Chelsea Green Publishing

The Hand-Sculpted House

Pages:384 pages
Book Art:8 pages of illustrations
Size: 8 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781890132347
Pub. Date June 01, 2002

The Hand-Sculpted House

A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

By Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith and Linda Smiley
Illustrated by Deanne Bednar

Building & Energy

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
June 01, 2002


Are you ready for the Cob Cottage? This is a building method so old and so simple that it has been all but forgotten in the rush to synthetics. A cob cottage,cobb, however, might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that its creators refer to it as "an ecstatic house."

The authors build a house the way others create a natural garden. They use the oldest, most available materials imaginable--earth, clay, sand, straw, and water--and blend them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning "lump") is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind. Builders actually sculpt their structures by hand.

Building with earth is nothing new to America; the oldest structures on the continent were built with adobe bricks. Adobe, however, has been geographically limited to the Southwest. The limits of cob are defined only by the builder's imagination.
Cob offers answers regarding our role in Nature, family and society, about why we feel the ways that we do, about what's missing in our lives. Cob comes as a revelation, a key to a saner world.

Cob has been a traditional building process for millennia in Europe, even in rainy and windy climates like the British Isles, where many cob buildings still serve as family homes after hundreds of years. The technique is newly arrived to the Americas, and, as with so many social trends, the early adopters are in the Pacific Northwest.

Cob houses (or cottages, since they are always efficiently small by American construction standards) are not only compatible with their surroundings, they ARE their surroundings, literally rising up from the earth. They are full of light, energy-efficient, and cozy, with curved walls and built-in, whimsical touches. They are delightful. They are ecstatic.


Ianto Evans

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

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

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.


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.


The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

By Josh Trought

With practical examples of alternative building, renewable energy, holistic forestry, no-till gardening, hospitality management, community outreach, and more

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm describes not only the history of the D Acres project, but its evolving principles and practices that are rooted in the land, its inhabitants, and the joy inherent in collective empowerment.

For almost twenty years, D Acres of New Hampshire has challenged and expanded the common definition of a farm. As an educational center that researches, applies, and teaches skills of sustainable living and small-scale organic farming, D Acres serves more than just a single function to its community. By turns it is a hostel for travelers to northern New England, a training center for everything from metal- and woodworking to cob building and seasonal cooking, a gathering place for music, poetry, joke-telling, and potluck meals, and much more.

While this book provides a wide spectrum of practical information on the physical systems designed into a community-scale homestead, Trought also reviews the economics and organizational particulars that D Acres has experimented with over the years.

The D Acres model envisions a way to devise a sustainable future by building a localized economy that provides more than seasonal produce, a handful of eggs, and green appliances. With the goal of perennial viability for humanity within their ecosystem, D Acres is attempting an approach to sustainability that encompasses practical, spiritual, and ethical components. In short: They are trying to create a rural community ecology that evolves in perpetuity.

From working with oxen to working with a board of directors, no other book contains such a wealth of innovative ideas and ways to make your farm or homestead not only more sustainable, but more inclusive of, and beneficial to, the larger community. Readers will find information on such subjects as:

  • Working with pigs to transform forested landscapes into arable land;
  • Designing and building unique, multifunctional farm and community spaces using various techniques and materials;
  • Creating and perpetuating diverse revenue streams to keep your farm organization solvent and resilient;
  • Receiving maximum benefits and yields for the farm without denigrating resources or the regional ecology;
  • Implementing a fair and effective governance structure;
  • Constructing everything from solar dehydrators and cookers to treehouses and ponds; and,
  • Connecting and partnering with the larger community beyond the farm.

Emphasizing collaboration, cooperation, and mutualism, this book promises to inspire a new generation of growers, builders, educators, artists, and dreamers who are seeking new and practical ways to address today’s problems on a community scale.

Available in: Paperback

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The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

Josh Trought

Paperback $40.00

Wind Power

Wind Power

By Paul Gipe

In the wake of mass blackouts and energy crises, wind power remains a largely untapped resource of renewable energy. It is a booming worldwide industry whose technology, under the collective wing of aficionados like author Paul Gipe, is coming of age. Wind Power guides us through the emergent, sometimes daunting discourse on wind technology, giving frank explanations of how to use wind technology wisely and sound advice on how to avoid common mistakes.

Since the mid-1970s, Paul Gipe has played a part in nearly every aspect of wind energy’s development—from installing small turbines to promoting wind energy worldwide. As an American proponent of renewable energy, Gipe has earned the acclaim and respect of European energy specialists for years, but his arguments have often fallen on deaf ears at home.

Today, the topic of wind power is cropping up everywhere from the beaches of Cape Cod to the Oregon-Washington border, and one wind turbine is capable of producing enough electricity per year to run 200 average American households. Now, Paul Gipe is back to shed light on this increasingly important energy source with a revised edition of Wind Power.

Over the course of his career, Paul Gipe has been a proponent, participant, observer, and critic of the wind industry. His experience with wind has given rise to two previous books on the subject, Wind Energy Basics and Wind Power for Home and Business, which have sold over 50,000 copies. Wind Power for Home and Business has become a staple for both homeowners and professionals interested in the subject, and now, with energy prices soaring, interest in wind power is hitting an all-time high.

With chapters on output and economics, Wind Power discloses how much you can expect from each method of wind technology, both in terms of energy and financial savings. The book’s updated models, graphics, and weighty appendixes make it an invaluable reference for everyone interested in the emerging trend of wind power and renewable energy.

Executive Director of the American Wind Energy Association Randall Swisher has said, "In the last two decades, no one has done more that Paul Gipe to bring wind energy to the public’s attention."

Available in: eBook

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Wind Power

Paul Gipe

eBook $50.00

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, 4th Edition

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, 4th Edition

By Tony Wrench

In Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, Tony shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this unique and affordable low-impact home. Always witty and inspiring, the author explains the process of visualizing and designing a house through to the practical side of lifting the living roof, infilling the walls, laying out rooms, and adding renewable, autonomous technology.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse has become a classic text sold all over the world. Tony’s home and lifestyle have attracted much media interest, and he and his partner continue to inspire many individuals and communities to seek out ways of living more sustainably.

Now in its third edition, with a fascinating ten-year update including a major new section on the couple’s marvelous straw bale den, Tony also includes sections on the physical design, and he writes about the lifestyle required for living in a roundhouse. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. There are additional photographs of life in and around the dwelling and illustrations from the construction plans for one of the UK’s most unique homes.

This true and captivating story covers the realizing of a lifetime’s dream as well as being a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living and wants to self-build an affordable, organic home.

Available in: Paperback

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Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, 4th Edition

Tony Wrench

Paperback $14.95

Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power, 2nd Edition

Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power, 2nd Edition

By Michael Daniek

If you want to introduce alternative power supplies around the home and garden or even live totally off-grid in your boat, caravan, or yurt and need a practical introduction to solar power and 12-volt supplies, here is an essential guide to the subject.

Not only will it save you money, it will show you how to run your lights, laptop, DVDs, and music, and even your tools and household products, from a simple 12-volt system. Be in control of more of your home’s own energy supply, develop a low-impact way of living, and be prepared for power outages in the future!

Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power begins with a lesson on how electricity works and the main components of a DIY solar system. The author uses clear diagrams and terms. There is, of course, more technical information as the book progresses, but don’t worry, this no-nonsense guide provides a useful, back-to-basics approach for the layperson.

This is a reference book that will help you troubleshoot and get the best value for money from what you can find hidden in the back of the garage. It is also quirky and humorous and shows you how to make a sun-following system using just a bicycle wheel, a pallet, and the motor from a CD player!

Available in: Paperback

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Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power, 2nd Edition

Michael Daniek

Paperback $14.95