Bill Spofford's Wine-Box Oven

(from the lost Jim Speirs Pages)

This file appeared on a Rime Scouting chat group on February 15, 1994.

I designed this several years ago and "dedicate it to the public domain"


With this oven, you can bake virtually anything on a camping trip that you can bake at home -- pies, cookies, cakes, muffins, biscuits, lasagna, ziti, pizza, you name it! The only limitation is the size you make the oven and possibly the weight of what you want to bake.

The basic parts of the oven are: Two identical flaps for the top, bottom, back, and door and two identical end pieces to complete the box. The dimensions can be adjusted depending on what you want to be able to cook and what size grill you can find to go in the inside. I will discuss the grill size later.

The flaps are best constructed from a box that is at least 12 inches high and 12 or more inches on a side. Cut the box so that the corner is the folding edge and each side of the flap is at least 12 inches deep by up to 22 inches long. One flap will become the bottom and back of the oven, with the other becoming the top and door.

            / |
           /  |
          |   |__________
          |   /         /
     12 in|  /         /
          | /         /  12 to 22 in
              12 in

The end pieces are the hardest to construct. Visualize that the end pieces will have small folded edges over three sides (about 3/4 inches wide) to attach to the flaps. The forth side will be straight to allow the door to fit flush with that edge. The end piece fits with the folds out toward the edges of the flaps and are connected to the flaps with medium size black paper clips -- one each on the bottom and back and two on the top. The folds will add about 1/4 in to the size making the inside about 11.5 x 11.75 in. Overall size is about 12.25 x 13.25. I try to cut this piece from another box and use a corner fold and a flap fold as two of the edge folds, so that I only have to fold the cardboard on one other side.

        _|____________|3/4 in
       | |            |
       | | 11.5w X    |
       | |     11.75h | Door Edge
   ___ |_|__          |
    2  |_|__|_________|
   _in_  |__|_________|3/4 in
       |2 in|

As you will be heating with charcoal briquettes, you will need some air holes. Cut an approximate 2 in square in one of the corners with two folded edges (these are the rear part of the end pieces). Because the two end pieces are reversed when the oven is assembled, the air hole is cut in the same corner for both ends. When assembled, one will be at the bottom and the other at the top.

Assemble the pieces so that you can check the dimensions and understand how it goes together. Lay one flap down oriented so that the fold will allow the back piece to be raised, then lay one end piece with the door edge along the front of the flap, with the end of one folded edge even with the edge of the flap. Put one of the medium paper clips on the edge, securing the two pieces together. Do the same for the other side. Now, raise both end pieces, then the back of the flap. Secure the edges of the back to the end piece folds with the paper clips. Place the other flap so that one part forms the top and the other a door that is raised. Secure the top to the end pieces with two paper clips each. The results should be a box with the ends indented. The door can be held shut by placing a rock in front of it or placing a twig with a small, short branch coming out under the oven and turning the small branch up to hold the door.

The resulting box needs a grill to hold the cooking pans, just like your oven at home. You will notice that the inside dimensions are about 1.5 inches less than the width of the oven. The grill will be held by some hangers made from coat-hanger wire and will need some clearance from all sides -- about 1 inch from each end and 1/2 inch from the back and door. This allows for some warping over time.

Once you have a grill (for a 12 x 12 x 12 in oven, I use square baking drying racks), you need to make hangers. These are made by bending coat-hanger wire or other heavy, stiff wire to make a hook to go over the top edges of the end pieces, hang down about half way on the inside, then another 90 degree bend to support the grill and a loop to make sure it doesn't slide off. Make four of these, two for each side. When using them, put two on each side about 1/4 of the way from each end before adding the top flap. The paper clips will keep them from moving very much. The bottom of the hanger should be just long enough to hold the edge of the grill without much play. If you make them too long, the grill will be very unsteady and the grill may fall (just when you are ready to eat)!

                   |    |
            ____   |

Disassemble and cover each piece of cardboard with heavy weight aluminum foil. You can tape the ends of the foil to keep it tight with duct tape, just be sure you have the tape on the OUTSIDE. On the end pieces, you will need to cut diagonally and fold the foil toward the outside at the two corners.

Charcoal briquettes are used for the heat source. For a small oven, each fully lit briquette is equal to about 50 degrees of heat. For a 400 degree oven, this will be 8 briquettes. For larger ovens, you will need to add additional briquettes to get the same heat. I have a 13 x 13 x 22 oven that takes 12 or 14 briquettes to cook most dishes. This size also takes a 12 x 17 inch cookie sheet -- great for pizza! To keep the briquettes from burning up the cardboard, I place a small drying rack in the bottom and use a small aluminum plate on the drying rack to hold the briquettes. For the large oven, I use two racks and two plates. Old aluminum foil pie plates work well, just remember to replace them when they start to melt or get holes in them. You can also place about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil in the bottom and put the briquettes on the soil. This dirties the oven and you may have to replace the foil more often.

As long as the inside aluminum foil is not torn, these ovens can be taken apart and used many times. When the foil tears, just cover that piece again - no need to remove the old. Because the oven is collapsible, they are easy to carry. I fold the two flaps closed and put three paper clips on each to keep them flat.

Place the grill hangers on the outside of one of the end pieces, orient the other end piece the same way and place it on top. Use two paper clips to hold the end pieces together, one in the air hold and one on the door edge. This keeps the pieces from being lost.

Be careful when placing or removing food from the oven. Remember that all of the parts are very hot and the grill may not be very sturdy! Use hot gloves or pads when adding or taking out pans and check the hangers to make sure you don't mis-align them and cause the grill to fall. Also, do not place hot dishes on top of the oven directly against the aluminum foil -- any tape you used will melt and the cardboard may char. An extra grill or drying rack on the top is very useful, but twigs will also work.

A 12 x 12 x 12 in oven will hold the frying pan from the patrol cook kit (without the handle). This is a good size for dump cake. Just remember to only use cooking utensils which will not melt! With proper care, the oven will last several years. Not bad for a few hours of time to make something that will enhance your camping eating experiences dramatically!