Thursday, June 28, 2012

Windswept week five arrived, washed us ashore, weather-beaten but spirits unbroken. Monday and Tuesday we finished the floor to the future workshop, tossing in the occasional odd window and door; the effect of doors and windows without walls is surreal and pleasantly disorienting.

Wednesday morning, into the woods, to search for willow with which to fashion flourishes. The mud was thigh deep and the return trip with our willow hoard was the most survivalist-like adventure since at least our plaster machine-gunning days, but the effect of the willow on, for example, Jo and Joe's respectively professional and amateur rails, below, was well worth the wary wavering and wearying warring.

What else? 2 beautiful sets of stairs leading into the workshop, and frames for the light straw clay to nestle into snugly. Much of this performed in Thursday's biblical gales, which did not abate and were not placated by secular prayers or curses.

Easygoing Friday. Paul, suffering from a rare bout of agenbite of inwit, brought about by the Dickensian conditions under which we were forced to labor on Thursday, treated us to a morning movie, "Natural Building and a New Sense of Earth," starring Paul Dillon as the young bearded lad and featuring Joe Klodzinski's left shoulder. The remainder of the morning was spent prioritizing the long term needs and features most salient to our respective dream homes, and discussing nascent design proclivities. We were then given an early leave, to pursue reunions, repatriations and Joycean epiphanies, and yes we said yes we will Yes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This blog is from the week starting the 4th of June... Well they say a picture tells a thousand words, I don't have a picture or probably not a thousand words either so we'll see how it goes...... This week we put down the suspended planked floor on the workshop. We started off by laying 3 rows of 6" x 3" timbers on top of the pillars which support the upright posts. It took a bit of time to get all of these level and level relative to each other. When they were all set in place they were bolted into the upright posts with threaded bar, washers and nuts.

Next up was to lay the 5" x 2" floor joists perpendicular to this. They were notched into each of the beams an inch down to keep the overall height of the floor as low as possible so Paul wont hit his head on the cross beams.... This gave us a nice bit of chiseling practice and a bit of a chance to use the chainsaw for accurate cutting to make the initial cuts before chiseling out the joint. We then layed down the floor joists and fixed then in with two 90mm screws into every point at the beams..

I hope its all taking shape in yere imaginations! Finally the 6" x 1" floor joinsts were put down, pre drilled with brad nails driven home to secure them, we left a gap of about 2 or 3mm between each board so that swelling of the boards could be taken into account.. There was some tasty shaping of the planks done around the post uprights to give a clean finish.. Thats about it and if you had no idea what i have been on about I am sure some pictures of the finished floor will appear in next weeks blog.. goodluck

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

After a well-deserved three-day weekend, the mud bandits were back in action during the week of May 29th.  We finished the plastering on the big house by Wednesday, took a deep breath, and began the process of extracting lime from our hair and clothing--no small task!  It was quite rewarding to step back and see both coats completed; plastering was truly a team effort that allowed us to gel and find our rhythm working together.  For the next 72 hours, we had to be sure to keep the house watered (thanks especially to Paulina!)...this task of snaking the hose along the labyrinthine scaffolding was worthwhile because it prevented major cracks from forming in the plaster.

Next, we moved on to the A-frame structure that was erected last internship season.  This building is to become a place for a composting toilet and shower, replete with a splendid view of the property, yellow wild iris included. In the A-frame, we laid floor joists, nailed down floor boards, and framed up the doors.  Notching joints in round wood beams above your head is tough stuff, but it's a quick way to become accustomed to using a chisel and rasp!  We also got to scribe around the round wood posts so that the end floor boards could be fitted.  Jo and Paulina also began constructing a smart set of stairs going up the the A-frame.

Finally, on Saturday, Paul treated us to a short course, affectionately known as Tool School.  He covered the basics of safety equipment: ear muffs (especially handy for hammering in floor brads!), goggles, gloves, the tool belt, and--most importantly--one's own head.  We also practiced power drilling, sharpening and honing chisels and knives ("Pull to hone...push on stone!"), and using the chainsaw.  We also finished nailing down the floor in the A-frame--a prime opportunity for practicing hammering.  As Paul says, "It's a wristy action."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

 Our first week here was preparing for lime plastering, by mixing cob to repair a few little cracks that had happened in the cob walls since they were built. So we had fun mixing the cob by foot in tarps and also put the scaffolding up around the house, complete with tarps and hessien strips to shade the walls, and protect them from the elements. Then we covered over the wooden beams, and boards under the eaves of the building with plastic. At the end of the week we had a bit of time and made ourselves the cob oven with adjoining bench, that had the startings of a Romford fireplace at the other end of it.

 Paddy preparing the bottom of the wall for plastering.


Taylor and Greg hard at work.

Paul in charge of the hopper, spraying the plaster on.

Jo plastering up the side of one of the windows.

Next week we started on the plastering. It was our first week of Lime plastering and the Irish weather was kind to us, as were working outside and putting a weather-proofing 2 coats of lime plaster on the whole of the outside of Paul and Thereses' house. We used a hired big cement mixer, so we could make large amounts at a time, which would speed up the process. We also used a compressor, which was borrowed from Ken, Pauls' friend who is our stone masonary teacher. With the compressor we had an attachment called a hopper/applicator, which was fillied with the lime motar and which you could hold and would spray the mortar onto the wall. So one person sprayed on the mortar with another person filling the hopper for them. Then a team of us came behind and with some handmade wooden floats and some plastic floats we smoothed and flattened the plaster, trying to get it to an even thickeness and following the shape and contours of the cob underneath. An important task for one person was to go around the house with the hose and spray the walls with water before the plaster was sprayed on, and then at intervals throughout the day as it was starting to dry out. This was especially important as it was a dry, mostly sunny, and windy week, and one of the important things we learnt is that the lime mortar as it is drying/curing needs to dry out very slowly and not loose it's moisture content too quickly, or it will tend to weaken and crack. Lime mortar unlike cement can take years to dry and set completly, and it will eventually turn back to lime stone or close to it.
   So as a group, we all took it in turns to make the mortar in the mixer, to spray it on the wall with the hopper, to float it and to do the finishing down the sides of the windows and doors and along the bottom and tops of the walls. (We had to cut bits of old insulation, that fit tightly into the window and door openings so that they didn't get sprayed with the mortar, then they were taken out and moved to the next opening after we had moved past them with the hopper. Then we could finish the gaps around the windows and doors where the insulation had been.We did this by hand, using trowels and hawks, starting at the top of the reveals, or sides of the windows and working downwards.
The lime mix we used was put into the mixer in this order: 3 full buckets of sharp sand (e.g. river sand which has sharp unrounded edges) then 1 bag of lime (2, 2/3 buckets). Then 1 handful of synthetic fibres then another 3 buckets of the sand. Lastly the water was added a little at a time to let it mix in before adding more. It worked out 1-1,1/2 buckets of water per mix. then this was left to mix for about 20 minutes before it was taken to be used. Ken came and helped us out some days too and gave us some tips and a few of us made our own woden floats, which was a fun process.

Joe, Paddy and Greg working on the last bit of the house to be plastered.

Finished plaster as it starts to dry.      

This first coat of plaster was about on average about 25-30mm thick and at the end of each day of plastering we scratched the surface of the plaster using a special float with 3 screws sticking out of the end of it which are evenly spaced. and when rubbed gently over the surface of the plaster leave parallel scratch marks. this was done in semi-circular patterns and gives the surface a slightly rough finish, which gives a key for the next coat of plaster to stick to and also helps decrease the risk of cracking.
The 1st coat was finished at the beginning of the following week and the second coat was applied ontop of it using the applicator again, but with a thinner covering of about 15mm of plaster. Exactly the same process was followed apart from we didn't scratch the surface of it, and just finished it mostly using the wooden floats, or in a couple of places sponges, where we couldn't get the floats into. We also took the plastic off that was protecting the woodwork and cleaned down all of the woodwork and windows and cills etc.

Leila, who was an intern from 2011 also came to helps us for a few days and joined us in the plastering and our first swimmimg trip to the Loch and also our first pizza party (including Leilas' dessert pizzas) for which we were joined by some of Pauls family for a lovely evening.  
There had been a few dramas in the first 2 weeks, including Bonnie the dog losing the tip of her tail in the door of the mobile home. But on the whole I think we worked long days, but shared some fun times, great food  and got to know a bit of the local area.

A well deserved tea break, being enjoyed.