Sunday, March 21, 2010

More Adobe Building, part I

Last week Tom and I went to West Texas, near Presidio, to work on an adobe building, the same one I was working on last fall.  We worked on the Nubian vault for the new office building, and we re-plastered the house.  The workshop was organized by the Adobe Alliance.

Traditional adobe buildings require re-plastering on a regular basis.  This house had not been re-plastered in several years, and torrential rains and hail last fall had damaged the plaster and stripped a lot of it off.

Also, the Nubian vault over the new office room was not completed last fall, so we were working on that as well.

Here you can see the end wall, and the unique angle at which the adobes are laid up to form the vault, when making an adobe Nubian vault. 

Tom and I got there on the second day of the workshop.  The other workers had spent the previous day testing some adobe samples, with different mixes of sand, clay, straw, and prickly pear juice.

On Saturday morning, we studied the samples on this little building to see which one cracked the least.  If there is too much clay in the mix, the plaster cracks.  The sand prevents cracking, but too much sand can make the plaster not stick well to the walls.  All clay and sand are different, so adobe plaster workers have to experiment to determine the right mix for each situation.

The photograph below shows how the domed guest house.  You can see how the rains have washed away the plaster on the windward side.

The plaster workers began re-plastering on the parapet of the house.

The job involved sweeping away debris that was loose, and then splashing water onto the parapet with a wet brush.  Then the plaster could be slapped onto the mud parapet and smoothed with the hands.

By the end of the day, the plaster crew had finished re-plastering the parapet, and they had started on one of the vaults.

Meanwhile, the vault crew was attempting to erect a scaffold to fit under the vault in progress.

This scaffolding, while very nice, was too tall to fit neatly under the vault.  We couldn't reach the top of the vault easily, so we ended up getting the old scaffolding that we used last fall the next day.

Still, we got a few new courses up on the vault.

We mixed the mortar for the vault in a wheelbarrow, using just screened  clay and sand, and water.

All this work made us tired.  Theo photographed his mom and me and Tom, resting in the living room.

Of course it also made us hungry.  I cooked a pork loin for supper, with a cream sauce.  I had bought a big one at Costco in Houston, and I froze it for the trip to West Texas. In order to fit it in the freezer, I had to bend it a bit.  So when I took it out of the cooler on Friday night, it looked like this.  (Some viewers may choose not to look at this picture, as it involves violence and nudity.)

1 comment: