I needed an outside summer project, and decided on a Brick Pizza Oven, something I had threatened to build many, many times. It would go where the old BBQ grill used to be In our yard, the grill was in the “designated cooking area”, so a Pizza Oven should feel right at home there. The project took more planning time than building a new software release, mostly because I have never built a pizza oven before, so I had to think it out. Each decision took research and debates. Firebricks? Yes, that was easy. Size? Not too big, not too small. I decided that I needed a prototype. It works in software, so why not in building a pizza oven? So I laud out some loose bricks, a clay pizza stone, some firewood and started working on a layout.
The photo shows my “prototype” oven with a round cutting board of about 12 inches simulating a pizza, some sticks where we would build the fire.
Thankfully, many people shared their experiences online, at places like fornobravo.com, so I was able to get some good ideas on a shape and style. Being the son of a stone mason helped somewhat, as I had a false sense of my own abilities due to some invisible genetic trait. Three summers working for my dad, a real stone mason, did teach me some skills, mostly how to work for 8 hours straight without complaining. My main role was muscle. I carried bricks, mixed cement, carried, mixed and carried some more. Those skills were only going to get the materials to the job. I only had a general idea on how to build stone and brickwork. The first order of business was to build a rectangular base in stone, and then level it for the base of the oven. Next, I had to make the oven floor out of firebricks based on my mock-up of a pizza and a fire so I had the general dimensions. Brickwork is harder to fix than software, there is no “undo” button so I only wanted to do this once!
Laying out the arch was the hardest part. Arches are very strong, and were critical in ancient building techniques. Men who specialized in them were called “arch-i-tects” Here is a photo of a Roman aqueduct, with the force vectors pushing outwards and downwards along the arch.
So with this in mind, I laid out the arch of the oven on a board to make a template for the wood arch supports. I actually laid it ou tabout 10 different ways, with the only requirement that the arch had an odd number of bricks so the top brick could be the keystone.
Here is the design I finally settled on.
Here is the resultant form to hold the arch while it dries: It took about a week of work to put the brick oven together. Luckily, my brother Steve helped me out with laying the bricks on the arch, which was the hardest part of the project.
Here I am near the end, unshaven and tired, but satisfied with the end result:
Here is the finished oven: