Rammed earth candle holders

The 10th of December we celebrated my girlfriend´s birthday. I wanted to give her something special, something that I could make with my own hands. One morning, sitting on our kitchen table and drinking coffee, I came up with the idea of making her a rammed earth candle holder.

Sofia loves candles so, why not? I have been working with earth for more than a year now, and bringing my work home is not a strange thing; she could only love this or hate it 😛

Thankfully, she liked the holder a lot (at least she said so … perhaps because I made it?). In the end I made a couple more as a Christmas present for her family.


About the form, I was trying to create a similar shape of candle holders I have seen in many shops of Gothenburg, some of them of glass, others of concrete. Why raw earth? In my opinion the texture is just beautiful; earth does not burn, it is a durable, recycled and ecological material.

So here is what I did. First, the tools: some of them I had from previous workshops, some of them I had at home, anyhow these tools are really easy to get. Tools

The tricky part can be the earth composition. What you can do is go to a building site and take some buckets of non-contaminated dig out earth (since you don´t want organic soil), usually contractors have no problems with you taking some of their “dirt”. Once you have some soil, the next steps are piece of cake; the ramming goes really fast, one person could make four holders in about an hour.

Many Pots

Take some paper and spread oil inside the mortar so the earth won´t stick to it while ramming. Then put earth into the mortar and start compressing. You can use a hammer, wooden sticks or whatever you think is easy to compress as hard as you can. Remember to do the candle whole while ramming (use wood or any hard material to create the shape). After finishing ramming you don´t have to wait to take the pot out, it is ready!


Here is a short video of how you can tap the form to get the compressed earth out:

Rammed Earth Candle Holder

If you want to be precise with the earth composition, is 30% clay and 70% aggregates (sand and gravel); since you will not make walls or bricks, it is recommended to take away the big stones. The soil needs to be wetted, around 10% in volume compared to earth.

In my opinion this can be a good present, so those of you with last-minute-Christmas-presents syndrome … start ramming! Thanks for visiting our blog, we would appreciate your comments. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!


Rammed paper workshop

I posted earlier about experimenting with rammed paper (see post here). I left a flower pot of rammed paper outside over the summer to see if it would keep it’s shape. And it did! Since it proved so successful we decided to have an earthLAB workshop around rammed paper which took place earlier this month. The method is basically to shred the paper in water with a rotary blade, then squeeze it to a proper dampness and than ram it carefully into a mold. Here are some pictures from the workshop!


rammed paper group photo retouch


Rath House and Mud Skyscrapers

Many times people ask me how high can you build with earth. Well, for instance, one can take a look at the 1000 year old earth-built skyscrapers in Yemen http://www.earthbagbuild.com/brief_history.htm.  Now, I have not been in Yemen yet, but last year, my friend Shea and I went on a trip in search for the tallest earth building in Germany: the Rath House. It was built around the year 1850 with rammed earth (compressed soil into a formwork), the house is 6 floors height and it is a combination of loadbearing earthen walls and timber structure.

By the way, if you see a tiny man in the left corner of the picture, that, my friends … is Shea Hagy.