This week, I remembered our nearly finished outdoor oven is almost useless without a certain few tools. Unlike a conventional oven, you don’t just pop open the door, throw on an oven mitt or two, and take out your food. The best and most exciting part of baking in a cob oven is sliiiiding pizza and bread in and out with a pizza peel, a long handled paddle for transferring food in and out without burning your fingertips off in a 800°+ cooking environment. So I decided to take a couple hours to make a wooden pizza peel with a piece of oak I had sighted earlier for the purpose. Here’s how I made it.
– 1x 3-5 foot length of hardwood, 8-12″ wide
– Circular or table saw
– Hand Plane or block plane
Designing a Wooden Pizza Peel
In one of our (many) piles of lumber, I spotted a lovely piece of dry, stable oak, about 10″ wide — perfect dimensions for our oven. The door of the oven is only 13″ wide, so I decided something a couple inches narrower would be easy to navigate in the doorway without getting hung up on anything. Plus, a 10″ peel is a good size for a personal pizza. (If and when you decide to make your own peel, it should be easy enough to decide on dimensions to suite your oven.)
I decided on a 4.5′ length for the peel to be able to get pizza in and out without having to get my hands too close to the doorway. Depending on the size of your own oven, whether it be brick or mud, you may want larger or smaller. Again, you be the judge. Using a tape measure, I marked the center of the board and planned for a 1 1/2″ wide handle. I also planned for a 13″ long paddle, and marked a line to designate such.
Cutting and Carving the Peel
Next, I took the board over to a table saw, and cut out the handle, stopping short of the line for the paddle so I wouldn’t cut too far into it.
After that, I drew lines for the shape of the paddle, using the lid of a bucket to get the curves I wanted at the front end, and the curve on either side into the handle. You could use anything round for the same purpose, whether it be a dinner plate or a frisbee. You could also use a compass, too, of course. A bucket lid happened to be close at hand. With a jigsaw in hand, I cut those lines.
Since 1″ was too thick of a board for a nice lightweight peel, I took off the bulk with a portable planer, taking the piece down to about 1/2″. With that done, I could now focus on taking off the hard edges of the handle, and making a proper taper at the end of the paddle so bread and pizza could easily slide off.
For the handle, I used a small block plane and spokeshave to gently round the edges, giving the handle a much better feel. One could also use a sharp knife for the same purpose, or even a drawknife (if you are extra careful not to bite too deeply.) I took the edges off the paddle, as well.
For the taper on the peel, I used a jack plane to take the end down to a gradual angle. You can see where the taper begins in the photo at the top of this post. A nice, gradual taper should ensure that things slide off really easily.
Now happy with the rounded edges, and the taper of the paddle, I drilled a hole on the handle end for hanging, and oiled the whole piece with food grade flax seed oil. (You could also use walnut oil for the same purpose.) Now the grain really popped, and it looked like a proper tool!
Making your own wooden pizza peel is a fairly simple process, and can be done in a short morning with the proper tools and material. It’s nice to be able to make the peel from one solid piece of wood, instead of laminating different pieces together. I should note that quarter-sawn lumber would be best for a solid wood peel, or at least wood from close to the center of the tree.
Now it’s on…