Saturday, October 6, 2012

Continued faux bois efforts

Continued experiments & efforts on log planters. The smaller one is over a burlap armature.

Raw burlap soaked in bonding agent, then saturated with grout and placed over a plastic pot. I also had some strips soaking, and wrapped those around the pot as well. After the grout cured, the pot was removed, and I was left with a sturdy armature.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cement Cat Sculpture Effort 2

Well...he is a strange looking cat.
 The 10 gauge wire/chicken wire armature looks as though it will hold up except for the tail area, which cracked when I turned the sculpture over to coat the cat's underside. I ended up breaking the mortar off the tail, then wrapping that part of the armature with burlap strips soaked in bonding agent and coated in mortar, then plastering over that with more mortar.
He has a kind of fat lizard-like tail now.
Whiskers are the nylon bristles of a wallpaper pasting brush.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Low Rent Mortar Sprayer

(When I first posted this I used the word "coupling" to describe a 1-1/4" bushing. I apologize and hope I didn't cause anyone any grief. You need a 1-1/4" threaded bushing . So far, despite that I've had to make a few adjustments, this sprayer has worked well for me. A little electrical tape around the threads of the bottle make for a tighter, more permanant fit.Thanks.)

This is an effort to make and use a simple, inexpensive mortar sprayer.
I’m using it with my Harbor Freight  2 hp 125 PSI air compressor.
The sprayer is made from a 1.42 gallon Clorox bottle, a 1-1/4” PVC threaded bushing and plug, a Harbor Freight air gun, and a brass coupler. It was simple to make, easy to use, and worked well spraying a very wet mix of three parts sand to one part Portland cement.
As you can see in the photos, the bottom is cut from the bottle to make a funnel. Then the PVC bushing screws onto the Clorox bottle. It's not a perfect, tight fit. You can still turn the bottle, but the threads mesh enough for the coupler to hold on. I didn't glue the bottle to the bushing because I wasn't sure how the bottle would hold up and thought I might need to replace it quickly. It held up fine, though, for this first experimental effort.
The plug screws into the bushing just enough to wedge the threaded tip of the air gun between the bottom of the coupler and the bottom of the plug, and a hole is drilled to push the air gun through the side of the plug. I think I used a 13/32 bit. It needs to be a tight fit. Then the brass coupler is screwed onto the tip of the air gun to hold it in place. Exactly opposite this hole I drilled a slightly larger (15/32) hole. There is probably 3/4" between the end of the brass coupler and the spray hole.
And that's it.
I used the bottle to scoop mortar out a wheel barrow. Tilting the sprayer back slightly prevents the mortar from leaking out of the spray hole until you're in position. I was usually 12 to 18 inches from my target, sometimes closer. I would jiggle the sprayer a little to keep the mortar sliding down. The sprayer clogged once in the beginning because the mortar was too thick. Otherwise I was able to move pretty fast.
Spraying is much easier and faster than daubing. 
I'm spraying mortar over papercrete. I sprayed several layers over a section of wall. I'll see how it cures before adding more layers.

Update 3/7/13: This sprayer has been working well. I’ve been using it to spray some experiments with burlap-crete. However, when I attempted to replace the air gun with one (I thought was) just like it, I found that the threads of the bushing inside the PVC fitting were too short to engage those on the air gun. Though both were purchased at Harbor Freight, the air guns were slightly different. Which means not every air gun will work in this system without some additional retrofitting. I had to grind away some of the thickness of the PVC with a Dremel tool, and also cut the little curled ring off the new air gun to make it work. Also, I’d used a Clorox bottle at first because I happened to have one. A gallon Concrete Bonding Agent jug is sturdier, is a tighter fit, and generally works better.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ferrocement Cat Sculpture Effort

The armature is made of 10 gauge all purpose steel wire wrapped with chicken wire. The mortar is two parts sand, one part Portland cement, one part lime. Components are mixed dry in a large bucket, then enough water is added to a small portion make it damp and clumpy. I wet my glove, then massage a handful of the mix to the right consistency. I'm experimenting to see if the wire armature is strong enough to support the cement sculpture. The figure is about two feet long.

Vermiculite Concrete Gate 6

The front of gate is pretty much complete, except for some touching up with the Dremil tool. The back will will simply be primed  and painted.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Vermiculite Concrete Gate 1

Armature made from fence posts with gate corners, extruded polystyrine sheathing. metal lathe, and chicken wire.

Using two parts vermiculite, one part builder's lime, one part Portland cement.

Hanging plaque made with similar mixture over Styrofoam and chicken wire.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Vermiculite concrete experiment

Working toward re-making the garden gate, which was an earlier attempt at faux wood using papercrete. The gate hangs on a fence post, so weight is a big consideration. That first effort was made of vermiculite, cellulose insulation, and cement. This new mix is two parts vermiculite, one part cement, and one quarter part builder’s lime. I started with one part water, but the vermiculite seemed to absorb a lot, and I had to add water was I worked. I made the armature for this small experiment out of  Styrofoam insulation and chicken wire. It will be a sort of hanging plaque, but I am more interested in seeing if the mix, sans paper, will work for the gate, and how heavy the finished product will be.
 The vermiculite mix handled almost as well at that made with sand. It was coarser, but not as much as papercrete, and I could add more details than with papercrete. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

I was out early yesterday morning to try and beat the South Carolina heat but, I swear, it warmed up too quickly. 
I experimented, substituting builder’s lime for joint compound: two parts sand, one part cement, one half part builder’s lime. No paper. Using a two pound coffee can for measuring and mixing the dry ingredients in a five gallon bucket, then hand mixing small portions with water in another bucket to make small batches. Very nice, smooth, clay-like feel to this mix. Sticks nicely. I was able to sculpt a little with it, but mostly used it as plaster. I am interested in deleting cellulose insulation in a mix because I want to try to add finer detail in future work. It seems to be curing nicely despite the heat.  The bottom photo shows the section covered with this mix.
The most difficult aspect of mixing this mortar involves water. It is so easy to mix in too much water. It's best when the mix is damp and crumbly. I found that making sure I had a bit of dry mix left  was the key. Then I could add some dry mix to a batch I'd made too wet..
With the mix damp and crumbly, I can dip my hand in water and work a handful iinto what feels like a ball of clay.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Resurfacing the Papercrete Garden Wall 5 (repost)

I accidentally deleted this post.
I'd written that I'd run out of ready mix joint compound and substituted some powdered joint compound, and was pleased with how it handled. It also allowed me to thoroughly mix the joint compound in, which is difficult when using ready mix. When using ready mix joint compound, I add water to the sand, cement, and cellulose insulation, then add a glob of joint compound, squeezing and mixing as thoroughly as possible. Using the powder I can just add the joint compound to the dry mix and mix it in with a drill bit. I was surprised that the powder gave the mix a similar "clay-like" quality to that mixed with ready-mix.
I'd made small batches that day, using a two pound coffee can, mixing one can sand, 1/2 can Portland Cement, 1/2 can cellulose insulation, and what amounted to two cups powdered joint compound, and mixed it with an electric drill with a mixer bit. This mix seems to set a bit, especially on a hot afternoon, in the bucket as I work. I wet my hands and work a handful for a few seconds, and it becomes pliable again.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Resurfacing the Papercrete Garden Wall 6

Continuing work on the garden wall using the sandy mix with powdered joint compound. This section is an effort at faux wood. I'm fairly pleased with it and would like to try "faux bois" textures with finer aggregates than sand and paper.  The photo below is the finished section of "faux brick showing behind broken stucco."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Resurfacing the Papercrete Garden Wall 3

More work on the garden wall.
These days I'm mixing the ingredients dry in the cement mixer -- six parts sand, three parts paper, three parts Portland cement -- then putting a bit of the dry mix into a 5-gallon bucket and hand mixing in water and joint compound. It's a very workable mix, and cures to form a nice, hard shell.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Resurfacing the Papercrete Garden Wall 2

Continuing to rework the garden wall using the same sandy mix --six parts sand, three parts cellulose insulation, three parts Portland cement, approximately two parts water, and a little joint compound.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Resurfacing the Papercrete Garden Wall #1

A work in progress -- refinishing the papercrete garden wall.

Papercrete, I think, for most of us, involves a  lot of experimentation and a good sized learning curve. There is information on line, but most of it is like the information in this blog – experimental recipes and processes that offer a starting place for our own endeavors. Those batches of papercrete I mixed two or three years ago for the garden wall were, like the first layers daubed onto the gazebo structure, too soft for exterior work– too much paper, not enough sand. The strongest, most workable papercrete has been the heaviest – lotsa sand, some paper, some cement, some ready-mix joint compound to help it stick.
The same learning curve applies to the lime plaster applied to the garden wall a couple of years ago. Though the surface of the inside wall was still looking fair, the outside surface was brittle and full of cracks. Possible causes are plentiful. Like my practically nonexistent curing process. Or maybe my practically nonexistent prep of the papercrete prior to application (a bonding agent may have helped).  But, since the shaded areas of the wall did better, my first thought seems most viable – the very harsh sun beating on the outside surfaces and drought-like summers of the last two years. I never wet the lime plaster, and just let nature take it's course.
At any rate, the lime-putty-and-sand plaster was easy to remove. Some of it flaked right off. Other parts needed to be tapped with a hammer. The remainder comes off using a high pressure nozzle on a garden hose, which also roughs up the underlying papercrete surface.
I decided to refinish the wall using the sandy papercrete mix with which I finished the gazebo – the mix discovered when I mixed too much mortar for another project and added paper so as not to waste it. That sandy mix, applied to the gazebo, made a hard shell over softer mixtures of papercrete. This will give opportunity to create a more interesting mural on the surface of the wall, which is how I envisioned it to begin with.
My mix, using a two pound coffee can for measuring, is six parts sand, three parts cellulose insulation, three parts Portland cement, water, and joint compound.  I used my Harbor Freight cement mixer to mix the sand, pulverized paper, and cement. I added water until the mix until it was damp and clumpy, and I could squeeze it into a ball without ringing out any water. I put a portion of this mix into a five gallon bucket and hand mixed in a gob of joint compound. This is a workable mix and makes a hard shell, though it’s easy to put too much joint compound in. I wet the surface of the wall thoroughly, and used a spray bottle to apply bonding agent as I added papercrete.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Aquaponics Update 4

 We finally got our 15 tilapia fingerlings.
Ammonia levels in the fish tank were high for a day or two (testing with Jungle Quick Dip Amonia Test Strips), and I took water out several times with a pitcher and replaced it with clean water from a little reservoir in the yard. Today the ammonia level checked out and the fish seem to be doing well, though we lost a couple of the smaller ones.
We planted a variety in the grow bed to see which would do best -- two types of pepper, two of tomato, two eggplants, and a couple varieties of lettuce. I took the plants from the pots, rinsed the roots clean with a hose, and placed them in the gravel bed. We were surprised they did not go into shock, are budding out, and thriving.
We're feeding the fish pond pellets right now but are researching which kitchen scraps to feed tilapia. 
Looking forward to an abundant harvest.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hypertufa/Papercrete Planter

 The base coat on this planter is plain old hypertufa consisting of (using 2-pound coffee cans for measurement) one can of peat moss, one of Pearlite, ½ of Portland Cement, one of water (there about), and a little lime putty. I’d made the armature using two old, sun-beaten, brittle planters that were ready for the landfill fastened together with sheet metal screws and covered with two layers of poultry wire (see photos below).
So far I’ve found that this type of Hypertufa mix is good for casting but is honestly difficult to daub onto wire without either ready mix joint compound or lime putty to make it stickier. Even then it doesn’t seem very workable. Perhaps more cement to the mix would make it stick to the armature better. I'll continue to research and experiment. As it was, I applied the hypertufa with some force to push it deep into the wire and keep it from falling off.
For the design on front I used the same mixture as above, but substituted cellulose insulation for Pearlite. I guess that makes it papercrete rather than hypertufa. Not only did that make the mix much cheaper, it made it 75% more workable.  The planter had cured overnight, so I could lay it on it’s back to work and wasn’t working on a vertical surface. I added only enough water to make the mix damp instead of wet, mixed in the lime putty, and kept a can of water nearby. I’d take a glob of the damp mix, dip my (gloved) hand in the water, and play with it a bit before applying it to the base coat. This seemed to give me a little more control over how wet the mixture got. I also used a concrete bonding agent, both on the surface of the basecoat and as I worked and modeled the papercrete, sometimes dipping my fingers in the bonding agent rather than the water. Though I still wasn’t able to get a lot of detail, I was fairly pleased with the end result and felt it was a good start. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hypertufa/Papercrete "clay" with lime putty

This is a nice, easy to use garden sculpture mix, using “2-pound” coffee cans for measuring and mixing by (rubber gloved) hand in a five gallon bucket.
½ can Portland cement
1 can peat moss
1 can cellulose insulation
1 can water (there abouts…damp (not wet) mix)
Substitute lime putty for ready mix joint compound. Add a big gob of  it and mix well.
Lime putty is builder’s lime mixed with water to a pasty consistency.You will probably need to go to a builder's supply to purchase builder's lime. Neither Lowe's nor Home Depot carry it. This lime putty had set for many months in a sealed five gallon bucket, and was a little “thinner” than ready mix joint compound, and not so sticky. I think that is what made this mixture feel so good. This hyper-tufa “clay” was truly "clay-like" and easy to model over a chicken wire, 1/2 gallon plastic milk jug, and PVC pipe armature. I hope this guy will become part of a scare crow for our steadily growing garden. I have no idea how it will weather.