Oven Building

Geraint said:

“There’s been a bit of chat going on on twitter about oven building & it seems there are a few of us up for it. We think we’d need to arrive on 29th or 30th in order to have it in use on the Saturday.

We need to know if we can access the site from the 29th, whether there’s a suitable site for building & where we might get materials. Can you answer any of these questions Mick or know who we should contact – the rugby club?”

Great stuff! Why not carry on the discussion here so everyone can join in.

I’m sure access can be arranged in advance but don’t contact the club direct – they are very accommodating but I don’t want to confuse them so leave it to me. Plus there are a couple of people up here who are interested so I need to put them in touch with you.

I have a copy of Kiko Denzer’s Build Your Own Earth Oven and can post that to whoever is taking the lead.



About bethesdabakers

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32 Responses to Oven Building

  1. carllegge says:

    Excellent news 🙂

    I can be free for the 29th to help but not the 30th as it’s my son’s birthday that day.

    I have the Kiko Denzer book (and others) so can bring if required.

    Any thoughts on availability of materials Mick?


  2. bethesdabakers says:

    Depends what materials. No idea about clay – certainly none on site. It used to be Bethesda station before Dr Beeching so the ground is all made up. Will ask around.

  3. sgratch says:

    I’ve got the Alan Scott book, but haven’t read the oven building section, but imagine that is more concerned with larger scale/permanent ovens (I’m away at the moment so can’t check). I can probably do some online research next week.

    It sounds like there might be quite a few people up for coming early to build an oven; if that’s the case maybe we can build two different kinds for comparison? Will also look into the practicalities of building a tandoor if there’s interest.

    Carl, perhaps you could peruse your oven building books & come up with a list of materials?

    What tools/equipment will we need?

    Is three days long enough to build a functioning oven for use on Saturday?

    Apart from access to materials, my main concern would be finding a suitable site to build. Will we need some kind of plinth?

    Matt has kindly offered to fill his car boot with firewood. Will that be enough?

  4. Matt Bourne says:

    I built my cob oven using the Denzer book and the River Cottage book. Have to say that the RC book was easier to understand step by step. I often referred to it when I got stuck! I don’t mind posting it to one of you guys if you fancy it.

    Just a heads up – In my (albeit limited to one oven) experience, I found that there was a longer than expected drying out period that inhibits proper baking (takes much longer to heat to the correct temps, and quickly loses heat). Mine took about 4 or 5 firings over two weeks to drive off the moisture and settle down. It might be that a couple of long firings on day 4 will help, or it maybe it could just be restricted to pizzas and flatbreads.

    Somebody with more cob oven experience may know how to minimise this, but just thought I would include my experience here.


  5. thecornishexile says:

    I’ve been dropping subtle hints to my parents about building a bread oven in their backyard for years (sadly I live in a first-floor flat, so no scope for me). My dad’s coming to Bethesda this year, and we’d both be willing and enthusiastic about helping out to build an oven.

    My dad’s a self-employed carpenter, so should be able to bring plenty of fire wood if necessary, along with carpentry skills and tools. Unfortunately we won’t be able to get there until the Friday.

    I seem to remember that at Bethesda 1 Rick built an oven in about a day, and it was ready to go the next? I hope Joe manages to get his oven on wheels down – that was one impressive construction!

  6. Terry Lyons says:

    Pizza/Bread oven stands can be made from sturdy timber or masonry products. If they are only temporary then a quick fix sturdy masonry stand cab be quickly built by replacing cement with lime. i.e….6″ thermolite blocks with lintels laid over, 4″ thermolite block on flat over the lintels with cooking hearth on top of this…..fire-bricks would be expensive but flat clay bricks or quarry tiles would serve the purpose.
    If there are enough spare hands I could probably build a Pompeii in a long day……it would definitely crack if fully fired shortly after the build but would not collapse due to the design and if insulating blanket was at hand then bread baking should be no problem. Fire-bricks are very expensive but solid reclaimed clay’s could be used with not much difference in performance……If fire-bricks were to be used or fire-clay etc is needed, I could probably be able to purchase them at less than wholesale prices.

    If there are any DIY’ers there then 2 stands could be built at the same time.

    I am not sure what people’s plans are on this topic, but my offer is there.


    • @ Terry, sorry your comments are taking so long to appear, WordPress has been putting them in the spam folder, I’m not sure why… it might not like the link to the woodoven forum, I will try to ‘train’ it to accept it. And I will check the spam regularly to see what else it is hiding… 🙂 I’ve had a look and I can’t find a place to do that. If you log in as Cannyfradock, I think that’s what WordPress knows you as, then maybe it won’t spam you…

      At the limits of my tech ability here – Joanna

    • Matt Bourne says:

      If the Pompeii build is going to be over the weekend count me in on the build team.

  7. Matt Bourne says:

    By weekend I mean Friday onwards 🙂

  8. cannyfradock says:

    Hello Zeb (The “meisterin”in baking a Pain de Campagne)

    I have changed my user name to cannyfradock and removed my forum from the website box. I hope this will make a difference……..I have posted twice on one occasion as I thought wordpress didn’t accept my post……many thanks for your help as I would like to help out in some way with the WFO’s.

    Regards……Terry & Stef

    • Well, lets see if it works now. Reply once more and it should go straight on without going to spam, Mick has it set so that your first comment gets moderated, but now you should be able to do it all. Thanks Terry 🙂

  9. cannyfradock says:

    Fingers crossed……here goes


  10. cannyfradock says:

    I don’t want to detract from the main baking activities, but if their IS interest in baking in an outdoor Wood-fired oven and their is’nt the possibility of building a fixed or temporary Wood-fired oven and Joe can’t manage to bring his mobile WFO, then I could bring the same mobile WFO that was used in last years Abergavenny food festival by Manna foods. Another possibility wood be a modular oven which can be built and baked in….in the same day……..the possibilities and options are there……


  11. That’s a great offer Terry! You’re going to have to jump up and down to get everyone’s attention to discuss – maybe they’ll pop in after the weekend –

    in the meantime… what’s a modular oven – is it a permanent structure? Or one that you can put up and take down… 🙂

    • cannyfradock says:


      A modular oven is a Bread/Pizza wood-burning oven that is made out of refractory concrete and comes in a kit-form of 4, 5 or 6 pieces. These pieces slot together to make a complete WFO. They are often used in commercial Pizzerias, but are also for domestic use. They are generally a permanent fixture but can be used then dismantled and used elsewhere……they often pop-up 2nd hand on e-bay.


      • Thanks Terry – I would love to have some sort of oven in the garden, but I don’t know where it would fit….

        • cannyfradock says:


          …of course it depends on your space and locality. I had …purely a back yard , but was bitten by the bug of building my own oven..can’t work out how to post pics, but here’s a link to my backyard oven….

          …….Don’t know if the link will work as WordPress and me don’t mix……needless to say that a Wood-fired oven…..Cob/Clay or Pompeii etc wouldn’t take up that much space.

          …..Happy baking !!!


  12. Terry, that link doesn’t work for me. Do you have the original photo on your hard drive? I don’t know why you and WP don’t mix, a bit of a mystery 😉

    If you do log in to the blog as described in previous posts, and get to the Dashboard, you should be able to upload pictures in various formats as part of a post you author yourself. Have you tried writing a post yet? You can’t add photos to comments. Give it a go one day… 🙂

  13. The Cornish Exile says:

    The Guardian have an article today about building a cob pizza oven. It doesn’t really say very much, but it’s interesting, and there’s an accompanying photo slide show: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/04/build-wood-fired-cob-pizza-oven

  14. I downloaded a how to build an oven book here and had a look at the associated blog, I am sure Terry knows all about it 😉

    • Matt Bourne says:

      Simon’s blog is excellent Zeb. Reading that seriously got me going on my oven build (I have a few pics blogged at http://www.coboven.blogspot.com), and by the time I had made progress I discovered Terry’s merry band, who helped on the forum during the build. There’s no better time to be wfo-ing with all this help around 🙂

  15. The guardian article is promising in terms of getting a cob oven built in a day, but as Matt said, it seems like it would only be realistic to bake pizza/flatbreads in it. I guess we could build the base & collect clay (if we can identify a source) on the Friday & build Saturday, but that might mean quite a few of us missing some baking sessions (which might work out well given the number of bakers!).

    I found this in my online research, which I imagine is similar to the one Rick built last year (?).

    I think it would be great if Terry could bring Jay Emery’s mobile oven, especially if Joe isn’t able to bring his. This seems like our best chance of baking anything other than flatbreads outdoors/wood-fired. I got to experience his oven at the Abergavenny Food Festival last year (assisting David from Manna from Devon with kids’ baking classes). It’s something to behold, a state of the art mobile oven (which I believe retails at around £12k!), plus a useful built in boiler, wood store & shelter. It gets to temp really quickly (1-2hrs if I remember correctly) and would add to the range of ovens we had at our disposal.

    If anyone’s interested in a tandoor, I found this and this. Materials are minimal & shouldn’t be difficult to obtain cheaply/freely.

  16. I just clicked the link in the comment (the first one) and it goes to the 1hr oven for me? No wories, Geraint, this is voluntary masochism on my part. I thought Mick didn’t have internet access at the moment, but I see that he does….. so maybe he will sort things out here when he has a moment. I am borrowing someone’s laptop to do this. Take care.

  17. cannyfradock says:


    I spoke to Jay a couple of weeks ago and I spoke about the Bethesda bake. I mentioned that we may not be able to use a members Mobile Wood-fired oven and he kindly offered. his. if things didn’t go according to plan. Now we have news from Joe that he is unable to bring his, I shall re-contact Jay to see if the offer is still there.

    I have only provisionally spoke to Jay and made a rough detail of a Pompeii and materials needed…..but as the new kid on the block…last year and with The pizza oven guys from the first Bethesda bake….. I’m not sure who I should be addressing my comments to (I don’t want to step on anybodies toes, but would love to help in any way I can)

    I shall speak with Jay to confirm if he will lend ( as in lend not loan) us his Mobile WFO for the 4 days as I’ sure it will be welcomed.


    • rick says:

      Hi Terry, Geraint, Matt,
      Sorry not to have responded before,life bit busy at moment.
      Thought I’d try and clarify a few things about the oven build I did at the first Bethesda.
      You’re right Geraint about the 1 hour oven, that’s what inspired me to build mine which we called ‘The Bodger’, there’s some photo’s floating around the net of it somewhere.I built it at home over a few weeks before the Bethesda gathering , using materials left over from my big oven build ,a 5 x7 Alan Scott oven. By building it before the meeting I was able to give it a couple of drying out fires.When the BB weekend arrived I loaded the whole lot into the back of a van and took it up to Bethesda and re assembled it in a couple of hours Saturday morning. I upgraded the 1 hour oven by building the whole thing inside a frame I got welded out of some old baking racks and then was able to fill the void outside of the oven with vermiculite. This meant that we were able to bake pizza etc on Saturday night ,and pre-heat the oven , then I gave it another fire up Sunday morning and this resulted in enough retained heat to bake breads Sunday afternoon.
      On Monday after the event I took it apart and took it home. That was fun as the bricks were still pretty hot.
      To add comments to your chats so far.
      It would be great to have an out door oven available to bake in at Bethesda.
      But one thing to bear in mind ,as you have already said Terry, is the weekend is mainly concerned with baking bread together and building an oven from scratch will take up a lot of time and who ever is involved will probably find they miss out on the main goal of the event ,which is to learn bread from each other. When I built mine I missed out on a lot of good baking stuff as I was outside fiddling with the oven. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself, but missed some good chances to learn from others.
      The other thing about building an oven is clearing it away afterwards. Unless Mick says otherwise, the Rugby club won’t want any materials left behind. So someones have to be prepared to stay on Monday and clear up.
      A portable brought in oven, like you mention Terry, would in my opinion be the best solution to having an outdoor oven on site for the weekend. It’s a pity Joe can’t bring his down.
      Terry the oven you mention, can it retain heat enough to do half a dozen loads of bread ? How many small loaves will it take ?
      Would the owner want some payment for us using it for the weekend ? How much ?
      If some one is able to tow one in for the weekend I feel we should make sure they get a bit of money towards fuel.
      Enough for now, if anyone replies please be patient with me to reply to you as I’m about to start my bake cycle for the week and won’t get to the computer much .
      Am looking forward to meeting you all at Bethesda
      Rick at Mair’s Bakehouse

  18. sgratch says:

    Great stuff Terry. Let’s hope Jay’s offer still stands.

    I’m an even newer kid on the block – this will be my first BB event – but I get the feeling that if you wanted to take a lead on a pompeii or other type of oven build (which you kind of already have, as you seem to have more experience/knowledge than a lot of us) then there are a few of us at least who are up for mucking in. For myself, all I can offer is a willing pair of hands – no building or technical knowledge – so from my point of view it would be great if you were willing to take this on.

    How do other people feel?

    • Matt Bourne says:

      I agree – really happy to support your lead on this Terry, and happy to muck in – am fairly handy.

      Terry do you need either manpower help moving Jay’s oven, or a firm idea of numbers in the ‘mucking in’ team of Terry’s Tornadoes 🙂 before you commit?


  19. cannyfradock says:


    Nice to see a lot of interest in building an oven……”all I can offer is a willing pair of hands – no building or technical knowledge”…..that’s all it takes. One of the most impressive oven builds on my WFO forum last year was from who goes by the username of Charliefarlie…….he said at the start of his build…ah well, Ill just have to learn as I go along…and then produced this… http://picasaweb.google.com/115426447285405371194/WoodFiredOven I hope the link works as it is well worth a look.

    Like I mentioned in my last post the last thing I want to do is to tread on anyone’s toes before I commit to anything…but I do have my sticky fingers in lots of pies in WFO circles so I would try to get any materials for any type of build at the least poosible expense…beg, steal or borrow is my motto before thinking of parting with any hard earned cash.

    Geraint…..I meant to say in my last post that I must have seen you at last years Abergavenny food festival. What David and Holly was achieving with all the young students (kids) was quite impressive. I made 3 visits to the lower castle grounds and waited a long time before I could attract David’s attention and say hello and compliment him on such a good display…..those sticky chocolate puddings? were sublime.


    • sgratch says:

      Terry: That’s an impressive build by Charliefarlie.
      Btw, I am both Sgratch & Geraint; not sure why it sometimes shows one, sometimes the other. I was helping David during the last session on the Sat & all day Sunday (minus a break to go and see a talk/tasting with Tom Herbert & Todd Trethowan). Holly wasn’t well that weekend, which was how I got the opportunity to help out. Sarah Lisle was helping on the Saturday, and the festival organisers supplied some young volunteers too. It was great fun & we really had it down by the last session on the Sunday; shame we couldn’t have stayed a few more days! We only did pittas & pizzas with the kids, David brought the brownies with him – I think he’d sold out before Saturday was through.

  20. cannyfradock says:


    Very down to earth and practical comments on a Wood-fired oven build at the Bethesda bake. It was always going to be a tall order for a build….and bake in the time that we have.

    I have had another chat with Jay Emery and he has confirmed that we can borrow his mobile oven for the duration of the meet. He doesn’t want any money as he realises this will be a social gathering attended by genuine bread baking enthusiasts. He did emphasize that only dry seasoned hardwood should be used to get the best performance out of the oven. If we needed wood he said he could supply it, but it would have to be paid for….he wasn’t trying a sales pitch on me….it’s only an option.

    1st problem…as yet I haven’t got a toe hitch on my vehicle so the oven would have to be pulled by someone from Kidderminster to Bethesda……and back. I am working on borrowing a van with a toe hitch but as yet I have had no conformation of this.

    2nd problem…none.

    The oven can be used for pizza AND bread baking …but not sure yet how many loaves in the same batch. I will be helping out at a pizza/bread baking show with one of these ovens a week next Saturday, so I will have more first-hand experience how these ovens perform then……I am still a relative novice in firing these things up so If we do use the oven I will be looking to other experienced hands to fire-up, regulate the temp and cook the pies…..or help in that direction.

    As far as an oven build goes, you have raised many practical points which need to be considered before attempting a build……


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