Adding masonry to increase wood stove efficiency

Adding masonry to increase wood stove efficiency

By adding masonry and mud to an old cast-iron wood stove, I greatly increased its efficiency — and it even has an oven! (note the wooden door on the right, just above the iron stove door). The wood that used to over-heat me, briefly, in the morning, now keeps me comfortably warm all day, and into the next morning (depending on how long I fire it and how cold it is). And, unlike most iron stoves, it no longer generates that fierce, dry heat that you can only moderate by burning wet wood, or by damping the fire down to a messy, smoldering smoke generator (both strategies will cause dangerous buildups of creosote in a chimney — a major fire hazard).…

Low-Relief Mudwork

I cut these low-relief directly into wet mud smeared on sheetrock panels. After they are finished (and dry), I apply colored washes, which also make the surface more durable. Click on the thumbnail to see the entire image, uncropped. They range in size from about 16 x 24 inches to the big mural, which is about 8 x 20 feet. All were part of an installation/show at the Bush Barn Gallery in Salem, OR, in 2004. Note the wall made of temporary gallery wall panels that we assembled into a gateway, covered with cardboard, and then plastered with mud. The finger pattern was copied directly from a photograph of an actual African wall, in the book Butabu, about west African earthen building.…

Art Is…

 

The following essay is from the Introduction to Dig Your Hands in the Dirt:

“Art is…”

Art is many things, but here what I mean by “art” is that kind of experience by which humans learn.

Working with mud, sand, and straw is a way to teach geology, engineering, physics, history, drawing, composition, and design. It is also a way to teach social skills, like cooperation. But more important than just what it teaches is how it teaches:

Jon Young is a wilderness educator who takes kids into the woods, and teaches them to identify and track wildlife, among other things.…

the upside down fire

You can greatly improve how your oven performs by how you lay and manage the fire. Here’s how and why I build what Pat Manley calls “an upside down fire.” (Follow the link to an overlong video version). The first principle of fire requires applying to heat to fuel. When the fuel gets hot enough, it bursts into flame. But if you pile many pounds of wood on top of your kindling, it will take a long time before all your fuel can really start burning. Meanwhile, you’ll get a lot of smoke in your (and possibly your neighbors’) eyes, and you’ll lose a lot of fuel (all that smoke counts as unburnt fuel).…

Frequently Asked Oven Questions

If you can’t find an answer to your question here, in the book, or elsewhere on the site, please feel free to leave a question in the comment section and we’ll get back to you asap (please do scan the comments first, as you may well find your answer there).

If you get a useful answer to your question, please consider making a donation. I’m always delighted to hear from folks, and to help when I can, but any website takes time, effort, and love, not to mention answering questions. I’m also delighted at all the good stuff folks are doing and learning as a result of youtube and sharing, but like everyone else, I need a (small) income, and book sales are down. …

Dig Your Hands in the Dirt: A Manual for Making Art out of Earth

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As you might suspect, a book with this title features many photos of barefoot kids happily stomping in the mud. Mud huts and mud pies conjure up pictures of primitive peoples and childish pleasures. But then you realize that the kids aren’t in Africa, but in Washington DC, Chicago, Portland (Oregon), and Berlin. And they aren’t all kids!

Looking past the pictures of giddy, muddy fun, here is substantial and serious inspiration and practical lessons for artists, teachers, students, and designers, as well as builders interested in natural materials like adobe (and, more recently, it’s British counterpart, “cob.”)

The book begins with a color section of stunning murals based on traditional south African pattern design, a monumental labyrinth and sundial, a whole earthen park (in Berlin), large-scale sculpted benches and structures, model villages and even tiny bird-houses of mud sculpted on woven frames.…

Make a Simple Sundial: Measure the Earth, Discover the Cosmos

This book shows how to make an accurate sundial with just a bit of simple materials, geometry, and a map with information about your longitude and latitude. It also shows how a sundial is really a model of the relationship between the earth and the sun – and, by extension, between you and the cosmos.

A few experiments help to see what’s happening as if you were looking at the earth from outer space. Starting with a stick and its shadow on a sunny day, the books shows how to locate true north, how to feel the earth turning under your feet, and how to turn the stick into a small scale model of the axis on which the earth turns.…

The Best of Making Things: A Handbook of Creative Discovery

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Children everywhere will welcome this new edition of a classic activity book – as will their teachers and parents (especially those seeking to simplify). A “best of” compilation of two volumes, it is a unique, affordable, and child-sized handbook that doesn’t talk down to anyone. In fact, it is mostly pictures drawn in a simple and elegant style clear enough for anyone to follow, whether or not they read (though some projects, like paper making or batik, ask for adult supervision).

Thirty years later, author Ann Sayre Wiseman says “I still meet people who say ‘Making Things was (or is) my bible.'” What’s the appeal?…

The Hand-Sculpted House

(Excerpted from www.cobcottage.com .)

A Cob Cottage might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that the authors refer to it as “an ecstatic house.” They build a house the way others create a natural garden, using the oldest, most available materials earth, clay, sand, straw, and water and blending 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.…