The Fresh Loaf

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simple and small brick oven

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varda's picture
varda

simple and small brick oven

I would like to build a small - 2 loaves max - brick oven for making bread during the summer.   I have a lot of wood I could use for fuel, and my main goal is not to have an oven going in the house.   I am not particularly handy, and have never mixed, poured, rebarred, etc. concrete.   I downloaded the plans for dome ovens from Forno Bravo, and I think I could never successfully build to them.   I was hoping for something a lot simpler.   I am guessing I will have to pour concrete no matter what I do, but I just want to start smaller and simpler.   Also, unless I'm misunderstanding, in Forno's design you have the fire and the bread in the same compartment.   I was thinking you could build the fire underneath and bake the bread on top.   Is that a misconception?   I have absolutely no need to make a lot of bread at a time.   Usually I bake a single loaf.   Very occasionally two.


Thanks for any pointers you can give me.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi


If you want to work this small, you have no need to have a fire running at the same time as you bake.


The whole principle of this type of baking is the use of retained heat.


So all you do is build a fire in your brick chamber and build up sufficient heat to bake your 2 loaves.   Put the fire out, clean your oven, let it settle and bake your bread.


I would recommend that you read Daniel Wing and Alan Scott's book "The Bread Builders"   It's about as instructive as you could possibly wish; a great read


Best wishes


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

vhaimo   I've been in a similar position - checked a book out of the library with plans for what turned out to be an outhouse-sized brick oven and just thought whoa...


The Traditional Oven site has a great deal of information about building brick ovens and like TFL there is always someone to respond to queries. It is full of people showing ovens they have built without previous detailed building experience. Plans are available from the site host and can be scaled down http://www.traditionaloven.com/


However building a high grade brick oven can be pricey and does require skill with a range of materials. One thing I learnt from the library book is that there are much simpler forms of small oven buiding that precede bulding with brick. These include shaped clay ovens, some of which have brick or fire brick baking floors.  In the US the Natural Buiiding Network has information on courses (which seem to vary widely in price!) and in the UK River Cottage runs courses http://www.rivercottage.net/ShopProduct16/BuildandBake.aspx These ovens will not be as durable as brick but may be a much simpler and cheaper way to start.


Re Forno Bravo plans - you would be right in thinking that the fire is set in the baking chamber. In this way all surfaces of the oven and not just the baking floor heat up and the loaves bake in radiant heat, which gives a great quality bake. However as Andy suggests when baking only a couple of loaves the fire need not be retained during baking.


Do keep us posted. I for one would welcome more information about ways to build an efficient small oven.


Regards, Daisy_A

suave's picture
suave

You may want to take a look at Kiko Denzer's ovens.

varda's picture
varda

Thanks so much for your suggestions.   I will follow each of your pointers.   Somehow I should be able to do this.   I only have around 2 months to get this done if I want it in time for summer, so I'm sure you'll be hearing from me as I muddle along. 


Varda

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Varda, if you can buy a copy of Mother Earth magazine, the latest one, there is an article about building a simple oven. Sorry I can't give you more information - my son just took my copy home with him. I'm hoping I can persuade him to build one for me, A.


I Googled Mother Earth News and went to the Do It Yourself page and found the article about the oven, which is actually multi-purpose - baking, grilling and even smoking. Made out of concrete blocks and firebricks and good looking, A.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Varda, so sorry, I tried to edit my reply to you and ended up with lines of gobbledygook which I can't remove. Apologies to all, A.



varda's picture
varda

Thanks!

rolls's picture
rolls

hi i think i know exactly what ur talking about, a few years ago my uncle kindly built one for me very simple, the way it was done back home, its also dome shaped with a sheet of metal separating fire compartment and baking compartment. i hope u will post some pics if you make it. mine is very rustic, home made style lol. but nicest manooche ever, nothing like woodfire.

varda's picture
varda

do you have a picture that you could post by any chance?

Doc Opa's picture
Doc Opa

Here is a simple, small, inexpensive adobe oven plans that should fit your needs.  Could be built in a weekend.


 


http://tinyurl.com/p9hjfv

varda's picture
varda

So as much as I'd like to avoid it, the more I speak with people locally about this, the more I think the harsh winters (boston area) require a concrete pad.   Otherwise whatever I build will just settle and get rearranged during the winter.    But from all the pointers and suggestions above, it seems like once you get a concrete pad in place there are probably simpler alternatives than straight brick.   Although I'm not sure adobe is that simple either.   I guess it is a skills issue - it is actually hard to lay decent brick even when it's not dome or cylinder shaped.   But coming up with 8 wheelbarrels full of clay dirt for the adobe doesn't sound like a walk in the park either.   

CaperAsh's picture
CaperAsh

In Kiko's book there is a picture of a very simple brick oven built by the man who runs the Bread and Puppet Theatre. It requires no mortar or special base, simply a sufficient number of bricks to basically


a) have a base 4.5" thick which is enough for one load (i.e. firebricks resting on their side)


b) then staggered walls that gradually move into a single row of bricks on the top to seal it


c) a back wall.


These bricks are simply stacked by hand in place. You could of course mortar them but the point is that you can build a working oven this way in less than an hour and the firebricks will retain the heat long enough for a single bake.


I suspect this will require about 150 bricks for a small oven, so this could still cost about $600 in bricks if you have to pay about $4.00 a firebrick like I do where I live.


I tried a test oven like this using red clay bricks and many of them broke. Wasn't willing to buy firebricks for this test, but I could tell, even though they broke, that the heat in the oven and the heat in the bricks would, if there hadn't been so many breaks meaning that too much air was coming in for the oven to retain heat, have worked quite well. Certainly with mortar it would work even better. And extremely easy to build.

varda's picture
varda

This sounds great.   Like I could actually do this.   Maybe I could find fire bricks for less than $4 a shot.   My husband bought me a foot square, 1 inch granite block at home depot as a bread stone for $5.   So I was thinking maybe I could use something like that for the base- maybe on top of a layer of red clay bricks to keep them off the ground.   I better get a hold of that book.  If I recall correctly Bread and Puppet Theater is in Vermont - pretty darn cold up there in the winter - but no concrete pad.   Thanks.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Here's a link to a couple of quick-build ovens made with dry-stacked bricks. If you follow through the author admits that the first oven is not durable as the oven floor was made with a clay flue liner, which predictably cracked. http://people.umass.edu/dac/projects/BrickOven/Instant_BrickOven.htm


In the second he's gone for fire bricks for the baking floor with a cast dome but most of this oven is still dry-stacked. I'm guessing it would be vulnerable in bad weather unless inside an outbuilding or shelter, but that it could be taken down easily and put back up again for the summer.


He says that the sides are ordinary clay bricks but reading some of Kiko Denzer's work on this and CaperAsh's post, it seems that softer clay bricks are likely to crack or crumble over time. With red bricks Denzer advises using reclaimed bricks designed originally for chimneys and other industrial uses as they should be tougher and it's good to recycle them. Others like Rado Hand (Traditional Oven) recommend fire bricks throughout the baking chamber for their good heat-retaining qualities and resistance to shock. You can sometimes also get recycled fire bricks through sites like Forno Bravo.


This second oven appeals to me as a starter project as although I can mortar and have built some small natural stone walls from scratch, it's the cutting that I find daunting.  I assume that without further insulation this oven would lose heat more rapidly than an insulated oven. Still if it's like baking - success with the simpler stuff might generate the confidence to try something more complex!   Daisy_A

varda's picture
varda

This guy is singing my song.   And I think you are right that if you put it together dry, you could just take it apart for the winter.   I notice the url is U. Mass.   A harsher climate than here, but maybe he hasn't tried to overwinter his oven. 

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Glad it helped! I'm in the UK. If I built this I might have to take it in for the winter, but that would be OK.  All the best for this project - do keep us posted.  Daisy_A

CaperAsh's picture
CaperAsh

Yes, looking at that page it looks like a simple solution would be:


1. Base of cement blocks.


2. Firebricks for the oven hearth at the least.


3. The tricky part is making a roof, especially if not using firebricks in staggered fashion. Has to be something that won't crack. His second solution of casting the roof from refractory cement (?) seems very smart. This won't work for a large oven, probably, but for a small one seems like an excellent solution, although it requires initial preparation work. But once it's made, assembly and disassembly becomes a snap, and then bricks above can be simple red bricks which won't crack at the top of the oven where it is hottest during the firing period (and where most of mine cracked).


I notice also that he has his bricks for the walls stacked sideways on top of each other. That exposes less surface area of each brick to direct flame and possibly prevents them cracking.


Good luck!


I start building a fixed 3' x 4' Scott style oven next week. Steel base from surplus steel at Enviro-Depot one hour away. Then the main oven will be 100% firebricks with mortar. Insulation either with mud and gravel from a nearby quarry, or mason's sand, which is cheap and works well as such, mixed with some clay or concrete mix. I visited a baker whose oven insulation was just sand. He has built brick walls extending up from the oven to contain this sand which he simply poured in. Very simple. And holds heat for hours and hours without problem.


 

varda's picture
varda

Do you think there is any benefit or problem with a stone floor instead of brick?   I'm just thinking of those granite (or maybe it's something else) paving stones, one of which I'm using as a bread stone in my (indoor) oven.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I saw this post yesterday, but hung back to see what others suggested. I would also recommend you think about a horno (Denzer-style adobe oven) that can be put together with minimal skills and cheaply, so you won't take a big hit if it doesn't work as well as you expect.


That said, if you want to go the masonry route, don't be discouraged. Laying brick isn't all that tough -- unless you want to do it fast and "pretty". A WFO doesn't have to be fast OR pretty to work well. You can get by with only a few tools - a mixing hoe, a brick trowel, a hammer and chisel. Or, if you want to upgrade, a right-angle grinder with a diamond masonry wheel that will easily cut brick will only cost about $150. As another poster mentioned, the Scott & Wing book is a great reference, as is Kiko Denzer's book. I recommend you get a copy of each and read them thouroughly before you decide. Each has it's pros and cons. All styles of WFOs are compromises, and you just have to decide what's important to you and your cooking choices.


Things to be aware of:


There are two kinds of WFO's -- black oven and white ovens. "Black ovens" are so named because you build the fire inside the cooking chamber. They make up the majority of WFOs. In white ovens, the fire is outside the cooking chamber. These are generally more difficult to build and take more space since you need seperate heating and cooking chambers, and a system to deliver the heat from the fire box to the oven chamber.


Smaller can be tough because you'll have difficulty firing if the chamber is too small to maintain a good flow of combustion air. You also have to be more careful feeding the fire -- in a normal-size oven, you can pretty much just fill the chamber, light it and forget about it until it burns down. In a small oven, you need to use less wood to start, and feed it as the wood burns down. You'll still need high mass though, or the oven won't maintain even heat long enough to bake your bread. If you think about it, you'll realize that smaller means less efficient since you need almost the same amount of heat (i.e., fuel) to get the temps up, but wind up with less usable baking heat since the chamber is small. You also have to deal with the fact that the door is a much larger ratio of opening to chamber volume, which means you lose heat faster.


There are two kinds of baking you can do in a WFO. Fire-out baking, like bread, and fire-in baking, like pizza. In an oven only large enough for two loaves, you'll effectively eliminate fire-in baking. I have a small WFO (about 2' X 3' chamber) and it's just big enough to use for fire-in baking. Any smaller, and there would be no room for anything but the fire. It'll hold 5 standard loaves and I bake 5 at a time and freeze (or give away to friends) what we don't use in a day or two. But it's also big enough to bake dinners in. I think it's a pretty ideal size for home use, but again, as in everything WFO, it's a compromise.


Hope that helps.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA


 

varda's picture
varda

I hadn't really thought about some of the points you are raising.   I was hoping to avoid having something like a battleship in my backyard, since I just want to make one or two loaves at a time.   Given my handiwork skills it would look like a battleship built by a kindergartner, so just from a purely aesthetic perspective smaller is better.

Gertrude McFuzz's picture
Gertrude McFuzz

I am also considering building an outdoor oven, and just found plans in the recent issue of Mother Earth News.  I don't know how these plans compare to the other posted ones, but here is a link if you are interested: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/Build-An-All-In-One-Outdoor-Oven-Stove-Grill-And-Smoker.aspx


 


edit: my apologies.  I just noticed these plans were already mentioned.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Gertrude, I thought this outdoor oven looked reasonably simple to build as well as being multi-purpose. I hope you will let us know if you go ahead and build one. I'm hoping to convince my son that it's a good idea because it would have to be on his property - and with his labor! A.



escargo's picture
escargo

I maintain a web page with a list of links related to stacked brick ovens. It's part of this page: http://spbc.info/quest/brickovens_links.html

Here also some pictures of stacked brick ovens I have helped build.

And here is a description of the stacked brick oven class that I teach: http://questforovens.blogspot.com/p/portable-oven-class-contents.html

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...my main goal is not to have an oven going in the house...

Given that you don't have a lot of space and don't have a lot of handyman skills and don't know which bricks are firesafe and which aren't and want to fiddle with your bread not your bricks, maybe there's another way besides a brick oven to reach your main goal: get a second kitchen range (know somebody that's remodeling their kitchen?-) and install it outdoors. (Beware construction codes/inspections in your locality though, not just for outdoor ranges but also for anything else you might build.)

Doc Opa's picture
Doc Opa

How to build Sunset's classic adobe oven

Use these step-by-step instructions to build a rustic outdoor oven.  This oven should be perfect for you.

http://tinyurl.com/ojjlrm

varda's picture
varda

I went on to buy Kiko Denzer's book.   I built a foundation by digging a square sided hole as deep as I could go which wasn't far since I hit ledge in some cases six inches beneath the surface.   I filled that with small rocks and then gravel.   I made a frame of cinder blocks around the hole and then filled that with more rocks and gravel.   Then I put an insulation mix on top of that with a combination of glass bottles and perlite mixed in mud.   Then I put a layer  of pieces of brick wall (recovered from a demolition site) on top of that.   Then I laid 9 foot square inch thick granite pieces in a big square on top of that as the hearth floor.   Then I built a 5 inch thick mud dome on top of that, cut a door, and got a 5/8 inch square of plywood to cover the door.   I screwed in a handle to the "door" to make it easier to use.    I baked A LOT in this over the course of last summer which may have kept the house from getting too hot (my original motivation) but was not helpful for keeping me cool.   Toward the end of the summer the mud failed and fell in in places, and I spent a lot of time on repairs.   Then it got too cold (I never insulated the dome) and got dark too early and I had a major cave in which I didn't bother to repair.   I covered the whole thing up with a tarp for the winter.   I was quite surprised to find that the base of the oven held up just fine over the winter.   I was expecting it to settle or crack or whatever especially since this winter was particularly difficult.  So now I just need to gather my resources to build a new dome.   I believe that mud is the way to go but I have to make a better mud mix than last year.  Thanks for posting the links.   

BeckyColeman's picture
BeckyColeman

I am trying to persuade my husband to build some sort of bread oven from the stack of old bricks from inside an electric storage heater.  The bricks are designed to hold heat.  We have some other sorts of bricks as well which could go on the outside.  He's not very keen so I will let you know if he actually does.

escargo's picture
escargo

My web page with links about stacked brick ovens has moved. It is now here

http://spbc.info/quest/stacked_links.html