Sunday, September 1, 2019

Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Update!

Well, it's officially an oven.

I guess, technically, it's still a pile of unusable earthen material, but it certainly looks like an oven.

After the cob cap had dried, I needed to add the actual fire brick deck of the oven. I cut paper bricks out to help figure out the best arrangement.

It's the world's lamest jigsaw puzzle.

Then, I put down some actual bricks because the paper ones, while less expensive, didn't seem durable enough.

I sifted sand on to the cob cap to level it and give the bricks a solid base.

I used a rubber mallet to even edges and, on occasion, hit my thumb.

And I sifted a LOT of sand. It's even less fun than it sounds like.

Once all the bricks were placed, I drew a rough outline of where the interior of the oven would be.

Because the stone base that I built was not what I could broadly refer to as a perfect circle, I need to make some adjustments. The interior of the oven I had planned wasn't going to work so I cut out a paper circle to use as my new guide.

Naturally, this meant that I had to take off all the bricks and start that process over again.

It's not a big deal, and I want this done right, but it's never fun to have to begin again.

After the bricks were laid down again and everything looked like it might work, I began building the sand form. Remember when you were a kid and you played in a sandbox and it was so much fun?

Somehow, it loses some of its appeal as you age.

It wasn't bad, but piling handful after handful of sand grows somewhat less exciting after an hour or so.

Not big enough yet.

Maybe a little taller?

And a little wider?

Not even close. The dowel has the height of the dome marked on it. 23.25 inches.

How about this? 

The boss did not approve of my design.

The final sand form, ready to get built on.


I tried to do as much research as I could, but I was still learning as I went along. The height of the interior dome needs to be 75% of the diameter of the dome. So, if a pizza train leaves the diameter at one o'clock, traveling at 400 degrees per gallon, how many miles will it take to fill up six buckets of sauce?

Math has never been my strong point, but I think I figured it out.

Now that the dome was built, it was time to get messy.

For this, it's best to have a friend. Fortunately, I do have a friend.

Meet Ben.

Ben is the handsome fellow on the right.

Ben has been my best buddy since we were 10 years old and, as a happy coincidence, Ben is a potter.

As a happier coincidence, Ben was very willing to come spend a day at my house stomping wads of mud and slapping them on a pile of sand.

The sand dome is covered in newspaper, I presume, so you have something to read while you work.

Then, we put two layers over the sand dome. The first is a mix of sand and clay. This layer is thermal mass that will heat up when we build a fire in the oven.

You mix the sand and clay with your feet.

If you have the right music and the right partner, this can become a dance party.

Then you build up that thermal mass over the newspaper covered sand form.

Our first batch wound up being a bit too wet and it was sagging. Ben and I are getting old, so we had sympathy for things that are sagging. We pulled off our first layer and started over.

It was a smart choice.


Ben and the laying on of hands.

Ohhh, look what's in the news today!

Almost done!
We mixed batch after batch of the thermal mass, slowly piling it up around the sand form. Ben did most of the work because I kept stopping to read the paper.

After it was built, we scored the outside with sticks and poked holes with our fingers to give the next layer something to grab on to.

The first layer is then covered with a second layer. This layer acts as insulation to retain the heat. It is sand and clay with the addition of a lot of straw.

More dancing!

Swing your partner, Do-Si-Do!

Spread that straw

And off we go!

There was a LOT of stomping involved in this process.

It's starting to look like an oven!

Not shown in photo: chickens relentlessly stealing and spreading our straw!

We piled on more and more cob, formed the outer doorway and then, as if by magic...

It's an oven!

Can we have pizza now?

And now, we wait.

After a few days of drying, I'll cut the inner layer of the doorway away and scoop out the sand. Then there will be one more thin layer of earthen plaster to cover the oven and it will be pizza time!

Thanks so much to Ben for all his help, guidance, and fancy dance moves.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Very impressive!