Building an earth oven

Building an earth oven

Mud is a near perfect building material. For thousands of years man has built ovens from mud. The best ovens in the smartest bakeries in the world today are often brick, which is made of kiln-fired mud.

Building an earth oven is not difficult and once it is ready for use, it can produce spectacular results – bread and pizza being very popular with teachers and pupils alike.

Oven fires are well-contained and quite safe as long as you use common sense and brief the pupils on safety issues. Oven fires are fuelled by wood, a relatively inexpensive and eco-friendly fuel.

What is ‘cob’?

Richard Gibson uses cob to make the earth oven and cob is a mixture of earth sub-soil mixed with sand and straw. This mixture naturally becomes very hard and durable, thus making a perfect material for the structure of the oven.

Locating an earth oven

It is advisable to spend a few moments considering where you will locate your earth oven, on the school premises. It is suggested that the ground should be roughly level where the earth oven is to situated. Also, endeavour to site the oven so that the door faces away from prevailing winds. And, of course, you will need to assess any possible fire hazards. It can also be helpful to take into consideration the proximity of the kitchen and water supply, although for the majority of schools these amenities are never far away as the grounds are usually not that vast.

The aesthetic design of the earth oven.

It is important to Richard Gibson that the aesthetic design of the earth oven is attractive and enthralling, as earth ovens are inherently sculptural. Mud is lovely to work with and the openings of the oven suggest all manner of real and mythical creatures. Some earth ovens become totemic structures, a house god or a piece of abstract art.

Pupils’ clothing

Stout boots or Wellington boots are the recommended footwear for pupils. Also, pupils should wear ‘old’ clothes, particularly old trousers as they will come into close contact with the cob. Pupils trample the cob underfoot in order to prepare it for use as a building material, on a large tarpaulin. This process emulates the traditional process of making cob which involved oxen trampling the muddy mixture. Indeed, pupils are involved at various stages of the earth oven building process.

Booking an earth oven building project.

Please contact, Richard Gibson, MA at or telephone 07967215745. Richard’s studio number is 01780 470447.

Clay workshops, art workshops, sculpture workshops, mural and mosaic projects are also available.

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