A Handmade Oven, built by The Big Man himself

For the last month I have had the pleasure of having my father stay. He travelled many thousands of miles to help us build our oven.

This would be his 4th oven. They tend to be a relatively common sight from where I am from, and one very famous pizzeria in particular in Willunga has even aย bookย about it. Although you can buy them in kit form online from various Italian outlets and through Jamie Oliver, they are simple enough and can be made yourself if you know what you are doing. When Dad said he could come over to build mine, I was over the moon.

The premise of making the oven is a simple and primitive one. Using bricks, fire or otherwise, to create a dome, the bricks hold themselves into position, and retain the heat from the fire within. The idea is to maintain the heat within the oven as much as possible so you are able to utilise the energy and heat throughout the day so this is done by creating an additional skin and insulating within it. Once we will be cooking throughout the day, the heat generated will be able to cook breads in the morning, pizzas throughout the day and evening and then we can slow braise overnight.

Wanting to make as economical oven as possible, we sourced some kiln bricks from Coventry which we used for the majority of the first skin. These bricks weighed as much as marble, and it took me a full 2 days to cut through the 200 that we bought. Although we had planned to use them for the entire first skin, the sheer weight of them couldn’t withstand gravity once we got past a certain point.

Once the all important first skin was done we seemed to speed up somewhat. The second skin is critical if we wish to make bread. Those wedges you can see above are all important, which allows us to go around in a relatively tight circle using half bricks. They are used to create tension between the bricks allowing you to use cement only on the outside, and maintaining a clean, cement free internal wall.

I’m going to wait for a bit to show you the final oven, fully completed. These photo’s are of the first skin and the second skin partly done.. But below is the great moment of pulling down the roof..


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