Over the last couple of years, I have been offering advice via email about building clay ovens to anyone who asked or wanted clarification about particular instructions within my eBook “Build Your Own Backyard Clay Oven“. I did this because I love to share my sustainable living projects, and also want them to enjoy the social aspects of having a pizza party and having like-minded friends share the clay oven love!
One of those potential clay oven builders that I’ve been helping has been Tom Brandt who lives in St Albans, United Kingdom. Once he finished his project and had cooked his first pizza, I asked him if he would like to share his story.
Tom agreed without hesitation, so without further ado, here is his story.
Having just moved to a larger house with a big garden, and keen to begin a project with my children building something, I happened to watch a Jamie Oliver cookery show in which he was extolling the virtues of cooking in an outdoor oven.
It just so happened that he was also selling the same oven the as he was cooking in for approx. £1300 (approx $2730 Aussie dollars) which I felt was an extortionate amount of money for materials you could just dig out of the ground! As I did more research online I found Gavin’s Youtube film which I viewed on several occasions before purchasing his excellent e-book.
So I set about our pizza oven project in May 2014 with the aim of sourcing all of my materials for free where possible. I began by looking through local skips, asking friends for old ‘odds and ends’ they may have left over in their gardens/garages and got friendly with the site foreman at my School which just happened to be going through a major building project. I also stumbled across an uprooted tree in a field local to my In-laws which gave me a ready supply of clay.
Over the course of the early summer months I managed to complete the block work with help from my three young sons before the long summer holidays allowed me to concentrate on building the oven itself, when time allowed. Again, the boys, aged 8,6 and 3 enjoyed helping whether it was creating the inner sand mound, stomping on the cob or applying the cob to the various layers.
A busy family life and some poor weather dictated that, by the start of the English winter, I knew it would not be finished. I consulted with Gavin and after his advice, I decided to mothball the project until the following spring.
It was only in April 2015 when I finally got around to completing the last thermal mass cob layer and with sufficient drying time, a small fire allowed the first garlic bread pizza to be cooked.
After that, an additional layer of thin loft insulation, a chicken wire mesh and the final coat of render have been applied.
In May we welcomed our first guests to enjoy pizzas with us and we have had a steady stream since!
We are still learning and improving each time and are planning to cater for 20 at the beginning of August. This project has been much talked about amongst our groups of friends with many keen to be updated on progress and looking forward to their first pizza! An added bonus of creating a project I feel proud of is the wonderful social gatherings that have resulted from it.
Obviously, there have been some costs involved and Ebay and the local builders merchants have supplied everything else needed. In total, I reckon I have brought the whole project in for under £150 which is 12% of Mr Oliver’s retail price.
Not bad really for something that I have enjoyed tremendously and I couldn’t have done it without Gavin’s excellent guidance and support throughout.
Thanks Tom for the kind words and the great story! You certainly saved a ton of money by making it yourself as well as the exclusive bragging rights of being in self-built backyard clay oven club.