How to build a stone baking oven

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How to build a stone baking oven
Stone ovens come in many shapes and forms. (lozère image by ataly from Fotolia.com)

Bread and pizzas made in a wood burning stone baking oven cannot be duplicated by our traditional gas and electric stoves. The even distribution of the heat in the domed clay and stone ovens and the quality and flavour of the natural fire result in a distinctive taste. Easily repaired and inexpensively built, stone ovens are used by speciality bread and pizza bakers and green enthusiasts alike.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • 14 breeze blocks (approximately), recycled if possible
  • small, medium and large flat stones from your area
  • Clay
  • Water
  • Straw and sawdust
  • Level
  • 23-inch string
  • 6-by-8-foot tarp
  • Flat stones approximately 6 inches thick, enough to measure 22 inches diameter or 17 fire bricks
  • Bag of sand
  • 13 bricks or stones for arch
  • Cardboard piece at least 2-by-2 feet
  • Pencil
  • 24-by-10-inch pine board
  • Skill saw
  • Wooden door knob
  • 3-inch screw
  • Screwdriver

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Measure a 23-inch diameter circle on the ground and build the oven's foundation by placing the breeze block and stones inside the circle. Raise it to reach approximately 40 inches high so that you can stand while working in your stone oven. Place the level on top; if it's not level, adjust the stones and shim with smaller stones until it is level.

  2. 2

    Mix straw, sawdust and clay together to form the mortar for the insulating base of the stone hearth of the oven. Put the clay, straw and sawdust together on the tarp and mix with water with your hands until it becomes a homogeneous texture that's easy to mould with your hands. Form a clay ring and base on top of the foundation and fill it with old bottles, glass pieces, broken crockery and the mortar for insulation. Smooth a thin layer of sand over top.

  3. 3

    Lay the hearth stones carefully on top and gently tap them into place so that they sit firmly in the sand. Level the surface by tapping. Because the wood burning oven can get as hot as 371 degrees Celsius, the thickness of the baking stones is critical in avoiding cracks that allow heat to escape.

  4. 4

    Lay out the curved arch for the doorway with the 13 bricks on a piece of cardboard; trace the door so that the opening measures 14 inches wide and 10 inches high. Used red bricks can add fun and colour. Mortar the bricks standing up on the lip of the stone hearth around the cardboard door form. Use a mixture of three-to-one sand-to-clay with sufficient water to adhere. If the mortar is too slick, the arch will not hold.

  5. 5

    Make a 16-inch high dome of sand buttressed behind the arch as the form for the stone baking oven's dome shape. Cover the sand dome in an insulating layer of straw, sawdust and clay mortar approximately three inches thick. Allow it to dry; cover the entire dome, top of the door arch and foundation with a four-inch thick coating of clay mortar with the consistency of plaster and allow it to dry. After the final coat is dry, scoop out the sand interior of the dome.

  6. 6

    Cut a wooden door for the stone oven by tracing the cardboard form on the piece of pine and cutting it out with a skill saw. Insert the door while the oven is not being fired. Screw the wooden door knob into the door with the three inch screw.

Tips and warnings

  • It is important for the heating properties of the stone oven to maintain a height of 16 inches for the dome and 10 inches for the door.

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