Big Bill the Clay Oven

Big Bill is my clay oven. Kiwi Bird and I built him late 2009.

Here you can find articles on my cooking journey with Big Bill and how he came to be. Enjoy!

Technical Bits

Cooking Journals

Pizza Pizza

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5 thoughts on “Big Bill the Clay Oven

  1. Hi, I have enjoyed reading your site, I began my own clay oven a few weeks ago, and worked almost non-stop for the past week on the actual oven, only to have it collapse totally just 5 hours after removing the sand mould. Not sure exactly what went wrong, I think it was not dry enough, I didn’t dry it between each layer, I applied the 3 layers over about 4 days, then removed the sand mould on the fifth day (today). It was so much work and I so desperately wanted one, it did look great for a while today when I thought it was finished! Do you have any ideas on what went wrong? It was still quite wet, so I am assuming I should have left the sand mould in for much longer, I was going off the clay oven wordpress site by Simon Brokkes who says to remove the sand after 4 hours of putting the clay layer on… total stuff up. I did most of it alone and felt great doing a typical “male” job mostly on my own, I would appreciate any feedback- pleas be kind!

    • Hi,

      I’m so sorry to hear all your hard work turning to mud 😦 You must be so gutted having your oven collapse. I think it really sounds like the clay was too wet. It needs to be quite a stiff mix. If you stand on a log of it, you should not sink. If you make a tennis ball out of it and drop from elbow height, it should crack very slightly, but not go splat (too wet) or shatter (too dry). You shouldn’t need to wait for a layer to dry before putting on the next. They need to bond to each other, so too much drying is not actually desirable.

      Another thing is making sure the dome is not too wide and short. It needs to be just slightly taller than semi-sphere. You can check out my other article on the height to width ratio.

      Don’t despair 🙂 I’m sure next time will be better for you! 🙂 Good luck!

  2. Thankyou for your reply & advice, I have salvaged the clay and can re-use it for Mk 2. I think maybe you are right, it may have been a bit too wet, I am hoping to begin again tomorrow. Do you think it will matter if there area few bits of straw in my first layer? Not a lot, I am talking about a matter of a two dozen pieces or so, spread throughout. I will try to pick them out. I used powdered clay also, so its was hard to gauge the exact amounts. I will read up and start over, thanks so much again, I love your site, it is very inspirational!

    • Good luck! I don’t think a little straw in the first layer will do much harm. Did you add sand to the powdered clay? The actual clay content for the mix should only be about 15% or so (if I remember correctly), otherwise cracking will be a big problem.

  3. Thanks, yes I have added plenty of sand, I think I can basically just reuse it all again for the next one as I have managed to separate the cob and non-cob layers into piles. I will do a drop tests and start over today, as the mix has dried out a bit it may be even better ( I hope!!!).

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