Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Part 7: Plaster

The form of the building is almost complete and now for the artistic part! It's time to plaster the mud brick walls to help protect them and add strength and beauty to the building. First we learned about the different components that go into earthen plasters and the purpose of each layer: base or scratch coat, and finish coat. The clay we are using is a beautiful red, so the exterior will be plastered with a rough coat only for the time being. The mix for this one is 4 clay: 3 rice husks: 1 sand and water as needed (if the clay wasn't pre-soaked, it was about 4 in that ratio). On the interior we will have at least two coats, and a lime paint in some areas. We are also carving niches and doing a bit of sculptural work on the interior.
Creativity abounds!

Learning (through all the senses) about our materials

making sample "cookies"

the mudpit dance
Teresa and Martha really know how to work it!

Stevan shows us how it's done.

Benito window detailing

Peter builds up a corner

how many plasters can you fit on a wall?

the underside of the arch is the trickiest part!

Benito Steen really knows plasters and it's great to have him as out instructor
Oi carves a niche

three niches follow the stairs--

simply can't to plaster these, stay tuned for more pictures!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cob Oven at the Wildflower Home

I was invited to teach a cob oven workshop at the Wildflower Home, a center for young mothers in crisis, whose mission is to help lead these women towards self-reliance.

I was quite nervous to be teaching in a foreign language, but it went quite well leading by demonstration and the women had a total blast.

Part 6: Thatching

Peggy teaches us about the local grasses used for thatching. This is by far the most common way to roof your home in this part of Thailand.

The grass is wrapped around a piece of split bamboo and tied tightly to it.

We use strips of bamboo to fasten each section of thatch on to the roof framing.

We thatch from the bottom up, each layer is about 4 iches above the previous row.

Thatch is a great way to roof in the tropics because hot air that accumulates in your home can natural vent out, while any rain that hits the material will run along the blade of grass and drip along the edge only. This system lasts quite long, the thatch will only need to be replaced about every five years.

Part 5: Roof Framing

the roof takes shape

sitting on the top of the wall while installing rafters

Jackie, adding notches when needed

the framing is built directly into the mud brick walls

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Part 4: Reclaimed Wood Floor

spreaders buried at the end of each joist

leveling the joists

fitting each floorboard

packing the space behind the blocking with clay straw

a beautiful reclaimed wood patchwork floor

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Part 3: Arches

Probably the most fun aspect of using adobe is building arches. These make great door and window openings. And they the surprisingly strong and can bear a lot of weight. First, build a wooden form and support it at the level you want to start the arch. Then as you build arch the form, use a string attached to the center point to keep track of each brick's alignment.

You can also use stuffed bags to build a form.
In the case of our largest arch, that worked just fine!

Testing them out once they are dry is so much fun!

Part 2: Making bricks and Walls

Welcome to the mudpit! The great thing about adobe bricks is that it's really easy to make the mix. You can use the clay in just about any hole you dig on the property and since we will be using a form to make the bricks and letting them dry in the sun, we don't need to worry about too much moisture in the mix. Thus, the pit becomes a creamy slurry and only requires simple walking around in it to mix well. This is also the same way we mix the mortar! For the brick mixture however, it is good to add a fiber component if you have one available. Adding fiber such as straw will increase the strength of the bricks and also make them more light weight. We added rice husks once we could get them.

Each brick will be 4 x 8 x 16 inches, so that we can use them in a variety of different positions. Packing the mud into forms...

Staring to lay the courses...
And probably the hardest part of it all... getting the bricks from the brickyard to the building site! We make it a group effort and have about 30 minutes of passing brickis on a 'brick line' each day.

The building takes shape!