I thought I might touch upon the actual cobbing process, since I haven’t really talked about that specific element of building very much. Over the past few weeks, we have developed a very efficient working system, allowing us to quickly stomp, loaf, and apply the cob to the walls.
It begins with a “burrito”, the final cob mix of sand, clay, and straw. (Once cob has reached its ideal mixed state, you can roll it and it keeps its shape, which is something like the shape of a burrito).
Once we are satisfied with the mix, we begin to make “cobs”, or little loafs of the material. It’s almost like kneading dough: grab a bunch of cob, and make a loaf that can easily be picked up without breaking. (Making each loaf should take no more than a few seconds.) We call the really big ones “wonderbreads”.
We then carry these loaves to the wall (which is typically no more than a few feet from where we are mixing), and line them all up. (First we soak down the walls with some water so this newest layer gets worked in to the existing cob more easily.)
Next we take cobbers thumbs and “stitch” the cobs together, making sure the straw gets worked well, and the individual cobs can no longer be distinguished. This newest layer should also get worked into the layer underneath. This is a quick and rough job that goes quickly. The main key is create a cohesive, monolithic wall.
Next, we work the wall with our hands, creating a clean, plumb edge. Viola!
Here are some different angles of the cob house in progress: