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The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage: The Real Goods Solar Living Book Paperback – Illustrated, June 1, 2002

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About the Author

Ianto Evans is an applied ecologist, landscape architect, inventor, and teacher with building experience on six continents. Cob is traditional in his homeland, Wales. In addition to teaching ecological building, Ianto has consulted with USAID, the World Bank, the Peace Corps, and several national governments.

Michael G. Smith teaches practical workshops and consults on cob construction, natural building, and permaculture. He is the author of The Cobber's Companion: How to Build Your Own Earthen Home and co-editor of The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction, Resources.

Linda Smiley teaches workshops on cob, sculpting sacred spaces, intuitive design, and natural plasters and finishes. With a background as a recreational therapist, she specializes in helping people use natural building as a tool for personal transformation and healing.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Building a Cob Cottage Step-by-Step excerpted from Part II: Building the Cob Cottage

EVERY COB BUILDING IS UNIQUE, but most require the same basic steps. The order of some of these steps is critical; others can be rearranged as desired. For a first-time builder, it can be very useful to map out the sequence of all construction tasks. Following is a sample sequence to help you think through your project to completion before you begin. The next ten chapters walk through each of these steps in great detail.

* Select your building site very carefully, for best exposure to winter sun and for good drainage. * Decide in advance roughly what spaces, shapes, and features you will need, both indoors and out, based on the scale of your own activities. Make many sketches and models. Keep the building as small as possible. If you need more than 400 square feet, consider phasing the project to complete the most essential sections first. * Work on a scale model of the building, including site features such as trees and slope. * Decide the wall plan in detail, especially where doors connect the indoors with outdoors. Design the roof at this point, including the roof and how it is supported. Make a full-sized mock-up of the building on the site. Spend time in it, and imagine what it would be like to live there. * Assemble on-site all building materials you will need for enclosure, including glass, lumber, rocks, hardware, pipes, wires, and so forth. Gather your tools, scaffolding, and water storage. * Check your soil, and assess by making test mixes and test blocks what needs to be added for the best cob mix. Measure your proportions and calculate the amounts of sand, clay soil, and straw you will need. Plan out and prepare mixing spaces close to the building. * Arrange delivery of sand, clay soil, and straw as needed. Store deliveries close to and uphill from the building, in locations that won't impede work. Make sure straw is stored under cover, off the ground. * Stake out your design and finished levels precisely on the site using many strong, firmly driven stakes. Adjust for the last time. * Clear and level as little as possible. Grade away from the building so that water runs away on all sides. Set aside excavated soil for gardening or making cob. * Dig drainage and foundation trenches, lay in drainpipe, insulation, plumbing, and wire connections; backfill trenches immediately with drain rock. * Build the foundation stemwall, setting in door frames or frame anchors and joists if floor will be suspended. Leave openings for utilities and water lines in and out. * Tamp the subfloor, lay several inches of drain rock, and, if you will be using an earthen or other mass floor, lay the floor base coat. * Frame the roof, either on permanent posts or on temporary posts that will be removed when the walls are complete. You may also wait until the cob is nearly finished before framing the roof. * Experiment with cob mixing techniques -- for speed, ease, enjoyment, and different numbers of workers. Concentrate on gradual improvements. Apply your mix, probably at first by fork, trodden, then using "Gaab cob" or cob loaves. Sew it all together solidly with your fingers or a "cobber's thumb." Try to raise all the cob walls at the same rate. * Make sure you build vertical or tapered walls; don't leave big bulges or hollows. * Pare each new part with a machete or handsaw before it gets too hard, leaving it ready to plaster as you build. * Set pipes, wires, outlets, junction boxes, and so on into the walls as you build. * Build in windows as you go. Bury "deadmen" in the walls, wooden anchors to which you can later attach door frames, shelving, countertops, and so on. * Sculpt built-in furniture, bookshelves, niches, and alcoves. * Let the walls dry and settle somewhat, then build loft or second-story beams, joists, and ledgers directly into the cob if the wall is loadbearing. * Locate roof deadmen one and a half to two feet down from the rafters. Complete the walls. * If the roof is on, you can now enclose and heat the building. If not, now is the time to build the roof. If the roof will be heavy, allow the cob to dry throughout first. * Do final ceiling work. * Finish interior built-in woodwork, counters, cabinets, interior door frames, and plumbing fixtures. * Apply interior plaster. * Lay a finish coat on floor. Seal an earthen floor with linseed oil and beeswax. * When interior plaster is dry, apply natural paint, lime wash, or alis. * Plaster the exterior, if desired. * Have a big party! Invite everyone who helped you build.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company; First printing, June 2012 edition (June 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890132349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890132347
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

156 of 157 people found the following review helpful By waldorf_curric VINE VOICE on May 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
For your inspiration, edification, and step by step hands-on & how-to, this book just can't be improved upon. Long checklists to help you choose the perfect piece of land and how to situate the location of your home. A tutorial in using passive solar to heat your house. How to design its interior to embrace you, find your materials as inexpensively as possible, gather your tool kit (what's essential, what's not), test the soil you have, make cob samples and evaluate them. Starter projects such as walls, benches, and stoves. Mixing techniques, building techniques, finishing techniques. The history of cob, the durability of cob, a trouble-shooting guide. How to make your own paint, make your own floor, insulate, remodel the house if you want to, where to put the wiring, every practical detail is included as well as the philosophical... you will find inspiration on every page. Countless examples and real life stories are included, as well as color photographs of cob structures all over the world. This book doesn't just critique the current system, it shows you a way out!
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244 of 250 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Curtiss on December 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
I paid full price for this book at a retail Book store (I wish I had bought it here!). I have 2 other books on cob building also (Becky Bee's "The Cob Builders Handbook" - Which I highly recommend also & Michael Smith's "Cobbers Companion", I also recommend but Becky's, I feel is the better of the two.) However, THIS book stands out considerably. It is the MOST awesome book on cob building. It has wonderful photographs & drawings including additional privacy courtyard/outside ideas etc. There is nothing out there that can compare to this book to spark ideas and show the beauty, versatility & many options & benefits one has in cob building. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has even a slight interest in earth homes/cob building. If you are very interested in this or a related subject(straw bale etc.) you will LOVE this book!
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127 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Robert A Brookshire on May 2, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Cob Cottage Company literally invented a building technique called "Oregon Cob". Their collective development includes not only high-quality cob mixing techniques, but also a holistic design and construction approach to suit both the building material and the sustainable living philosophies of the builders. The Cob Cottage Company has used this book to summarize more than a decade of research and development of both mind and mud. Each author has focused on one of three sections of the book and each contributes something unique.
Ianto appropriately begins the book by not only giving a history of earth and cob building, but also by helping the reader redefine their view of housing. I've read this section 3 times thus far. It contains so many great ideas and insights that the reader may want to keep a journal to remember them by. The authors' ideas concerning intuitive design with natural materials are amazing, yet proven. Ianto is definitely critical of industrial architecture (he was a trained and licensed architect in the UK) and corporate control, but not in a way that is unbearable or preachy. I find these sorts of viewpoints incredibly refreshing when communicated so well, whether or not I completely agree with them or not. Evans covers virtually all aspects of site selection and home design while also including interviews with a few cob home owner/builders. This section is surely the real magic of this book and may greatly alter the reader's perceptions of both shelter and its relation to the surrounding environment.
Part 2 describes the actual construction of a cob cottage. It is mostly authored by Michael Smith, who has authored another book detailing cob construction, "The Cobber's Companion".
Read more ›
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Avi Solomon on September 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Building with Cob is the way to make your house fit you rather than you fitting yourself to the house(usually designed and built by someone else).

While the most comprehensive instruction manual on building a Cob home with your own hands (and feet!) this is also your ticket for an escape from mortgage(lit. "death-pledge") serfdom. One of the most important chapters of the book discusses the economics of house-building in a very enlightening way.

The book has superb illustrations well integrated into the text and colour photographs of cob houses.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Daren Scot Wilson on December 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'd give five stars except so many times, an interesting idea technique or feature is not as fully explained as i'd like. For example, the "lorena stove" sounds interesting, but i'm not satisfied with the brief description. But then, the authors do give references to other books, videotapes etc. that one may pursue. Many photos of cob being made, walls being built, and finished houses. I was already motivated to build a cob house before buying this book (from reading Dan Chiras' The Natural House) but now i'm even more fired up! This book is a HUGE help, inspiring, with useful detail, but is not in itself complete in detail for someone who want to build with cob. This book along with attending a cob workshop would be the ideal educational experience.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Shucksan on January 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you only ever buy one book on cob building make sure it is this book! This book contains everything you can learn about cob without getting your hands dirty. Then it inspires you to go out and get your hands dirty. Everyone who is interested in natural building and ecological design should own a copy of this book. So many new techniques have come along since the first books on cob were published. It is great to have a book with all the new tips and ideas. If you've never heard of cob or if you think you know it all this book has something for everyone.
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