Tuesdays in the middle of somewhere (Pt. 2)

A recap:  Every Tuesday 10 students (three from MArch 2, six from MArch 1 and one from BA) have been working on the restoration of an old farmhouse on the southern edge of Dartmoor.  (To be clear; this is not part of the MArch or degree course, nor is it sanctioned by the school or any staff of the university.  The students participating have taken it upon themselves to get involved and continue to do so on an individual basis.)

Nine weeks into our involvement in the project, we are finally running out of drainage trenches to dig and starting to work on more visible features of the building.

The project is also being used as a test-bed for some more experimental technologies that might be used on a larger scale in future builds, such as the various clay/straw/lime mixes that we have been making up.  The project is getting through a lot of lime, both for mortars and plasters.  So far it has been sourced from a company in north Devon, but as there is lots of local limestone on site, a small lime kiln has been constructed to see if it’s possible to get the necessary material from here instead.  There are many old lime kilns dotted around Devon and Cornwall.  Ours isn’t quite on that scale but the basic process is the same.

The initial kiln was constructed on a concrete platform, built of fire bricks and coated with a clay-straw-sand mix.  We added layers of sticks (from the adjacent wood), coal, and lumps of limestone.  Both local grey limestone (‘Plymouth limestone’) and some fine-grained oolitic limestone from Gloucestershire were added, on the basis that the oolitic limestone would act as a ‘control’ for the experiment – if it failed to work, that would indicate a problem with the kiln.

Once the kiln has burnt off, the remaining limestone rocks will be ‘slaked’ (basically, added to water) to activate the chemical reaction that turns them into something useful.  Either that, or we’ll have a pile of damp rocks.

Other recent jobs have included taking delivery of a half-ton wood plane.  Getting it out of the van rivalled the Egyptians for use of levers and rollers:

Cutting oak floorboards down to the 15″ width required using a 1930s circular saw (unusally – but historically accurately – the boards run parallel to the joists), and then cutting to length in situ:

And finally, mixing up more wet clay/chopped straw/powdered clay mix for application to walls (and lime kiln):

Thanks to Stelios for the photos.

1 comment
  1. krzysztof_nawratek said:

    fantastic!!! I am a big fan of all of you :)

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