The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Need help planning my oven

jen_from_chile's picture

Need help planning my oven

Hi! I'm a new member to this forum, and I need help figuring out what I need in a wood fired oven. I'm a Californian (from Napa and Sonoma) who relocated to Chile 20 years ago. I don't have access to books or other resources here, so I'm turning to the wonderful Internet for ideas and plans, and I'm hoping you can help me out. I've browsed through this section of the forum and found some great ideas and pointers, but I have a few more specific questions. As for the kind of oven I'm hoping to build, I want to do some long bake days, starting with pizzas, then moving through breads and roast meats and veggies, and finishing with some slow baking (beans or custards or what-have-you). Here are my initial questions:

--What are the advantages and disadvantages of a round vs. square oven floor?

--What would be a good size? The Fornobravo plans are for 36" or 42" round, whereas I was thinking around 39" square (i.e., a square meter). I foresee baking four pizzas at a time and 6 or 8 loaves at a time. Any suggestions?

--Is the chimney best in the front, center, or back? A lot of photos I've seen have the chimney at the front, but I think the center placement looks better (though of course function trumps esthetics).

--Other than fornobravo, can you recommend any good plans that you know work? I'm planning on a cement-and-brick structure, not adobe or clay.

Thanks in advance for your help and advice!



pmccool's picture

is the Brick-Oven group on Yahoo.  Lots of discussions and information there.  Sorry not to be able to answer your questions directly.


jen_from_chile's picture

Thanks! I just sent a request to join the group.

ananda's picture

Hi Jen,

The best source I can direct you to is Wing and Scott - "The Bread Builders"...but it's a book, sorry!

It does have plans to build a brick oven of the sort of size you are talking about.

Best wishes


jen_from_chile's picture

The book was available for Kindle, so I just grabbed a copy. It isn't the sort of book I would ordinarily want to read on Kindle, but it will at least get me started. Thanks!

breadbakin fool's picture
breadbakin fool

You can also check out Rado Hand's website:

There's  a lot of good info there, and he has plans available for various sizes of ovens.  I built mine from his plans but I modified the size a little.  I made mine 34" wide and 36" long-a basic barrel vault design.  It's similar to the Alan Scott design, but a few things are done a little differently.  I'm pretty happy with my oven.  It works great.  Definitely don't skimp on insulation, especially if you are planning on building a large oven.  The quality and amount of insulation is probably just as important as the thickness of the mass if you want your oven to function well and hold heat. 

Laurentius's picture

Hi Jen,

If you read the "The Bread Builders" book, do not follow the insulation method they use.

jen_from_chile's picture

Thanks for the tip. Do you have a link to a better method?

tracker914's picture

I built one of my first ovens using the info. I recently built a new oven using the forno bravo plans. My feeling at this point after having both a bread oven and a pizza oven is that you while you can certainly use either one for both, a pizza oven typically won't let you get more than one bread bake out of it without re-firing it, there just isn't enough thermal mass to keep it going. On the other hand a bread oven with 10 - 12 inches of mass will give you a few bakes but will require significantly more time to heat up, so you may spend 5  or 6 hours or more  trying to get it to temp to say have a weekend pizza party. 

to answer some of you questions above, The round vs. tunnel - aesthetics, I found the tunnel easier to load bread, but in the end it's all about thermal mass. I have a 36 inch oven round and I can get 8 loaves 1.5 lbs each plus a cast iron pan for steaming. You can do about 2 -3 pizza's at a time depends on how big you make them. If your going to go thru the trouble of building an oven, then make it a little bigger, it's worth the extra heat up time.

as far as chimney is concerned it's easier to put the chimney up front, otherwise youll have to leave a cavity open for the smoke to escape, I dont think it makes much of a difference. In Italy we had one that had the chimney in the back, perhaps some of the hot gases help heat the oven up, but I dont think I would go thru the trouble.

Hope that helps a little.


jen_from_chile's picture

Thanks for your thoughtful response! The reference link looks fantastic! I am definitely planning on a proper bread oven. I was expecting the firing time to be shorter--more like 3 to 4 hours. Is that unrealistic? Even so, the long firing and slow cooling sounds more in line with the way I want to use the oven. Do you think a 39" square tunnel would be big enough? Or would you recommend going up to either 39x42 or 42 square? Thanks again!

tracker914's picture

I would definitely go with bigger, you'll kick yourself later for not having the extra space. My first oven was a 48 inch long by 36 inch wide, and I compromised on thermal mass at around 6 -7 inches total, I wanted to be able to make pizza and not sped 5 hrs getting it to temp. For firing time, it all depends on the thickness of the walls, how much brick and concrete is there that needs to equalize. I think an oven with around 4 inches of brick and around 2 inches of concrete and 10 inches of insulation would get you a good compromise. I cook pizza at no less that a sustained 650 degrees, meaning the oven has equalized and my ideal temp is around 800-900 degrees. I then load my bread at around 630 degrees, they stay in for about 1 and 1/2 hours and then the oven is still between 200 and 400 degrees (depends on how cold it gets here in NY).

Good luck with your project, please send us some pictures as it progresses


SCChris's picture

There are Pompeii plans in the forums, although if you're going for bread as the goal an Alan Scott oven will be easier to load and the additional mass will allow multiple bakes over many hours.  The AS oven plans are notoriously shy of insulation so take your time and consider using substancial insulation.  Several AS style builders have wonderfull threads on FB and are present often for comment and answering questions, it's a great WFO resource. 

Several years ago I built an a 42 inch Pompeii style oven and it has been an eye opener with regard to what an oven with mass can do.  Although I do bake bread in the WFO, I don't do it often.  The reason relates to how many loaves of bread I need and can give away, and for an ideal crust, how many loaves need to be loaded to provide the steam needed to really gelitanize the crust and allow for oven spring.  My oven needs 15 to 18 pounds of dough, per load, to perform ideally.




Hubitom's picture

I used Rado's plans, and am fairly happy with mine. I am able to get the temp up to about 850 ... 900 deg. F after about 2 hours of firing, and can bake pizza in about 2 ... 3 minutes, depending how thick it is to begin with. After letting it cool off for about an hour I have about 500 ... 550 deg. F on ceiling, and 450 on bottom. This seems to be working well for me making 2 ... 3 lb breads. I used perlite as insulation (caution, do not pack too dense in spaces since it will tend to push the walls apart when getting hot, made that mistake myself), and you can't have enough of that stuff in there!

If you like, I can send you a CD with pics of my build!


JWS's picture

HI!  my understanding is that I can get AS plans from Bread Builders?? I:m trying to get a copy of that here,  the kindle is pricy!  I:m really just looking for the info I need for the build.  If I go with the 60 x 72*  oven,  what size does the concrete foundation need to be?   I hope someone can give me that number so I can do my concrete in the mean time.  - until I get my docs..  Thanks!