Tag Archives: Mud Oven


Hauled home 4 buckets of clay (thank you T.) this afternoon. It was enough to finish the lower insulation layer on the oven. Weather permitting I should be able to start of the body of the oven next weekend.

I am really noticing a difference in comfort levels when mixing the mud with my bare feet in July as compared with Nov. My tootsies were pretty numb by the time I got done. brrrr

I planted a couple of small fig trees in the ground on the south side of the house this spring. Since the figs still in the containers have started dropping leaves I decided to check on the in ground figs today. I actually found a ripe fig on one. A ripe fig in Ky on Nov 1. That has to be a record for me. Once the inground trees go dormant I will build a little cage (they are only about 18″ tall) of chicken wire and fill it with leaves to help insulate them for the winter. I’ve never tried overwintering them outside before so I am not sure it will work.

Oven: Bottom Insulation

It has been a long time coming but the bottom layer of insulation is just about complete. Between school, not having enough beer bottles and the weather I hadn’t touched the oven in a number of weeks.

After finishing the foundation, I layed a 2×4 & 4×4 frame across the open foundation about 2/3 of the way up from the bottom. I had layed an extra row of bricks on each side to accept the wood frame. This left an open 15″ deep box. On top of this platform I placed a 1″ layer of the clay/wood shavings mix and starting laying the bottles so that they almost touch. I wasn’t able to get all of the bottles set as I ran out of clay. Everything I have read said that as long as I have enough insulation there shouldn’t be a problem with burn through. I’ve also seen a number of very old ovens built on wood platforms.

Once I get the rest of the clay/wood mix applied and the bottles in place I will let it dry before building the clay/sand pad that will accept the firebricks.


I didn’t get much done yesterday but was at it this morning. I set two more rows of brick on the foundation for the mud oven. I should only need three more rows to be done with that part of it.


As I mentioned yesterday I had a wheat delivery. I decided to bag up the soft wheat this evening. I had purchased some mylar bags and O2 absorbers a while back as I knew this was coming soon. I ended up cutting the bags in half to hold 8 cups per bag. Plenty for our use here. As you can see I ended up with a helper about half way through. I like to go ahead and put the grains in the mylar bags for longer term storage. I only have to buy wheat every few years this way and with a 20+ year shelf life the way I store it, the grains that come out of the last bag are as good as the first. I will get the other bag put up later this week or next weekend.

The Plan vs The Reality

I am notorious for planning more than I can possibly finish in a given amount of time. Since starting Grad School my spare time is almost non-existent and work on the oven has come to a halt. This long weekend would get me back on track I was sure.

The plan was to spend Sunday and Monday working on the oven. I had a wedding to go to on Saturday so that day was busy with other things. I ended up with company on Sunday which was not planned but was good. I hadn’t seen H. in a long time and it was nice to visit. I figured I could still get done what I had planned to today. I had already purchased the two angle irons and mortar that I needed and was up this morning bright and early when I realized it was raining. No problem. The radar showed that the storm should quickly pass. A couple of hours later than I had anticipated, I was out and ready to go. I got the half bag of mortar mixed and about half a dozen bricks in place when the rain resumed. I waited around about 20 minutes before I decided to call it a day. Oh well, perhaps next weekend.

Update: 5:00 pm

The rain passed and the sun came out. I decided to go back out and give it another try. I was able to get the other half of the mortar mixed and another row of brick set. The angle irons went in on this row along with the bricks to span the existing u shaped foundation.

Oven Progress

The oven is proceeding though much slower than I had hoped. This brick laying thing is work! The chemical burns have healed and the rubber gloves are working nicely. Last weekend T. helped me wash brick. They did need a cleaning as some of the used freebie brick I picked up had been a patio and had a nice layer of mud all over them. A quick rinse with a scrub brush and they were good to go.

Never having touched mortar I am pleased with my progress so far. I will never build a house of brick or win any awards but what I have so far is fairly straight and level. I have learned a lot as I have progressed. I found that laying out the brick dry in the order I want them then moving them off the wall in the same order helps to insure that I get the staggering joints I am aiming for, have the bricks I need and get things done quickly. I did mess up in a couple of places early on and had a running joint for 2 or 3 bricks in one area. By the time I noticed it I was not tearing out the two layers to get to the offending brick. For what I need I am pretty sure it will hold up fine. I also found that it is better to mix up half a bag of mortar at a time. That way, it by the time I get to the end of the mixed mortar it isn’t too dry. If I was able to work quicker it wouldn’t be as much of a problem but not really knowing what I am doing tends to drag things out a bit measureing, checking and leveling. I also like the little break I can take between batches.

When I finish the layer that I am on it will be time to put the angle iron in place (once I come up with some) and enclose the square foundation with a layer of brick. The dual brick outer walls on either side will end up holding the angle iron for the brick wall above that point and the wooden floor. Yes wood. I’ve done some reading and it seems that as long as I use enough insulation between the bottom of the oven and the wood floor I should be fine. The plan is to lay 4 4×4 pieces across the two inner walls and top with cut 2×4 boards. A 6 inch layer of insulation will go on top of this, followed by the dense oven floor made out of the same clay/sand mix that my oven bricks have been made of.

Tomorrow I am going to hunt up some angle iron if the weather is as nice as they say it should be. I would also like to get a batch of tomatoes canned in the morning.

How NOT to lay bricks

First thing this morning I was at Home Depot purchasing 4 bags of mortar. I know I will need more but the plan was not to keep any around to get wet and ruin. That was the plan, use the four bags this weekend. Yeah…

Fast forward a couple of hours. The first bag of mortar is mixed, a pile of bricks have been cleaned of the mud and traces of old mortar and I am ready to start. Thinks go pretty smoothly the first hour or so. I didn’t have as many bricks washed as I had needed so I did have to stop and get some more cleaned off. I had read where some people soak their bricks some to help the mortar cure more slowly so that is what I was doing. I was working on the second layer when I noticed that my fingers were starting to sting a little. I know better than to get my hands in the mortar as it is caustic. I thought I had been doing a good job of staying out of it but perhaps I was wrong. I took a short break, rinsed my hands and got back to business. I was very proud of the couple of bricks that I broke in half. It was much easier than I had thought it would be. Things were moving right along.

About this time I notice the clouds forming. No problem I thought. I had checked the weather and there was no call for rain all weekend. Starting to get the hang of things I was rolling now. The next thing I knew the sky opened and I half expected to see Noah and company any moment. I covered the brickwork with a sheet of plastic I had and then remembered the three bags of mortar still in the back of the truck. I raced to get them off the truck and covered and in the process fell off the back of the truck and rolled down the small incline by the driveway. I laughed all the way down such a sight I must have been. Only my pride was hurt and I was finally able to get the bags of mortar off the truck and covered, the lamp and shades in the truck that were to go to T’s office later and the windows rolled up just as the rain started to let up.

By the time I got back to work my fingers were really starting to hurt. I looked at them and they were looking pretty raw. Damn. I finished the rest of the first bag of mortar which got two full courses of brick down, cleaned everything up and came inside to clean up. Hopefully the pain and oozing will go away enough by tomorrow to allow me to start again, this time with some rubber gloves.

The thought crossed my mind today if I have taken on more than I can handle…Nahhh but I do have a much bigger appreciation for masons at this point in time.

Cement Pad

Last night saw the creation of the cement pad for the mud oven. I got quite a workout mixing 800 lbs of cement in the wheel barrow. After taking this photo I covered it with plastic to slow down the drying a bit. I will give it a week or so before I start laying the brick.

I also made another trip to get more clay. There are another 58 bricks drying in the sun. The others have dried very nicely and so far not one has cracked. I hope that is also the case once the oven is built and fired up.

82 Bricks and Lots of Gravel

Yesterday I found a local place that sold gravel that was also open on Sunday. No small miracle around here. Another truckload of gravel and the foundation hole is filled with some to spare for some inner fill later on.

After cleaning up the area, tools, and truck, I checked the clay/sand mix at about 4pm and found that it had dried out enough to make some more bricks. It was so late in the day they didn’t have time to dry enough to remove from the boards. They spent the night on the picnic table under a tree. They should be dry enough to cover by this evening in case the rain they are calling for tonight materializes.

Oven Progress

Given all of the drought we have had around here in the past few years I refuse to begrudge all of the rain we have been having. That being said, it has put the oven progress back. I had planned to make another load of bricks on Thursday but the clay and sand had both gotten wet and even after mixing it was too wet to work with. I covered the bin and let it sit till last night. The weather gurus weren’t calling for rain so I dumped it out on a sheet of plastic to dry out a little. Hopefully I will get another load of bricks made this weekend.

When I came home yesterday my almost dug hole looked like a pond. I fully expected to find tadpoles living in there this morning. I guess i wasn’t surprised given the almost 5″ we have had in the last 5 days. Fortunately it was down some by this morning. I bucketed out a bunch of the water and decided to use the post hole digger to dig 3 lower corners to help with drainage. The picture below shows the water that seeped in within about 30 minutes of digging.




My morning actually started with me putting together the wheel barrow I bought on the way home from work last night. My old one broke and it was time to replace it. About half a dozen loads of soil later and the hole was finished. I decided this was a good time to clean up and go get that load of gravel. The place I get it closes at 2pm so I had just enough time to get lunch and get the gravel. I noticed the sky was clouding up a bit as I was about to go inside so I decided to recover my brick mix on the plastic.

FF about an hour and my poor truck is once again dragging it’s back end. If it lives through this oven business it will be a miracle. Of course the sprinkles started as I started unloading the gravel. Glad I covered that clay/sand mix. Most of the time I was unloading the truck it poured rain. I really didn’t mind, it felt kind of good. Just about the time I finished, the rains stopped. I had hoped to have enough gravel to lay the cement pad this weekend. But I was a little short. It is really still to wet anyway so perhaps some time next week I can get that done.


Adobe Bricks

The first batch of mini adobe bricks are drying in the sun. I ended up making a form to make four 3″x4″x1.5″ blocks at a time. I wanted to start slow so I decided to make a small batch today. I sifted out the large pieces of clay with a 1/2″ mesh screen and mixed 1 3 gallon bucket of clay soil and 1 3 gallon bucket of sand in the wheel barrow. I used an 18 gallon plastic rubbermaid type container to mix the dry mix with water. I love the feeling of the mud squishing up between my toes. 🙂 I ended up getting 52 bricks with some mud left over for next time. I would have made more but I ran out of the boards I was making them on. There is probably enough clay for 8 or 10 more. In all reality if I make a batch like this every weekend I will be doing good. You wouldn’t think stomping around in mud would be that tiring. I was wiped by the time I was done though.

by: kerry