Monday, December 1, 2014

Building An Adobe Wall: #2 Getting Started

After the first post in this series
where we looked at how to build the stone foundation for our adobe wall
we will now take a look at making the "gringo blocks",
 and setting up our mud mixing area for making the adobe mortar that will be used with our bricks
as we go through all the steps for building the wall you see in the photo above.

All of the posts to date are:

Gringo blocks, as they are called locally,
are basically wooden blocks that take the place of bricks in the wall
and because they are wood they can be used for attaching door or window frames and jambs.

Obviously they are used next to the openings for doors, etc.
 where one needs to be able to attach wood frames.

In our case here they will be used to attach the jamb for our gate
and at the far end of the wall we want to be able to attach a fence.


Generally the gringo blocks are made to be the same size as adobe bricks (4"x 10"x 14")
but of course I have a different way.

I tend to make the gringo blocks the size of the bricks I would otherwise
 cut to keep a brick pattern in the wall.
This entails having to figure out your brick coursing before you start your wall,
 and make your gringo blocks accordingly.

In the photo above I have three different sizes and shapes
 that correspond to three different locations in the wall.

Because the gringo blocks require short pieces of 2"x 4" I use up all of my scraps,
a great way to recycle wood.

I also hammer 16 penny nails inside the blocks where adobe mud mortar will be packed
 to strengthen the bond to the wall.

And lastly, I add scraps of expanded metal lathe to the sides of the blocks where plaster will be applied 
to provide a better bond for the plaster.

In the next post I will show how the blocks are used in the wall
as we start to put up the bricks.

Let's move on to where we will be mixing our mud mortar for laying up our adobe bricks.

I used to mix my mud in a pit in the ground which involved a lot of bending.
Then some years ago I saw some guys mixing mud from a very large pile of dirt 
and they had their pit on the side of the pile of dirt which meant much less bending.

For this project we had a small pile of dirt that we keep just for this kind of thing 
and I was able to put the pit on top and shovel dry dirt up to it.
It is much easier to shovel dry dirt up and mix without bending over 
than shovel wet mud up from a pit in the ground to get it in the wheelbarrow.

Above you may notice the covered pile of adobes beyond the wheelbarrow.
To see my post from a couple of years ago on how I made those bricks go to:
As it turned out they were great bricks to work with, mainly because of the straw.

Straw, not hay, is another thing you will need for mixing the mortar.
I mix straw in my bricks when I am making them, in the mortar I am mixing here,
and in the adobe plaster I use.
I tend to go heavy on the straw for all three of these.
Straw for the mortar and plaster in this project used about half a bale of straw.

The last ingredient is water so a couple of 5 gallon buckets is good.
I use about 10 gal. (+/-) per batch (a large wheelbarrow load)
and I was lucky to be able to use rainwater from our cisterns for this project.

From the photo above you will notice I am using a couple of shovels, a good strong mixing hoe,
 and a mattock for breaking up clumps of dirt;
and if you need to screen your dirt a good sturdy screen will be necessary.

Oh I almost forgot- you need a good heavy duty wheelbarrow with tires that will not go flat.
There is nothing worse than to be in the middle of a project 
with a broken wheelbarrow with a flat tire.
Our wheelbarrow has a heavy, knobby tire with tube and slime in the tube.

(I have learned not to try and fix a wheelbarrow flat tire but to take it to a tire repair shop.
The small rim size makes it very hard to get the tire on and off.)

Note in the above photo how much easier it is to mix with the elevated pit.
I have added the water, straw, and dirt to the pit in that order.

We are fortunate to have a soil that is a good combination of clay to sand
 for mixing mud for the bricks, mortar, and plaster.
Oftentimes it becomes necessary to add either clay or sand,
 but generally not till you get to the plaster.
This is a bit hard to explain in this format but experience will be your best guide.

Also for making bricks screening your soil is generally not necessary,
but if your dirt has a lot of rocks or other debris screening may be necessary for mortar.
I always screen for my plaster generally to 1/4" or 3/8".
Fortunately for the mortar here we did not need to screen.

As you can see above, shoveling the well mixed mortar into the wheelbarrow is so much easier.
This is physically very hard work and as I get older I look for every advantage I can.