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Friday, 24 October 2008

Let's get down and dirty

Cob oven for cheapskates


Dirt (subsoil) (75% sand, 25% clay is good)
Sand (for the dome formwork)
Straw (cut into pieces)
Water (for mixture)
Cement (for mortar)or mortar mix
Bucket/lid for storage of faggots (small wood)
Old bucket (acts as filling)
Bricks (do not need to be fire bricks)

Step 1
Pick a site to build.

Find the place that is in the sun lol

Step 2
Start laying out your rocks in the shape you want, as big as you want. If I made another one, it would be much bigger.
Mortar your rocks together using a mortar mix.
Keep going and build up until you reach the required height.
I inserted a bucket with a sealable lid to store the wood required to fire the oven.

Step 3
Level the top with sand and lay your bricks.
When the chooks heard I was going to lay bricks they were quite interested. eek

Measure out the dome size according to how many pizza trays or bread pans that you want to use.
Start building your dome. The bucket allows you to fill without using too much sand.

Step 4
When you have your shape, cover in wet newspaper this allows you to see where your mould starts and your cob stuff begins.

Step 5
Mix your cob stuff with a mix of 75% sand and 25% clay and some chopped up straw.
If you are a hippy, you can do the barefoot-on-the-canvas-dance. I am a hippy but an old one. I used a mixer.

Step 6
Make a ball from your mix and proceed to build up your cob layers around the dome.
I made basically three layers:
1 the first was a dense dense thermal layer
2 the middle, a less dense layer with straw and finally
3 the finish layer.

All up, about 60mm thick. Remember, the thicker the wall the more wood (lumber for our OS cousins) needed to warm it up, but then it will keep warm for a long time.

Step 7
Allow the whole construction to dry for a week or two.

Empty the dome out. Note how much sand you used!

There you have it. Finish as desired. I just bunged cob around the base. Looks like a dalek rolleyes

Step 8
Set up your fire (boy/girl scouts should have no problems here)
Light it. You should allow about five hours before the oven is ready for use.
Note, you fire up with the door off. You cook with the door on.

Step 9
It was my first firing and we managed to cook up 4 pizzas (nice), 4 calzone (delicious) and scones (reeeaally nice).

In the collage you may note that the before piccy of the pizzas has a notebook handy.

I kept track of the temp every half hour to see what sort of temps the oven keeps.

If I knew that it kept its heat so high for so long, I would have had more stuff to cook including bread and a casserole or baked veggies.

Maybe next time.

Yours in cobness, Doc wink

9th September 2009
I have edited to add the following because not everybody reads the comments:

After the first firing of burning for 3-4 hours the temp when the coals were raked back and some removed was over 250*c (oven thermometer only goes to 250*c) so:
1130 hrs over 250*c - pizzas in, cook for 3-4 minutes did heaps to freeze for later
1400 hrs 230*c respread coals cook scones and calzone, more coals removed
1530 hrs 110*c
1545 hrs 110*c
1600 hrs 110*c
1700 hrs 100*c
1730 hrs 100*c
1800 hrs 80*c This was now the mass provided the heat as all the coals were removed because I did not have any more food prepared LOL
2000 hrs 80*c
2400 hrs 60*c Good time to roast some veg or a chook etc etc
0500 hrs next morning 20*c ready to be refired if required.

Get stuck in to making the oven and then work out what you want to cook all day and overnight.

Later firings were a lot more relaxed affairs but I did not keep any temps.

How this helps with temperature guides.

Doc wink

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Splish! Splash! I was takin' a bath...

...Using soap that came from a PVC Pipe mould!

If you are a soap maker, here is a handy hint for moulds.

If you do not make your own soap, maybe you should!

Then you could use this handy hint

Anyhoo, grab a piece of uPVC (UV stabilised PVC for outdoors - copes well with the warmth of your mixture when you first pour it) pipe and cut to size.

The size you use will depend on how much your soap mixture totals.

I used 3 pieces of 50mm pipe approximately 300mm long.

There was a lot of science involved in determining those lengths...

...they were all I had lying around

I did not grease the insides with anything. There was a scientific reason for that, too...

...I forgot

Cap an end (the bottom).

Fill up with your fave soap recipe.

Cap this end and leave for a couple of days.

When cool (the tube not you) simply push out to the thickness of soap required and cut.

Ready for storage to dry out and trim up as required.

I made a pusher-outerer in case the soap got stuck but did not need to use it.

It was simply a small wooden wheel with a length of dowel as a long axle.

Easy-peasy uPVC reuseable soap mould.

Try saying that fast after a couple of high quality Australian reds!

Love, peace and mung beans


Monday, 31 March 2008

Tanks for the memories

Raised Garden Beds With tanks
Here is a great idea to use up those old water tanks.

Scarecrow asked/told me that she wanted the old small water tanks cut down to make them into 4 smaller raised beds for her wicker beds (soon to be filled etc).

Easy: Old water tanks
Jigsaw (Sabre saw for our o/s cousins)
Decent metal cutting blades so that you do not place too much strain on your saw

Step 1
Get ya tanks

Step 2
Get ya saw and cut tanks

Step 3
Step back and admire how you now have 4 small raised beds-in-waiting
and you are the one who is going to have to fill them rolleyes

Regards, Doc wink

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sew simple

Sewing Machine Maintenance For The Maintenancily Challenged

Recently we had a near catastrophe at our place.

Scarecrow asked me to make another shade structure.

Whilst she was sewing it on her really neat Janome sewing machine it suddenly stopped working.

It needed some maintenance.


Some sewing machine oil
Silicone spray
Tweezers/forceps (or really skinny fingers) for removing fluff
A rag
Paintbrush for brushing stuff out
Chocolate bar (no job is complete until you have eaten your choccie bar!) cool

Warning: Do not try this if your machine is still under warranty (duh!)

Do not try this if your machine is a computerized one coz it might die!
Do not try this if you are not confident that the world will not come to an end because you took your sewing machine apart!

Click on each picture for a better view.

Step 1

Most sewing machine look pretty much the same. Look at it and see what comes apart.

If you have a manual it will show/tell you what you can access for maintenance purposes.

The three I have are an old Godfrey, a Grand and a Janome model.

Step 2

Check out where the screws are on the top of the machine.

These will allow you to remove the top and see inside most of the workings.

Step 3
With the top off, see what moves.

Lubricate any moving parts with a drop of sewing machine oil or a directed spray of silicone.

The rear of the Grand has a plate that can be moved aside to lubricate some of the workings.

Step 4
Check out the bobbin area.

A bobbin works like this:


As you can see, there are many areas where fluff can jam up the works.

If your sewing machine suddenly stops, bet your life that the bobbin has be clogged up with fluff'n'stuff.

Step 5
Check out the underside of your machine and lube/spray/clean out moving bits.

Contrary to popular belief, it is quite easy to clean up and troubleshoot your machine.

Just take your time and make sure you know how to tension your machine.

Clogged bobbins and incorrect tension seem to be the main causes of sewing machine problems, from what I have seen/heard/read.

Regards, Doc wink

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Don't Fret...

...Scrollsaw upgrades for newbies lol

When I first started scrollsawing I bought a cheapo, Chinese Hegner lookalike for a song (can't remember the song rolleyes).

Firstly, I made this jig to allow me to quickly get my blades the right size for my saw.

Should be self explanatory. Use your saw to cut the shape in a piece of ply and attach that to another piece of wood (lumber to those from the US).

How about a blower? Gosh, makes me sound like a porn site eek

Get a tennis ball. Pinch a piece of Scarecrow's 4mm dripper polypipe and a joiner. Grab a piece of scrap wood from the project-in-waiting box.

Check the piccy to see how you install it here:

Really works, trust me lol

OK. How about an extension table with a zero clearance hole custom made for the table?

Get some wood. Remove the blade. Lay the wood on your saw and draw around the underneath of the wood.

Wack in some slats to hold the table on. Put the blade back and cut your access hole.

Should fit like a glove. cool

What about us oldies who can't see?? lollolrolleyesrolleyes

How about a magnifier?

Grab a couple or ten cheapie magnifying glasses. Take them apart. Get an old lamp with a goose neck attachment and attach the mag glass to it. Take off the top thingy bit of your saw and drill a hole in the top to take the screw part.

Should look like this:

And, voila, you have a cheapo scrollsaw that is as good as a Hegner (well, this machine has been in use since 1986 and is still going strong).

Hope this is useful to others.

Regard,s Doc