DIY Pizza Oven: Part I of II

A pizza oven design similar to the one we've cooked up at Better Farm. Photo from Instructables.com.
We were lucky enough to have staff member-at-large Tyler Howe stay full-time at Better Farm for the month of August. That meant no computer breakdowns for anyone in the house (or the hamlet of Redwood, for that matter), higher morale as we wound down the summer session of internships and artist residencies, and the ground-breaking for Better Farm's homemade, wood-burning pizza oven.

Tyler's a handy guy, but he's never built a pizza oven before; so there was a lot of research involved before he set the first spade into the ground. Any construction projects in the North Country have to take into account frost heave, heavy winds, extreme temperature ranges, and six months (on average) of winter. Piece of cake!

To start, Tyler staked out the 6' x 6' spot on the lawn where the pizza oven would go and he (with the help of intern Soon Kai Poh) dug a couple of feet down into the ground:

Into the dug hole went drainage gravel to help combat the floodlike waters of early spring, and to secure the pizza oven's base. Then it was time to set nine 2x2 pavers down in a square:

After letting them settle for a day or two, Tyler pushed some sand between the cracks and used a level to make sure the oven's bottom was sitting flat. Then it was time to build the base. This involved finding someone on Craigslist who was getting rid of a bunch of rock. This turned out to not be a problem; which makes me wonder just how different the 1970 Better Farm crew's stories might have been had they not decided to spend the better part of a week driving around in a pickup truck, collecting rocks for the addition on the house:
Putting in the library, 1970.
One trip to pick up the rocks was all it took (thanks to Jaci Collins, Eric Drasin, Soon Kai Poh, and Tyler for making that trip, and David Garlock for lending me the pickup to do the work with), and Tyler set to work piling them up into a horseshoe shape:
Han Solo and I inspect Tyler's work.
The Man.
Note the various levels of rock and sand:
To stabilize his creation, Tyler lined the inside with cinder blocks before laying down another set of pavers on top of the whole thing. The wood will be stored in the space between.
Left to do:
  • Lay a hearth stone on top of the pavers
  • Construct the dome with fire brick and mortar
Stay tuned for Part II of this project!

For more information about this project, please e-mail tyler.howe@betterfarm.org.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.