Rethink Your Life!
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The Work of Art and The Art of Work
Kiko Denzer on Art

[Cob] factory waste vs nature

Tim Nam tkn317071 at
Tue May 13 20:06:17 CDT 2008

I'm jealous too...assuming its safe, which, as the original author pointed out, someone was okay with their children eating it, I'd say that's pretty good. Sounds like ideal plastering material.

We're to the point where even plastic water bottles, WATER bottles!! leach chemicals into the water we drank all these years...sigh. The choice is either complete paralysis or educated risk management and hoping for the best.  

I would definitely build with that clay. 

With regards to where to get clay, I haven't actually made anything with cob yet, but the trench for the footing of our strawbale wall yielded a good pile of clay. The trench for the footing of anything I might build with cob will also yield a good amount. Then again, we're here in the clay rich region of the Willamette Valley. I'm even considering sifting out a pile of dead turf its so clayey. Will it be enough to build with? we'll see, if I ever get around to it.

I totally agree with using waste products as a resource. In fact, it is one of my passions.  I'm trying to figure out how to start a post consumer waste composting cooperative.  

The concern, however, is this: take for example, gathering firewood after a clear cut. While this might be a good utilization of what would just get burned in a pile anyway at the site, we still don't want too many clear cuts, any at all, if you ask me. So the question in this case is in the big picture is veegum manufacturing good or bad? Is it sustainable?  I don't know, I'm asking.

But as long as its there now, happy cobbing!


billc <billc_lists at> wrote: At 8:06 PM -0700 5/11/08, Kristi Shapla wrote:
>Wow, I never dreamed our little art guild bench and mini house would 
>cause such a stir! 
>The factory starts with white clay (from Nevada) and sand, extracts 
>minerals for toothpaste, etc, and is left with white clay and sand 
>minus the minerals.  We got 10 gallons of it today to play with.  It 
>is pretty wet, and mostly clay.  So, we will add dray sand to make 
>up for it.  But it is gorgeous stuff. 
>It makes me feel better that there are people who are actually more 
>phobic of modern materials than I am.
>However, I still see no reason to extract huge amounts of clay from 
>the environment if I have two semi truckloads of this each day at my 
>fingertips.  let's not be so exclusive that we end up creating more 
>destruction.  What if every person in America suddenly wanted to 
>build a cob home?  Where would we get that amount of clay without 
>creating more ecological destruction?  I know that would never 
>happen, but if everyone thought that way, it would be no better.  I 
>believe the biggest revolutionary ideas are how to use what we have 
>in excess, at hand.  Does anyone believe that 6 billion people can 
>live completely naturally on this planet? 
>Besides--NO SIFTING!!!
>I can't wait to see what white clay looks like in cob, I have only 
>seen and worked with red cob.

As some have pointed out, you might want to check what the factory 
does to it to extract what they extract to be sure that what you're 
getting is safe.  Sounds like it might be OK, but I'd hate to build 
something important with it and then discover that it contains some 
nasty substance.

I'm of the mind that the waste streams of society can often be viewed 
instead as resources.  As Tom Watson (of "watson wick" wastewater 
system fame) so elegantly puts it, nearly every creature in nature 
has its mouth attached to some other creature's anus - one being's 
waste is another's food.  If we as a society can make use of those 
"waste" streams, then we can eliminate much of the waste.  Each 
industry's waste would be resources for the next, in a continuous 
network, just like real biological life works. does this kind of thing in the real world.  They've found 
that typically when there's a problem of too much of something, you 
can eliminate the overabundance while creating new jobs or new 
industries with the application of some creative thinking.  See their 
case studies for some examples.

It sounds to me like you may have found an excellent material source 
- cheap, abundant, and hopefully clean and safe.  I'm kinda jealous. 
Where are you located?  ;-)

Bill Christensen
billc at

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Tim Kijoo Nam
Corvallis, OR
tkn317071 at
"We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live." -Socrates