Looking for new Solo Building tips/videos

Information and tips on building solo igloos.
Paul C
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Looking for new Solo Building tips/videos

Postby Paul C » Thu Jan 01, 2015 5:32 pm

I watch the CD and all of PineMartyn's videos (thank you for sharing those) but they seem to be about 2 years old. In reviewing posted comments there are additional hints and some specific places in the construction that need careful adjustments for the solo builder. It would be great if instead of hunting up the various sources, there would be one step-by-step pdf file or video putting them all together. Because, unfortunately, amazing but true, some people don't appreciate playing in the snow and I'm pretty sure this shelter building will be a solo endeavor for me.

I have a specific question about the ridge around the igloo. It looks like it isn't so much a built up ridge as it is you are digging out the snow around it and the "ridge" is actually at the floor level of the igloo. I wonder if it would be useful to make double thickness first layer walls so you could stand on the outside layer as you go up?

I read about creating the ramp by partially filling the form. With the "traditional" igloos I've built, I just made a circle of full sized blocks then used my saw to cut a ramp from three or four of them (it only hurt a little to cut perfectly good full sized blocks). Given estimates of 1/3rd and 2/3rd fills, Would it be just as easy/quick to make full sized blocks and just cut the ramp?

There seemed to be more concern about moving the form, because of pivoting, when one person is handling things. But I recall reading/hearing that the toggle was only necessary for the first layer to get the starting lean. I'm wondering if additional bracing arms going from the pole to the left/right edges of the interior wall would provide useful additional stability for the solo builder?

I haven't built a lot of igloos - three or four - and I used a shovel and snow saw. I packed down the sleeping platform and a "quarry" area I used for cutting blocks. I would cut a group of blocks, place them, then cut some more. As the top converged, I would cut blocks from my path inside the igloo and use those blocks inside. I was excited to see this tool and its promised uniformity of blocks and precision of lean/taper inward.

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Igloo Ed
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Re: Looking for new Solo Building tips/videos

Postby Igloo Ed » Thu Jan 01, 2015 9:00 pm

Paul C wrote:I watch the CD and all of PineMartyn's videos (thank you for sharing those) but they seem to be about 2 years old. In reviewing posted comments there are additional hints and some specific places in the construction that need careful adjustments for the solo builder. It would be great if instead of hunting up the various sources, there would be one step-by-step pdf file or video putting them all together. Because, unfortunately, amazing but true, some people don't appreciate playing in the snow and I'm pretty sure this shelter building will be a solo endeavor for me.

The solo building isn't that bad for some. I hear back from customers saying that their first build was a solo. I actually believe it is good to do it solo, so one can spot all the little things going on.
I've done quite a few solos but still learn little tricks. The fastest solo was a 7 footer in two hours with just about the perfect snowball snow and an 8 footer in 4 hours with good snow but not the sticky stuff.
I have a specific question about the ridge around the igloo. It looks like it isn't so much a built up ridge as it is you are digging out the snow around it and the "ridge" is actually at the floor level of the igloo. I wonder if it would be useful to make double thickness first layer walls so you could stand on the outside layer as you go up?

I'm 5'7" tall and I could so it from the ledge if I was a few inches shorter. Some people have added the layer you are talking about and I'm sure it works but that is a lot of snow to move. It seems the usual problem is customers don't realize the importance of the ledge and it isn't there when they need it. It also needs that crisp/sharp corner along the wall to put ones boot edge into so he can lean on the igloo without having his foot slip out from under him.
Also, if you build a 7 ft. solo, the igloo is so short there is no problem at all reaching the top.
I read about creating the ramp by partially filling the form. With the "traditional" igloos I've built, I just made a circle of full sized blocks then used my saw to cut a ramp from three or four of them (it only hurt a little to cut perfectly good full sized blocks). Given estimates of 1/3rd and 2/3rd fills, Would it be just as easy/quick to make full sized blocks and just cut the ramp?

The 3rds ramp doesn't need to be real accurate, the closer the better but it all works. More important is the fill level of the form for the full blocks.
There seemed to be more concern about moving the form, because of pivoting, when one person is handling things.

On the lower levels, the form is filled full and then packed down through. The form needs to be held steady and in position while packing the snow. The rest of the block filling and packing is easy as the form doesn't move anymore once it's locked in place with snow.
I think the pivoting you are talking about is on the upper layers after the Outside Panel is removed. That is tricky.
From the outside, I put a little pressure on the top leading corner of the Inside Panel while holding a shovel of snow in my right hand. I put the snow into/onto the form and pack it into the corners formed by the last block and the lower block to the Inside Panel. This snow must be sinterer and remain sintered after removing the pressure of the left hand. If all is done correctly, the form panel will not pivot. I grab another shovel of snow and put the pressure on the top corner of the Inside Panel again before dumping the shovel of snow on again. Once the form is filled across the pivot point of the Toggle Handle, the form will stay put and not pivot.
The top rows can also be done from the inside by shoveling a pile of snow into the igloo and working from the inside. The Outer Panel can remain on much longer when filling from the inside. That makes it easier in the form pivoting thing.
But I recall reading/hearing that the toggle was only necessary for the first layer to get the starting lean.

The toggle does need to be released on the first course and sometimes the toggle doesn't need to be released. That takes some good conditions though with some strong snow and blocks being built right so there is no interference in moving the form. On the 7 footer, I can reach into the igloo and release the toggle until I take off the Outside Panel. After the Outside Panel is removed, the toggle doesn't need to be released as the form moves easily.
I'm wondering if additional bracing arms going from the pole to the left/right edges of the interior wall would provide useful additional stability for the solo builder?

A rubber band going from the pole to the top corner of the Inside Panel might work to keep that pressure on the corner.
I haven't built a lot of igloos - three or four - and I used a shovel and snow saw. I packed down the sleeping platform and a "quarry" area I used for cutting blocks. I would cut a group of blocks, place them, then cut some more. As the top converged, I would cut blocks from my path inside the igloo and use those blocks inside. I was excited to see this tool and its promised uniformity of blocks and precision of lean/taper inward.

The hard part is just learning the feeling of packing the snow.

Paul C
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Re: Looking for new Solo Building tips/videos

Postby Paul C » Thu Jan 01, 2015 9:18 pm

Ed, Thank you for your comprehensive answers. I'm sure there is a matching video out there somewhere, even if I have to make it myself :)

I also like solo building unless the other person is really into it. Otherwise, there is a lot of explaining (stalling) and redoing work is physically and psychologically tiring.

Once I had a sailboat with a full cover canvas shroud. At first, a person could get lost while fastening it on from underneath. But after three times putting it on, it fit nicely with no confusion. Then I had a friend help and he kept stopping to suggest they print arrows on the underside of the canvas indication what goes where. I told him that if it just did it a couple of times it would just become "see-do" and nothing else was necessary. I'm guessing that once I use the form two or three times, there will be a huge increase in my understanding.

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Igloo Ed
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Re: Looking for new Solo Building tips/videos

Postby Igloo Ed » Sun Jan 04, 2015 6:16 am

I lost all my camera/all my possessions in our flood a little over a year ago now. I won't be making a video but perhaps my camera phone will be good enough to get some pictures of the solo building. I think it even has a video feature but don't know how to use it.
Yes, once you build an igloo, more things will click when you read the manual. I've heard that from countless customers.

Banff Martin
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Re: Looking for new Solo Building tips/videos

Postby Banff Martin » Mon Jan 05, 2015 10:10 am

Paul C, I feel I should tell you that your most likely mistake to be made is not having the correct angle for the 1st level. If this happens you have to start over. =( My solution has been to duct-tape a torpedo level to the end panel next to the line matching the igloo size being built (while the tool is indoors of course). I'd tried a plumb-bob with some success, but the level is far better for solo building.

Second to that, I can tell you that if you build a 7', you'll have to keep a 5lb pull on the upper left corner of the form to keep the blocks lined up. The degree of pull reduces as the size increases - there is no tug needed on the 11' model.

I solo-build differently than Ed does; I load from the inside, solo or with a crew. I fill up a large construction-type Rubbermaid bucket with snow and have it to the right of me while I self-load (I'm right-handed). This may mean a certain shovel selection to work for you - a slightly shorter one than a loading partner would want. You could use another manner of container, but I like the bucket as I can drag it in through the trench & up onto the floor after level 3 is done. (before that I refill it from over the wall)

Also in the special tools section, I use a modified milk jug to load in the last layer or two of blocks as the shovel gets cumbersome in the tighter angles. Just cut off the bottom, duct tape 2 popsickle sticks an inch up from the cut on the outside, and tape over all the edges.

I hope your first build goes well!
If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right!


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