Very long build time

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Colin
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:32 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Very long build time

Post by Colin » Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:38 pm

I’m writing here because we have a small issue with the IceBox tool that we purchased from Grand Shelters.
Back in February this year, few short days after we got the IceBox, we went ahead to build our first igloo. We watched the DVD 2 times, read the booklet that came with it (I’ve also read quite a lot of reviews/stories/articles on your website before I purchased this tool) and on a beautiful Saturday morning we started building it.
Long story short, it took us … the whole day (8.5 hrs of continuous work) to build the 9 feet version. Because some pictures are worth many more words, here’s the link on our website that highlights the process: http://www.juliacalin.com/exhibit/photo ... ng&u=219,0
Even though we thought, “Okay, this was our first time and that’s why it took us so long”, I realized that IT’S A LOT OF WORK TO BUILD AN IGLOO. It’s an awesome sleeping place (quiet and warm, even though humid without lighting candles) and I know that we were 2 persons building the 9” (3-4 persons) version, but still.. 8.5 hrs !

Later that month we gave it one more try: http://www.juliacalin.com/exhibit/photo ... g&u=219,19
First time we had perfect fresh snow, not too soft, not powder, just perfect. Second time we had the powder snow, very hard to compact it enough so it would hold when you slide the IceBox off.
Second time we tried to build the 8 feet igloo and in 3 hours we barely finished … the first layer.
That first layer for the 8 feet igloo has about 15 bricks. In average, each brick took us 10 minutes to build (setup the box, align it properly, compacting the snow in, removing the box and moving to the next brick). That mean 150 minutes + 30 min or so for small breaks = 3 hours !
In 3 hours we were supposed to finish the whole igloo!

I calculated there are about 50-60 bricks to build for the whole igloo. To finish the igloo in 2 hrs (in your manual says “Build time is approx. 1-1/2 to 3 hours depending on snow quality and quantity”), you need to build each brick in … 2 min !

That means 5 times faster than what we did, so obviously we’re doing something terrible wrong… 
I’m not sure how you can help us, but we could definitely use some tips or advice on how we can build an igloo in 3 hours and without collapsing exhausted at the end…
Colin
1 Igloo built to date
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May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart” - Eskimo proverb

Hiatus
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:29 pm

Re: Very long build time

Post by Hiatus » Fri Nov 28, 2008 12:34 pm

Colin,

I feel your pain! I think speed (and effort for that matter) is a function of experience. I bough an Icebox last January. I have built three igloos to date, two with my brother-in-law and one solo. I haven't finished one yet in under five hours. I hope to hook up with Ed sometime this winter to get some tips on how to speed up the process. The Icebox is definately not for one nighters. I planned to use my form to support future back country ski trips. Ski into a bowl, build a home, ski a few days in the same place rather than transit through.

The other thing I did last winter was post the lat/long of my igloo for others to use. That was before Ed started up this forum. Last winter my bro-in-law and I hiked up Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park with the intent of staying two nights. We spent about 5.5 hours building the igloo finishing right at nightfall. We didn't stay the second night because my bro-in-law didn't sleep well due to neck surgery early that year. Rather than waste all the effort I posted a notice on the RMNPforums web site for a slightly used igloo. Had two people inquire about the igloo. One family used it about a month after it was built. Second guy said it had sagged too far for use after about 1.5 months.

I plan to do the same thing this winter, build an igloo in the BC then post a notification of availability on this forum. Ed, can we start a thread for posting igloo availability?

Colin
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:32 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Very long build time

Post by Colin » Fri Nov 28, 2008 6:25 pm

Hiatus wrote:I feel your pain! I think speed (and effort for that matter) is a function of experience.
I'm glad I'm not alone in this... :D
Even more than the speed, what troubles me a bit, is the amount of effort. I.e. you can't really do much else the day you build an igloo... :(
But as you say, probably everything (speed and tiredness) will get better with experience.
I hope too that Ed will post here some tips on how to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time. In an email to him with my inquiry that I posted above, he replied that the "top speed" is indeed 1:30 min - 1:40 min !
He's out this weekend (building an igloo probably), but he said next week he'll be helping us, the beginners.
Can't wait.
Colin
1 Igloo built to date
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May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart” - Eskimo proverb

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Igloo Ed
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Re: Very long build time

Post by Igloo Ed » Mon Dec 01, 2008 7:46 pm

Well Colin, let's give it a go. I'll make some observations from your pictures and will help you a lot that way. I'll also draw some conclusions from the pictures and what you've written. Please tell me when I am wrong.
You said that it was taking 10 minutes for each block because the blocks were breaking and I think this was because you were packing the block and letting it set long enough to sinter well enough to move the form. If all is done right, the form can be moved immediately after filling and packing it full.
In this picture, you are using a tool to pack the snow. You need to feel the snow lock up when packing and a tool severely limits what you can feel. Gloves work well for feeling but the snow melts between the fingers and gets the gloves wet. I use mitts so that doesn't happen. I can't feel and manipulate my fingers and hand as well with mitts but it works well enough.
HandPack.jpg
If there are any hard chunks mixed in with the loose snow, pushing those chunks into the snow will fracture the block. When using mitts, one can feel the chunks and pack around them and not push them into the block. A tool will not work for this, guaranteed.
In that picture you are also in an awkward position and prone to jiggling the form. It's better to kneel so you are steady and can hold the form steady. But then I'm thinking that you were both in that position just for the picture?
The shoveler should be outside the igloo while putting snow into the form.
In the next picture you are both in the correct position but using the wrong type of shovel. You should also be holding the shovel with opposite hands. Your right hand should be where you left one is so you can get the snow into the form easier.
DumpSnow.jpg
The packer should also have her left hand on the corner of the form holding it steady while packing with her right hand.
With the correct type of shovel the snow can be pitched into the back/bottom corner of the new block. This packs the snow some and makes it easier for the packer. Sometimes though, the snow is so fragile that it needs to be poured into the form like sugar or sand. If it is pitched in just right, the snow will impact into the corner and spread evenly putting even pressure on the Outer Panel and the Inner Panel. This takes a precise pitch and will only work with the type of shovel you are using in the first picture.
With the shovel you are using in the second picture, you'll need to dump the snow and it will fall of in a clump impacting the form someplace. This will break the block. Also, when the clump falls, the shovel may become unwieldy and tap the form. This will also break the block.
In this next picture, you should be kneeling and straddling the pole being careful not to sit on or bump the pole. Your left hand should be on the front inside corner steadying the form while you pack with your right hand.
PackingPosition.jpg
In this next picture, the shoveler should be standing on the other side of the form and pitching into the back corner of the form. The impact of the snow should hit the previous block and the block below. Sometimes when I don't have a ledge all the way around the igloo the position in this picture is used and if that was the case, she is holding the shovel with the correct hands and twisting the shovel the right direction to dump the snow.
ShovelingPosition.jpg
The hand that you are packing with should have the fingers toward the End Panel and the heel of your hand toward the last block. The corners by the End Panel are packed with the fingertips.
In the next picture I see all kinds of snow laying around that should have been used to build blocks.
SweepSnow.jpg
It should be swept up into a pile just outside the form and shoveled into the form from there. This tends to make me think you were walking to get the snow and just picking up a shovel full and putting it into the form. When it's the dry snow, it helps a lot if the snow is swept over to the igloo. This conditions the snow a lot and it packs easier. All that snow that you've been walking on will pack very nicely as long as there aren't to many hard chunks in it. If there are chunks, pile the snow up and stomp on the chunks to break them up.
The only time the snow should be picked up and placed directly into the form is in spring slush conditions where working the snow makes a clump before you put the snow into the form.
Sweeping a pile up just outside the form should only take a little more time than it takes the form handler to reposition the form for the next block and enough snow should be swept over to complete the new block. This saves a lot of time by not walking to get another shovel full.
In the Advanced forum and the "Filling and packing the ICEBOX® on lower layers" thread there is this explanation on how to pack the first bit of snow put into the form "The form handler then packs the snow into the corner on the inside of the form with one push directly into the corner created by the form, the previous block and the floor or layer below.
This push shouldn’t break the other blocks, but should move the inside form about 1/8 or 1/4 inch towards the inside man.
After the first initial push, the next push should be towards the outside back corner of the form and should spread the form about 1/2 inch."
This spreads the form and puts it under tension so it is more ridged/firm and it makes the form stay steady so the blocks don't break.
One thing to make clear is that the form can't move at all when packing the rest of the block. It will spread a very tiny bit when packing but hardly noticeable. If the form is visibly moving, the block is being broken, guaranteed.
Hopefully this sheds some light and opens a few more doors and questions from you.

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Igloo Ed
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Re: Very long build time

Post by Igloo Ed » Mon Dec 08, 2008 9:08 pm

Hiatus wrote:I plan to do the same thing this winter, build an igloo in the BC then post a notification of availability on this forum. Ed, can we start a thread for posting igloo availability?
My thanksgiving igloo is a solo 7 footer and is located at N40.3070W105.6595
I'll see what I can do about an igloo available forum.

Colin
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:32 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Very long build time

Post by Colin » Sat Dec 13, 2008 10:29 am

Thanks Ed for all the detailed explanations.
We'll will try to apply all these next time when we'll build an igloo, which is probably gonna around New Year Eve, since we haven't got too much snow so far in Toronto.
Colin
1 Igloo built to date
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May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart” - Eskimo proverb

Ben
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:23 am
Location: Fontana, CA

Re: Very long build time

Post by Ben » Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:35 pm

I just had to comment on this one since I went through this and am now building igloos much faster. I have been building a couple igloos a year since 2004 and the first few took all day. I think we made all the mistakes Ed pointed out above. But also, one that he did not mention, but I see in the pictures, is your blocks are just too perfect! Each one looks like it went through a QA inspection. ;) I tease because that is how my brother builds each block and it’s just too much. The ICEBOX is pretty forgiving as long as you get the angles right from the beginning. All of Ed’s pointers above are spot on. I would read the manual AFTER building each igloo, and that is how I learned all those nuances of correct form that are in there, but somehow missed the first few times you read the instructions. Of course you can build an igloo with just a basic understanding, but if you are going to go fast you need to know how to load the form, fill, pack, sweep piles, etc. Just for a little encouragement I am attaching a picture of my last igloo. These three girls ages 11 – 14 built an 8’ igloo in less than three hours. They built it entirely themselves, I only coached them. Notice the ugly blocks, but they are standing in the right places, and holding the form and shovel as Ed described. And you absolutely have to SWEEP your piles ahead of your next block!
snow-fresno 027.jpg

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Igloo Ed
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Re: Very long build time

Post by Igloo Ed » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:19 pm

Ben wrote:These three girls ages 11 – 14 built an 8’ igloo in less than three hours. They built it entirely themselves, I only coached them.
I've had that a couple times where all I need to do is coach and it is amazing how fast you can get them up to speed if they are willing to listen. Mostly though, I am building the igloo with the person I'm teaching and it is a lot of work doing my job and a lot of their job showing them how to do it. I'm getting pretty good at teaching though and I don't suffer as much as I used to.
You mentioned the perfect blocks that Colin was making and it does make things go easier if they are correct but it must become second nature so it doesn't slow one down make perfect blocks.
If all else fails though, you can call the manufacturer to get advice. Just bring a cell phone. ;)

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