Building and photographing a snow igloo

11/01/2010 - 21:22

If you have a downfall of snow, don't just roll a snow man, try something a bit more building an igloo.

Not only do you have a dose of fun with a session of fitness thrown in, but you also have a lesson in design & build and, once complete, you'll feel a great sense of achievement.

I'd never built an igloo before, so decide to have a go and, as building isn't my forte, I expected problems. Here's a break down of how I did it. I would say only attempt this if the snow's sticky. If it makes great snowballs when squashed in the hands it should be fine, if it's too powdery try baking a cake or something less frustrating.

Build your own snow igloo - the first layer of the wallBuild your own snow igloo - making a snow brickplastic container to make snow bricksStep 1 Find a suitable snow brick mold. I used a plastic storage box from Poundland
Step 2 Fill the mold with snow, packing it down tightly with your hands to make the brick more solid. Make sure you compress the edges too, so it doesn't crumble when you take it out of the mold. I used my thumbs to compress the corners and my foot to press down the center.

Step 3 Turn the mold upside down and gently shake the snow brick out.

Step 4 Walk around in a circle to map out the size of the igloo. I made a small one of about five foot diameter. Remember, the bigger you go the more work involved. Remove any lumps of ice so the base is level.

Step 5
Place the first brick on the circle mark.

Build your own snow igloo - pack the joinsBuild your own snow igloo - halfwayBuild your own snow igloo - the wallStep 6 Make another brick and butt it up to the first one, following the path of the circle. Pack snow into the gap where the two bricks join.

Step 7 Repeat Step 6 several times, making your way around the circle. Stop before you get all the way around back to the first brick so you leave enough space for a suitable width doorway.

Step 8 Place your next brick on top of the first row so it covers the join of the first two bricks below and is half way over each. This staggered approach is how walls are built. Repeat this process, adding snow filler between bricks and below so any cracks are filled in. Use your finger to push the snow into the cracks and fill the gaps you make.

Step 9 When you've gone around the second layer you should be left with half a brick gap at the doorway. Push some snow into the mold and press up against one side. Keep packing it in so half the mold is full and it's all compressed to the one side. Place this in the gap on the row and pack any cracks.

Step 10 On the third layer start the bricks from the edge again so they overlap the brick joins on the second layer and emulate the first layer. This time also step the bricks inwards by an inch so the circle becomes slightly smaller.

Build your own snow igloo - the final stage of roof Build your own snow igloo - shaving off excess snowSnow brick wedge shape Step 11 Repeat Step 10 for the fourth layer, stepping in with the bricks again so the circle is becoming even smaller towards the top. This time also angle the bricks so the surface slopes in to the center. Use snow to pack the gap made by angling the bricks.

Step 12 Repeat step 11 on the fifth and future layers increasing the stepping effect and making the slop more exaggerated. The idea is to keep building up the wall and reach the middle and the center bricks will end up vertical rather than horizontal. Make sure you have plenty of snow to hand to pack the gaps and stop the bricks slipping. It's also worth having an assistant inside the igloo to hold the bricks up and pack from inside while you take care of the outside joins. You will notice the angles the laid bricks create are no longer 90degrees at the edges so you will need to shave off the edge of each brick so the edge is angled inwards to match the gap. You may need to angle at the sides and bottom. I used a garden cane to shave off snow, but a sharper tool, such as a bread knife, may be better.

Step 13 If you did it right you should end up with a small hole in the center with enough room to add three more bricks that are almost vertical. Make sure these are packed tightly with compacted snow.

Step 14 One more brick to add and you'll then be left with a small triangle gap. Pack the snow into one corner of the mold and work outwards to create a triangular wedge. This will need to be pushed against one side of the hole while you pack the other two sides with snow and make the wedge secure and complete the dome.

Igloo - creating the tunnelBuild your own snow igloo - insert last pieceBuild your own snow igloo - inserting brickStep 15 Walk around the igloo and pack any missed cracks with more snow. Go inside and pack any missed gaps there too. I left mine with gaps between the bricks so I could photograph the lights spilling through and give shape to the bricks, but from a none photographic project you want it full to stop any drafts and hopefully allow it to stay up a few days longer.

Build your own snow igloo completeStep 16 Now to make the entrance tunnel. I used two length of bricks for the tunnel and staggered them up on each new row. Near the top rotate two bricks 90 degrees and place them across the two bricks below to create the roof of the tunnel. Pack all the gaps with snow. And if you want an arch pack the steps on the outside and inside so it creates a smooth curved wall.

Step 17 Enjoy your igloo. Some people sleep in them, but knowing our weather it will thaw through the night and crumble down on you. (please note don't try to sue me if you are buried alive)

Alternative step
As a photographer one reason for spending over four hours building this was to illuminate it at night. I tried a candle but the glow was too weak. I used a torch but painting the inside was tricky and didn't give a strong doorway light so I ended up using a power extension cable and a reading light placed in the center of the igloo.

I metered to give correct exposure for the light at the tunnel entrance so the wall looked correctly exposed, and used flash to fill in the outside of the igloo. The glow from inside is a lovely orange from the tungsten light and the flash has provided a neutral tone on the outside wall, giving the shot a wonderful "lived in " feel. I then cloned out the power cable.
Igloo lit with reading lamp and flash


11/01/2010 - 22:31
Awesome :) When are you having the housewarming :)

And I love the night shot!
12/01/2010 - 01:13
So did you sleep in it?
14/01/2010 - 19:33
Thats brilliant, i'd love to try that, I bet the kids would love it, ha ha

31/07/2010 - 15:49
Thats bril! Love the way you done it block by block. I got to your site threw epotozein. My name is drayl002
12/02/2012 - 15:08

i wanna try that!
Gerry Weatherhead
04/04/2012 - 10:04
How warm and cosy !
Jane Bailey
04/04/2012 - 13:43
Council will be round for their council tax if they find out!
Anto Guerra
11/12/2017 - 19:29
Wow PB you surprised me all the time! All the time interesting!!! Unique! Fab! Briiiiiii!!!! Eres mi persona favoritaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! BHaggwersyon

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