Saturday, June 13, 2009

Papercrete Recipes updated September 16, 2014

This update is overdue.
My recommendation for papercrete at this point, after a few years of experimentation, would be to start with that good ol' three parts substrate to one part Portland cement mix. Since the days of my mower-towed "mini-mixer" I have dabbled with using cellulose insulation, peat moss, vermiculite, and sand as substrate and have come to rely on the three to one mix, substituting one substrate for another depending on it's use.The recipes I posted years ago made for a weak mix. Two parts paper to one part sand to one part Portland cement would be a better starting place. I mix smaller batches by hand these days. The papercrete wall in the picture is covered with a heavy layer mortar made of sand and Portland cement and laced with either joint compound or builder's lime added for plasticity. Both the wall and the sculpture still stand. Just remember that everything posted here is in the spirit of experimentation.
Thanks for reading.

Building A Papercrete Wall, Part 1

What I'm about to say would have probably been obvious in a couple minutes anyway, but I'll go ahead and say it.
I know little about building.
The angels generally protect me, though they are not beyond letting me spend some extra money. The 8x16 ft. shed I constructed about twenty years ago probably has more wood in it than my house does. If there is ever a tornado, that shed will be the place to go.
On the other hand, it's still standing despite it's many structural insufficiencies.
Admittedly, I had to replace the roof.
Anyway, one day, I know, my luck will probably run out.
Meanwhile, I thought I'd try building a wall with papercrete.
My footing was some old cement blocks that were laying around. My plan was to drive some old metal fence posts, which were also laying around, through every other hole. The post would support the wall, which I imagined would be light and perhaps a little more flexible than conrete. After I filled in the holes in the blocks with concrete, they'd keep the papercrete a few inches off the ground.
I purchased what they called a "mini-load" of sand from the local sand mine. The guy dumped about a fifth of what he had in his front loader into the bed of my fabulous 1990 Ford Ranger and, I swear to God, the bumper was touching the ground. So...I didn't get much for my $20. Still, as long as I didn't break down on the way home, it was cheaper than buying it for $3.88 a damned 50 lb. bag from Lowes.
Back then, I was still towing my papercrete mixer with my truck. Actually, this was my very first batch of "industrial" papercrete. Prior, I'd mixed it by hand with a 5 gallon bucket and used it for sculpture.
I soaked my old newspapers in a trach can for a couple of days. It was December, and not particularly cold unless you had your poor old hands in cold water shredding newspaper.
I couldn't wait until summer, though.
I was excited about this project. My little cat Dylan Thomas, who is since deseased, hung out with me that day. It was a good time.
I used slip forms to make my wall. I made them of plywood. You can see the finished wall section and gate here: