Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Last Sabbath

Praise Jah!

We are done with the rammed earth part now.

Today was underfills. The final two.

Martin and John were our helpers today and thank Jah for that! Today the bobcat stopped working (and Jim was at work!) John and Mike got right down to it and figured out the fuel line was pinched. With a pull pull here and a push push there they got it back up and running.

More statistics and wrap up to come soon.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday the 28th. 70 some odd days later

Apparently there is a forest fire in Winthrop, WA. We are just about 100 miles from there and it's raining ash. Wow.

It was Megan and Bibo on column. See one, do one, teach one as they say. Megan and Bibo have now seen and done. Now it's time for them to teach.

The "VDB" was removed, revealing a perfectly formed and perfectly delightful opening.

Here is a shot of the back of the house. If I were king, I would madate that all future permanent structures be built of rammed earth and that taxation would be based on the number of colors in your house. The less colors, the more your taxes.

Fred's tree has peaches.

Our friend Marci and her animal companion Romeo are here for a visit. Marci lived in Bodrum Turkey for 6 months. Oddly enough, the day she arrived here, our friend Mark returned to Hoboken from a 10 day trip to Turkey. In the magificent Islam Art and Architecture by Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius, one can't help be struck by the power of the Islamic architecture in Turkey during the hay-day of the Ottoman Empire? Who (at the time at least) was ahead in the building-as-high-art sweepstakes? I mean really, how can you compete with the Hagia Sophia, the Bayazid Camii, the Sultan Selim Camii, the Sheheade Complex, the Suleymaniye Complex, the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque, the Rustem Pasha mosque, the Selimiye Mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Camii (or Blue Mosque) and the Topkapi Palace? Each one is more remarkable than the next!

I don't know if there is much rammed earth in Turkey. Marci? Mark? Any idea? I betcha Paul knows...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

today is thursday and july is almost over

It was hot again.

Wall K revealed.

And the underfills--oh the underfills. A little bit Franz Klein with a little Morris Louis (and maybe a little Lebenden Toten for good measure.)

Tomorrow a column. Then underfills. Then?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


7 + 2 + 5 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 6 = 22
2 + 2 = 4

The material.

First, pre mixed material (1 part lime stone tailings, 1 part 3/4 minus, 1 part sand) is delivered by reindeer from the north pole in 12 yard bundles. From that, a pre determined amount of that material is placed on the pad. We usually mix 2 yards at a time.

Next, cement is added to the dry mix on the pad.

Pigment and a special pixie dust that 'retards' our cement are also added.

Lastly, a small amount of water is added to activate the cement and to lubricate the particles so that they may be rammed into a solid matrix.

At that point, the material is ready to be transported to the formwork. Today, that was the underfills on the west side of the house.

Tomorrow we do wall K. The last of the giants. After K, there is a column and two more underfills.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Said the electrician...

Today the electrician stopped by. He looked around, paused and said:

"if it were my house, I would make the walls all the same color."

No merci, mon ami.

Monday the 24th.

One Two Three!

Number one: A happity hap happy birthday to Camilla! As a present? Your very own Caustic Resin Mix CD! (I know I know, I can hear your shrieks of excitement from here!) But hold on girlfriend--there a catch: you have to come to the site and get it. While you're here, you can see what Grant's been up to.

Number two: As earth builder Simon of British Columbia pointed out, "the method of connecting the form-ply is lacking."

Simon, you are absolutely right. Mind you, what we are doing here is known in the "industry" as "DIY" or "Agricultural Formwork" (I know I know, I can hear your shrieks of horror from here!) and as such, there's bound to be a little lack here and a little lack there--even in the explanation. I've also been told in no uncertain terms that "DIY" or "Agricultural Formwork" is dangerous, unreliable and prohibitively expensive to all but the richest of the rich, but that's another conversation for another blog.

To connect the form-ply, we use flat bar. Steel flat bar as opposed to aluminum. (Anyone remember steel? I hear it was once made in North America.) One of the fun things about steel flat bar is that it costs $0.40 a foot. One of the not so fun things about aluminum flat bar is that it costs $4.00 a foot. (I don't know why people would use aluminum flat bar to connect their form ply either.)

A channel is routed into the form ply and then the steel flat bar (or spline) is inserted. Form ply with a similar channel can then be placed with some measure of security and accuracy on top of one another.

Number three: What does that say and what does that mean?


and wall K

are next.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday the 21st.

Today it was H O T! (Did I spell that correctly?) Maybe you can see the thermometer, maybe you can't--either way, it got to 102 degrees.

In that sweltering heat stood a big empty box waiting to be filled with 14,000 lb of soil that required ramming into a solid matrix.

It got done. We absolutely, 100% certainly, couldn't have done it without Bibo, the new employee of the month!

A little about Bibo:

1. Bibo speaks two languages fluently and eloquently--except for when he is working. On planet Bibo, work time (which starts in the morning) is for working. Talk time (which starts after work time is complete) is for talking. It's a great system, one which served us well on this most extreme of days.

2. Bibo spent last night in the "drunk tank." Too bad he wasn't my high school guidance counselor, or he could have instead spent the night in a comfortable guidance counselor office thinking of ways to demoralize and mislead children, like mine used to do on those nights when he would "work late."

3. Despite spending the night in the drunk tank, Bibo showed up, on time, ready to work. And work he did, non stop until the job was done. Furthermore, Bibo was both entirely functional (exceptionally so) and absolutely pleasant to be around for the entire (11 hour, 102 degree) day.

4. Bibo is a punk rocker.

Perhaps some of you are wondering "what is this punk of which you speak? Is punk a hair-do? Is punk something I can buy?"

In one of the Dead Kennedy's great works Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Jello Biafra made it very clear: "punk ain't no religious cult, punk means thinking for your self." And while that is absolutely true, there is another component to it: Punk is spending the night in the drunk tank, showing up first thing in the morning, working an 11 hour day in the 102 degree heat without a complaint and at the end of the day, hanging out and painting your bicycle green.

The moral of the story: Next time someone with a GG Allin vest (made from a pair of pants) and a Discharge tee-shirt comes looking for work, SNAP THEM UP.

Tomorrow we'll get back to the procedural minutae...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

thursday the 20th's step by step break down part 5

16. Aside from pleasing the Gods, the strongback (that's the big vertical thing in the middle of the photo) provides a place for the walers to sit. What are walers you ask? They are the horizontal boards that get pressed against the form ply to keep them from bluging out from the pressure of the rammed earth. The strongback also adds support--and does so right in the middle of the wall, where it nees it most. By fastening the strongbacks at the same distance from one another at the top and the bottom, the notion is that the wall will obey and maintain the desired dimension.

17. Here Grant puts on the first horizontal waler.

18. Meanwhile on the otherside of the wall, the other strongback is set up. Ready rod is secured into the footing

19. The strongback is set up--it is secured at the top and the bottom. Now the front is ready to recieve the walers.

20. One waler

21. Three wailers

thursday the 20th's set by step break down part 4

13. This process of combining and adding form ply continues until the 'back' side is covered.

13a. Here is an 'inside' view.

14. Because this wall is as long as it is, we need to use a 'strongback' to appease the Gods. Because the grade is lower on the outside than it is on the inside, Grant built a small throne upon which our outside strongback shall sit.

15. Here is the strong back sitting on its throne. A piece of 1/2 inch "ready rod" is affixed to the foundation and passed through the strong back. Through the magic of nuts, we are able move the strong back close to and away from the form work as necessary.

thursday the 20th's set by step break down part 3

9. Once the braces are put at the top, more braces are affixed enabling fine tuning in the other direction (forward and back as opposed to left and right)

10. As you can see in the above picture, the turnbuckle side of the braces are sitting on the ground; there is no nice concrete into which that by now familiar 'piece of wood' can be set. Here is where we drive 'sidewalk pins' into the near record compacted earth on the inside of the footing. Dedicated readers of this blog might remember the post with the bent sidewalk pins. Anyone out there ever bent a sidewalk pin?

11. Once the braces are all set and 'tweaked' into position, it's time to put up a course of formply. The formply sits on its own shelf on the footing. The footing is for the most part level, and so putting the form ply right on the footing usually yields a level reading.

12. Because this wall is longer than 8', we needed to connect two sheets of formply to span the distance. We connected the two using a 'spline' that fits into a pre-routed channel. Unfortunately that aspect of the building process was not lovingly documented today. Pictures showing splines and how, with them, form-ply is connected are forth coming.

thursday the 20th's set by step break down part 2

5. In order to affix pieces to wood to concrete (or puddled earth) you must use the 'hammer drill.' The hammer drill puts a hole through the wood and concrete. Into this hole, a length (a bit longer than the depth of the hole) is inserted. Into that hole, where there is now wire, a 'duplex nail' is driven.

6. Once the pieces of wood are affixed to the concrete, the turn buckles can been affixed with screws. This works best with pink shoe laces, though I understand red-yellow-green shoe laces work equally well.

7. Once the turnbuckle side of the brace is set, it can affixed to the top of the end panels. Now the end panel can be adjusted in (and out) of 'plum.'

8. That entire process is repeated on the other side. Now you can see where 'wall I' (or 'wall-eye', or walleye) is located. Windows are on either side--and as an aside, it is the window opening that must be precise. The wall can be any size. This one is roughly 116 inches.
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