This is our first experiment with building our own cob oven. We've been longing for one in our own backyard for a year. Last summer it seemed that cob ovens were everywhere we turned. After attending the cob oven workshop at ENCM last summer taught by the fellows at Old World Oven Company, we thought maybe we could make one ourselves. (We were also inspired by friends with a can-do attitude who had one built in their backyard and fired it right up). We saw a beautiful example at the Lyons Farmette, and learned how central the oven at the Edible Schoolyard was to their program-- the oven was built even before the gardens! Nothing like pizza to get kids interested in cooking and gardening.
So, after much research and gathering of materials, we are finally making our own oven. Our main resource has been Build Your Own Earth Oven, by Kiko Denzer.
It has all the details you need to get started and Denzer has a way of making one feel confident enough to just dig in and start building. As suggested in the book, we started with a mini-oven to get a feel for the consistency of the oven mud and learn some technique. We had so much fun as a family and it came together very quickly, since it is small and not well-insulated like our final version will be. The technique is simple enough for even a young child to help (our daughter is four and she was involved in every step).
This oven is made of clay subsoil (we found ours for free on craigslist-- already dug up from someone building a house and excavating a foundation. We live in the red clay South-- perfect for sourcing clay). The clay is mixed with sand to make oven mud, and packed around a wet sand form on a base. It is a simple, ancient, and beautiful process. Papa had the idea to make it into a Tororo, one of our daughter's favorite characters, and fitting since Totoro is a shape-shifting king of the forest.