Friday, 27 June 2008

First pizzas

Not many photos here, due to mild panic about getting all the timings right. Instead I just have a picture showing my cooking table before I started. The marble slab was £1.20 from ebay - sold as a particularly unpleasant occasional table that clearly nobody wanted. A bit of spanner work soon separated the good bit from the legs to give this marble slab. I'm using it to assemble the pizzas.

And this was the result - the first pizza! Actually, this was the second pizza, as the first was sadly offered to the fire gods due to circumstances beyond my control (gravity and clumsiness with a pizza peel). It tasted at least as good as it looked - mozzarella, basil & tomato.

The recipe came from the Forno Bravo pizza cookery book - the best one I've seen on wood fired pizza, and better still, it's free. You can download a copy here:

This was a great moment - finally something to eat from my hours of hard work.

Next - bread!

Finished oven!

It's finally finished! The last week has seen a lot of activity - laying a floor in the summerhouse, adding table and chairs, and kitting the summerhouse out with the tools I made over the last few months. I've treated all the wood now, which hides the fact that much of it was recycled - you can barely tell now that this used to be a fence!

The floor is concrete paving blocks, laid on a dumpy bag of sand that was a gift from a neighbour who wanted rid of it. I was originally going to lay it in herringbone pattern, then realised that meant cutting a lot of bricks, so went for a basketweave pattern instead. A bit of judicious fiddling and I only needed to cut the blocks to fit round the oven circle.

Here's the inside, with some of my firewood stacked up (thanks to my friend the tree surgeon for that - only 2 tons left to split now, and then I can have my front lawn back). The pine table and chairs were second hand from ebay - £25 the lot. I bought the peels, while the rest of the tools were made from scrap landrover aluminium and broom handles. Here's those fancy LED switches that I built into the flint block walls - the red one works the thermometer, while the blue one... ... works a 12V halogen light fitted in the rafters, shown below. It's just the right angle to shine into the oven, so I can see what I'm cooking. The power for these comes courtesy of an old car battery, charged by a 5W solar panel fitted to the roof. The bracket for the 12V light is more scrap aluminium (see - I told you all that junk would be useful one day).
And finally, below, is the instruction manual. Much prettier than my original notes on which thermocouple was placed where. The drawing was burnt into the wood (a salavaged scrap oak floorboard offcut) using a soldering iron, then treated with linseed oil afterwards. The numbers 1-6 remind me where my thermocouples are placed - so I can select the right one using the rotary switch on the front of the oven.

Next - start cooking!

Monday, 23 June 2008

A much better door

After my last dismal door attempt, I decided to make a new one. This one's a bit more complicated though. On hand, I had some aluminium scraps, some aluminium mesh, and a lot of vermiculite. And a nice wooden handle made from an oak branch, salvaged from my last two doors that didn't work.

I also bought a couple of meters of knitted stainless steel mesh tube from ebay: example link here. I cut two sheets of scrap aluminium (old land rover) to fit exactly in the door opening of my oven, and used the stainless and aluminium mesh to cover the sides. The whole lot was held together with a single thin stainless cable, passing through holes in the aluminium and through the mesh - stitching the panels together. I'd filled the mesh tubes with vermiculite before I'd assembled them into the door, and when it was all assembled I filled the door with loose vermiculite, packed it fairly tight, then screwed a plate over the hole I'd used to fill it. Finally, I bolted the oak handle back on.

As a picture tells a thousand words, these pictures are probably an easier way of describing it...

As luck would have it my oven entry is angled inwards, so this door forms a tight plug. I tested it yesterday and was pleased with it - from the graphs below it looks like it's at least as good as my previous Thermalite door and maybe even a bit better at holding the heat in.

It's about 4" thick, but is nice and light due to all the vermiculite. What would I do differently next time? Not use the knitted tubing - it looks good, but the plain vanilla aluminium mesh would have been fine.