“….there are fundamental architectural truths and functions which can be incorporated into almost any building and the fewer permanent manifestations we employ beyond those basic design elements, the more we might leave the structure open to variations in it’s potential use, and this point is worth considering in a building design.”
Civil planning has always been one of the most challenging undertakings here at turkeysong. As an example I designed the same 120 square foot building repeatedly after moving here. I kept moving it to different sites and using different materials and shapes. So really it wasn’t the same building at all, it was just intended to have similar functions. But what were those functions? I couldn’t always figure that out either! What would happen in and around that building in the future? Who knew? That building has now morphed into a larger structure known as the cottage which is essentially an almost square box with a loft, which still remains without a known long term use. It’s not that we were just building something merely for no reason, but its intended early use is no longer relevant and the potential long term use seems somewhat dubious at this point, all within the space of a few years.
“Does the building serve us or do we serve the building?”
At one point I was inclined to use cob for that building (a material of clay, straw and aggregate much like adobe but used to sculpt buildings rather than to make bricks). I planned and drew a lot and even started excavating a totally inappropriate spot for it which I eventually had re-assembled by a bulldozer that was handy. At the time I was reading Michael Smith and Ianto Evan’s excellent book The Hand Sculpted House and ran across the recommendation in Ianto’s design section to sculpt your house into specific use niches to take the greatest advantage of a small space (I really do like this book and highly recommend it to anyone considering building with cob, but I couldn’t resist the title re: this annecdote. I am also friends with Michael Smith but, alas, no one escapes critical analysis, and I hope I won’t either :). The idea is that you can, with cob anyway, build in very specific shapes as areas for very specific uses like a desk or a sitting area, kitchen, phone etc… With this approach you eliminate “wasted” space or space that is, as the author put it, “use neutral” or having no specific use. Read more »
Adventures in Chinese slate: In which I find myself intimately engaged with the harbor freight of slate. :(
When I was preparing to move here I started trying to collect building materials in earnest. I was looking around for roofing tiles and ran across a pile of roofing slate for sale for $400.00 I was intrigued and called around about slate roofing prices to see if it was a good deal. It sure seemed like a super good deal. The guy said the slate was originally from China, was left over from a large job, and had to be gone by the next day. Our land partner at the time went and picked it up in his ford pickup with a rented flatbed trailer. The trailer brakes weren’t working on the trailer and he had to navigate rush hour bay area traffic with 8000 pounds of slate. When I talked to him on his way back to ask him how it was going he said… “well, you couldn’t drive a pin up my ass with a sledgehammer right now!”. Lesson number one: slate is heavy and trailer brakes were invented for a reason. Later, the truck overheated on the way up the hill with half that amount of slate.
When the slate was unloaded we sorted out all the cracked and broken pieces. I got a copy of the slate roof bible which has all the necessary tables for calculating coverage and I figured I had almost 10 squares (a square is 100 square feet of coverage when all the tiles are overlapped properly). We framed up a building a couple years later with plans to put the slates on it. We milled the wood and built the structure to support a slate roof with full 2×8 rafters and a 1 inch deck (probably overbuilt).
I did all the necessary research and planning bought some slaters brackets, a slaters hammer, and a slate cutter. I had to move all the slate again to get it to the building site and in doing so (now knowing slightly more about slate and getting down to the nitty gritty) I tested every slate by ringing it which means I tapped it to see if it sounded dull (cracked) or bright. I guess in being shipped from China- then moved to the distributor— then to the job site—– then to where it was stored afterward——- then to our friends garage——— and then here———–, a few slates broke. I re-calculated and found that my original estimate was off anyway and that with the broken slates out of the picture I was in the neighborhood of 5.5 squares and I need 6.66 squares for my roof! After going through the stages of loss or whatever its called… anger, denial, grief etc…. I reached a state of annoyed acceptance. Oh well, live and learn. I would just have to put this slate on a smaller building. So I moved it again. Lesson two: Slate is still heavy and an accurate estimate of coverage and quality would be in order. (and its hard to pull your hair out when you have dreadlocks ((is that good?)) ) Read more »
LIME SQUAD! II: THE SLAKING
Having burned some sea shells into quicklime in photoessay part one, it was time to slake the shells into lime putty.
In the morning we went out to the kiln all excited and grabbed a few well-burned-looking shells for a quick experiment. We put the shells into a dish and crushed them lightly with a spoon and added water. In order to turn into calcium hydroxide, a.k.a. lime putty, quicklime has to undergo a chemical reaction with water which creates a good deal of heat. Well, our quicklime just sat there cold in the water, no churning and boiling :( what a let down… After getting over our initial disappointment it seemed just not right that our lime didn’t react. The shells were completely white through and through. So, we put the shells and water on the stove to heat a bit and that seemed to slowly kick off the reaction and eventually they broke down into lime putty. That was encouraging, but it wasn’t time for the champagne yet.
I had pretty much decided that we should use hot water to slake at this point, but considering the time and energy we had invested so far we wanted a more informed opinion. I called Jeff Price at Virginia Lime Works who generously spent a small piece of his morning in the pursuit of my edification in regards to lime and lime burning. Sure enough, he recommended hot water to start it off when using shells because the structure of shells is less conducive to the slaking process than the structure of stone. The up side is that shells make more lime putty than an equivalent amount of burned stone. I took my page of notes and was ready to rock.
The burned shells were added to an old wine barrel pre-charged with hot water. Read more »
LIME SQUAD! I: A PHOTO ESSAY ON LIME BURNING
I’ve been interested in lime for a while now. I use it in tanning hides and I want to use it in building. Lime is also used in processing corn into hominy as well as masa for tortillas. Doing things completely from scratch always interests me, so project buddy tonia and I set out to burn some lime and see just how much work and fuel is required for what results. The following is a photo essay on our first lime burn, but first a few thoughts on lime, lime burning and lime users.
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE BASIC PROCESS
Limestone or shells (Calcium Carbonate CaCO3) are burned for a time until they are calcined, that is reduced to Calcium Oxide a.k.a. “quicklime” (CaO). This releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The lime is now what is called quicklime and it is quick… quick to react with water in an intense chemical reaction creating heat and converting the lime to Ca (OH)2
To make dry hydrated lime, which is more stable than quicklime, the quicklime is sprayed with just enough water to cause it to undergo most of its reaction and crumble into a powder after which it is bagged. Hydrated lime is used as an admixture to increase the workability of portland cement mortars which, even with the addition of lime, are horrid to work with. Other people use hydrated lime as one would use lime putty that is mixed with water to form a lime “paste”.
To make Lime putty, the quicklime is mixed with a larger quantity of water whereupon the stuff boils like crazy and turns into calcium hydroxide, Ca (OH)2. Lime putty remains as calcium hydroxide as long as it is kept from air under a cozy blanket of water. Under water it only improves with age.
When the lime paste or putty is used it must be dried slowly. As the lime dries, it reabsorbs the Carbon which was driven away from it in burning back out of the atmosphere turning back into limestone (CaCo3) . So, the lime putty is used wherever it is that you need limestone such as in mortar, lime concrete, plaster etc… How cool is that? Read more »