Sunday, March 27, 2011

1. Research, Planning, Design & Initial Materials

The basic idea was to build a clay pizza oven, using local clay.  A few factors led to this plan:
  • I have been making bread for years, thanks to the advice of my friend Greg (& Simply No Knead).  As a result, my family and I started making pizzas with my own dough.  
  • I saw a brick pizza oven built by Mick in his backyard (and read a 'how to' guide he had). 
  • My friend Marty also had the spark of creativity.
  • My brother-in-law John built a beautiful clay oven.
  • At Christmas time, my friend Michael made delicious pizzas in a pre-fab oven in his backyard.
I am a researcher by inclination, so I researched pretty hard.  My main sources of ideas were Simon Brookes's Blog and PDF file, and the Forno Bravo community forum.  (However, any mistakes I have made are all my own.)

The Plan
I was pretty sure the clay could be found in a large garden bed at the back corner of my back yard.  I really wanted to get onto that part of it, but it was pretty obvious that a clay pizza oven would not be convenient if built at ground level.  It was also pretty obvious that a clay pizza oven would be heavy, really heavy.

So design started with the pedestal.  I thought about hebel, cement blocks, a solid pedestal, and steel framing.  Having bricked in the steel frame of my carport a few years ago, I was confident that I could build a U-shaped pedestal, leaving a space below to store timber.  I also wanted to put a timber shelf at the front of the pedestal, for convenience.  (This did not happen, but could be a future refinement.)

I continued to be uncertain of what to put on top of the bricks.  My father-in-law Bob and I went on a trip to the Dump Shop (a shop at our local rubbish tip that sells left objects).  Bob found an old cast iron shower base, with a hole in the centre for the drain.  He saw the potential for this to serve as the main base for the oven's foundation.  It could be filled with sand or cement and a layer of bricks for a foundation.  The lady at the Dump Shop let me have it for $5.
The Cast Iron Shower Base

I counted up the left over bricks my house was built from, and came up quite short.  At about this time one of my daughter's friends said that her Dad had some bricks.  Bob (The Other Bob) offered as many bricks as I needed.  I decided that his bricks could make a convenient foundation for the pedestal (instead of a slab), as well as the back wall of the pedestal, and the foundation for the oven.  I counted up the number needed, and collected them with a couple of spares for good measure.

I made my biggest purchase, sand and cement, at a local landscape supplies shop.  These set me back $170-odd.  I ordered a lot more sand than I needed, as I needed some to level my lawn in a couple of places.  I also unknowingly bought one bag of cement too many.  It is yet to be returned for a refund or credit.

I decided early on that simplicity would be good - to benefit the environment and my wallet, and to limit the potential for failure. One of the things I did to achieve this was to rule out a chimney/flue.

...Geoff the Researcher

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