Building a woodfired oven with clay or mud
After having built a oven for myself, i think it's a nice to have piece of work in your backyard.
Be warned, it takes quite some time to build, but also to use it. It's no substitute for your Microwave... it's rather in the slowfood class, even if you can bake a pizza in 2-3 minutes.
Step 1: What Type and Size Do You Want?
Depending on what you want to bake and the space available, you can adjust the size of your oven. The amount of material needed doesn't scale linear. My oven needed 4 times the material of a small but usable oven.
In numbers that was 600 kg of clay powder, around 950kg of sand.
In my case, the size was selected because my main use of it is to bake bread and i wanted to be able to use the cookie pans from my electric oven. I also selected the thickness of my thermal layer to keep the heat long enough to bake multiple batches of bread, without the need to reheat.
As a general guideline, i wouldn't go smaller than 40cm/16inches inner diameter. Mine has 75cm/30inches. The thickness of the thermal layer should be no less than 15cm/6inches. Mine has 20cm/8inches.
At some point you need to decide whether you want a chimney or not. I had the chance to use a oven with a chimney, but decided against it for my oven. The main advantage of a chimney is to take the smoke out of your face. The main disadvantage in a simple design, lots of heat will go out the chimney instead of heating up your oven. It also adds complexity to your design. If you need to add a chimney, because your fire doesn't burn cleanly, you can do it even after finishing your oven.
There are certain ratios between inner oven diameter, inner oven height and oven door height you need to have. The most important here, the oven opening height has to be 63% of the inner dome height. This is essential for a clean burning fire. Further, the inner dome height should be 60-75% of the inner dome diameter. With these ratios and measurements, you can determine the actual measurements for your oven. It's best if you look around for firebricks, before you decide on the size of your oven floor. You should sketch your firebrick layout on a large piece of cardboard 1:1. Then draw the inner and outer shape of your oven on it and cut it out. This will help you in the next step, the form and size of your foundation. You should place the opening of your oven away from the main wind direction. Last but not least you have to plan for a roof of some sort. If you plan to bake in bad weather, make it big enough to shelter you as well as the oven. The oven should be able to breathe, so the moisture can get out.
I would like to strongly suggest for everyone to read the book from Kiko Denzer, "Build your own earth oven". It goes much deeper into the details, he built countless different ovens and shares his knowledge. You will see references to his book throughout this instructable. Don't get me wrong here, you can build a oven with this instructable alone, but maybe you'd like to do it a little different. In this book, you will find different techniques, styles and lots of background information.
Pictures of smaller ovens made at a workshop. One with chimney, made in the sand mound method, the other without chimney was made with the inverted basket method.