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Showing posts from May 19, 2013


I must be able to convert sunlight into energy, because when it is sunny out I feel like I can work the whole day and still want to go for a walk in the evening.
There's probably a limit, though, because it is also hard to work when the sun is hot and fierce. But here, in the 5 degree weather, it is a joy.

Something similar happens when I look at the shelter. In the sunlight, when there are sharp shadows and the brick glows orange, I am proud of it. I can believe that it is expressive and possibly beautiful.

When it is grey, though, especially when I am cold and tired and working close to the joints, I can't help but think it dull and awkward.

A moment of sun...


I cut the formwork for the roof on the CNC (with help) last summer before I left. I used two sheets of OSB that were lying around. Since I was eager to have as little waste as possible and since there were only those two sheets, I made each "rafter" slightly shorter than necessary, counting on the ability of whatever binding agent I would be using to build up the rest. Well, as I've written previously, I couldn't find the ideal binding agent. I have realized that it is so much easier to just add extensions to the formwork rather than get frustrated trying to make the bricks stick immediately.

This formwork has turned in to a bit of a bricolage but it is doing its job.

Brick Cradle and Binder Clips

Why do I make things more complicated for myself? If I started this project again I would do a lot of things differently. I am figuring everything out as I do it. 

I was having trouble getting the bricks to sit properly on the formwork when it is almost vertical. They keep sliding down or twisting. So I decided what I needed was something to start the first brick of the row, so I could build off of it. What I came up with was a kind of cradle for the brick. It can balance on the wall and I can adjust the angle as necessary.

Then I realized that I didn't need any of that. Some binder clips work just as well. I can attach them to the existing formwork and support each brick that needs it, rather than just the bottom one.

Molding In Situ

Besides using clay as a plug to stop mortar dropping, I am also experimenting with molding some bricks on site. It is a way of assuring a snug fit between the roof and the wall. I can't decide if I think it is a cop-out or if I am just exploiting the versatility of the material. The clay shrinking is again an advantage- the bricks are stuck for a day or so, and then they loosen themselves. Eventually, when they are dry, I will fire them. I am wondering as well whether there are other ways of finishing their surfaces, perhaps to try to get crisper angles.

Clay plugs

A rare sunny evening...

So, the resin is a pain. I have vowed never again to work with resin. I get stressed because if I don't use it fast enough it hardens in the nozzle. I thought I could use it to bridge the gap between the bricks, but it often won't build up enough to reach the two surfaces and it gets messy really quickly. Plus it smells very toxic. It is useful for immobilizing the brick and it is very strong, so I will continue with it for now. But I have decided to only put resin where the bricks are close enough, and then plug the hole from underneath with clay. Clay is actually an excellent plugging substance. It is sticky and grippy when it is moist, so I can fill the mortar from the top without any falling out. Then, when the clay dries, it shrinks and pulls away from the brick, so I can collect it for soaking and reuse. 
The underside of the formwork. It doesn't look like much, but the clay has been essential for me.

Roof mortaring

I'm learning how to accurately drop mortar into the joints. I often miss and then the cement makes stains on the bricks. I also make a lot of crumbs and I have to resist the urge to brush them until they are dry, because otherwise they also stain the bricks. The best way, I've found, is to be patient- only take a bit of mortar at a time, and prepare the little bit on the big trowel before using the little trowel to flick it off. I have to make sure the joints are fully filled but I also don't want it to get super messy. I still have a lot to improve...