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Part 1: Earthen Plaster Summary — 7 Comments

  1. I stumbled across this fascinating video, so I’m dropping the link here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTVbt6wih8Y

    Am I the only one that finds this type of investigative attitude toward old structures fascinating? I think it’s very cool to see the process of digging into an old structure and discovering the details of its construction.

    In any case, I hope this gentleman keeps posting videos. I hope he gets enough traffic to feel is videos are worth posting. In my humble opinion, many old structures need to have this type of video documentation before many old techniques get completely lost among the commercialized industrial products. There always seems to be a few unique details inside any old structure just waiting to be rediscovered and brought back from the brink of extinction. Of course, earthen plaster is hardly unique. It’s used nearly everywhere if one bothers to look. However, the various specific details about how different structures have used it is worth documenting. In my humble opinion, this is the type of documentation deserves recognition and encouragement. I wish more people would take the time to share information like this.

    Check out Charles Robertson’s YouTube channel. Additional interesting videos can be found there.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/tomfool43/videos

  2. THANKS FOR THE INTERESTING DATA! I AM HOPING SOMEDAY TO BE ABLE TO GET ENOUGH CASH TOGTHER TO GET A FEW ACRES SOMEWHERE IN TN OR KY AND PUT SOMETHING IN THE WORKS!! UNFORTUNATELY ITS STILL IN THE DREAMING AND HOPING STAGE!!

  3. Daniel Chiras, who co-authored a book on natural plasters, has this to say about ingredients:

    Do not use topsoil. You screen out the large and small rocks add water and voila! you have a plaster. You only need a subsoil with 5 to 7 percent clay to get a good plaster in most locations. You’ll need to test your subsoil first, however, to be sure the mix is right.

    The recipe for earthen plaster that Janine Bjornson, the plaster expert at http://www.greenhomebuilding.com, recommends for a finish plaster is:

    2-2.5 fine sand
    1 pure clay
    1/4 flour paste
    The clay for this is bagged pottery clay (Kaolin). If you use wild clays the recipe will vary. You will need to do tests.
    I have applied this to flat smooth walls and have it stay on for years, no problem.

    Both of these recipes use much less clay than Owen is recommending, so obviously there is a very wide range of soil mixes that will work.

    • One thing that maybe wasn’t totally clear is I used clay soil not 100% pure clay. The clay soil we used is also used to produce high quality compressed earth blocks (CEBs). This helped convince me the clay was stable and would be excellent plaster.

      Also, I double checked and the Steen’s at CanelorProject.org use clay soil to sand in the same ratio of 2:1. So like you say, there’s a lot of variation and people will have to experiment a bit to find the right mix.

  4. Hi Owen
    Was Googling folks I know last night and found your site. This morning as I am digging in pure clay, fashioning clay animals as a break from the heavy-duty work of redesigning a garden, I took a break to review your site. found this lovely piece on earthen plaster.
    Your work is exciting, relevant and beautiful and mostly a huge contribution to this consciousness shift in our environment.
    Congratulations and thanks for all you do.
    Wendy

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