chips. Wood chips, shavings, straw - any would do the job.

Empty bottles and jars are packed together with the insulation mix.
Close-up of empty jars and insulation mix.
The base is filled with empty glass bottles and jars (with lids removed) packed together with the insulation mix.

Preparing to make clay pad for oven base.
The area under the oven floor is to be four inch thick solid clay, so we ringed that area with a plastic strip to act as a mould for the clay. Bottles and insulation mix were packed around the oustide of the ring.

(The insulation board seen in the picture is some that we used for edges because we had it handy, left over from a previous job.)

Insulation levelled off read for clay pad.
Ready for the clay pad.

The clay pad with cracks.
The pad set. Cracks are inevitable. We filled them afterwards.

The final clay layer.
A thick layer of clay spread over the top. This brings the level up ready to receive the firebricks for the oven floor.

More cracks appearing in the clay.
More cracks.

Firebricks laid for the oven floor.
Firebricks laid for the oven floor then, around them, outside the oven floor itself, rocks that have been dug up from the ground here.

Making an earth oven. Part 2
Making an earth oven. Part 3
See all Parts.

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