I wanted to have a fireplace in the garden that would allow our guests to stay comfortable,
so I made a Chimenea, the Mexican wood burner, not from clay or adobe but from concrete!
I was told imported Mexican chimeneas were popular here for some time a couple of years ago but the clay is not really resistant to this climate. Water would seep into the cracks, the bottom would fall out at best and at worst they would explode. (Not a pleasant thought.)
I would buy a proper one but they are not available cheaply here and besides, where is the fun in that?
Large amounts of clay were not easy to find cheaply and while searching the web I read about ferrocement: plastering ordinary Portland cement on a mesh of chicken wire. With this interesting technique one can create all kinds of forms that are very strong, cheap to make and relative to its size reasonably light. Because is is very labour intensive it is not widely used but during both world wars the shortage of steel they constructed ship's hulls out of the stuff, the largest being the SS Selma that weight 7500 tons. (!)
This inspired me to try create my own chimenea from chicken wire and cement.
For the design I was inspired by this Instructable by Tim Anderson of his chimenea made from an old propane tank . I wanted it to resemble a Maori tiki face,
complete with paua shells for eyes. The pupils are formed by holes in the shells and the concrete wall so they will flicker with the light of the fire, just like Tim's chimenea.
Step 1: Get the components
My favourite is The Wellington City Landfill's Second Treasure Shop, a wonderful source of materials and inspiration.
Price list (new & used in $NZ)
from the Landfill's Second Treasure Shop
1 bar stool $3
1 meter black stove pipe $5
1 black cast-iron pan lid $1
1m x 20cm black stove pipe $3
15m 2.1mm steel wire $2.99
10m x 90cm galvanized chicken wire mesh $44
(Alternatively, use Expanded metal, might be cheaper)
60kg ready mix cement mortar $36
1kg iron oxide cement coloring $11.50
from the $2 Shop
1 Pink Skippy ball (or 'space hopper') $2
2 black wigs $4
big and small buckets
from Muritai beach
2 small Paua shells for the eyes
15 or so Paua shell fragments for decoration