Quite a few ‘Leafers’ have taken time off work over the next few days to accomplish a major, major job that just needed to be done before the end of summer.  Yes, I’m talking about the renovation of the LEAF clay pizza oven.Sad & Forlorn

Unused, overgrown, unloved, our poor oven was looking very tired and sad, sat amongst the weeds, rotting logs and other detritus.

BUT, over the next few days, we’re doing it up, giving it some much-needed TLC, then hopefully firing it up ‘in rage’ this coming Saturday afternoon/evening.

So what needed to be done to it?

Well, it needed another outer layer whacking on (technical term, that), then we plan to extend the concrete area around it so more people can get closer to it whilst it’s running.  -It’s always great to watch, and as the nights draw in and the evenings start to get cooler, it’ll be a great place to keep warm whilst your stomach rumbles.

Unfortunately, I had a job to do this morning, but there were loads of volunteers who started early with the clay puddling.

For those not ‘in the know’, this is the process where you have to thoroughly mix the sand with the clay such that the clay completely gets between the sand particles to make a very basic ‘glue’ to stick the sand together.

Luckily, here in Sunny Southey, all you have to do is dig down a couple of feet to find all the clay you could possibly ever want, and that is exactly what we have done.

Diane has bought a load of builder’s sand, so volunteers then mix the two together -puddling.  This involves getting your shoes and socks off, rolling up your jeans, and literally ‘dancing’ on the mixture to mix it all together.

Puddling Fun!And what fun it is to do!

All we needed was a decent sound system, and we’d have rocked!

These photos are of us after lunch as volunteers took their shoes and socks off again, and got stuck in.

Meanwhile, another group worked on the oven itself.

As well as the new outer layer, we needed to make a new stone entrance for the oven.  This is pretty critical as it tends to keep the oven hotter internally, and there’s a hole in the top for the inevitable smoke to come out of when the fire is first lit.

Matt volunteered to do the archway using regular ‘gobbo’ to stick it together -‘gobbo’ being a standard sand and cement mix used by brickies the world over.  There may be some issues with this tomorrow when we first fire it up.  Cement doesn’t tend to crack with heat, but the clay/sand mix certainly will, so it will be, er, a ‘challenge’ to see what happens when the two are so close together.  Will the entrance completely come away from the main structure?  It’ll be fun finding out!

While Matt did the entranceway, myself and Marcus slapped the clay on around the back -so as not to get in his way.  Oh, what FUN we had!Entrance and clay going on.

Here you can see Matt on the left putting the finishing touches to the archway, while myself and Marcus put the extra layer on from the back.

The technique for this is to first thoroughly wet the existing clay to get a better bond with the new stuff, then you have to fashion your clay ‘lumps’ into fat sausages which you then slap onto the outer surface as ‘bricks’.

Around and around you go, adding more ‘bricks’ of the soft, wet sand/clay mix, then you move up a layer, making sure that the ‘joins’ where the bricks meet don’t line up.  It’s said that this improves the strength of the layer, but, well, I’m not convinced.

Anyway, Marcus and I continued slapping the new clay on while Owen helped making the sausages and handing them over.

New Layer Goes On.As you can see here on the left, the new layer is starting to take shape as we gradually worked upwards.

Don’t be put off by the previous layer that we’re covering up.

If you recall from when we first built the oven, this second, ‘middle’ layer had straw mixed in with it to provide extra heat insulation.  This helps prevent the oven cooling down too much, and certainly saves you continually stoking it with more fuel once it is up to its working temperature.

I filled the really deep cracks you can see by hand with smaller pieces of clay, working them in gently with my fingers before the outer ‘sausage’ was placed over the top.

This really is great fun to do, and I think everyone doing it was taken back to their pre-school days, playing in the sandpit or making ‘cakes’ to ‘bake’ in a pretend oven.P1020103

When Marcus, Owen and myself had done this, Matt came back, armed with a plasterer’s float to give the surface the ultimate ‘shiny’ finish.

As you can see from this photo to the right here, he really is a master at this!

The darker area to the left of this photo is the cement mix that Matt used for the stones at the front, and he has ‘keyed’ it into the rest of the oven.

Tomorrow morning, we plan to cover most of this up with a final layer of clay right up to the beautiful stones making up the archway.

How much they will crack, we don’t quite know, but as I said, -it’ll be fun finding out!

P1020108Time really flew today, and all too soon, it was time to go, so Matt popped the cover into the entranceway to support the arch as it set.

We took the gazebo down that we’d put up earlier during a freak rainstorm, then carefully covered our creation up in case it rains tonight.

Actually, I’ve just checked on the BBC weather site, this is a distinct possibility, and we’d rather be safe than sorry!

It also helps prevent any creative vandals seeing the new layer and adding their initials -or something worse!- to the new oven ‘skin’.

Tomorrow, we plan to finish off the clay around the entranceway, right up to the archway.

We’ll also properly clean the area around the oven of weeds growing through the concrete, and also the the clay that had run off over last winter in the rain.P1020112

This final picture to the right here shows the oven with a temporary cover, and it also shows the string I put down to mark out where the new concrete ‘apron’ will hopefully be added tomorrow.

This area had been ‘Weed City’ a few hours earlier, but Ricky and Graham had expertly cleared it, along with a very dodgy line of bricks that were on that long edge.

Graham hacked them off with a well-aimed crow bar while Ricky moved them out of the way ready for cleaning tomorrow.

Matt’s skillls in bricklaying will be brought in tomorrow as he builds a wall around this new area, ready for us to fill in with hardcore, ready for a top layer of concrete to make the new ‘apron’.

We’ll allow this to set overnight tomorrow, ready for the Big Test on Saturday afternoon as we fire the oven up for the first time.

Saturday morning, however, will be when we decide where we’re going to whack the 6 uprights in, ready for the new roof to properly cover the oven to protect it from the elements.

Getting all six uprights fully upright -not tilted in any direction- and at the same overall height will be, er, ‘challenging‘.

(This is shorthand for ‘We Haven’t Actually Got A Clue, But It’ll Be Fun Finding Out’.)

Much more fun and frolicks to be had tomorrow, I feel!


Print Friendly