The Beauty of Cordwood Masonry
Cordwood masonry is an inexpensive, environmentally sound method of building both exterior and interior walls for houses and outbuildings. Done correctly, these walls can also be very energy efficient, combining good insulation and thermal mass characteristics. I cover these points in my two latest books on the subject, Essential Cordwood Building: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide and Cordwood Building: A Comprehensive Guide to the State of the Art.
But in this article, I want to speak of the creative or artistic aspects of cordwood masonry, the things that make the work fun and visually striking. Sometimes these design features are an isolated part of a cordwood wall; sometimes they may comprise all or most of a cordwood wall panel. The designs might involve log-ends by themselves, or might be created in combination with bottle-ends or special artifacts.
When we first started building with cordwood, at Log End Cottage in 1976, we went with the barest simple design features: a stained rectangle in the middle of a rectangular panel, star constellations in panels made from all round cedar log-ends, a terrarium made from a gallon jar with a stained glass butterfly design in its cover.
As the years went on, we became more creative with our work, while trying to avoid “busy” or garish designs. At our octagonal Stoneview Guesthouse at Earthwood, we would put different designs in the various panels, being sure to tack a note to the panel’s vertical post – with a pointing arrow – to remind us to do the design! (Yes, it is easy to forget.) Also, while designs are usually put at eye level, sometimes a design will take some advance planning lower down in the cordwood panel. Details of how to create your own guest house are in my book, Stoneview: How to Build an Eco-Friendly Little Guest House. Here are four designs out of 6 or 7 that we did at Stoneview:
At our Earthwood Sunroom, we did several different designs, using bottle-ends, wine bottles from Chile, special log-ends, even geodes:
At Mushwood, our summer cottage, we incorporated a variety of bottle-end designs.
These designs were put into our garage at Earthwood.
Cordwood trees are popular. Here are three examples from different parts of the country.
A few years ago, we did a 5-day workshop with Kim Cellura and Mike Shields near Del Norte, Colorado, comprising Timber Framing for the Rest of Us and Cordwood Masonry. After the workshop, Kim and Mike took the ball and ran with it, creating the Mermaid Cottage BnB. Jaki and I have stayed in this beautiful building, and counted, I think, 26 mermaids incorporated into the walls in one way or the other. Kim loves bottle-end designs.
With a little imagination, the design possibilities with cordwood masonry are almost unlimited. And if you’re having fun, the build quality improves. Want to learn more? You may find our Cordwood Masonry Special Effects slideshow of interest.