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$20, less than in town
April 8, 2010 4:44 PM   Subscribe

How to build an outdoor pizza oven for around $20.
posted by mudpuppie (83 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I am Brian, but I am also called Ziggy. I'm a 25-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage."

Huh. I thought hippies went extinct sometime in the early Seventies.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:49 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I so very wish we could have open fires here.
posted by Mitheral at 4:54 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


that is so unbelievably awesome. it has been added to the "things i will do when we buy a house" list.
posted by nadawi at 4:54 PM on April 8, 2010


I've always wanted to do something like this. I see in the update she adds some more details; for instance, the initial firing caused some large cracks to form in the dome, but they weren't structural. Also, it being made of hippie shit, the oven probably will not weather very well.

I suppose if I really wanted to use this method, I would have to get that book. This blog post isn't so much as a "How To" as an "I Did"
posted by Think_Long at 4:55 PM on April 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Guy says he's a breadhead. I'm supposed to build a mud thingamajig in my yard because a breadhead did? Dream on.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:57 PM on April 8, 2010


Nice, but aren't you supposed to fill the bottles with homebrew beer?
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:58 PM on April 8, 2010


You can also get similar temperatures using a kettle grill. GOOGLE GRILLED PIZZA, SHEEPLE!
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:59 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suggest 'Ziggy' read this article from the New Yorker a few months back, especially the part where they comment that the most inefficient stoves are ones just like these. Not that he's necessarily going for efficiency, although I get the sense he's doing this partially because he believes it's ecological.

Oh, Crash, if only you were right about extinction of the hippies.
posted by incessant at 5:00 PM on April 8, 2010


Any person who describes his or her self as "opposed" to concrete is probably trying to light the pizza oven by rubbing his or her two remaining brain cells together until they smoke.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:05 PM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I didn't quite get the reaction against concrete either, but I certainly don't begrudge the dude* for having a goal of making an oven out of recycled materials, what could be wrong with that?

*I thought the woman was the oven maker, as she's the one doing the construction in all of the pictures.
posted by Think_Long at 5:16 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well. Not to gainsay a person that has much more experience than I do in outdoor cooking. But I have found a decent indoor pizza maker.

But this works rather well, if you don't mind a bit of juggling super-hot cast iron. This seems to work best on an oven in the drawer beneath, I've got it to work inside my newer oven. The top rack has to be as high as it can. Then you flip it and put it in a shelf right under the higher rack. It leaves almost no clearance, so easy on the toppings.

Dangerous Pizza Making.
posted by Splunge at 5:19 PM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


This $20 oven looks awesome. But this LOLHIPPIES, while even cheaper, seems much less useful.
posted by applemeat at 5:20 PM on April 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Clarification.

Highest rack for heating pan.
Space.
Maybe another space.
Second rack for upside down pan with pizza.

It cooks real fast.
posted by Splunge at 5:22 PM on April 8, 2010


*I thought the woman was the oven maker, as she's the one doing the construction in all of the pictures.

In fairness, if you looked at all the pics of my home renovations, you'd think a woman did all that work, too. But that's 'cause I'm not just a handyman -- I'm also the designated photographer (and the only one who cares enough to document).

For $100, this would be impressive. For $20, it's really, really awesome!
posted by coolguymichael at 5:25 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Indeed. And the labor involved would actually cost far more than $100. Thanks for the idea. But I have neither the skill to make it or the money to have someone do it for me.

Regardless, it's a fine concept.
posted by Splunge at 5:34 PM on April 8, 2010


Oh man. I had forgotten why I only lasted a month in Boone, NC.
posted by gordie at 5:37 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can also get similar temperatures using a kettle grill.

Not
posted by caddis at 5:44 PM on April 8, 2010


Despite the ignoramuses, this is a really great MeFi post, one of the best so far this month.
posted by caddis at 5:58 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are a few people in my circle of friends that I could totally sell on this. Thanks, pup.
posted by box at 5:59 PM on April 8, 2010


i don't get it.... where does the fire go?
posted by rebent at 6:26 PM on April 8, 2010


I was prepared to be all sneery, but his cob house is really cool and kudos to him for undertaking a project like that.

Even if he is probably going to put yucky hippy crap on his pizza.
posted by contessa at 6:34 PM on April 8, 2010


Despite the ignoramuses

That is a slur upon my history of homemade pizza, sir! That is a slap in the face of, not only myself, sir... But my whole family. I am Italian, sir! I am Sicilian.

We invented vendetta, sir!

I call for pizza stones at ten yards. Find your second. And have a backbone.

Have a backbone sir! Don't be afraid.

Bring your stones. I shall bring mine.

The dawn awaits!
posted by Splunge at 6:34 PM on April 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fuck pizza stones, bring your stone oven you cur.
posted by caddis at 6:36 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just want to once again say how much I love when people can't make an accurate assessment of the costs that goes into making their projects. Materials they've been given or managed to scrounge up magically have no value. The $18 book the author bought that had the instructions for making the dome isn't counted either.

But yeah, nice dome. I'd like to have one myself.
posted by borkencode at 6:36 PM on April 8, 2010


Also, it being made of hippie shit, the oven probably will not weather very well.


Actually, I see cob structures all over Portland (where it's wet 200-odd days a year), and they appear to be holding up quite well. Will they last a hundred years? Maybe not, but the one that got built 7 years ago outside my old apartment building is as solid as they day it was built. More solid, actually, as it cured over time.

So, y'know, there may be reasons not to like this idea, but "being made of hippie shit" is not a valid one.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 6:38 PM on April 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


There's more details in this article by Kiko Denzer at Mother Earth News (of course).

As for efficiency: an oven is probably not that bad if it keeps warm enough to bake bread and cook food for hours after the coals have been removed. Carbon-wise, there shouldn't be any harm if the wood is from sustainable sources, e.g. trees culled from your own land.
posted by parudox at 6:42 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love this! Now the kids and the hubby have a great summer project that allows them to use mud!
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:44 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


For pizza and/or Jeffrey Steingarten fans, this article is worth reading (via Splunge's link).
posted by Dr. Send at 6:47 PM on April 8, 2010


Fuck pizza stones, bring your stone oven you cur.

Hah! I have you! You back off. Your backbone is seen as dough which will not rise!

How would one bring a stone oven, sir? Sirrah, you are unmasked. You have neither a solid crust nor a tasty topping.

You, sir, are... a Pizza Hut!

There I said it.

You are a soggy slice with no flavor. You are slapped with your own slice. And a limp one, if I see correctly.

Away with you.
posted by Splunge at 6:47 PM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I bet this does taste great and is a lot of fun. It's also incredibly wasteful of fuel and emits way more CO2 than is necessary. At least it's wood-fired and not coal or oil, I guess.
posted by DU at 6:58 PM on April 8, 2010


Also, it being made of hippie shit, the oven probably will not weather very well.

You remind me a lot of my father. But he's dead and this is 2010.
posted by hal9k at 7:08 PM on April 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


"I'm supposed to build a mud thingamajig in my yard because a breadhead did? "

No. Your supposed to want to because it's cool. Uh, hot.
posted by Mitheral at 7:17 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well neither of us will be able to wield stone pizza ovens against each other except to bake pizzas in contest. I am going to have to make my stone pizza oven first as as yet I have nothing more than the lowly and inadequate pizza stone and a gas oven with a maximum normal temp of 550F (I have not yet had the guts to cut off the safety lock and use the cleaning cycle which I think tops 800F). A stone in a regular oven will always produce a soggy slice compared to a well fired wood oven. ( A Big Green Egg is supposed to be a mean pizza oven as well but that is hardly a cheap option.)
posted by caddis at 7:20 PM on April 8, 2010


Other than being stupendous for baking tasty food, the oven is a great example of a simple technology that isn’t dependent on fossil fuels for its building or use.

Dude, your wood fire is spewing CO2, soot, methane, benzene, formaldehyde and other friendly carcinogens. If more than a few people started doing this in your neighborhood, the smog would be thicker than the cheese on your pizza.

Wood fires produce seven times as much particulate pollution as cars.
posted by storybored at 7:23 PM on April 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well, actually the link that I had about Dangerous Pizza really works. But it does take a bit of juggling.

I don't have one of those new-fangled IR thermometers, but I'm guessing that the cast iron pan hit a pretty high temp. And that's what we're looking for, for the crust to be crisp.

Other things that I have done is to pre-cook the crust on a stone. Then reheat the stone, with the crust sitting on a rack outside of the oven.

Then I raise the rack and place the stone on it and broil the toppings.

Yes, I have been looking for the best home oven pizza for a long time. But let's face it. Even bad home pizza, is good. Shall we agree to disagree, sir?

I hold out my hand in friendship. Long shall we search, together!
posted by Splunge at 7:30 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Like rebent, I also do not understand where the fire goes.
posted by snofoam at 7:34 PM on April 8, 2010


It's a big dome with a stone floor and stone domed ceiling. You build a fire on the floor. After everything is really hot you push the fire off to the side, it is still burning as coals, and then you put our pizza or bread dough down on the floor.
posted by caddis at 7:45 PM on April 8, 2010


You can also get similar temperatures using a kettle grill.

Not


Wrong!

Okay, it's not a straight up kettle grill any more. But his FrankenWeber gets up to 1000 degrees.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:08 PM on April 8, 2010


eponysterical.

I like it! Though the author could have pointed out that he means romantic in the negative, foolishly ignorant terms as well. Without cement, this oven is NOT going to stand the test of time.
posted by wilful at 8:23 PM on April 8, 2010


Any person who describes his or her self as "opposed" to concrete...

I didn't quite get the reaction against concrete either...

They are probable opposed to concrete because of their interest in sustainable living. The process to manufacture concrete causes a huge amount of CO2 to be produced. And then there is a problem with what to do with concrete at the end of its life: currently it tends to just clog up landfills (although it can be recycled, if the economics are right. more details).

I guess these might look like "hippy" problems now, but they are pretty much going to be everyone's problems soon.

So now there is a lot of interest in finding alternatives to concrete, and producing low CO2 concrete. Another example.

In saying that, concrete is also often considered a "green building material" because it is so durable and effective at thermal regulation. It's just the production, and disposal that currently need to be improved.
posted by theyexpectresults at 8:28 PM on April 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Snofoam and rebent, here's my spiel from when I had to use an oven like this (but indoor) while pretending to be an 1830's farmgirl at Old Sturbridge Village.

You build the fire directly in the oven, letting the smoke leave out the door. After the fire has burned and gone down to coals over a approx two hour period, you completely shovel the coals out of the stove and put them someplace safe. Maybe with a large oven you can leave some coals in, although that would give you uneven heat spots. I'm sure that for the size they're talking here, you'd remove it all. You can also wet a broom to sweep the ashes out so that you don't get soot on the bottom of your bread and pizza. That will also remove small bits of coal that may otherwise set your bread on fire.

At this point, the oven is probably too hot to cook with and probably needs some time to cool off. Here's where the arm test comes in. See how long you can stick your bare arm in before it feels too hot and eventually you get a feel for what the temp is. You then put the things you want to bake inside and put a door on to trap the heat. As the oven cools, you can progress to cooking/baking things that require a lower temperature. We'd do bread and pies first, then cakes, then custards. At the end of the day, you can even do things like dehydrate fruit by leaving it in overnight.

Okay, now I'm getting nostalgic for my old job and want to do some knitting, or maybe milk a cow.
posted by saffry at 8:34 PM on April 8, 2010 [13 favorites]


theyexpectresults, concrete gets a worse rap than it probably deserves, and I suspect ziggy is really just repeating a mantra that he's heard before somewhere. A 'huge' amount of CO2? 300 kg per cubic meter average, ziggy would have been using not more than 0.1 cube for that, 30 kg, when his 'sustainable ration' for a year under a contract and converge model would be something like four tonnes.
posted by wilful at 8:48 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Saffry's got the method down, which just saved me a lot of typing. But here's what I can add from having one of these my dad and I built in the back yard. (By the way, my dad is career military and wishes he had one at his house. So it can't be *that* hippy.)

We modified the Sunset design and made the oven shorter at the advice of a credentialed stove expert. It failed to burn right - something basic was wrong with the flow of fresh air into the oven. We ended up using a CPU fan taped onto a section of exhaust pipe to deliver fresh air to the back of the oven. When I rebuild it, I will stick to the plans. (Except I might build in a controllable air feed to the back of the oven.)

The "hippy shit" does break down in moisture. But that's okay, you can make some more for a nickel and slap a patch on. Or you can shell it with cast-off concrete/mortar from home improvement projects like I eventually did.

One thing Saffry didn't mention is that after you shove the fire off to the side, you swab it out with a wet towel wrapped around a stick so that you don't get ashes in your food.

Ours is disintegrating now because the base described in the Sunset plans is settling into the earth on the outside edges. The OP's oven looks like it would be less susceptible to that, as it is round.

The OP's oven looks way easier to use than mine because it's at waist level - I have to get down on hands & knees to use my oven.

These ovens can take hours to bring up to cooking temperature. There's a lot of mass to heat up. It takes some planning or free time if you want dinner out of the thing. It's a lot of wood - but our elm trees produce a lot of scrap wood, so that's okay.

Finally, I had visions of roasting meats, cooking pies, etc., but all we ever cook in it is pizza (which is excellent) and bread (also excellent).
posted by richyoung at 9:02 PM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh by the way, just looking at his (magic no concrete) foundation - that's effing dangerous, it will fall over and hurt someone, after the first decent storm.
posted by wilful at 9:04 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It will be totally hysterical the day this guy is REALLY HUNGRY and he gets his super cool pizza all ready and pops it into that oven and the oven collapses on his pizza and now he's hungry, but has no place to cook his food.

Also: lol hippies, but what did you guys do today? That guy built an oven out of shit he had laying around. I just sat on a computer.
posted by GilloD at 9:39 PM on April 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oneirodynia's link also links to a forum discussion on the Little Black Egg which is worth a look. The thread starts here.
posted by GeckoDundee at 9:46 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


That little black egg link is blowing my mind. I'm a devoted pizza maker (and bread baker), it looks fantastic, and - crucially - would fit on our apartment balcony...
posted by smoke at 11:41 PM on April 8, 2010



Huh. I thought hippies went extinct sometime in the early Seventies.


I thought we sprayed for them.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:46 PM on April 8, 2010


(jk I <3 pizza, and hippies are OK too , I guess.)
posted by louche mustachio at 11:48 PM on April 8, 2010


Why, in Splunge's linked article, the disrespect for home-made pizza dough? They go out and buy dough from a pizza chain.
posted by Harald74 at 11:50 PM on April 8, 2010


It's not so much that these people are hippies, but they just seem so PROUD of themselves for living their life the way they do, and it really comes off in the writing. The caption on the second-to-last picture? Pure self-indulgent posturing.
posted by tehloki at 12:00 AM on April 9, 2010


awesome. thanks for posting this.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:23 AM on April 9, 2010


At least their self-indulgent posturing has some justification, especially compared to someone whose self-indulgent posturing is focused around a truck or a McMansion.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:20 AM on April 9, 2010


Wood fires produce seven times as much particulate pollution as cars.

But cars produce way fewer pizzas for the pollution they emit.


Concrete production destroys caves. Or maybe it destroys everything around the caves. It's all how you look at it. Destruction of caves may not matter to you.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:24 AM on April 9, 2010


Metafilter: self-indulgent posturing has some justification.
posted by jquinby at 5:25 AM on April 9, 2010


i don't get it.... where does the fire go?

From parudox's Mother Earth link.
Build a fire in the hollow earthen dome. The dense walls soak up heat for two to three hours, after which the oven's interior reaches about 700 degrees. Remove coals, sweep the oven floor, and let the temperature stabilize and even decline a bit. Slide your loaves onto the oven's hot floor.
posted by MtDewd at 6:09 AM on April 9, 2010


If I didn't live in a second floro apartment in Queens, I would totally do this.

And really, what's with the "ZOMGHIPPIES" in here? I hadn't realized that the blue had been entirely taken over by bitter old fifties stereotypes.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 6:49 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Screw this career crap, I want to move to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage! :(
posted by sararah at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2010


I used to cook a lot of food on the hood of my cavalry forge. Franken-Weber pshah, that baby could hit 1400 degrees no problem. Of course, many people don't enjoy the subtle aromas and nuances that a virginia coal cookfire brings to a meal.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2010


To clarify: just because I classify something as "hippie shit" doesn't mean I don't think it's awesome. It's an easy category for me to use, but I myself do a lot with hippie shit. Please don't take offense.
posted by Think_Long at 7:03 AM on April 9, 2010


In fact, during winter, wood heaters can produce up to seven times as much particle pollution as cars.

I'm not sure what this means. Does it mean that per mile traveled, cars produce one-seventh the particulate pollution as pizza ovens? Or does it mean that per pizza produced, cars produce fewer particulates?
As far as I can tell, it is a comparison of contributions to particulates in the Sydney area, given the current density of cars and of woodstoves there. And so they don't want you to burn wood in Sydney.
The question for Ziggy is: Is the overall danger to your own health and the health of your community greater when you cook this way than when you factor in the environmental and energy costs of cooking with propane or with some other source? And I don't think there is a simple answer here. My guess is that given where Zach lives, the probability that a soot particle he has created will end up in someones lungs is pretty low. But there are still all the other pollutants he has created to consider.
This is the kind of calculation that we don't seem to be very good at, and it is going to become more and more important. When does buying a more efficient refrigerator offset the environmental costs of building the new one and getting rid of the old one? What are the environmental effects of flying 500 miles compared to driving that distance? Paper towels in the public bathroom or air dryers?

Dude, your wood fire is spewing CO2, soot, methane, benzene, formaldehyde and other friendly carcinogens.
And this is one more example of an environmental calculation that I don't know the answer to: That CO2 came from the air, and now Ziggy is putting it back. If Ziggy were to burn propane, however, the CO2 he would release was last in the air a very long time ago. So how do you compare the environmental effects?
posted by Killick at 7:35 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course, many people don't enjoy the subtle aromas and nuances that a virginia coal cookfire brings to a meal.

In Brooklyn they do.
posted by caddis at 7:49 AM on April 9, 2010


And the labor involved would actually cost far more than $100.

Really, Splunge? Maybe on Splunge Palatial Acres, but here at Broom's rented place, labor is free... since I don't pay servants to do my manual labor.

I just want to once again say how much I love when people can't make an accurate assessment of the costs that goes into making their projects. Materials they've been given or managed to scrounge up magically have no value. The $18 book the author bought that had the instructions for making the dome isn't counted either.

borkencode: another person who just doesn't get the concept of recycling. At All. Materials you scrounge have value, but no cost. I've been a member of Freecycle for years; total cost paid for lumber, seeds, plants, food, fans, and other goods I've received from it: $0.00 (including sales and capital gains tax, of course).


And all the HarHarHarHatingHippiesIzFun crowd can DIAF. Here's a little clue for you all: hating someone for being a "hippie" is different from hating someone for being a Jew or black only in the details. So, you hate someone because they're different. Yay for you.

DIY is cool. Slackers sitting on their butts in front of the TV & computer, ragging on things they know little-to-nothing about, not so much.

Also: the know-it-alls claiming this oven won't last are wrong... but then, what do you expect from armchair experts? Anything from a piece of plastic tied over when not in use, to a thin layer of paint, would weatherproof it nicely. If it's being used daily (as I suspect his is), it's virtually weatherproof simply from the heat of the dome by day - certainly they survive torrential Pennsylvania rains. (This last statement based on firsthand observations.)
posted by IAmBroom at 7:51 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


hating someone for being a "hippie" is different from hating someone for being a Jew or black only in the details.

Yeah, because, since my mom was a hippie, I have no choice in the matter. Every morning when I rise from slumber, I look in the mirror, and I see a hippie staring back at me. When I go to the store, people hold their children close and scowl. I can hear their sharp intake of breath... "hippie." Would that I could shave this beard! Trim my long, disheveled, culturally-appropriated dread locks! Take a shower with soap! Alas, I am a hippie, and though you can choose to be a Christian, a scene kid, an easy-riding motorcycle enthusiast, I can never be anything but a hippie! Relegated to summer folk festivals and home-brew and recycling stuff and making things out of hay! There is no place for me in this world.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:00 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


And this is one more example of an environmental calculation that I don't know the answer to: That CO2 came from the air, and now Ziggy is putting it back. If Ziggy were to burn propane, however, the CO2 he would release was last in the air a very long time ago. So how do you compare the environmental effects?

Killick: The CO2 from wood fires is part of a rapid cycle (trees > fire > trees, all within one human lifetime*), so it's essentially a near-zero-loss** recycling process. The CO2 from fossil fuels are releasing C02 that's been stored (removed from the atmosphere) for millions of years; this adds to the atmospheric CO2 content in a one-way sense.

* This assumes that the wood came from managed tree farms, and not old-growth forests.
** And zero-gain, so it doesn't solve anything regarding the greenhouse-effect/global climate change. But for purposes of C02 emission, wood fires are essentially equal to normal decomposition of dead trees.

The methane, benzene, formaldehyde, etc., is another issue: unless UV or other environmental forces break them down naturally, it's pretty much a one-way dump into the environment. Wood fires*** are fantastically inefficient; it's true.

** Normal, low-temp wood fires. Burning them in super-efficient, high-oxygen power-plant-sized furnaces can be cleaner than your home gas furnace by far.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:02 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


and though you can choose to be a Christian

Right there, Baby_Balrog, you made my point. Hating hippies/Jews/Christians is pretty much all the same thing: hating someone for making different choices in their lives that don't really affect yours.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:05 AM on April 9, 2010


An episode of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days dispatched some city folk to Dancing Rabbit for a month. You can probably catch the rerun on FX.
posted by kgander at 8:15 AM on April 9, 2010


And all the HarHarHarHatingHippiesIzFun crowd can DIAF. Here's a little clue for you all: hating someone for being a "hippie" is different from hating someone for being a Jew or black only in the details.

I'm going to leave this oddly combative thread, but before I do I just want to reassert that I am not hippie-est - I love DIY and I love freecycle and all of those things. Living ecologically and sensibly is a beautiful thing, and by poking slight fun at it I don't mean to dismiss what they're doing in any way.

Also: the know-it-alls claiming this oven won't last are wrong... but then, what do you expect from armchair experts? Anything from a piece of plastic tied over when not in use, to a thin layer of paint, would weatherproof it nicely

Fair points, but please don't take offense at my honest assumption that low fired mud plaster would degrade due to the weather - the builder talks about the need to add a shelter in order to prevent its erosion.
posted by Think_Long at 8:39 AM on April 9, 2010


See, this was the problem with Manson. He called his ecovillage "the Family" instead of something cool like "Dancing Rabbit".
posted by stormpooper at 9:07 AM on April 9, 2010


Here's some info on concrete.

An oven like this is lovely if you live far from other people and have plenty of firewood just lying around. Ecologically speaking you'd be better off building a solar oven.
posted by mareli at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2010


So, is there an Official MeFi List of the types of people that must automatically be treated with scorn and derision when linked to in a FPP? It's hard to keep track sometimes.

I thought this was a very cool & informative post. (Sand? Check. Straw? Check. Wonder if there's any clay on the property...)
posted by usonian at 10:01 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, is there an Official MeFi List of the types of people that must automatically be treated with scorn and derision when linked to in a FPP?

Breadheads. They're at the top of the list. With their yeasts and their kneadiness, they are intolerable.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:37 AM on April 9, 2010


I've seen that list. Right after 'breadheads,' it says 'everybody else.'
posted by box at 10:40 AM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mitheral: "I so very wish we could have open fires here."

I suspect you could make a good argument that firing up something like this is not an "open fire," any more than a charcoal grill or brazier is. For safety's sake I'd probably put some sort of spark grate across the aperture, though.

TFA: "a simple technology that isn’t dependent on fossil fuels for its building or use."

While the statement is literally true, I thought it was pretty naive as well. More than one civilization has ended up extinct due to deforestation, so it's not as though wood = good all the time.

Wood is a sustainable fuel, and if you live in an area where it's abundant and it is sustainably harvested (of if you harvest it yourself exclusively from deadfall, i.e. the old Boy Scout method) it's probably better overall than fossil fuels. But if every Williamsburg hipster decided to build a pizza oven on the apartment roof? You'd be going through cords of wood pretty quickly, and the consequences of that would quickly be much worse than the gas consumed to cook one pizza down at the local Dominos.

The real problem with wood ovens is the startup cost. Using an oven like this to cook one pizza or loaf of bread is terrifically, spectacularly inefficient. It takes three hours on "good wood" to bring up to temperature. If you're using an oven like this, you pretty much better be using it to cook for your entire commune, or else you're probably better off just putting some quarry tiles at the bottom of your gas oven.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:05 PM on April 9, 2010


I feel the need to add one last comment on how to clean the fire from one of these ovens. I said to use a wet broom. DO NOT use a plastic broom with nylon bristles for this, I imagine it would melt into a smeary mess. If you can't use a soaking wet natural broom, then use a cotton towel on a stick as richyoung suggests.
posted by saffry at 2:37 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I suspect you could make a good argument that firing up something like this is not an 'open fire,' any more than a charcoal grill or brazier is."

Ya, unfortunately the bylaw is a lot more restrictive than that if one's property is less than 0.4 ha in size: "No person shall erect or use a portable incinerator or other portable device or appliance for burning garbage, rubbish or other waste material, nor shall any person build, set or maintain an enclosed fire outside the walls of a building, except with a special burning permit issued under this by-law." It's essentially illegal to have a wood fire which is not confined to a EPA certified stove wholly enclosed by a building. One could fire this stove locally with briquettes or propane/natural gas but it loses a lot of the fun that way.
posted by Mitheral at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2010


Mitheral, our fire code is similar, but there is a clause excepting the preparation of food. We get around the ordnance by having a bag of marshmallows present when firing up the old fire bowl (this advice came from a firefighter). Does your town have a similar clause regarding food? Otherwise, are you breaking the law whenever you fire up your grill?

I love this post. If I had the time, I'd build one of these ovens because we make pizza so often in the summer.
posted by Heretic at 6:26 PM on April 9, 2010


Damn, and I thought Canada was still free. God Damn Do-Gooders always taking away our freedoms. If they just had a slice of real pizza they might step back. A tenth of a cord of wood for a single well fired pizza does not seem excessive to me. :)
posted by caddis at 6:27 PM on April 9, 2010


No food cooking exception. There used to be but it was eliminated when they rewrote the bill a few years ago. Grills have to be propane, natural gas or briquettes. I'm tempted to make my own briquettes from waste sawdust as they don't, yet, specify commercial briquettes.
posted by Mitheral at 11:38 PM on April 9, 2010


fail?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:14 PM on April 12, 2010


@Ogre-
Naw, the thing about cheap, locally available building materials is you don't have to worry about stuff like that. (though they maybe should have let it dry out longer before first use?)

When things require expensive, storebought materials and/or skilled labor, something like those cracks would be a bigger problem. But here, you just make some more mud to patch the cracks and get on with life.
posted by richyoung at 1:04 PM on April 12, 2010


I made one of these, rom the same book, back in 2001. Blogged about it too. If you'll indulge me, I'd like to quote some of my hippy shit:

July 3, 2001 ... And yesterday I finished the oven. I think it looks very nice, even though I didn’t do any fancy carvings. It’s a simple beehive shaped oven, and that’s just fine. I’ll build a few small fires in it this week and plan on making the first meals in it Friday night. I’ve lost my camera (I think it’s in the trunk of my car, along with theater materials, TiVo diagnostic equipment, odds and ends, and who knows what else), so there’s still no pictures. And I wish I could have taken some during the building process. I’ve been accused of being obscenely sensual, but this oven building thing was over the top. It was all hand-built, from the laying of the foundation (cement blocks), shovelling a ton or more of sand, building the wet sand form for the inside (”shaping the void”), mixing the clay. Especially mixing the clay. It involved taking my shoes off, wearing shorts, and dancing in the mud. I put the clay I dug out of the ground on a tarp, sprinkled with extra sand, and added a touch of water. And then I got right on and danced. I jigged. I twisted. I clogged. Had I thought about it, I would have actually put on some music to dance to, but the soundtrack in my head worked alright with me. The first batch of clay should have been barely damp, like that of from-scratch pie dough. I got it a bit wetter than that, but no matter. This was pressed onto my clay form, compacted as much as it could take, in small bactches with my hands. Five or so inches thick, two feet high and almost two feet across. That took two wheelbarrows of clay and planty of dancing. When that had dried sufficiently, I cut out the doorway and scraped out the sand form. The oven stood by itself, and already it looked great, ready to use. But I mixed up another batch of clay, this time with more sand and straw and water (and much more dancing) and added a second, equally thick, layer to the oven. This took another two wheelbarrows of clay. When that was put on and suffifiently compacted, I wet my hands and smotted it out. This was the best part, because it was just like fingerpainting, or turning a bowl on a wheel. I smoothed it out and made it pretty, and now it sits under a tarp, protected from the daily thunderstorms, waiting for fire to harden it.

Some of my friends have made a running joke of my self-sufficiency by judging me on how much of a pizza I’ve made by myself. I started with the tomatoes and basil, while living in my concrete apartment. I began making cheese, and that got added to the list (Someday soon, it’ll be from milk from my own animals.). I’ve begun collecting mushrooms, and they’re mighty good on pizza. I haven’t grown my own wheat yet, but I have ground whole organic wheat into flour. I’ve done it on a stone mortar and pestle, but I prefer to use a metal grinder. I don’t grow my own olives yet, but when I do I’ll press them for oil. And now I can bake them in an oven made completely by hand from raw materials. I’m almost there, but I know when I reach complete pizza self-sufficiency, the bar will be raised to another level. And when it is, I’ll be ready to build my house from cob/generate my own power/whatever. I’ve found that the more I live in harmony with my surroundings, making for myself what I can, my standard of living has only increased. Odd that, considering many people think only the poor do what I’ve been doing.

(An addendum from today, April 13th, 2010: the more I lived like this, the less it became about me doing all these things [though I learned how] and the more it became about gathering a community who could collectively do these things. I still grow the veggies and make cheese on occasion, but I have friends who grow wheat, others who mill it, others who raise meat and make sausage, have dairies, make cheese, and so forth. The last step will fall into place this Friday when the first olive oil arrives from another friend's olive grove. Only took nine years, and what a journey it's been.)
posted by ewagoner at 6:14 PM on April 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


thank you for sharing, ewagoner. that was wonderful.
posted by nadawi at 6:52 PM on April 13, 2010


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