Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A Tale of disaster and Eventual Triumph

This is cross posted also to my other, more craft-focussed blog. But just a taster of what I got up to at the weekend.

So, on Sunday, a group of friends, rallying to my call for help and offers of beer, turned up and embarked upon the construction of the new clay oven. It needed rebuilding because the old one was too small, didn’t have a brick base and needed a chimney. So, the materials gathered, off we went. The base was nice new bricks, held in place by battens screwed to the slabs with stainless steel screws. It was nice and flat and this looks like it will perform admirably to hold the heat and bake spectacular crispy pizzas.
The sand former was constructed and we did have (as it turned out, justified) concerns about the dampness of the sand. But we ploughed on.Image
stompWe stomped and twisted the clay into sand, perlite and later, straw and we built ourselves a neat little dome as the sun shone down.
Unfortunately, we had very wet sand for the former and it caused it to become almost liquid and start to “flow”. As we built up the walls with out clay bricks, the walls started to belly out. But at this point, we thought we might get away with. Perhaps if we dried it with a little fire, we might consolidate the structure and achieve a nice firm dome…
ImageWe didn’t. Ignominiously, as we watched, the top caved in. So, we opened some beers, sat down and raised our glasses to magnificent failure.Image
So, yesterday, with only Mrs E and I, we rebuilt the whole thing with a much improved shape. An arch or dome needs to have a certain curve to support itself. The previous one was too shallow and too much top rested on too little wall. This new one was based on the pointy end of an egg. We figured this was a better shape for structural integrity. Image
The previous oven has a layer of sand and clay, a layer of clay and perlite, with a straw-and-clay layer over the top, I could get the straw layer off, but the inner two layers ended up being mixed together for the walls of the new one.
Well, I can happily say that the new one, now empty of sand, is still upright and drying out nicely.Image There are cracks but they are small and surface and don’t seem to be getting any worse as the drying continues. I will leave it a few days before a gentle firing. Then after that, I will fill it with charcoal and get it fiercely furnace-hot to finally bake it hard.Image
I will let you know how I get on.Image

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