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Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300

Create a 900F capable, semi-portable, perfectly small brick oven for your backyard and welcome authentic pizza in your life. Beware: friends will always ask for more!

Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300

Why ?

Well, one day I flew from around Venice, Italy to California for a short visit and ended up never going home. Everything around me was exciting and amazing exactly as I learnt watching 90210 as a kid except pizza. The artisanal movement was not as strong and widespread as today and everyone was simply acquainted to mediocre pizza. We could not live with that.

I studied a lot and I figured out how to prepare the perfect dough, a respectable sauce and even my own mozzarella!

The next problem to solve was cooking temperature: I followed some of the available tricks and tips from the interwebs: from the perforated backing sheet on the oven floor to the double pizza stone, passing through the hacked cleaning cycle…

Good and great results came, but it was never pizza like back home!

I started lurking on fornobravo.com intensively, only to find out that owning a woodfired oven was proibitive: even diy projects were expensive, gargantuan and permanent – did I mention I was renting a beach cottage ?

How ?

I organized my ideas around the concept that a perfect pizza is cooked in a combination of radiation, convection and heat transfer and wondered if I could recreate these conditions is a minify version of a pompeii oven.

The community at fornobravo.com marked it as a big disappointment on my way and failure waiting to happen so I got motivated and starting sketching some ideas.

I also received fundamental tips from some good hearted experts and I was able to correct both my plans and my project in progress.

Had I not moved to an apartment I would have built an optimized version of the first oven and in this guide I will try to give some suggestion to improve my steps.

The Basics

You desire a device that, given proper fuel, will reach and retain an unconventional (for a home kitchen) temperature adequate to make a perfect batch pizzas. Simple, right?

Disclaimer

This project is not a joke. Before you start, be advised that this is a simple but labor intense build and that the use of hazardous materials, power tools, heavy components and extremely high temperatures here illustrated can lead to serious injuries and death. The author renounce liability for any injury or loss of any type that results from the use of this guide. Search out expert advice if you are unsure about any possible hazard for your person, your property and anything in the range of the oven. Thank you.

Disclaimer 2

Be aware of the consequence of owning a pizza oven: your artisanal excellence will constantly drive hordes of old and new friends (and friends of friends) to your backyard. Be prepared to make piles of pies and see them vanish in seconds. Build yourself a complementary tip jar. Be nice to your neighbors.

Long Live Pizza!

Steps

Step #1:

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Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300
  • The base is an important step that will absolutely influence the rest of the project;
  • In this case, I identified the perfect base in a savaged heavy iron table. It was perfect because it appeared very sturdy and stable, free and it would constitute a non permanent base. Its ability to hold the weight was based on my wild guess.
  • on top of everything, this table was the perfect size (28", square) for 18 standard bricks
  • having a rectangular base would have allowed for a better oven mouth or even a landing plane, but this ratio did not influence the cooking performance
  • I suggest that you play with your bricks and other props and their positioning on the base to understand how the oven may look like. Pay attention to oven opening for example, as such a scaled down version may result incompatible with a standard peel;

Step #2:

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Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300
  • The base needs a solid and rigid plane, mine had none so I went ahead and made one with cement, reinforced with an improvised armor;
  • If your plane is flexible, like metal could be, you risk to facilitate cracking of the upper structure: better safe than sorry!
  • Living in Ocean Beach - San Diego, it only took me a two minutes alley walk to find a savaged piece of fence (?) that would do the job;
  • I cut two pieces: the upper one was tightly secured with hose clamps, the lower one was hammered and got permanently stuck at the intersection of the legs: use your fantasy and you'll come up with even better solutions!
  • My guess was that this armor could help keeping in place the cement slab and especially preventing it from collapsing.. and it did!

Step #3:

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Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300Lightweight Wood-Fired Pompeii Brick Oven for Under $300
  • Line the floor with something (I used in-mail-found flyers) and prepare a batch of Quickcrete®;
  • Gently pour the mix to cover the armor abundantly. Take the opportunity to add your signature: nobody will see it, but you'll know it's there.
  • Leave to settle as indicated in the cement instructions;
  • When ready, gently flip the table using physics of levers to your advantage. Be careful because the weight is significant and things can go wrong: remain outside of the trajectory of the plane, the center of gravity changed drastically.
  • My slab appeared solid and quite uniform and leveled - good enough for a first try, but I decided to use some scrap wood to create an additional reinforcement with the idea that much more weight needed to be supported;

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