Resilience

Anyone who has followed this blog over the last few years will be familiar with articles I post that demonstrate how, periodically, I neglect the oven and then have to undertake major repairs. This demonstrates two things. Firstly, I’m not very good at looking after my oven. Secondly, considering these ovens are only made from clay and sand, they are fundamentally extremely resilient.

My oven is almost seven years old now. I have, over the years, repaired the chimney, completely rebuilt the brick arch and replaced some of the outer layer around the front of the oven. You can see these repairs outlined in the following posts:

https://clayoven.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/repairs/

https://clayoven.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/winter-damage/

https://clayoven.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/neglect/

https://clayoven.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/time-for-major-repairs/

Last year I had to replace a large section of the outer layer at the rear of the oven. The following series of photos outlines the process.

As you can see, the oven is very straight forward to repair. I normally keep a bag of clay:sand mixture at hand, ready to use for patching-up the oven when needed.

Obviously, if you take care of your oven better than I do mine, you’ll need to do this less frequently but what I think this demonstrates is that these ovens are much more resilient than most people would expect.

Clay Oven 2.0

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.

Collapsed Pizza Oven

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You can see below how I then began to backfill the gap between the new arch and the oven using clay:sand mixture.

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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!

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Here’s a close-up of the chimney.

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Finally, I rebuilt the outer layer with good old clay:sand mixture and, voila!

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Clay oven version 2.0 – done! What do you think?

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Winter Damage

It is early Spring (April) in the SE of England where I live.  On a sunny afternoon, last week, I uncovered the oven for the first time this year to find some fairly nasty water damage.  The video below shows the damage.  I talk about “mysteriously disappearing” clay in the video.  After a little more consideration it is clear that this is just water damage.  Clearly water has been seeping through the covering and has eroded some of the outer clay content.  The heavier sand particles are left on the oven surface hence the covering of sand on the dome.

I know have to patch cracks and fix the chimney.  Hopefully she’ll be OK for another year once I get these repairs underway.  We shall see!