Cob Construction: Shelves, Furniture and More

Explore the multifaceted world of cob construction by building shelves, relief sculptures and more that will enhance your cob home and give it more character.

| April 24, 2013

The Cob Builders Handbook by Becky Bee, Chelsea Green Publishing

With “The Cob Builders Handbook” you can learn to make cob, design your own cob home and set out to build it.

Cover Courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing

Cob (an old English word for lump) is old-fashioned concrete, made out of a mixture of clay, sand and straw. Becky Bee’s  The Cob Builders Handbook (Chelsea Green Publishing, 1998) is a friendly guide to making your own earth structure, with chapters on design, foundations, floors, windows and doors, finishes and, of course, making glorious cob. Enhance your cob construction skills and learn how to build fireplaces, cubbies and more in this excerpt “Sculpting Cob Shelves and Furniture.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Cob Builders Handbook.

Building With Cob

Cob is amazing stuff. It’s so strong you can sculpt it out from the wall to create shelves and benches that project into the room (this is called a cantilever). Built-in surfaces for storage and seating maximize your interior space. Make yourself a beautiful window seat by cantilevering a bench out at the bottom of a big window. When you build indoor furniture consider the final floor height, so the seats are at a good position. You can copy the measurements and angles of one of your favorite chairs or couches to help you create a comfy seat. If you want a wide seat or shelves, you may want to build up the thickness of the wall or foundation under the cantilever before you start sculpting it. This will save you time because making a cantilever is time consuming, careful work.

Take extra care to make sure the new addition is well attached to the last cob. Cantilevering takes patience and a little practice. Sometimes the cantilever falls off. Don’t panic, keep at it, just add on a little slower. You can stick little sticks or straw into the cantilever, sticking out into where the next cob will be added. This will help hold the weight until the cob hardens and add to the tensile strength.

If you use something to temporarily hold up the cantilever while it hardens, like a bucket or straw bale, make sure you remove it within a day, or it’ll get stuck as the cob dries and shrinks.

You can always chop away furniture and shelves if you decide you don’t like them later on. It’s possible to add cob furniture after the building is made, but it will be easier and stronger to do it as the building grows.

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