The Fresh Loaf

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Wood Fired Oven finished

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Edouard's picture
Edouard

Wood Fired Oven finished


http://www.flickr.com/photos/technopeasant


Trying again ...


 Let's see if the above works, first, before I continue ...


Finished my wood fired earth oven project. Took about two months and change, and I spent around $150 total. At the same time, I enclosed a side yard and made a private courtyard for entertaining and relaxing. Total cost of that was less than $300 because virtually all materials came from salvage and demolition sites. Good quality materials, at at that. Major costs were half dozen pressure treated posts and Quickcrete and various nails, screws, hardware.


Oven was built like this - foundation hole, sub-grade three feet to compensate for frost line. Built up a creek stone foundation to one and a half foot above grade, back filled with gravel. Top of this foundation wall leveled with mortar and salvaged brick to make a square and plumb foundation for the wood-form I used to pound out a rammed earth base for the oven. 


Rammed earth base is 52" x 52" and I expect it to be a superb heat sink. Made of clay and clay silt soils from my property (this is desert SW, four corners area). Mixed with what our local supplier terms 'quarter minus fines' a grade of finely sifted gravel and clay. On top of the base went 4" of sand, then a layer of firebrick. Brick and Navaho sandstone for a lintel make up the door to the oven. Built up a wet sand mold of the oven void on top of the leveled firebrick, then molded a heavy clay/sand mix around the sand-form to shape what would become the interior void of the oven. Oven is 27" x 20"


Next, lots of cob. Cob are loaves of wet clay, sand, mud and chopped straw. Many many loaves to build up the mass of the surround to make up the mass of the oven itself. More mass, more heat retention. This thing probably weighs 2 tons, at least. 


Removed the wet sand and revealed the oven void. Finished the outside with a sandy wet clay-slip. A coating of linseed oil just in case. And there you have it. Lots of physical labor and a fine oven that burns hot as that hot place in the afterlife. 


Built a brick paver area around the oven for work space, all salvaged from a 1910 school being demolished. Roof panels and posts from a theater demolition and I have a dandy outdoor wood fired oven that works like a champ. I constructed two doors out of eight inch thick slabs of wood which I covered with sheet metal. One door for firing, which just fits inside the entrance, allowing smoke to exit the chimney, and a second door made the same way that's constructed to fit further in and occlude the chimney opening for 'soaking' the fired interior. 


Pictures of bread and pizzas will follow. Hope you like it. 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

was looking forward to seeing your pictures, but it says they are not available to me?


Betty

Edouard's picture
Edouard

I've reposted the FLICKR URL, and the Privacy Settings on FLICKR are set to 'Anyone' can view. If this doesn't work, beats me, and I'll remove the post. 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

what a great job you did building your oven!!! Once your diet allows you to have some grains I'll look forward to seeing your pizzas and breads. Have you done any meat roasting?


Betty


 

madzilla's picture
madzilla

I would love to see your project. You can upload them here by simply clicking the image link and choosing to upload.  Good luck,



M.

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Would love to. Have no idea what to do. Will try posting the direct URLs for the pictures on FLICKR, here.

ilovetodig's picture
ilovetodig

I would like to see them too, but as of this morning I am unavailable to you also. 

mcs's picture
mcs

That's quite an accomplishment and I look forward to seeing some of your baking results from your oven.  I have a question about #28:  How did you decide on your mix of wood and by 'seasoned' do you just mean 'dried' or is there something you do to it during the seasoning period?


-Mark


http://TheBackHomeBakery.com

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Thank you, sir. How did I decide on my wood mix? (big grin) Well, by what's available to me! And seasoned means "it done laid out in the hot dry high desert sun for five years of 8% humidity". Got a BIG pile of that mix of woods because I have a wood stove backup in this house we're in right now, and another wood stove in the garage workshop. My motto - you cain't have too much wood. 


Results were spotty - to awful - first few attempts. In a controlled utility-powered oven with a hearthstone I know exactly what I've got, and lots of practice with it. First firing temperature read was 800 ambient, and about 600 walls, 700 floor. First bread attempt was a simple pain de campagne which produced a wonderful crust and a thoroughly charcoaled bottom. I had three test loaves prepared to see what would happen at different times and thus different temperatures as the oven did it's thing. Second campagne took about 7 minutes longer and just as crusty, not as burnt, but still would require sawing off that bottom carbonized layer. Forgot to mention, ... oh hell, forgot to mention a lot.


Turned the breads three times. Had a bed of coals banked against the back wall. Only 'soaked' the oven about 20 minutes (the impatience of youth). If I didn't rotate the loaf, it was browning far quicker, as you may imagine. Not even distribution of heat at all with those coals in there. I need to plug the thing thoroughly and allow it to soak until an even temperature in air, walls and floor, I imagine.


Third loaf, one hour. I slipped a flat cooling rack under it after it got beautifully carmelized on the bottom, to lift the bottom ever so slightly off the 600 degree bricks. Did not further burn. This was my best loaf of that batch, with a wonderful crust, an airy crumb and a surprisingly faint hint - or essence - of wood smoke, barely detectable, but distinct from my electric oven loaves. I allowed it to rest almost an hour, sliced a chunk and confess to nearly a quarter stick of quality butter later, pronounced it a success. 


I'm not a photo kind of guy, so it doesn't register with me to keep a visual journal, but I will from now on. It occurs to me this may be as important to finding the sweet spot in using the oven to it's best, as any written record.


I'm on a strict - strict - diet (ATW Simeons Protocol) at the moment and will be May before I can have starches, grains and sugars. But can't wait to work with my favorite pizza dough recipe for a great crunch, chewy tear-way and proper texture. 


Thank you again for the kind words, sir.


(and whew, danged glad FLICKR works, now ... have no idea what changed)

mcs's picture
mcs

It sounds like your written record keeping will help out in tweaking your oven's potential to its fullest.  Hope your diet works out as planned, and keep us updated with your future experimentations.


-Mark

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Well, I'm impressed! That's a nice oven you have built. I haven't heard of the rammed earth base before. I wonder if that is something known around the Midwest? From your description it's just like you say, layers of earth maybe moistened a little and rammed with a tamper?


I'm looking forward to seeing how you learn the process of baking in this and roasting I hear is great for meats afterwords.


Eric

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Thank you very much. 


Rammed earth - one of the most basic building blocks of world history. Think adobe, but without the individual bricks. Basic formula is Clay soils, small aggregate, sand, moisten and pound the living daylights out of it. The Roman Coliseum is, primarily, rammed earth (with rudimentary portland cement added) as is the great wall of China for several thousand miles. There's a church in Charleston SC built 1850 still standing in a great shape built of rammed earth. This was the cheapest, easiest way I knew to get the oven proper up to a level between my waist and chest so stooping over to work the oven wouldn't be a factor. Google rammed earth and you'll be amazed. Hand tamping, btw, can be quite laborious and not necessarily for the faint hearted, but it sure can improve your muscle tone and cardio :-). 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Great looking oven inside and out.  I like the double door/ chimney idea to control smoke.  Does the outermost door let in air too?


It's been a long time since I've heard of Rammed Earth.  Many Old Churches and buildings in S.C. are built with it.  Especially in Statesburg, S.C. -- my early teen roaming grounds.  (Thanks for bringing back so many memories!) The entire plantation across from this church including the original outside summer kitchen with it's many ovens was built using rammed earth.  HERE's a LINK  for the interested.  I think your oven is specially blessed.


Mini

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Very cool, Mini. Rammed earth is something special. I could on about it for pages and pages, but suffice to say, that the majority of the mass of two+ tons of oven cost me almost nothing because of techniques learned with either rammed earth, or making 'cob'. Our next house (and I hope last one) is designed around rammed earth. 

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I just got the pictures today...what a great oven you have...you are going to have so much fun cooking and baking...be sure and post more photos!


Sylvia

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Thank you, ma'am. I intend to. This is my first time "out of the closet" so to speak. I've never posted anything personal before on the WWW, but amongst friends here at Fresh Loaf, it seemed the right thing to do. If I had made a mud pile and it was ugly, I wouldn't have, but my first attempt at a Kiko Denver earth oven turned out pretty well. 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Hi Edouard,


Congratulations on the completion of the Kiko Denzer inspired oven!  Guess I'm going to have to spring for his book as the subject of wood fired ovens peaks my interest for some reason.


I think the use of wet sand as a "mold" for the oven space is a great idea.  One thing that I thought about regarding this is that it seems to require a "bee hive" shaped oven chamber (tall slender arch).  A lower "arched" style oven seems to be beyond this technique requiring a  dome made of fire brick to support the weight instead.  Any comments on this?  Do you think inserting fire bricks over the sand followed by "mudding them in" would work on a lower domed style oven?


+Wild-Yeast

Edouard's picture
Edouard

I shouldn't have used the term 'beehive', that's not correct. It's more a rounded dome. In the history I read from Denzer, there's a long tradition of native experience with wood fired ovens on the Canadian plains that over time, determined a specific ratio for void, height, diameter and door. It's based on the diameter of the oven void - at the interior of the door opening, it must be 63% of the height of the top of the oven interior, and interior height of the oven should be between 60% - 75% of the interior diameter. This was determined over decades of local experience to be ideal trap for generated heat, ideal for creating the roiling boil of flames and circulation of air, and for an atmosphere conducive to sucking in cold fresh air across the floor while encouraging (whatever) smoke to leave without sacrificing too much heat. 


Having no experience except with this first modest oven, I went with Kiko's instructions. Though I must say, the next one will probably be a vault more than a dome, and a bit deeper. 

mredwood's picture
mredwood

Such a beautiful oven. Thank you for taking the time to post those pictures. I will be interensted in more on how your baking comes out and especially what you would do different. 


Mariah

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Me, too! I've even made a new stencil for my pain complet, and a new lame.


Working on a new sourdough starter, acquired from Sourdough International. All in all, it's an exciting time. Gotta get a couche, though. Don't have one. 

madzilla's picture
madzilla

You did an AWESOME job! I am so impressed! Have you tried it out yet? I bet it is going to be worth all of your hard efforts.  Thanks so much for sharing the pictures.  I just now got back to check in and am sorry I missed your post about helping with the techie side of things.  I would be happy to help you with uploading pics here.


When you are going to post a comment, there is an icon, a small picture of what looks to be a tree, above.  Click on it and it will open up a little window. The first thing you see is where it is providing a space for you to put in a URL [internet address] for your picture.  But since you want to upload one, there is a button to the right of that, that has these little red rectangle thingies.  Click on that, and another window will open. This newer, bigger window will have an "upload" link at the top of its page.  Click on that, and it will then display a file upload field, with "browse" and "upload" buttons next to it.  First click on browse to go and find the picture on your computer, and once you do, choose it and click "open".  It will then place that computer path in the file field, and you will click on "upload".  Once it uploads, you can then choose the "insert" button on the little window. It will go away and your picture should automatically show up in the post.


Print this out, and it should get easier as you go. Practice makes perfect! I can't wait to see your bread pictures! Take care and let me know if you need anything else.


M.

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Very kind words, M. Thank you. Should I post the pictures, here? Or just leave the link as is? I'm unsure of the etiquette. 

madzilla's picture
madzilla

Personally, I think what you have done is excellent protocol. Since you have a number of pictures, it is good to have a flicker account to put them on, because it will save the bandwidth not only of The Fresh Loaf's costs, but also some people have to pay for the amount of data [bandwidth] they view/download.


As a rule, I try to keep the file size of my pictures relatively small (no more than 150k), and post no more than 4-5 in one post. If I have more to share, then I would probably do what you have done.


It is good to know both ways, and if you ultimately prefer Flicker, that is absolutely up to you.


Hope that helps!


M.


ps-did you see my post, Kachelherd? If you check it out, that is what I want to have one day in my dream kitchen, for some serrrrious cookin' and bakin'. :-)


 


 

Edouard's picture
Edouard

Yikes! That's some fancy equipment. 


It'd be fun, though. 

H20loo's picture
H20loo

Hi! Now that you have been using the WFO for a few months I'm Just curious about the performance of the oven, does it meet all your expectations- are you happy with the size etc. Do you just use it for baking for the family? Thanks for posting the pictures and info. As an aspiring WFO builder and owner you can guess how often I have viewed them! LOL

Edouard's picture
Edouard

:-)


Well, it goes like this ... the courtyard I built around the oven, made of raw gravel and road base building materials (we live out West), worked fine, but the drainage underneath did not, though I incorporated a French drain for that reason. Long story, boring and for another time. However ... with the heavy snow this year (thank God we're cursed with global warming or we'd have been in real trouble) ... and subsequent thaws in between and heavy rains the courtyard was pretty much impassable. Only in the last 60 days have I been able to resume experiments. 


Yes, it's been what I expected! 


And no ... it's been tougher than I thought. 


Here's why ... and it's pretty obvious ... I'm not the sort who can throw money at problems. I can't wave a checkbook and work my Will. I have to scrounge, and work around problems and think up creative solutions that don't cost much.


The back part of our property is a nearly ideal rammed earth Ready Mix of sandy aggregate and caliche saturated alkaline clay dust and clay silts. Sieving this by the shovel-ful yielded the mass of adobe-like material you see in the photos. Worked really well for making 'cob'. But ...


... it doesn't have the density mass of a real clay deposit. Kiko Denzer speculated on this in his book Earth Oven. Real clay is very very dense as it is molded into the oven inner wall. What I had was heavy, and molded well, but it just doesn't hold heat like a 6" wall of real clay. It holds heat fine, but just not as well as a firebrick and mortar oven, a kit oven or a ceramic oven in molded shells. Had some potters over to think it through with me after the fact and they agree. The oven will work just fine, but it will never fire as hot, nor hold heat as long. Too much porosity in my mix. 


That said, I would probably build a two stage oven next time. Or, barring that build an oven that's longer in depth towards the rear so I can keep a small bed of coals going without getting too much heat too close to the bread. I would also build the oven interior ceiling, lower. To get more radiant heat closer to the bread. Mine is a bit more bee hive shaped than I'd intended. I definitely think I would build the next one shaped more like a coffin than a beehive. If that image is illustrative enough. 


I bake just for the family so far although the postman was fascinated as this whole thing developed and I finally got him a rosemary foccacia last week and he took it back to his station and reports his posse tore it up and devoured it. Now he wants pizza!


I used to book talent in major college towns and one of my degrees is in composition and arranging film scores. I know quality artistic skills when I see or hear them. I say this to mention that ... I've seen some of the best acts in the US up close and personal. Many of the 'name' entertainers couldn't sing, had no chops on their respective instrument and really didn't have much more than good technicians and a 'look'. Yet they got the recording contracts. 


At the same time ... I've seen what we now call Buskers ... on street corners who could play the stars out of the heavens with nothing more than a cheap Aria KMart guitar and two dollar strings and PASSION. I once spent an evening with Elvis Costello and no instruments at all and he played everything around him ... chairs, glassware, table tops, his hands you name it and it is a performance that sticks in my mind. Awesome.


Which is to say ... it's not the instrument that makes quality, it's the guy or gal who knows what they're doing. Who has the chops. 


I suspect Gordon Ramsey with two spoons, a ham, a fistful of parsley and a match box could make a meal fit for Elizabeth II. It's the chops that count.


Build your oven. Dive in! You'll never know by reading about it. 


Building and learning to use a WFO isn't about good sense or efficiency. It's about passion and that wonderful sense of adventure I hope never to lose.