I had seen clay ovens at various sites I’d visited over the years and always liked the mixture of sculpture and practicality. We decided that we could build one at the community garden in time for the Transition Shipston Garden Party at the beginning of August so work commenced.
Several of us levelled the ground, dug out a circular foundation and started to build the stone plinth that the oven would sit on. The base of the oven was fire bricks laid on a bed of sand giving a smooth and heat resistant cooking surface.
We lit a small fire to help dry out the walls a bit and a few cracks started to appear which I had expected but were still worrying. The day of the party arrived, the cracks hadn’t expanded and the whole oven was still standing. We lit the fire to heat it up and kept stoking it, the internal temperature cooks pizzas in less than 10 minutes!. Many years ago I had salvaged a piece of marble that was now set up to make the dough on for the pizzas and we were soon cooking. Pizzas came out beautifully cooked and enjoyed by all. The cracks re-appeared in the fierce heat but a few days later, I filled them and the whole structure seems very stable. We now need more clay to mix with straw to add a second layer that forms insulation helping to retain the cooking heat and this is the point at which we can make a fancy shape if needed. I have seen several shaped as snails, dragons and various creatures so if you’re feeling artistic and would like to help with this next part of the build, let me know. Now when’s the next party…?