It all started when the barbecue packed it in.
So Aurthur and Elaine, who live on a five acre property in Rossmore, bought a new one.
"And then she (Elaine) said, 'it would be nice to have a wall behind the barbecue and maybe a bit of a roof on top to keep out the rain'," Arthur recalled.
"The next thing I knew, a pizza oven was added to the 'it would be nice list' so she could bake bread, prepare baked dinners, cook-up lots of pizzas and 'really complete' our new outdoor entertainment area."
So, about four years ago, recently retired Arthur enrolled in a week-end course to learn how to build a pizza oven. He was already an experienced brickie who laid all but three of 75,000 bricks to build their 370 square metre family home — his three sons laid the final three as they had to have a hand in it too.
"There were 15 of us in the class and, as part of the course, we had to build a pizza oven for woman in Gerroa," Arthur said. "The deal was, we built her oven and she provided refreshments. We also built a metal-frame pizza oven which could fit on a box trailer and could easily be moved around."
Arthur explained that it took a while for he and Elaine to come up with a design for their pizza oven/entertainment area but, eventually, trenches were dug, wire mesh was put down, concrete poured and walls and the roof went up. All fairly regular stuff as far as building an entertainment area goes . . . except for the pizza oven. There is nothing "regular" about this feature. It evolved to be nothing short of a work of art.
The base itself stands a proud one metre high, the inside boasts a width of 1.8 metres and a depth of two metres. And it took 2000 bricks to build.
"The wall of the dome is 300 millimetres thick and has a 200 millimetre cavity filled with crushed granite to provide optimum insulation," Arthur explained. "It takes half a day to heat up the oven to 350 degrees, the ideal temperature for cooking pizzas. But then, it stays hot for a couple of days, so you can keep on cooking bake dinners or bake bread. This is a real bonus, considering how electricity costs are continuing to escalate."
The secret of a successfully working pizza oven lies in the dome, of course and here is where Arthur excelled — both in his ability as a brick layer, and passion to "get it right".
"To create the shape of the dome I cut bricks in half and each brick was cut into a wedge shape on the four sides," he said. "I then took a thin metal pipe, cut a hole at one end, attached this to a nail in the centre of the oven and used the pipe as a radius to give me a perfectly shaped dome. But this method does not allow you to go all the way to the top. So I packed the dome with polystyrene and wet sand. I then bricked around this shape. Once the cement dried, I removed the packing and the sand. What was left was a perfectly shaped dome."
The only thing more Arthur wants to do is to render the walls of the entertainment area in a heritage colour. The pizza oven will remain as is — a beautiful brick feature. And the neighbours can't wait for the oven to be fired up and the first pizza to be "shovelled out".