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Rammed earth base.

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  • Rammed earth base.

    I am about to embark on a clay WFO. For the base I intend to make a rammed earth plinth, then build into this the insulation layer and hearth. Has anyone any experience of a build like it.

    My main reason for a build like this is the amout of clay I have available. A nearby cave is being excavated and alredy we have a pile of clay about 6 cubic metres! This clay powders down to a very fine dust with very little inclusions, and when mixed 2:1 (sand:clay) sets rock solid. I fired this mix and it ends up with a nice terracotta finish.

  • #2
    Re: Rammed earth base.

    And... what was the result? am thinking of doing something similar, but I unfortunately do not have a good supply of clay. Maybe I can ask a farmer?

    John

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    • #3
      Re: Rammed earth base.

      That's for your hearth. What about your dome? The old way of building ovens was the wattle and daub method. A dome shape of interlaced willow branches was made and then plastered with clay. This was built up to the required thickness then allowed to dry. The oven was then fired up in stages, much like the recommended curing method for the Pompeii Oven, then fired up to a very high temperature. The clay set like brick and the willows burnt away. Hey Presto a Clay Oven! Worth a try just for the fun of it if you have that much clay available!

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      • #4
        Re: Rammed earth base.

        JP,
        My next neighbor is really into cob construction and he gets alot of his clay from the local redi-mix batch plant. To translate that into English english the "redimix batch plant" is where one can order out concrete by the truck load. Here they wash the material as it comes from the pit. Straight from the pit is called "pit run" (duh?) after washing and sorting they end up with piles of clean sand and washed gravel sorted into several sizes. The wash water goes to settling ponds; where after it clears, it is recycled to wash more pit run. After time the settling ponds become filled with sediment and they switch to another pond allowing the filled one to dry (somewhat). They then empty it with front end loaders. This is the material he uses with his cob construction remixing it with clean washed sand. He gets his clay for the price of hauling if he shovels it and for a nominal charge if they load it. It is almost all clay with some very fine sand and virtually no organics.

        Perhaps they have a similar process where you live.

        Hope this helps,
        Wiley

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        • #5
          Re: Rammed earth base.

          The clay set like brick and the willows burnt away.
          It's unlikely that with a wood fire, unless you use serious blowers and forests of wood, you are going to vitrify (render brick-like and insoluble) your clay oven. It can be done, of course: they made bricks long before modern furnaces, but the clay has to fired to bright red temperatures to accomplish this feat.
          My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2

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          • #6
            Re: Rammed earth base.

            "Setting like brick" doesn't necessarily mean vitrification! The term was meant to be "becomes hard as brick" but then again I'm not a purist nor pedantic!

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            • #7
              Re: Rammed earth base.

              well, very interesting really. I have a slope and I want to make a clay/ earth oven for pizzas in it, by flattening part of the slope. And I am gathering enough knowledge to overcome my fear of starting and making a mess of the whole thing. I have though about cob and I wonder if it will be strong enough for a low dome. I was thinking of clab as I assumed it would be harder and more resilient over time. I heard that cob can flake off over time.

              I then plan to put insultation over it, and then some NHL lime mortar in an attempt to keep it as weatherproof as possible. I cannot build a roof over it as it will sit right in the middle of my garden, and it needs to be as low as possible.

              What I am thinking of is to flatten the earth, then shape it and ram it down hard. Then cover it with a layer of the NHL lime mortar, then a layer of insulation, then some terracotta tiles. Thats the base and cooking surface. Then I construct the dome...

              As soon as the weather this summer improves I want to start...

              Have you got any pics?

              john

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Rammed earth base.

                JP, I'm guessing your request for a photo is addressed to me. If that is correct here is a photo of my nearest neighbor's cob WFO.

                I'm going to make a suggestion that you might consider or not as you know your abilities. My WFO is lined with a steel dome, a hemisphere which was one end of a spherical propane tank. I have also seen propane tanks with ends that are elliptical and so used for the dome would make a low dome that would eliminate issues of possible roof collapse. Not saying to build the whole of steel like I did but have the dome of steel covered with clay (or other refractory heat sink) with a more traditional entrance and chimney of brick and chimney tile.

                And speaking of a chimney, most cob WFOs I am familiar with do not have a chimney.

                Hope this helps,
                Wiley
                Attached Files

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                • #9
                  Re: Rammed earth base.

                  Hi Wiley,
                  Sorry for not making the photo request more clear, but you but yes it was. And thanks for the pic. Great looking oven. Thats the kind of inspiration I need to get off my behind and get going! Do you know how weatherproof it is?

                  It is a good idea about the metal dome, but I think I will opt for the traditional approach, and see how that goes. Especially as having clay/ earth will allow the oven to dry out.

                  As for the batch plant that is near you... I will have a look around, but I think what you are saying is to look for a place that may have clay as a by-product to what they do. Good idea.

                  I think I need to use a form of sand on something similar to shape the oven, as mine is going tobe quite low. If it was coned shaped or semicircular than I think I could have used branches. This is all talk right now, when I get going it will become obvious what I can and cannot do.

                  Thanks again,

                  John

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Rammed earth base.

                    Originally posted by jpmort View Post
                    Do you know how weatherproof it is?

                    John
                    John,
                    The short answer is "not very" so one needs to provide some sort of protection even if it is just a tarp for when it rains. And it has been known to rain in the Pacific Northwest, although not so much where I live.

                    We are in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mtns and so while Seattle (and even towns just twenty miles to the south of us) get on average 40 inches of rain per year we get 18 to 20 inches.

                    Bests,
                    Wiley

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                    • #11
                      Re: Rammed earth base.

                      I think I need to use a form of sand on something similar to shape the oven, as mine is going tobe quite low.
                      Remember - clay shrinks a LOT when it dries, and sand doesn't. You're going to want to dig out that form before the lengthly process of drying out that much clay.
                      My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Rammed earth base.

                        I live quite close to you on the wiltshire/somerset border and we specialise in both wood-fired ovens and rammed earth, part of my landscape business. I'd like to know how you get on with your build, or even come and see you. I'm one of the founder directors of EBUK, set up to promote earth as a resource and have done a garden in Bath using only what we dug out of the ground, both clays and stone. spacemagic garden : projects p3
                        yes, ALL the stone and clay came out of the ground in lower Weston, Bath.
                        The rammed earth we used was made up from the friable clay, crushed concrete, grit sand and a small percentage of white cement. To adapt this to your project, it might go, clays 80%, aggregate 15% and high alumina cement 5%. It may work even without the cement as the heat will bake the clay anyway. I reckon you could build the whole thing with rammed earth and perhaps incorporate Leca in an insulating layer over the whole thing.
                        If you build it, I'll promote it on my website Wood-fired Ovens : Welcome

                        good luck and contact me if you want to meet up info@wood-firedoven.co.uk

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Rammed earth base.

                          Well, I gave up in a way. I had problems sourcing clay where I live, and realised that this year at least I did not have the time to make an oven. Under different circumstances I would have made my own, and I still want to do that one day.

                          I went out and bought a bespoke oven that arrived and I put in the back garden. The big problem for me with ready made ovens and also with many opens people make is that I only need an oven to make 2 - 6 pizzas in one session. Using bricks is fine if you need the retained heat for many pizzas and consistency over time. Also this material needs significant warm up time.

                          So, I went for a rapid heat up oven that uses modern materials and does not used the retained heat principle. Therefore I get an oven that can be up to heat in 50 minutes, and uses the minimum amount of wood. Heat is retained in the fire, and it cools down quite rapidly after cooking. The oven is only designed for pizzas and I also do coffee beans in it.

                          So thats where I am now, and I am very happy with the results.

                          I had a look at your website and it was very interesting. I might purchase some products from you in the future.

                          John

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Rammed earth base.

                            If you intend to make the clay permanent by firing you need to get it over. 573 C This is called quartz inversion and renders the clay permanent, ie it will not return to mud when wet. Vitrification is an entirely different process which renders the clay body non porous and usually takes place well over1200 C, depending on what fluxes are present. You might get your oven a tad over 500 C but 573 is doubtful although I'm sure some of the surface clay would reach this temp. All kinds of things happen at around these temps and potters always take this stage slow and controlled, something that is almost impossible in a WFO. I don't think it is worth the effort. You are more likely to create sets cracks in the structure.
                            Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Rammed earth base.

                              Sorry set cracks should read stress cracks.
                              Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.

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