Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Straw/clay toilet wall

Before going full steam ahead on my plan to build a straw/clay partition wall in our house, I thought it prudent to practice somewhere less obtrusive first. Our bucket toilet is due for some renovations, to fix the rather visually permeable partition wall, and to re-do the toilet to make for a more comfortable sit.

Sophie and Kat pulled apart the old set up, and we amended the wall frame to work for straw/clay. Once the rather arduous prep work was finally done (lumber's in the barn, tools are in the house, hammer's nowhere to be found), it took only a few moments to stuff the wall cavity. I learned that, for a wall this thin (4"), I'll want to compact the straw more firmly than I did, and will also be more generous with the slip. I had a fair bit it re-packing and patching to do where things didn't hold together to my liking.

Slip and base coat plaster went on smoothly, though the plaster shrunk more than I figured it might. For the back side of the wall, I added piles of chopped straw; thought it might offer my sometimes squishy wall a bit more support. We'll see. Finish coat is next, and I'm thinking of using some clay that I picked up in Maryland; it's pink as pink can be.

My plaster recipe was:

Sand (32, 56 & 74 mesh) 2, 3 and 1 parts respectively
Clay (EPK) 4 parts
Soaked paper 3 parts
Casien 0.125 parts
Chopped straw less on one side, more on the other

I've been reading Carol Crews' new plaster book, Clay Culture, and I'm finding it to be an excellent resource, full of history, recipes and encouragement. Any questions I had during this process were quickly answered by flipping through her book. I highly recommend it.