Archive for DIY

Another Pizza Oven Build

Last year at the bushmoot I was intending to build an earth pizza oven.  As the area is built on sand dunes, sand was not going to be a problem.  Clay on the other hand was.  I ended up walking to the river, digging and finding… sand!  So this time I came prepared with some readily dug clay and some from a local potter.



We dug in a load of sand from literally next to the tarp.  Two young girls did most of the work, the rest of us mucked in only when the camera was showing!



For the base, we used wooden logs – these were chopped from a timber pile.  About 3ft long, they were notched so they wouldn’t roll.  We used a tarp to stop the sand running through the bottles onto the floor.  We laid bottles, then tucked the tarp over the bottles and layered sand over the tarp to both hold it in place and give us a firm bed for the fire bricks.  We then built the sand form over the top.



Sand form getting there.  All done with eye.



Layered a copy of the metro over the top and wetted ready for the oven clay mix.




Clay being built up around the form.  This was done quite quickly and inside you could see the cracks where it wasn’t bonded quite as well as it could be.



Smack the finished dome with a big stick.



Straw dipped in clay slip and layered on.  Door is cut.



Add another layer of clay with added straw for stability over the top – just a thin layer.



Add decoration and immediately light!



Used an arrow as a blow pipe




The front did dip a little, but still worked fine 🙂




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Camping kit box


After the Bushmoot I realised that it’s a pain in the bum using a plastic box to contain all your kitchen stuff.  Mostly because everything you want is at the bottom and all the stuff you don’t is at the top.  It does keep everything wasp proof and dry though.

Anyway, as I’ve been involved in running a scout troop for some time, I thought about building a patrol box.  BSA Troup 680 have an excellent design, though I’m thinking of trying to incorporate the cooker in as well.

For my first job, I produced the standard box and learnt several woodworking lessons such as how to saw a straight line with a circular saw.  I used the kreg jig to make pocket screw holes to join up the boards.  This was a bad idea, the 12mm ply just doesn’t seem thick enough to take the screws.  The 680 recommend the use of normal screws countersunk into the wood.  This probably would take longer, but less screw ends sticking out of the wood.

I still need to build the leg supports and add the piano hinge, but I can already see how much more useful this is going to be.

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I realised that I’ve not actually put up the pictures from the hog roast!  After weeks of constant sun, the day had arrived and the weather forecast was awful.  Undisturbed I’d taken delivery of the pig the day before and it ‘slept’ overnight in the bath, packed with water and ice.


the night before Gary slept over so we could get an early start.  At 5am we got up (I’d been worrying all night and was up for pretty much all of it) and got it in the car.




Quickly we got the fire going, assembled the roaster and got the pig on the spit



After a couple of failed attempts to get it turning, we realised the belly flopping about was stalling the motor.  We pinned the spine onto the bar with u-clamps.  It turned fine, but the belly still flopped.  So at about 9:30 I went out and got a metal BBQ rack and Gary strapped it round the belly.



After this point it was plain sailing. We did make a mistake with the laser thermometer – what we thought was 170’C was in fact Fahrenheit.  So by midday when we realised the mistake, it was no longer going to be a slow roasted pig.  The end result was pork, but not as satisfying as I’d hoped, but a win none the less.



The ear decorations were not to make it into a space pig, but to keep them from burning off before the pig was properly cooked.

The tongue was very tasty.

I was very pleased that not only did our design work and survive, but nothing major went wrong with the mechanics! I was merely us poor humans that got it wrong.  I think I’ll have another roast, but not for a while…


You can view the whole series of posts on the pig roaster by clicking here:

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The Chicken Run



After about 7 years of wanting chickens, I finally got one step closer.  We’d already decided to dedicate the old allotment shed into a chicken house and had put in some supporting posts for the run last year.  I got up early on Sunday hoping to make a start however quickly realised I didn’t have any hinges and the shops shut at 1pm, so I took Sam for a ride down to the timber/hardware store to pick some up.  When I got back, it was already at midday.  By the end of the day I’d managed to get the basic frame up and the door.




The roof is made out of 5 core polycarbonate.  It’s a conservatory grade insulating roof.  Why such a lavish roof?  Well, when my roof started leaking last year and this had mould inside the cores, I decided to replace it and had this spare.  It fits perfectly and has a little bit of an overhang which I’ve not yet decided whether I’ll keep or chop it off.  Either which way, I’m sure the cats will enjoy sunbathing up there and similarly the foxes won’t find it easy to get in being that it’s so solid.

On Monday, again, it was a slow start.  I’d decided to have a relaxed evening, so we popped out and bought some pork belly, german wheat beer and raspberries (for ice cream).  We were back about midday and I got on with painting the frame with a couple of coats of fence treatment.



By about 1:30 we started the task of digging the shallow trenches to lay the mesh in.  We followed up by laying the mesh and stapling it to the frame.

I bought the entire 30m roll from Hills of Devon (  – A16 on their site which is 1/2″ x 1″ x 48″ x 30m (bit of an odd mix of measurements, but there you go.  It’s 1mm thick, or 19 gauge in old money – I would have preferred 1.6mm/16 gauge, but it’s not available in the mesh size and length I wanted.  I didn’t use chicken wire because foxes can tear through it with their teeth if they gain purchase on it.  Welded mesh is tougher when it’s pulled because instead of being twisted in place (and therefore can stretch) each point is welded meaning if one link goes, the rest should hold fast.

We laid it flat under the soil because foxes generally tend to dig by the mesh, not having the brains to start digging a foot or two back to dig under the metal.  You don’t need to bury it, you can leave it on top of the grass and just let the lawn grow through.  For aesthetics and to stop small babies playing with sharp ends of wire, I buried ours.




You can see the above buried.



Inside view of the door.






We decided to do the bottom panels out of individual sheets of metal.  For the 2nd and 3rd layers we used a continuous sheet 170″ long.  The wire runs right up to the top to stop wild birds getting in.  Because we used three layers we got quite a lot of overlap.  The middle and lower almost have double all the way round.



I still need to lay more down from the shed into the ground to stop things tunnelling in and do the door (and bit above) as well as the inside of the shed as it’s partitioned to put the mower away.

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Pig roaster #5



I did ask my cousin in law to pick me up a barrel, that done I promptly forgot all about it!  In a cold sweat I remembered last week and had a look on eBay.  I could get them for £5 each, but it needed an hour and a half trip to Bury St Edmunds which I didn’t relish.  The other option was an hour and twenty trip to Kent for £8, having to brave the Dartford tunnel/bridge on a hot saturday and pay £1.50 each way.  I went to Bury.  Likely enough there was probably barrels closer to home, but I didn’t have time to search for them and these were from a perfume factory, so not so difficult to wash out.  I got several – mostly because I felt I’d probably have need of two (I didn’t, one was fine) and the scouts regularly use them as firepits and we go through them often with little chance of easily replacing them.



We finished off the welding – it was a good few hours of work.  We even put on a chain tensioner to remove the risk of it jumping if everything wasn’t exactly square/level.



Then disaster – the prongs for the mouth I’d ordered weren’t 25mm, they were 23mm! Complete screw up on my part.  I’ve ordered another 25mm one, but no luck as yet even though I’ve paid for next day delivery.



Just in case I decided to modify the 23mm to make it fit.  The welding is terrible, but it’ll do if the other doesn’t turn up.



The first test did not go successfully.  I used a rucksack loaded up with weights to simulate the 30kg weight of a dead pig.  It didn’t go well.  I sacrificed another collar and the 50cm stainless offcut from the main pipe.  I welded the collar onto it, used an old dumbell set to make up a large counterweight.  Fingers crossed this’ll do the job on the day if I can’t get it balanced properly!

Only two jobs left to do – grind a point onto the stainless bar and drill a small hole to enable the spit to be turned manually!

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Lime render


Tiff came over to do the artwork on the lime render. It was a shame we lost so much with the lime render covering the mud render, but I think it looks just as good if not better! Now chunks of the egg rise out of the dome.

I also got a chance to render the base. It’ll look a lot better when white washed and painted!

The lime render should keep the water off and allow the water vapour inside to permeate and escape minimising the risk of the dome collapsing.

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Last year along with the greenhouse my grandfather gave me his old irrigation system. It came with a massive amount of parts and bits and bobs. Most I didn’t even know what they did.

It took about 5 hours to do, but I can now turn on the tap and the raised beds are watered! It’ll even link up the IBC if they ever fill again! May/June was surprising dry and cold!


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Pig roaster #4

Welcome all hackaday people visiting the site today (

Click here: to see the rest of the related posts

And why not after look at a cob oven if you like cooking stuff?

Anyway, enjoy your stay and I hope the site can stand up to it all…


One of the main objectives of making my own pig roaster is making it mechanised. With the cogs and a few bits from eBay this is how I did it! (More pics and a video, click read the rest of this entry below)

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One of the things I used to really enjoy was baking bread and I rarely get round to it anymore. So I found a supplier of sourdough starters (this is a 15 year old one) and got it going at home

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Earth oven version 2

Three days of digging, sand shuffling and sculpting is done. Read more to see the results!

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