Inaugural Straw Light Clay Packing Party

We invited a bunch of people over Saturday to help us pack the straw light clay in the walls and surprisingly a lot came and appeared to have a good time. Over the past week, Jean, my parents and I have been  tinkering with the process, testing the equipment and chipping away slowly at some of the trickier section of walls. This was our first go with mass production/packing. Our primary goal was to infill the upper north wall and we knocked that out before lunch and were able to move on to the west wall. All in all a very successful day.

 Here are some logistical things that worked and some that didn’t/could use improvement.

  • Things that worked
    • The Tumbler: We need to refine our process of adding slip to get a better consistency so we don’t have to do as much hand mixing at the end but generally it worked like a champ. I’ll do a blog about the the tumbler construction process and details later.
    • Temporary Scaffolding: Did not collapse. I’ll call that a win.
    • Bucket Pulley System: A pulley, a carabiner and some parachute cord bucket handles proved pretty effective getting straw light clay up to the loft.
  •  Things to Improve
    • Prepare more clay slip: We had a full 55 gallon barrel of slip ready Saturday morning and less than two hours in we were scraping the bottom. Having two or three clay slip barrels on the go and one person dedicated to making slip would be ideal. Some better screened dirt wouldn’t hurt either.
    • Have more walls prepared for packing: I had one section of wall (~22 linear feet) ready with forms. That seemed to be enough for four packers, two people distributing and another four or so on production. Moving the forms took some time and it seemed like the straw light clay held its form a little better if you gave it a half or so before removing the forms. I think it would be more efficient for the packers to be able to alternate between different sections.
Here’s a time lapse video of the day:

And here are some stills more details:
Fetching straw

The tumbler in action

Packing the upper north wall

The rope pulley bucket system

Removing the forms. There’s straw in that wall.

Who do these interlopers think they are?

Packing the west wall