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Dr Bill’s Big Fix Blog

Anyone for pizza?

As summer finally becomes a glimmer on the far horizon, the committed DIYer is probably gearing up to start on this year’s projects. The usual suspects would be relaying a patio or perhaps constructing a brick built barbecue, but is there a more exciting project just waiting to be attempted?

As an avid watcher of television cookery shows, I can’t help but notice that the likes of ‘Jamie O’ and ‘James M’ are increasingly seen outside cooking on their humungous wood fired oven. These seem to be all the range for the aspiring chef and the next step up from the humble barbecue.

So what about constructing a pizza oven?

There are plenty of useful and detailed links on the web, and that’s where I would go for the best information. I confess I have never tried this myself, but I have seen a pretty good attempt by a group of students on an allotment, so I know it’s possible. So, let’s look at the basics:

·      A plinth: Build a hollow box (say 1m high by 1.2m square) using brickwork, blockwork or even railway sleepers, fill it to a few inches from the top with a mixture of sand and glass bottles to act as a heat sink

·      The oven floor: The top surface of the filled plinth will be the surface on which you do the cooking, so a layer of solid bricks is put on top of the sand/glass mixture to form a flat surface, flush with the top of the plinth and with no gaps between the bricks

·      A domed oven made of clay, the tricky bit: You need to make a hollow dome out of puddled clay (which you can buy online or from some builder’s merchants). This can be formed over a mound of sand which should fit within area the brick oven floor and should be around 450 mm high with 100mm thick walls. Once this clay has dried out for a few hours you can cut an opening in the dome to act as an entrance and scoop out the sand. Traditionally an entrance tunnel of brickwork is added (use clay to mortar the joints between the bricks) with a hole in the dome near the entrance to enable a small chimney to be added. Seal the tunnel chimney to the dome with more clay

·      An oven insulation layer: The final stage is to cover the clay dome with a thin insulating layer of clay and woodshavings or sawdust allow to dry before adding a final 100mm  ‘finishing’ layer of clay and sand

·      Leave it to dry out for about a week and you are ready to go

Have a trawl through various websites and you’ll get a much better idea if this is something you want to tackle. Pizzas and cold beers in the garden this summer could be yours for the taking.

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