Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Hand-Sculpted House

This is a book about building cob homes. Cob is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw. I recently posted a brief article that showed a few videos highlighting the beauty of cob homes (read that article here). This book is a motivational and philosophical how-to on building cob structures.

It goes fairly in-depth on how to make cob, how to build foundations, walls, roofs, windows and doors, plasters and finishes, flooring. At first, the entire concept seems a bit overwhelming. We live in a day and age where "professionals" build homes and us mere civilians must work years and years to pay them (indirectly through the bank) for our homes.

But when you read of a single mom and her elementary school-aged daughter building a home almost entirely themeselves, one really starts to question the entire process with a more critical eye. Why can't we build our own homes? What is really stopping us? People all over the world do it every day. Specifically with cob, anyone can easily learn how to do it. Cob homes can be beautiful. In Devon County (in the U.K.) there are almost 30,000 cob homes still being living in today... and most of them are well over a hundred years old!
An example of a cob home.

Just some things to think about. When a book makes me question and think this much, well, I think it is a pretty good book. Now I have to admit, as with much in the world of "alternative" anything (gardening, medicine, and even building), there is what I call the "crazy hippie component" in this book. But it is not nearly as overwhelming as many "alternative" books I have read.

If building your own home has ever crossed your mind, or even if it hasn't but the idea of even owning your own home seems too distant a dream, seriously consider reading this book. It will challenge you and maybe even inspire you to go out and try it.


  1. Good stuff John. It's on my Amazon wish list along with a couple others about straw bail homes.

  2. This is the most inspiring book. I bought it, went home, and spent the next 24 hours poring through it. Decided on the spot I wanted to take a course if there was one and ended up taking the 3-week owner-builder course from Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley, the authors of this book. It was an incredible time!! Look up Cob Cottage Company for news and courses.

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