Rethink Your Life!
Finance, health, lifestyle, environment, philosophy
The Work of Art and The Art of Work
Kiko Denzer on Art
[Cob] cobber's thumbs - origin & historyotherfish otherfish at comcast.net
Wed May 4 08:16:00 PDT 2005
Cobbers, For what it's worth & to set the record straight: In 1995 I learned cob at a Cob Cottage workshop in Point Reyes, Ca. During the workshop it was discussed by the instructors, Mishael Smith & Ianto Evans, to use a stick as a tool to aid in integrating the applications of cob. This was the same as the simple stick tool that Shannon likes. There was no discussion or evidence of a hand tool specifically designed for this purpose. I had observed early on in the workshop how Ianto used his thumbs to integrate the layers of cob. As the work progressed I further saw how some of the workshop attendees failed to adequately integrate their applications of the cob into the construction. This was clearly a problem needing a solution. Towards the end of the workshop as we were building an oven, the cob around the base of the oven dried out almost completely overnight. In the morning there was still more cob needing to be added to the dried cob. It was almost impossible to integrate the new cob into the dried material. So, I started looking around for a way to accomplish this critical step. I found a piece of a broken wood slab tree round (sawn off the end of the tree) & with my pocket knife was able to shape it sufficiently into a tool that fit my hand & allowed me to work water into the cob & soften it until more cob could be added and integrated into the oven base. It worked ok, but the tool was crude, difficult to work with & eventually gave me a sore hand. This was the last working day of the workshop. The day after the workshop I returned home and immediatly sketched out a simple hand tool shaped fat on one end to fit in a cobbers palm, and with an elongated & fairly pointed other end to act like a thumb. The tool was about 6" long. I called it a "Cobbers Thumb" & this is the origin of the name. I tried to get a wood turner to make some based on the sketch, but he was not interested. Shortly thereafter, I guided some neophyte cobbers thru a cob greehouse project in Pacifica, Ca. & showed them how to make Cobbers Thumbs out of redwood 2x2 whittled into a useable form. These worked pretty well & were used throughtout the project & resulted in a good integration of the cob. The next spring I attended the Natural Building Colloquium at Black Range N.M.. Preparitory to the colloquium a friend who has a wood shop kindly let me work on his lathe to make some prototype Thumbs. These matched my original 1995 sketch and were made of maple. They were very refined in form, highly finished & came out very nice. I made a sackfull & took them to the colloquium where they were very well received. They worked quite well & proved very useful in the cobbing of Kiko Denzer's Pheonix oven during the Colloquium. At the end of the gathering I sold all the thumbs I had at $15 apiece. This was pricey, but necessary due to the labor intensity of making a highly finished individual objects on a lathe. After that I made a bunch more, some of maple & some of cherry wood. These I sent to Cob Cottage. I lost touch with that batch of Thumbs then & didn't hear any more about them until they showed up again in the tool kits of the Cob Cottage apprentices who attended the next year's Colloquium. (1997 at Shenoa in Mendocino County, Ca.) Apparently they had been put to good use as by then they were well worn, having been reduced to half their original length & become quite pointy on the working end. The lesson here was to use a durable hardwood, as something like cherry was way to soft for the abrasive conditions of cobbing experienced by the tool. In a subsequent phone cpnversation with Ianto, he critiqued the tool design as needing to be less pointed on the end. This was to assure the pushing of the straw of the new cob application down into the previously applied cob. The more pointed design slipped between the straw in the cob & didn't accomplish integarion of the straw between the successive cob layers too well. I had based the original design on the problem of softening & rehydrating dried cob. It seemed that there was a need for two types of Thumb: one pointed end type for wet into dry cobbing conditions & one blunt end type for wet into wet cobbing. Since then I have changed the design & production method to respond the issues that have arisen. I perceive this to be a normal part of the process of any design solution. Currently, the Thumbs are made out of found wood from tree branches. These require much less shaping & can be made for less cost and much quicker. The shaping is now done with a band saw & a belt sander. There are two types: straight & curved. This is depending on the branch section used. I prefer the curved ones as they fit well into the hand & are a better ergonomic design that the straight type. The working end is tipped with a copper pipe cap for durability. They are made in a vatiety of sizes for both small & big hands. I've used these Thumbs in teaching workshops & they result in ease of instruction and well integrated cob with even the most nieophyte of cobbers. In the course of all this development I advertised the Thumbs twice, but received next to zero responxe to the ads. Marketing has never been my forte. So that about sums it. I make the Thumbs from time to time as the mood or need for some occurrs. A good Cobbers Thumb is a definite aid to making well integrated cob & saves wear & tear on your hands. Contact me if you are interested in obtaining some. Cob on, john fordice The ORIGINAL COBBERS THUMB 1828 fifth street, berkeley, ca 94719 510 549 1033 .............. on 5/3/05 11:50 AM, Clint Popetz at clint at cpopetz.com wrote: > On Tue, May 03, 2005 at 10:02:00AM -0700, Shannon C. Dealy wrote: >> >> I'm not sure about this whole concept of "making" cobber's thumbs, >> personally, when I need one (and my thumbs won't do), I just grab the >> nearest stick (usually dead fall from nearby trees, or remnants from >> clearing the building site) that's about 1" in diameter, whack off about a >> one foot length with a machette, grab it in the middle, and start using >> it. every once in a while when it starts looking kind of pointy (the cob >> will grind it into a pointed tip over time), I grab the machette whack off >> the tip and keep using it (you really want a blunt tip so that the straw >> fibers will get pushed into the layer below, a pointed tip will be more >> likely to go between the fibers without really interlocking the layers). >> When the stick gets to short, I find another one. > > I would have agreed until I read this thread, as your description > matches my approach up until now. But I've often had an aching right > hand after day of holding the "broken stick cobbers thumb," due to the > way you have to grasp it (sort of like holding a pencil _really_ tight > for too long.) So I think I'll try the snowshovel handle (or in my > case, old pitchfork handle) approach, because it seems more ergonomic. > Anything that makes me hurt a little less but doesn't hurt the earth > is an improvement to me :) > > -Clint > > _______________________________________________ > Coblist mailing list > Coblist at deatech.com > http://www.deatech.com/mailman/listinfo/coblist
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