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Straw/Clay Mixer

Straw/Clay Mixer


“Rather than laboriously tossing clay slip with straw by hand to make light clay straw for finishing the stuffing of the bale walls, we used this mixer to speed up the process. We could mix large batches of light clay straw in a short amount of time as well as maintain a consistent amount of clay and moisture on the straw.
Two people load the mixer at one end with straw and clay slip. The clay slip gets mixed beforehand in buckets. It is a combination of water and either bagged clay or soil with a certain clay content.
The long barrel of the mixer is sloped downwards away from the end that gets loaded, and the straw and clay slip are tossed together as they move down the length of the mixer.”

Source: TRC Timberworks & Natural Homes

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I am pleased to announce that Owen Geiger’s Basic Earthbag Building DVD is finally available for purchase. It has taken more time than expected to complete the production, but it is well worth the wait I think.

Owen is a natural teacher who understands how to present information in a clear and understandable way and this DVD is excellent for introducing folks to the basic essentials of sound building practice using earthbags. Much of the DVD is derived from actual instruction at workshops, so you witness the whole process from the ground up.

After an introduction to the tools and supplies that are necessary for building, they construct a small sample wall with a rubble trench foundation. Every step is fully explained and demonstrated as the wall proceeds.

The second portion of the DVD takes you through the process of building a functional cool pantry that is attached to a house. Here you can see how doors can be framed and roofs attached. There are many tips and tricks that emerge from watching that could be invaluable in constructing most any project.

At the end there are some bonus scenes that include tips for building a dome, an animated fly-through of Owen’s Enviro Dome, and a tour of Owen’s completed Earthbag Roundhouse.

With over three hours of solid instruction, this DVD would be a valuable addition to anybody’s building library. You can review portions of this DVD by exploring the short clips that are shown on Owen’s YouTube Channel. And you can purchase the DVD directly from the manufacturer for $28.

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“The SandMaster is an attachment for a skid steer, backhoe or an excavator. It quickly fills, transports, securely closes, and places sandbags at or near the area of need. Its primary function is to facilitate flood prevention efforts and emergency response. This is a fast and efficient tool that can run circles around hand labor all day long and never tires. It saves time and money and is able to pay for itself quickly.

The SandMaster 20 attaches to a skid steer and is capable of producing 20 bags per cycle or 4,800 bags in an 8 hour day. The SandMaster 26 and 26 E attach to a front end loader or excavator respectively and are capable of producing 26 bags per cycle or 6,240 bags in an 8 hour day.

The attachments work equally well with other materials such as rocky soil, gravel and nursery and agricultural products. While the bags must be made to specifications, both polypropylene and biodegradable burlap bags work well with this attachment.

Source: BarrierSystems

Owen’s comments: This attachment should work fine for flood control work. It also has some potential for large scale housing relief operations, possibly in disaster situations. In most cases, however, the preferred earthbag method is filling bags on the wall to reduce labor. Most earthbags are larger (18”x30” is standard) and heavier than sandbags for flood control – nearly 100 pounds of moist earth (when tamped in the bag after each bucket load and filled to capacity) versus 60 pounds for smaller sandbags. The larger bags are desirable because they overlap more and create more stable walls.

For earthbag construction, something like this Bobcat mixing attachment (modified for filling earthbag tubes) seems more practical. Sooner or later someone will devise a suitable machine like this that will enable earthbag houses to be built in one day. The Bobcat or tractor could simply drive around the house all day as the attachment fills and guides tubes into place. Another machine would feed soil into the hopper of the first attachment. Pneumatic tampers driven by a large compressor (same as used in rammed earth building) would enable workers to keep pace with the other machinery.

My Sandbag Machines article has a sampling of some of the sandbag filling machines currently available.

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I think almost everyone knows about planned obsolescence, but you might be surprised about the extent that it’s used. For instance, there’s a lightbulb in the Livermore, California firehouse that’s burned continuously for over 100 years. As explained in the The Lightbulb Conspiracy documentary, a group of industry leaders conspired decades ago to reduce lightbulb life from 2,500 hours down to a more profitable 1,000 hours. Some call this progress??? The end result is massive waste of finite resources and huge waste disposal problems. So keep this in mind when selecting materials for your new home. Choose safe, locally available natural materials and recycled materials as much as possible, and buy quality tools that last.

From The Lightbulb Conspiracy documentary: Consumerism = 1. advertisement, 2. planned obsolescence, 3. credit. These 3 stages of modern business are worth noting regarding the promulgation of today’s world wide consumer system which is presently stripping the natural wealth of the planet for all inhabitants, including man.

From Wiki: “Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence. For an industry, planned obsolescence stimulates demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product.”

Source: Wiki

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Here’s a practical list of tools that would be good to have on hand, whether you’re rebuilding from a disaster or not. These are the tools relief workers brought with them to rebuild Haiti. I would add how important it is to buy good quality tools that last. You don’t necessarily need top of the line contractor-grade tools, but you do want tools that will stand up to regular use. Prices at yard sales (get there early), going-out-of-business sales, pawn shops and online sites such as Craigslist are far lower than building supply centers.

Source: Popular Mechanics

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Visit Instructables.com for the best how-to articles on a wide range of topics, including earthbag building.

Visit Instructables.com for the best how-to articles on a wide range of topics, including earthbag building.


Instructables.com is one of my favorite sites and so I’ve been publishing how-to articles there for the last year or so. Here’s a list of the most popular Instructables on earthbag building.

How to Build an Earthbag Dome
Step-by-Step Earthbag Building
How to Build an Earthbag Roundhouse
How to Build Dirt Cheap Houses
How to Build an Insulated Earthbag House
Insulated Earthbag Foundations for Yurts

Total number of views as of October 25, 2011: (click on author link… now about 342,000)
Coming soon: A new Instructable on Cool Pantries.

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For several years, Kelly and I have been filtering all the best earthbag content from the Web, writing extensively on all aspects of earthbag building and organizing the information for readers. There’s now an enormous amount of information available – so much that it’s difficult to keep up with everything. That’s one reason why our sites are helpful. We gather the best information so you don’t have to spend endless hours looking for it, wasting time clicking through low quality sites, blurry videos, etc. No one else has anything close to this amount of content. Below are just a few links from EarthbagBuilding.com (the mothership) and our Earthbag Building Blog. Also note how we strive to keep all these pages up to date so readers aren’t faced with a bunch of broken links. (And it’s free.)

Earthbag Projects and Pictures
Earthbag Videos
Earthbag Articles
Earthbag Testing
Earthbag Blogs (recently updated and expanded to include earthbag blogs in Spanish)

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