The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage: The Real Goods Solar Living Book

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.

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2 comments

  1. 5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A Complete Resource, January 3, 2018
    By 
    Lee (San Diego, CA)

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage: The Real Goods Solar Living Book (Paperback)
    I know there are many, many books and resources out there on cob building. And yes, this is the only book I have read on this subject, and so I cannot make any comparisons. BUT, I would argue that you will be hard-pressed to find a better and more complete book on this subject than this one. Can you build a cob house from reading this book alone? Absolutely. It’s a complete guide.

    Happy building!

  2. 14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A compendium of experiences using and knowledge on cob., August 27, 2016
    By 
    Andrew and Michelle

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage: The Real Goods Solar Living Book (Paperback)
    First of all, let me say that I am quite new to the natural-building movement. I am currently researching all of the different methods for building homes in a non-traditional way (well, I guess traditional might not be the best word since humans have traditionally built homes naturally). Anyway, what I mean is that I am looking at alternatives to the widespread cookie-cutter stick-framed houses.

    I think that Ianto and Michael beautifully describe all that is involved in building with cob. They go through best practices and also what has not worked. They take their experiences with working with people from around the globe and learn from it. It is refreshing to read a book from authors who do not fall for the we-know-better-than-everybody-else mentality. They really are learners and now also disseminators off what they learned through experience and other professionals from around the world.

    While the book itself is filled with much information and I am confident that I could actually build a cob structure after reading it, the book also serves as a guide for further reading. In each section, the authors mention other resources that one can use to further his or her knowledge about that topic. Sometimes, those are other books by these authors, but most of the time it is books by others.

    All-in-all, this is a great reference book for everything cob. Probably my favorite book I have read on natural building methods.

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