natural architecture / earthen oven

Studio exterior 2/12/06I was just sitting down to write notes about the earthen oven I made this weekend when I found this from a friend. natural architecture – an emerging art movement that is exploring mankind’s desire to reconnect to the earth, through the built environment. Very interesting stuff, fits with my continuing thinking about making my architecture more organic.

I built the oven following Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer which was good guide. I followed one of his tips for people in a hurry and built it on saw horses (knowing it will eventually burn thru). This is a temporary location anyway, while I decide where it goes. Earthen Oven

The tip to roll the mix on a tarp is also a good one. I put clay and sand on the tarp in layers, tossed it a bit with a shovel, then began the tarp technique. As Kiko warns, adding more mix to dry out a wet batch is hard work (next time I’d premix the stuff to be added).

Since one location for my permanent oven could be in an enclosed sun space (might it provide heating too?) I wanted to try a design with a rear chimney to keep the smoke out of the room. First small firing today was very smoke free. By 9PM the fire was out and the top was steaming in the moonlight (its going to be frosty tonight).

The platform is 45 deep and 37 wide. Next time, I need to make the base a bit wider and quite a bit deeper. I got most of the chimney onto the base, but didn’t have enough depth behind it to encase the chimney in cob. It would be nice to have a bigger hearth too. I can see I’m going to want a work surface near the stove and a hearth could have been part of that.

The void of the oven is 27″ diameter and 21″ tall. Kiko says the door should be taller, but I think that is for ovens without chimneys, mine draws very well. I started our buying 1/3 yard of finishing sand, but that was not enough to fashion the void and make the first layer. Another 1/3 yard provided some leftover before emptying the void. My clay came from a construction site near the Pullman airport, and it dried into a nice hard brick. I mixed it 1-3 with sand for the inner layer and 1-2 for the cob layer. All told, I probably used 8 5-gallon buckets of clay. I was a little worried that the inner layer was too sandy, but a patty dried overnight by the wood stove passed Kiko’s ‘crushing between thumbs’ test. I did not put a slip clay layer on, that seemed like extra weight and work for a temporary oven and I’m starting to like the hairy straw look.

As it is late October, I decided not to wait for the oven to air dry and built a small fire for several hours. Flames roared up the 6″ diameter chimney and I think I’ll put a brick inside to cover part of the opening. The chimney will get a metal damper next. The oven is a great consumer of fuel, I tossed in all manner of scrap lying around — too small to be candidate for kindling in our heat stove, too big to be mulch.

Other than the tired back from all the stooping, very satisfying so far.

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