In a recent post I demonstrated what happens when a traditional clay oven is neglected and abandoned to the vagaries of a British winter. After waiting for weeks for the weather to pick-up a little, I finally managed to get out into the garden this week and got on with the long-awaited repairs. I thought you’d like to see what I have been doing.
First off, here’s a sad reminder of what the oven looked like beforehand.
You can see that the brick arch and chimney had collapsed. You will also notice the house brick which I had placed in the hole which had burnt into the front beam of the plinth. This was always meant to be temporary but I had never got around to fixing it.
The first thing I did was remove the arch bricks, the chimney remnants and then strip-off the outer-layer of the oven. What you can see below is the inner layer, around which is wrapped the insulation layer.
I then removed the brick from the charred hole in the plinth beam and fitted a new, fire-proof tile in its place (I used a stone floor tile).
For ages I have wanted to make a wooden former around which to build a new brick arch. As you can see below, I made this out of a few pieces of wood offcuts which I marked-up and then cut with a jigsaw. The arch pattern will allow me to build a much neater arch but also make it much easier for me to make a nice, tight fitting oven door.
Next I fitted the arch pattern/former in place at the front of the oven. This required me to slightly re-shape the front of the oven layer which I did easily with a knife.
At this stage I realised that it might be tricky to remove the arch pattern once the bricks had been built around it, so I added a couple of brackets to the front which could be used as handles. I then built the brick arch using clay:sand mixture as mortar, making sure that the key stone, in the top-centre of the arch was positioned to take the weight of the arch either side of it. This is important, if you don’t do this the arch will collapse under it’s own weight.
You can see below how I then began to backfill the gap between the new arch and the oven using clay:sand mixture.
Another modification I have been wanting to make for ages is to add a ready-made chimney. I managed to get hold of a clay pipe fitting, the front of which I rested on the top brick of the arch and the back which I rested on the solid, oven-layer. I cut a couple of house bricks and fitted them snugly, either side of the chimney, in order to give it extra support and then packed the gaps out with clay:sand mixture. I think it looks rather splendid!
Here’s a close-up of the chimney.
Finally, I rebuilt the outer layer with good old clay:sand mixture and, voila!
Clay oven version 2.0 – done! What do you think?
Well done impressive
I have found great stability using a tarp and a square piece of corrugated plastic. I don’t think you can effectively keep the moisture away from the oven in the winter with the tarp directly on the oven. The plastic square keeps the tarp off everything but the crown and allows airflow between the oven and tarp. FWIW.
I’ve used with great success pond liner to cover my oven,haven’t had any issues over the last 2 winters at all.
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Great inspiration. I have no access to clay here. Sand is plentiful! I purchased 50# of clay with grog. It is moist- not dry. Is there a way to determine ratio of moist clay to sand and water?
Hi Debbie, aim for 2:1 ratio and then do the drop test before you build. Err on the side of dry, as long as the material is pliable enough to handle. If it’s too wet, it’ll slump towards the base.
Best of luck,
Does it matter if you put the chimney at the front or back of the oven.
Hi David, yes it does. If you put the chimney at the back, you lose more heat than if it is at the front.
Hello, thank you for your fabulous blog, you gave me the confidence to build my own wood fired clay oven and today 3wks on I have just finished the final clay layer, I did as you suggested sat back and had a beer ! I have blogged my build and have praised your blog guide as you really made it easy to follow. My blog is Flowerpot kitchen.blogspot.com. Hope you like it. 🙂
It looks great…
I took off half my wooden arch,covered it in a thin aluminium sheet(Old printing plate),and it makes a great door for overnight slow cooking…….
fast work simon; looks pretty damned sharp (for a blunt thing) – lets see those pizzas!