Learn to Build with Adobe

Adobe master Ben Loescher sent us a quick note about some upcoming classes that he’s organizing in and around his Pioneertown headquarters:

Making Adobe:

  • The next session of our monthly, half day Making Adobe class in Pioneertown is coming up on Sunday, August 21st. Just a couple minutes from both Sand to Snow National Monument and Joshua Tree National Park, we’ll spend Sunday providing a condensed introduction to making and building with adobe brick. Our final two session this year will be on September 25 and October 23th. Register here, bring your friends, make some bricks, build a wall and have a beverage at Pappy and Harriet’s when you are done (beverage not included).

Adobe Residency:

  • Our first, month long Adobe Residency runs weekdays from October 24 through a series of progressive workshops that will show folks how to build an adobe structure… from start to finish! The four week program will be taught by noted adobe educator Kurt Gardella in beautiful Pioneertown, California. Register here!

Five Day Classes:
Not ready to commit? We are also offering weeklong classes concurrent with the residency that can be taken a la cart.


Got something going on? Have a project and want to host a workshop?:

Drop us a line! We’re anxious to hear about new projects, preservation efforts, classes and folks doing recreational or professional adobe work in California. There’s a lot of folks that we have yet to meet!

Office to Kayak

Root Simple reader Kate alerted me to a boat building project that is both resourceful and poetic. London-based artist John Hartley figured out a way to turn some crappy office furniture and used suits, what he calls “post-industrial, post-bureacratic flotsam,” into a smart looking Greenlandic-style kayak. He has thoughtfully posted the project as an Instructable so that we can all make our own “Contingency Research Platform.”

Judging from the huge amount of post-bureacratic flotsam at my local Habitat for Humanity store, there’s a lot of potential in turning office furniture into building materials.

You should also check out his hilarious low-fi, DIY GoPro.

For more thoughts on building Greenlandic kayaks, Hartley suggests taking a look at Yostwerks.org.



How to Build Walls with Pallets


Adding 2x4s to the ends of a pallet.

Los Angeles is famous for its flotsam and jetsam. Mattresses, rotting couches and headboards accumulate, forming urban coral reefs under the blistering sun. It’s difficult to figure out a use for these objects other than as art. For utilitarian needs, such as building walls, we must turn to the many pallets that also litter our streets.

pallet house

Sketchup model by Ron S.

But pallets can be tough to work with. The wood splinters easily making disassembly a tricky proposition (watch the Garden Fork TV pallet breaker video if you want to go down that route). Famed internet pallet guru Michael Janzen, of Tiny Pallet House, proposes leaving your pallets whole and adding a 2×4 to the end to make them into a kind of building block. The 2x4s can be new or salvaged from broken pallets.

With the added 2×4 you can construct walls, fences, compost bins etc. It’s an elegant solution to the pallet conundrum.

pallet wall

Sketchup model by Ron S.

Cutting pallets and staggering them with whole pallets adds to structural integrity in a wall.

Not all pallets are equal. Some are odd sizes and some are made out of better wood than others. For a wall building project like the one in these Sketchup illustrations, it would be best to find a stack of similar pallets.

Have you built with pallets? Tell us what you’ve made in the comments.


Saturday Tweets: DIY Kayaks, Maps and Dragon Anatomy

Two Podcasts You’ve Got to Hear: Thinking Trees and Rewilding


The Oostvaardersplassen, an attempt to rewild a very unwild place in the Netherlands.

In case you can’t get enough of our podcasts, let me suggest two other podcast episodes that will definitely be of interest to Root Simple readers and listeners:

WNYC’s Radiolab released an episode, From Tree to Shining Tree which features the mind-bending research of Suzanne Simard. Her work shows that the root systems of forests form a sort of neural network, perhaps even a kind of plant consciousness.

The always worthwhile and thoughtful Ideas show has an episode on Rewilding, the tricky notion of returning landscapes to a “natural” state. One of the examples in the show is an attempt to rewild a region in the Netherlands that was reclaimed from the sea in the 1960s. I’m very familiar with this place from a bizarre, failed project I was involved with that attempted to create a monumental land art piece with explosives. Someday I’ll tell that crazy story, but let’s just say that this part of the Netherlands is probably the most dull landscape in the world. The Ideas show begins with the story of Ecologist Frans Vera introducing wild animals to this very artificial place. The show goes on to explore what “wildness” means. Spoiler: that’s a topic that will never have a neat conclusion.