earth oven building errors to avoid

Especially when building a larger oven, there are some clear earth oven building errors to avoid. (Building an oven is simple, but the truth is that nothing is quite as simple as it may first appear, especially when you build a fire in it.) Heather Coiner of Hat Creek Farm in Virginia (in photo) has generously documented some of the mistakes they made on a commercial-scale oven they built (and used successfully) on their farm — and which they recently took down after building their next oven — a full-scale brick oven built by Eric Moshier, of Solid Rock Masonry. Here’s the link.…

Earth Oven builders in Ecuador (Manuel (10), Juan Carlos (6))

A builder in Alaska sent me this story about an earth oven she built in Ecuador, with two helpers. At the ages of 10 and 6, they are clearly competent. Margaret writes:

Winters in Kodiak were beginning to get to me. I had it in mind to snow goose it away in a warmer climate for the coldest, darkest part of winter. Alan and his girlfriend, Loretta were due to get married on their farm [in Ecuador]. They invited me to the wedding. And so I went.

I had always said to Allan that if I did ever get to Ecuador then I would build them an oven.…

Wood-fired, earth-oven pizza grows a family business in Cedar City UT

Wood-fired, earth-oven pizza grows a family business in Cedar City UT

The Murray family needed extra income to pay dad’s college tuition; he had already made a little backyard oven, and decided he could make a bigger one on a cart and run an outdoor pizza business. My favorite line from the video (below) is Jason expressing amazed gratitude for his wife Cindy’s support: “How many wives would let you make some stupid oven in your backyard out of mud and then put it on a trailer and go out on the street, you know?” They were so successful tho, making pizzas outdoors in every kind of weather, that after several years, they’re now opening an indoor restaurant!…

New translations! in Spanish and German: Hornos de Barro; Lehm Backofens

Thanks to muddy friends Ian Miller, Christo Markham, and Xavier Rodriguez, there are now German and Spanish editions of Build Your Own Earth Oven. The German edition is published by Stocker Verlag, (click here). The Spanish edition is published by EcoHabitar (click here).

A few words of thanks are in order: Ian’s first oven inspired him to start a bread business and build his own natural house; when his (Austrian) wife Andrea got accepted for an educational program in her homeland, he wrote me out of the blue, proposing an oven book for a German speaking audience. He took on the project, found a publisher, did the translation, and made it happen.…

Wood-fired earth ovens: experiments in DIY firebrick (aka “castable refractory”)

I’ve been experimenting with cheap ways to improve lo-cost wood-fired earthen ovens. How can I make mud denser, harder, and more durable? Without going to bricks and/or spending a lotta dough? Adding sand to mud reduces shrink and increases density. But clay and sand are generally still less dense (hold less heat) than a good, hi-fired dense firebrick. Hmmm…

Experimental Goals:

1. to increase the density and toughness of a clay/sand thermal mix appropriate for building wood-fired ovens (and other wood-fired appliances?), 2. to fabricate a higher quality cast dome (“earth-oven”) style oven. Strategies: 1. adjust the mix of particle sizes to maximize density, and 2.…

Combining Earthen and Masonry Techniques in Wood-Fired Oven Construction

Is it made of earth or brick? This is a common distinction in the world of wood-fired ovens and comes with a whole slew of assumptions. “Earth ovens are cheaper, easier to build but less durable.”  “Brick ovens are expensive, harder to build but more professional and will last longer.” The oven build documented below is an exploration of the combination of these techniques to leverage the advantages of each. We use earth where its sculptural quality allows us to perfectly mold it to the shape that we desire. We use brick where it will give a good durable surface for cooking and in the entrance way to withstand the abuse of heated and passionate cooking.…

How to Make a Rocket Powered Kiln of Clay and Sawdust

Jon and Flip Anderson have been working with stoves and ovens for some years now (HPP regulars may remember their rocket powered oven design.) Last February, they helped teach at the Winter Stove Workshop put on by Aprovecho and InStove. Aprovecho Research Center (ARC) was consulting for Mercy Corps in East Timor, who had sent their Program Manager for Renewable Energy, Will Baron, who has responsibility for all programming related to energy, poverty, lighting, electricity, appropriate cooking technology and sustainable cooking fuels.

Mercy Corps’ East Timorese stove program imports stove components from China and trains locals to make and sell completed stoves as a business opportunity, and as a way to improve health and air quality and reduce deforestation.…

UK Earth Oven Project to help Bedouins

Here’s a new oven story that popped up one day via Google Alerts. It comes from the founder of The Makhad Trust, a UK non-profit focused on helping Bedouin tribal desert communities. It began with the planting of an acacia tree in the desert and continues, in part, by restoring the communal hearth — an earth oven. The back story, as published on their website, follows:

“Danny Shmulevitch, the founder, was walking along an ancient pilgrim route that runs through the Sinai Desert. He saw, sitting by the side of the path, a small girl wearing traditional Bedouin dress, who was hoping to sell cans of cola to passing tourists.…

New Rocket Oven design by Flip and John

Jon and Flip Anderson have been working with Aprovecho Research Institute and building smokeless cookstoves in Haiti. They came up with this neat “rocket oven” design that answers some of the questions I get from folks about combining the dome oven design w/rocket technology. By simply using clay and organic matter and applying principles of mass and insulation they have created a beautiful, versatile, oven that can do significant baking w/very little fuel. For more about their work on developing business opportunities and helping with deforestation problems, goto www.RechoRoket.com. Here are a couple of their videos (they’re also working on a book!):

 

Bluegoat Restaurant Oven, w/insulation-in-a-basket

Here’s a little video showing the construction of a super-insulated restaurant oven. The “basket” design seems to be a pretty inexpensive and effective way to insulate — not necessary for every oven, but for ones that really get regular use, I think it’s worth it… It’s a pretty big oven, too, so I opted for hand-made mud bricks instead of mud over a sand-form. For more details about the technique (including brick-making, as well as photos of how well the insulation protects the bamboo), there’s an extensive post and pix about the Gathering Together Farm Oven, which was similarly (re)built.     — Kiko