Cordwood Masonry Workshops

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Earthwood Building School: A student sets a log-end while Rob watches others install sawdust insulation.

Cordwood Masonry Workshops

We’ve often said that cordwood masonry houses can be built by children, grandmothers, and beavers, and that’s true. So why take a cordwood masonry workshop? Well, there are two important reasons:

 

  1. Improve speed of building. Let’s be honest: cordwood masonry is a time-consuming process. On the upside, you are attending to several different wall components when you lay a section of cordwood: interior finish, exterior finish, structure, insulation and thermal mass. With modern building, there are often ten or twelve different tasks that must be accomplished to finish the wall, to wit: framing, insulation, vapor barrier, sheetrock, taping, spackling, painting (2 or 3 coats), exterior sheathing, exterior covering (vinyl, shingle, etc.), a couple more coats of paint or stain perhaps. With cordwood, when you’re done, you’re done.

We have found that students who attend a Cordwood Masonry workshop are able to build two to three times as fast as people who wing it themselves, even when aided by books or a video on the subject. Personal instruction can save weeks on a small project, months on a large one. At workshops, we teach:

  • Efficiencies of handling materials
  • Organization of the worksite for maximum production
  • How to avoid “traps” in the placement of log-ends
  • The importance of the right tools for the job, and how to make them
  • How to point the wall efficiently

 

  1. Improve build quality. Once again, self-taught builders do not realize the quality of building which is attainable. Things like:
  • The importance of pointing the masonry, for appearance, strength and ease of cleaning the wall …  and how to do it with balance and consistency
  • Various ways of cutting log-ends all the same length
  • Selecting log-ends (and bottle-ends) to maintain a balance of texture and style
  • How to handle problem situations, such as working up to the underside of a window frame or wall girder
  • How to keep the wall plumb, even with a round cordwood building
  • How to measure for and set window bucks in a cordwood wall
  • Incorporating electric into the cordwood masonry
A workshop student installs sawdust insulation in a wall while others set the mortar in place. West Chazy, New York.

A workshop student installs sawdust insulation in a wall while others set the mortar in place. West Chazy, New York.

At workshops, almost as much time is spent in the classroom as on the building site. Various styles of cordwood masonry are shown and discussed (within a timber frame, built-up corners – called “stackwall corners” – and truly round load-bearing cordwood buildings.) Examples from around the world are shown in slide presentations. Dozens of log-end samples – softwood and hardwood – are passed around and discussed: pros and cons, shrinkage and expansion characteristics. Students’ questions are attended to at all phases of the workshop, in the classroom and on the site.

Finally, you will meet a number of other students at the class who are probably close to being at the same – beginner’s – stage as you. Some may live near you. Some may become good friends.