Tea & Sconce

Last week we were earthen plastering the Great Hall. Part of this was creating some wall mounted sconces.

Here’s how we did it so you can follow along at home… pencils at the ready!

  1. First we created a cardboard template for the sconce backplate. It was important to make sure the light fixture would fit!
  2. The template was traced onto some large timber, then cut using a jigsaw with the blade angled at around 45 degrees
  3. Next we drilled holes for our plum branches (these form the sconce framework) The holes were drilled larger from the back to allow fixing later.
  4. We harvested some plum branches from the garden and cleaned them up
  5. The plum branches were inserted into the holes we drilled, then fixed using a small nail. We had to pre-drill the branch to stop it splitting
  6. The plum branches are bent to the other side of the back plate, making sure that you leave enough space for your light bulb!
  7. The final branch is bent from the bottom and tied onto each cross piece.
  8. The framework is now completed and you can fix it to the wall
  9. Using long strands of straw dipped in clay slip, we wove the body of the sconce, making sure to leave gaps at the bottom for the light to escape
  10. After it dried, we gave it a quick trim then plastered over the whole thing. Then we sat back, had a cup of tea and enjoyed the beautiful view.

Bamboo (Now with pictures!)


My Time at Apro and Windows

On first arriving at Aprovecho for a building course in the warm Oregon summer, I was very inclined to explore this environment of which I’d heard much from friends and travelers alike. The forest drew me, the hills rolled out to me, fresh herbs and garden smells wafted to my nostrils, the creek splattered for my attention, the sun soaked deep in me, laughter and new voices filled my ears, and life everywhere was seemingly buzzing. Well, we went on a tour and saw all the stuff they had and met all the wonderful people here and started doing natural building and friendship/community building as well. The summer came, the summer went, and at the end there was a playhouse dwelling! Not exactly finished, but altogether a nice little place with great potential.

I came back to Apro in October to build with the crew for a few weeks. As a part of the program, the students choose a personal project to work on when they’re not building together. Not wanting to start a large ambitious project, and limited to a few weeks, I decided to choose a small one. My project is creating some glass windows for the playhouse dwelling and glass art to brighten cloudy days and moody spirits. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve wanted to use this kiln that was collecting dust in the shop and create something beautiful. I was able to do a test run in the kiln by melting some glass bottles I found in the recycling bin, and later create windows with nicer scrap glass I found at the local glass store. It felt pretty neat to be able to create something useful out of a thing you might just get rid of. The windows are circular and colorful and hopefully pictures will be posted on the blog soon.The other builders will install the windows in the playhouse after I leave, so it will be a surprise to me where they end up. I’m excited to come back and see how much has been done. Looking forward to seeing how our ideas will fuse!


Pod update

woodland setting for new pod

The woodland location for the pod with the beginnings of the decagon platform

Exciting progress has been made on the pod build!
Above you can see the beginnings of the decagon platform, all the materials were scavenged from scrap (except for the 2×8 central cross beams. I’m certain that I could have found some if I had enough time)

I used railroad ties sat on top of pier blocks to support the main beam, my top tip for using railroad ties… don’t. They are disgusting! I needed to make several cuts so the ties fit the platform and the whole site┬ásmelled of creosote for weeks. That said, they will last forever and were again scrap cluttering up Aprovecho.

This shed is being slowly dismantled... meaning I need not for wood!

Above you can see the shed that has become my wood store. It is being taken down as part of the development of Aprovecho – perfect for my pod’s needs!
The siding from the shed has become the platform decking. The decking from the shed has been re-purposed into deck material and pony walls.

reused foam insulation

reclaimed foam insulation

I was fortunate enough to find some rigid foam insulation and so fitted it under the deck, should help to keep it toasty in the dome during the winter months!

The completed deck

Next up I constructed the dome structure, This is made from pallet wood with PVC tube hubs. The whole structure is attached together using plumbing wire (and too many screws!)

The height of the dome approximately 4 feet, so using the wood from the shed decking I created some 2ft tall pony walls for the dome to sit on top of. This will allow people to stand in the centre of the dome.

dome sat on top of pony walls

I decided to create a geodesic dome instead of an icosahedron for aesthetic reasons alone. In the image above you can see the beginnings of a roof I am extending out from the topmost pentagon piece of the dome.I chose to put an additional roof on my dome as the many dome faces and intersections will be very difficult to make waterproof.

roof detail

The next step for me is to finish the roof. I have access to a large pile of old cedar shakes, so will be roofing the dome with those.
My current debate is whether to use tar paper under the shakes. It’s not a natural product, but it will keep the dome protected from the rain. (ideally I’d like to get hold of an old billboard canvas, reuse that in place of tar paper… however no advertising agency will let me have one!)