Pizza oven

Looking into the oven.
Looking into the oven.
I couldn't resist showing you these red papayas on a tree I planted perhaps six months ago.

I couldn't resist showing you these red papayas on a tree I planted perhaps six months ago.

The dome is almost finished. The area in the base is for storing firewood.

The dome is almost finished. The area in the base is for storing firewood.

As the bricks curve inward at the top of the dome I've used dowel to hold them up while the mortar sets.

As the bricks curve inward at the top of the dome I've used dowel to hold them up while the mortar sets.

Shortly after I started, with the smoke catcher and flue in place.

Shortly after I started, with the smoke catcher and flue in place.

I'd talked for years of building a pizza oven, and that's generally how long it takes me to get around to a project of significance. And finally, two weekends ago, I started, although I'll admit I took up the trowel, borrowed from a neighbour, only when I couldn't find a bricklayer prepared to build it. I'm pleased I couldn't find such a bricklayer because I've got a real kick out of it so far, and I want to assure you all that if I can do it you can. Maybe you don't want to, but be warned that a wood-fired pizza oven is the new barbecue - without it you will be unAustralian.

I had bricklayers build my base, because it was to be incorporated into a new landscaped area, and it is a more complex arrangement than an oven base needs to be. But the oven does need a floor of bricks and under that a thickish layer of insulation. I use perlite mixed with a little cement as insulation.

On top of that I've built the dome, using half bricks, and ordinary solid bricks are fine and cheaper than fire bricks. To create the dome I use the dome tool described in Russell Jeavons's book Your Brick Oven, and it works well. At the very top of the dome, and I'm at that point now, I may need to use a mould of packing sand or light mortar. When I've finished the dome I'll attach the stainless steel smoke catcher, which I had built by a Newcastle metal-fabricating firm and which is optional, to the arch and apply a 12cm thick layer of perlite-cement insulation to the dome and, when that's dry, a layer of finishing render. Job done.

While I'm far from an expert on pizza ovens, and bear in mind that I laid my first ever brick less than a fortnight ago, I think I have now an understanding of how to build one. And my message to you is that no skills or strength are required. If you want more detail of what I've done and what I've yet to do, ask. And your advice and suggestions are very welcome.