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Building an Oven

During the summer of 2012, we constructed a wood-fired clay oven in our backyard.  What follows is a pictorial record of the construction process.  Most of the material for the foundation (3.5' deep) and the thermal mass of the dome and the cob facade came from materials that were procured onsite.  And yes, the insulation under the hearth does consist of about fifty wine bottles.

We have since discontinued baking in this outdoor oven due to town zoning restrictions.  All of our breads and other baked goods are now baked in an indoor kitchen convection oven.

Sifting clay using a soil screen
More sifting...
Digging the foundation footings
More digging...

More digging...
Tamping down the bottom of the hole
more tamping...
Beginning to fill in the foundation with rock
Adding gravel and coarse sand
tamping down the gravel, nearing ground level
Almost finished footing...
Laying first course of 200+ patio bricks, dry stacked to form foundation
Keeping everything as level as possible
My 1 year old son Volker is the foreman
Adding more bricks to the foundation

Additional courses...
Nearly there...
Top of foundation takes shape
Adding gravel that the hearth slap will rest on
Tamping it down
More tamping...
Course of bricks that will contain hearth slab and sub-floor insulation
Detail of cob mixture (clay/straw) that will adhere the bricks to the foundation
Fifty wine bottles will provide sub-floor insulation

That's a lot of bottles...

Admiring our handiwork
Mixing bark mulch clay slip that will provide additional insulation between the wine bottles

Adding bark mulch
Detail of bark mulch clay slip
Mixing clay/sand building material for oven dome
Clay hearth slab upon which hearth fire bricks will rest
Detail of finished hearth slab
Arial view
Hearth slab is done!
Laying fire bricks for hearth in the dark by lantern light
The beer bottles helped us keep things level
Finished hearth bricks that will serve as the baking area of the oven
The next day, we began by setting the arch bricks around a wood form
Finalizing the arch bricks and readying the chimney
Building the sand form which the dome will be built around

Sand form complete

Wet newspaper is a barrier between sand form and dome
Beginning to build the dome

Somebody went and drank all the beer
Making progress!

A ladder was needed to finish the top of the dome
Steady as she goes...
We ran out of building material and had to mix more!

It's starting to get dark!
Oh so close to finishing the dome!

Admiring our work the next morning, waiting for the dome to dry before removing the sand form


Felix Addison said...

Outstanding. Too bad you are unable to enjoy cooking in this beauty. If you dont mind me asking: what was the zoning code the oven did not meet or the code it violated? Was it too close to a building?

Breadtopia said...

Hi Felix,
Thanks for your comment. The zoning code for a residential home occupation stipulates that no part of that occupation can take place outside the main structure, (i.e. outdoors or in any accessory structure or detached garage) Luckily, I'm still able to bake in the oven for personal use. Do you have an oven or are you planning to build one?

Felix Addison said...

Yes, Simon, a 38in diameter one at home; planning on building a 48in for commercial use. I have learnt much about firing times and baking temps from your post on Kiko's "Share What you've built" site. Many thanks!