Learn to Build a Binde

Why should you build a binde?

In many traditional communities, food is cooked over an open fire. This method of cooking consumes large quantities of firewood and often produces large amounts of smoke, which with repeated exposure can irritate human lungs and eyes. In Colombia, most campesinos cook food over an open fire. They position 3 stones so that a cooking pot can be balanced over an open fire.


In an effort to reduce the amount of firewood that is consumed we began to look for alternatives. In our search, we discovered the “binde,” a small cook stove that was traditionally made from a termite mound. Campecinos who cooked using bindes said that they burned less fuel than cooking over an open fire.

The challenge with the traditional method of making bindes out of termite mounds is that it required going into the forest to find a termite mound, bring it back to the village, and fashion it into a binde. The problem with the traditional binde is that although they conserved more fuel, they wouldn’t last very long, often cracking and disintegrating with repeated use. So the team of Proyecto Tití worked on a project to make bindes better, and that is what we want to share with you!

We’ve developed a method of making bindes that significantly reduce the amount of firewood that is consumed. Our studies have shown that a family of 5 uses on average 15 logs a day when cooking over an open fire, but when using a binde you burn on 5 logs a day! And the even better news is that you can burn just about anything in a binde (corn husks, yucca tassels, etc.)!

Our hope is that more communities will begin to use bindes as a method to conserve forested habitat. We have provided information on how to make a binde as well as an evaluation form for you to complete. We would love your feedback on this information and hope that you will share your stories with us on how more communities are using bindes!

Primary ingredients:

  • Clay (free of natural debris)
  • Sand (fine with no debris)
  • Water

These easy step by step instructions will help you make your binde!

1.  Collect Clay – The color doesn’t matter.  What’s most important is that it be smooth, moist and malleable. It should be free of rocks, sticks, roots, etc. Generally, clay found near rivers is cleaner.


2. Collect Sand – The sand will be mixed with the clay to make it easy to work with.

3. Remove any sticks, stones or roots from the clay.

4. The sand needs to be free of stones, debris, etc. Use a sifter to separate sand.

5. Mix together equal parts clay and sand. Mix well so that the sand is not visible.


6. Form a “mound” on a flat surface or table. Form an indentation in the center of the clay/sand mix and add water.  By pouring water in the indentation, this will prevent the water from running off the surface.  Mix and knead like bread dough, making sure to eliminate air pockets.   Air pockets will cause the binde to crack when it is fired. The mixture should be moist, but not wet, so that you can begin to shape it into coils.


7. Begin to form coils, adding small amounts of sand if clay is too wet or sticky.  How do you know if you have the correct consistency? If your finger sticks when gently tapping the clay, more sand needs to be added.


8.  Continue to form several coils, rolling until smooth.  Finished coils should be approximately 5 cm wide and 30 cm long.


9. We suggest using a heavy piece of plastic as a base from which to build your binde. This will allow you to easily remove the finished binde from the surface.

Begin to shape coils into circles. Place coils together, gently overlapping edges. Continually smooth over attachment points and take care to remove all air pockets.


Once the coils have formed the base of the binde, begin to lay coils so that a conical shape is formed.


10.  When the height is approximately 10 cm, the coils should be set at a wider angle, forming an inverted cone.


11. When the basic form is complete, use a wet sponge or piece of cloth to smooth and shape the binde, always supporting the opposite side of the clay. Take care to remove all air pockets.


12. Attach 3 small pieces of coil to the inner opening at the top of the binde. These are what the pot will rest on while allowing smoke to escape. These attachments also allow for different sized pots and pans to be placed on the binde.  Remember to smooth over.


Alternatively, you can cut three rectangular openings from the clay using fishing line, wire, or strong thread.  The remaining steps show a binde with the rectangular cut-outs.

13. Using a knife, cut a trapezoidal opening in the bottom of the binde.  This is for wood placement when cooking. Insert your hand in the binde and push the clay out from the opening and smooth over.


14.  The final height is 15 cm. Width at bottom is 30 cm.  Width at top is 25 cm.

This size has been suitable for most cooking pots in Colombia, however, these dimensions are not the only size for a binde; larger and smaller bindes should be built proportionately.


15.  The binde should be left to dry in the shade for a week.

At this point, if the binde was not made on plastic, use a fine wire to separate the clay from the surface, sliding underneath the binde.

WTC Colombia binde construction project 39

It’s now time to fire your binde so that it will be ready for use!

16. The bindes should sit under the sun for 2-3 hours to acclimate to the heat before firing.

17.  If a kiln is not available, you can build a makeshift kiln…


Lay several sticks down to form a base on which to place the bindes. Build a covering with more sticks and kindling, which should burn easily. Finally, encircle the “kiln” with more sticks as if building a tent.


or use a wood-burning oven. In either case, let the fire burn itself out.


18. Take care when removing bindes from fire or stove. Use tongs or sticks to remove and let cool.

19.  Knock on the sides of the binde (as if knocking on a door).  It should sound light, like porcelain.  If the clay sounds heavy, it has not fired enough and will crack easily when heated.

20.  Your binde is ready for use!   To prolong it’s usefulness, keep it away from water (eg. hot water spilling from a pot).  We recommend that you do not use water to extinguish the fire in a binde. Either let the fire burn itself out or pull the logs out of the binde to extinguish them.

Enjoy your binde and know that you are helping to conserve forest habitat every time you use it!