Eco Home Living 2935782358_e98e70fd14

Published on September 2nd, 2011 | by Luke Seall

7

How to build a clay oven

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Clay oven

It might not be cutting edge technology, but it does cook the best pizza’s I’ve ever tasted, and in under 5 minutes!  I decided to get back to basics this year and build an outdoor clay oven.  Ever since, the neighbors have been enjoying the smell of freshly baked bread drifting from my garden.  Want to build your own?  Follow this simple 10 step guide.

Materials

You will need:-
- 8 buckets of clay
- 18 buckets of sand
- 2 buckets of wood shavings
- Some bricks
- Some Newspaper
- Water
- Tarpaulin

All of these materials can be easily sourced for free, but if you get stuck, your local builders merchant should be able to help. I dug up my clay from someone’s garden, found the bricks in a skip, got the wood shavings from a local carpenter and found some old newspapers in a recycling bin. The only thing I paid for was the sand.

Oven BaseStep 1 – The Base

First, it is important to make sure you have a sturdy base to build your oven on. It needs to be off of the ground because otherwise your oven will be difficult to use. Ideally make sure the base is at least 1 metre high. The base should also be at least 1 metre square. I built a platform out of bricks. Bricks make a perfect floor for the oven, but you can also use stone or concrete. It is important that the oven floor is as level as possible as this is what you will be cooking on.
Tip: You can make your oven portable by building it on a single layer of bricks on a wooden pallet.

the mouldStep 2 – The Mould

Empty a few buckets of sand onto your base, and shape it into a dome. This will act as the mould for the first layer of clay. The size of the dome will determine the size of the inside of the oven. It should be at least 50cm wide and 40cm tall. When it is finished, cover it in wet newspaper. This will stop the sand sticking to the clay, and act as a guide when you remove the mould later on.

[CC Image by urbanlink.nl via Flickr]

mixing the clayStep 3 – The first mix

Pour 6 buckets of sand and 3 buckets of clay onto your tarpaulin. If the clay is very dry you will need to add some water, but not too much! The clay and sand needs to be thoroughly mixed. The best method is to put your wellington boots on and stamp up and down. This clay and sand mix will form the first layer of the oven. After as much stamping as you can manage, pick up a handful of the mix and compact it into a ball. Hold it at shoulder height and drop it on the floor. It should remain intact, but crack slightly. If it shatters it is too dry and needs more water, and if it splats it is too wet and needs more sand.

[CC Image by Geoff Higgins via Flickr]

Layer 1Step 4 – The first layer

When you are happy with your mix, you can start to build the first layer. Pick up a good handful of the mix and roughly shape it into a small brick at least 5cm thick. Place the brick at the base of the sand mould and pat it into place firmly. It is important that it is very compacted, as any air pockets will turn into cracks. Place your second brick next to the first one and squash them together. Keep patting and compacting all of the bricks as you work your way around the oven. Once the bottom row of bricks is in place, start on the next row and continue until the entire mould is covered. Once you have finished, you will need to leave the clay to dry for several hours or overnight.

remove mouldStep 5 – The Door

Once the first layer has had time to dry slightly, you need to make a door for the oven in order to remove the sand mould. The size of the door will determine what you can fit in your oven, so think about it carefully! My oven door is approximately 10 inches wide. Use a bread knife to cut an arched doorway in the front of the oven. Then remove the clay from the door and begin to scoop out the sand. You will know when to stop scooping when you reach the layer of newspaper that covered the mould.

[CC Image by *Tom* via Flickr]

Brick archwayStep 6 – The brick archway

Brick archways make a great entrance for your oven. They also protect the clay from being damaged when you take things in and out of the oven. You can use whole, or half bricks for the archway. Try to work out how to place them before you start securing them in place. Use some more of the clay and sand mix as a mortar to place between the bricks.

 

Clay oven
Step 7 – The Chimney

Using the same clay and sand mix as before, build a wall to connect the oven wall with the brick archway.  Make small clay bricks and compact them together.  When you reach the top, leave a round hole in the middle to act as the chimney.  The hole should be between 10cm and 15cm in diameter.

 

 

cracksStep 8 – The second layer

Before you begin this layer, it is important that the first layer is completely dry.  This may take up to a week depending on the weather.  Be patient.  The slower it dries, the less likely it is to crack.  Some cracks will almost certainly appear during the drying process.  This is perfectly natural.  Just take some of your clay and sand mix and fill them in as they appear.

The second layer is an insulating layer made from clay and sawdust.  Empty one bucket of clay, and about half a bucket of water onto the tarpaulin.  Make sure you are wearing your wellingtons and start stamping.  You should end up with a wet sticky mixture similar to the consistency of yoghurt.  Remove a small amount of this mix and keep to use as a glue.  Next, add some sawdust to the remaining mixture.  You need to add enough sawdust so that it dries out the mixture and you can form solid bricks.  When this mix is ready, take a handful of the wet glue mix that you set aside and cover a small area at the bottom of the oven.  Then, before it dries, make a brick from the sawdust mix and compact it into place.  You will need to continue this process until the oven is covered with the second layer.

{CC Image by Geoff Higgins via Flickr]

final layerStep 9 – The final layer

Before you begin the final layer, you will need to ensure that the second layer is completely dry, and any cracks have been filled.  The final layer will be made out of the same sand and clay mix that you made for the first layer.  If you have some left over you can use this, if not you will need to make some more.  You will also need to make some more of the wet clay glue mix that you made for the second layer.  Add the glue and then the clay bricks using the same method as before and cover the entire oven including the entrance.

{CC Image by Geoff Higgins via Flickr]

cookingStep 10 – Cooking in your oven

Once the final layer is dry and all cracks have been filled, you can cook in your oven.  Cooking in your oven requires an element of forward planning.  Build a stock pile of good dry wood and kindling.  You will need to start a good fire inside the oven and keep it burning for around 3 hours.  This is just enough time to open a few beers and prepare your pizza toppings.  When you feel that the oven can’t get any hotter, remove the fire from the oven, leaving a few embers around the edge if you wish.  The embers will help keep the oven hot for longer.  Sweep any ash from the center of the oven and you are ready to cook.  The oven should be hot enough to cook a pizza in about 3 minutes.

[CC Image by Stevethedesigner via Flickr]

Bon Appetite!

[Top Photo: CC Image by Velorutionary via Flickr]



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About the Author

I’m primarily a gardener at the moment. A sustainable one. When I’m not gardening, I’m thinking about how to fix the planet. I thought I should probably try and write about it as well, so here we are.



  • http://cookerati.com Diana

    Is the brick firebrick? We used cement blocks for a fire ring that have exploded.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/lukeseall/ Luke Seall

      I just used ordinary bricks that used to belong to a brick wall and they seem to be working fine. The center of the oven floor (which takes most of the heat) is a concrete paving slab and that seems to be working well too.

  • http://www.greenbudgetliving.com Green Living

    What a fantastic idea, and I love your simple instructions. I’m planning a new brick bbq just now but I may just redesign the whole thing to incorporate both now. Thanks.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/lukeseall/ Luke Seall

      Pleasure!

  • http://Web Michael

    It does make fantastic pizzas. I have tried one and am now determined to buildone in my garden ASAP

  • http://tradelist.us Barter

    Next year, this is going to happen!

    • http://clayoven.wordpress.com Simon

      Nice oven. If you want more inspiration and detailed instructions you might want to have a look at my blog too. Have fun oven building folks!
      http://clayoven.wordpress.com
      Simon

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