As you know, perfect people have arrived whenever we’ve needed them in this project, and today was no exception.
In the morning we were talking about how to do the insulation layer – most of the pizza oven building websites we had visited recommended vermiculite as insulation, of course we can’t buy anything remotely like that in Laos so we had to yet again improvise. We decided to use rice straw after finding a pile of it out in the rice paddies one day when we were out there watching the sunset. We also thought we’d use the leftover bricks too. We looked up about how to add straw to clay and found varying reports. We came away with a fairly vague and as it turns out incorrect idea about how to do it.
An hour or so later, we met a guy from Israel called Gra, who came into our shop simply because he saw we were building a clay oven and he is by trade a mud brick builder, so he came in to see if we needed any help. He was planning to take a bicycle around Luang Namtha for the day and expected to have free time in the afternoon when he got back.
Of course we jumped at the chance to have a real-life mud brick builder help us! He came back in the afternoon and mixed the clay with water, teaching us the correct consistency, and then chopped up the rice straw and taught us how to mix it in for the correct end product. We managed to draw a few crowds of onlookers again
today with everyone interested in what we’re doing.
He then showed us how to make it into bricks, or balls, and add it to the oven. It was so exciting to learn how to do it properly because how we had thought to do it was really different to what he showed us.
We only had enough clay and straw to do the very bottom of the oven, just one and a half layers of insulation, which really was perfect because it meant we learned how to do the insulation, and also didn’t cover up the main section of clay which really should dry for a couple more days before adding the insulation.
He also taught us how to do the final layer to avoid too much cracking, and how to do the mosaic if we do end up doing that. So perfect for Gra to be in Luang Namtha right now! His friend Ritan also helped us to put on the clay/straw mixture and both of their help was so appreciated.
Tomorrow we plan to light the first fire, which we need to do to ensure that our door is the correct height for the smoke to not get stuck in the roof and to form a small barrier so that the heat still stays in and the smoke can escape. We can then adjust the height of the door if needed while it’s still not too dry. The fire will also serve to dry out and crack the first layer more so that we can plug the cracks before insulating.
Our final product today looks like this: