Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winterizing the Cob House at Eno

As I approached the field, I couldn't quite decipher the hairy blob sitting alone in the middle of it. An animal? A big ball of cob? An enormous ball of snow holding out from our wintry weekend earlier this month?

The stove pipe exits the NE corner of the building which is, ironically, where the icicles form. That awkward hole will be re-filled with cob and plaster someday.

I had some fun with the interior plastering last month. Here's the branch:

.... and here's the trunk. It went from being an abstract shape (that Elizabeth thought looked too much like cartoon side-burns) to a possible bird swooping in, to a snake head, to a tree.

Sinking bricks into the finished floor:

Floating pieces of slate atop the bricks:

A magical pad for the wood stove! Hovering, like a shaman might do.

Some finish trim at the top edge of the window to close up the 1/4" gap (that had been left to allow the house to settle without stressing the glass):

And here's the "double-boiler-with-a-lid" setup that we devised to heat our linseed oil for the final floor durability treatment. I've applied one layer of oil to the floor - three more coats tomorrow, each getting more and more thinned out with mineral spirits.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Window

 I've been working on the shed quite a bit lately (and with more decadent materials that I ever anticipated using!), in order to make it into a very usable computing/drawing space and a pottery studio, in addition to accommodating tool storage. I was building my office alcove the other day, made mostly from unwanted Ikea furniture and an old bookcase, and decided that I needed another window. This wasn't because there was too little light, or that there is a particularly nice view in any direction, but because I had a vision of a window sitting in a specific spot, and it looked very charming in my mind. It was both intimidating and exhilarating to bash through the wall and form an opening. This is certainly not the most artistic set of photos, but it gives you the idea...

 I used a circular saw to cut through the plywood and create the initial rectangular void - the black that you see is the layer of tar paper that I put up prior to the cob.

The beginnings of a new window, after having started to scrape/bang/knock bits of cob with a claw hammer:

This is after I pulled the tar paper off, and you can see the vertical 1X2 (to which the metal fencing was secured) and the underbelly of the cob.

It was amazing how sturdy that 2" layer of cob was! I wish I had a video of how difficult it was to get through even with all of my strength and a hammer at the end of my arm. Having the metal grid embedded inside made it into a super-material.

I already had a piece of glass picked out for the window, and it required that I widen the opening in both directions a couple inches, and so I had to use a keyhole saw to do this (this is as big as I could get with the circular saw before the studs got in the way).

Here is the main frame for the window.

And here it has been installed, with a second perimeter of trim, too. After this, I installed the glass, and a finish perimeter of interior trim to hold the glass in place, but before that point I had to run the camera back to my sister so that she could properly document my nephew's yearly visit to see Santa Claus. More photos soon of the finished window!

Monday, November 29, 2010

logo feedback

I think I've realized that the goal of my (currently) very focused life is to end up as part of a building team within the next couple years. The solo projects have been a great way to meet people, and now I feel like I've linked myself into a community of builders/artists/thinkers who might be interested in collaborating year-round. 

In an effort to visually organize my journey thus far, and be able to communicate myself clearly to people, I've been working on a website that I hope to bring to life in the next couple weeks. It's taken a while to decide on a name, but after searching and searching with tea and a couch ("fit buildings," "appropriate structures," "fantasy cob," etc... - boring, boring, weird...), I've come right back to "cob & on." I feel now like I need a visually identity (it might be the design school graduate rooted in me), and so I devised a logo last night. I'm looking for feedback about it. What don't you like? What does it make you think of? Is the name confusing? These sorts of things. Thanks! 

*(note: I want to keep it just one color)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

update: Danielle's Tower

 I spent the last 2 days working on Danielle's cob house in Silk Hope, NC. It's always fun to spend time on the land, and work with Danielle. Our friend Steve was also out (the guy on the roof below). Steve works for Habitat for Humanity, and took Danielle's workshop earlier in the summer. He's been coming back ever since on his time off to help build, as well as donate Habitat's scrap materials to Danielle's project - a great resource!

The house is looking incredible:

I love the exterior steps. The boards extend all the way through the wall (18 inches), and feel amazingly solid underfoot. I go up and down all of the time without worry.

Here is the little porch to which the exterior steps lead. It can also be accessed from the second story room, through the tiny doorway that you see.

Most of what I spend my time doing this past weekend was installing fascia boards. The fascia boards follow the perimeter of the roof and are what provide a barrier for soil to rest against (it's going to be a living roof). There are some important details that Danielle and I dreamed up, that make it a very solid green roof solution (we hope). The first element is the triangles, which you can see below. There is one for every rafter, and they are secured with screws down into the rafter.

Each fascia board is measured, cut, and then attached from one triangle to the next. The hard part is maintaining an aesthetically pleasing flow from one board to the next, to the next, to the next.

 Here you can clearly see how the triangles hold the fascia boards about 1.5 inches away from the edge of the decking. This is so that when water gets onto the fascia and rolls around the face of the board, it won't then be able to continue rolling onto the decking, but will instead drip to its death. As a living organism, I love water. As a builder, it's terribly frightening.

 Because the fascia boards are all scrap cutoffs from a neighbor's barn project, there was little continuity among pieces. I had to do a lot of custom chisel work to get the boards to match up (you can see the big chiseled oval shared by the two boards in the photo).

All the roundwood looks incredible! The lower, secondary roof that you can glimpse under the hanging plaster is going to be a roof over an outdoor bed, and still needs to be decked.

The fascia are now complete, and Steve has started to install a layer of blue foam insulation over the entire roof (all scraps from Habitat). The next steps: 1. finish the insulation layer, 2. lay out pond liner on roof, 3. install cushioning layer of carpet underlay over the pond liner, and 4. bring up soil and plants to the roof! There are definitely a lot of details amidst those 4 basic steps, but we're getting close...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ideas in the name of food.

I was thinking today that I should design an outdoor kitchen to build and use next year during the project. And then I thought: how ridiculous, to build an outdoor kitchen for just a couple seasons of use (my parents enjoy the outdoors very much, but I see them more as indoor-kitchen folk). This led me to consider what my parents do want/need. And I think a greenhouse fits the bill, especially if they are going to be living here initially in the winters.

Below is a rough model of the greenhouse. It's about 8X10, interior floor space. The main four panels of glazing will be glass. The rest of the translucent openings will be plastic sheeting (both because it can be cut into different shapes easily, and because it doesn't need to be framed in with wood, so it can extend past the framing to keep water at bay without caulk, flashing, and other fancy drip details). The North wall will be an 8 inch wall of cob inside a 5 inch layer of slip-straw insulation infill (straw dipped in clay slip). The cob will act as a thermal mass to store the sun's heat, and the straw will keep this heat inside. The roof will be shingled (to save money over metal) - I would consider a green roof, except that it would require a much beefier frame to hold the extra weight, and I want to stay as light on materials as I can. The floor will be gravel, raised about 3 or 4 inches above ground level (for drainage). There will be a work bench along the north wall, for working with seedlings, and a full-length raised bed running along the south half of the building, leaving a small path running east-west down the middle (and with a door at each end). I'll have to put in some opening windows for ventilation, and perhaps some screens.

Before it becomes a greenhouse, it will serve as our outdoor kitchen (essentially a roof, under which there is an appropriate area to hang shelving, install a sink, and use a stove, without some leftover room for counter space. It will also have to have a pantry and/or cool box of some kind, but I haven't thought much about it yet. Here is a basic idea of what it will look like as a kitchen, before the cob/strawbales go up, and with a (blue) tarp over the front windows, to keep it cool inside:

FInal, belated update for the Cob Garden Wall

I found a goldmine of backyard garden wall photos today! I could very well be mistaken, but I don't think these were ever posted. The last time you saw it was probably like this:

And then a lot more happened...

Decking the roof with 1X6s (notice how much the color of the cob lightened when it dried):

Extending the roof framing over the gates:

Applying stucco over the concrete block. This particular photo was taken a day after I stuccoed - it looks pretty neat and tiger-stripe-like as it dries. Eventually it all dried to be a consistent, boring gray.

Plastering the wall (with clay from Pickard's Mountain - the same plaster in the interior of Margaret's cottage):

Plaster detail around the little arched window:

The quality of light..... ahhhhhhhh....:

This is the view that my nephew will have of the wall, at least for another year.

In the above photo, notice how nicely and evenly the edge of the decking is overhanging the end of the rafters- about an inch and a half all the way around. I thought it was a pretty great aesthetic move. After it was all done, I thought to myself: "now what am I going to attach the fascia boards to?" Previously, I had attached fascia into the ends of the rafters, because there was no overhanging decking in the way. I ended up having to go around and attach a block of wood at the end of every rafter as a solution. It was time-consuming, and a great reminder to NEVER MAKE THIS MISTAKE AGAIN.

Although a completely different style than the house, I like how they look juxtaposed next to one another:

The first layer of the green roof was carpet underlay, from a nearby carpet store dumpster:

The next step was to put the impermeable plastic layer over the entire wall, and then wait for a praying mantis to bless the project:

The fascia boards went on after the plastic, to lock it into place:

Then pool liner sample scraps over the plastic. (And a layer of dumpstered carpet on top of this):

And then soil/compost! (which needs to be planted eventually, with sedums).