The Real Know How

How-Tos, Videos, Tutorials — Ramping Up for the 21st Century

Archive for the category “house”

Rammed Earth Construction

Rowland Keable from the UK talks about rammed earth and rammed chalk construction.

Earthen/Cob Floor

“Natural building expert Michael G. Smith from the Emerald Earth Institute shows us the first layer of an earthen floor (clay soil, sand, chopped straw and road base, or crushed rock): just one layer of the 3 layers they eventually use. He also shows us a finished floor that has been treated with 4 to 6 coats of linseed oil and is water resistant and completely mop friendly.”

It was nice to see a natural, durable floor that didn’t come from a factory.


Building with Straw Bale Demo

Barbara Jones who builds with straw bales in the UK, demonstrates how load bearing straw bale construction works. She shows us the various simple tools and components of straw bale construction (wooden pins that anchor the bales to a base plate, baling twine, the base plate itself, top plates, mallets, baling needle, strapping, etc.).

Straw Bale, Adobe and Post and Beam House in New Mexico

The following videos feature a small (800 sq ft) “hybrid” house built by designer Ted Owens in Corallis, New Mexico, near Albuquerque. His house uses post and beam construction (he got the lumber from salvage yards and home renos), straw bale and adobe with mud used as plaster. The house draws its electricity from photovoltaic solar panels.

The house also uses sunlight, heavy materials (adobe walls and concrete floors) and shifts in temperature (passive solar concepts) to keep the inside temperatures comfortable. Windows are also carefully placed to maximize comfort in the house.

How to Make Milk Paint

Painted with milk paint - via

Here is a recipe from Diane Taylor Bowling of A Primitive Journey:

The full post with her comments is here:

Excerpt follows:

Things You’ll Need

Ready to mix milk paint
1 gallon skim milk
2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup hydrated lime powder – Type S
1/2 cup pigment

Step One

Click to enlargePowdered milk paint can be purchased and just mixed with water. This would be convientent but would cost about $36.00 a gallon. But making your own milk paint is relatively easy and would be half the cost of buying the ready mixed. The lime powder and the pigment is available at paint stores or even some craft stores. The results are amazing, flat muted color that resembles old world plaster. Many artists still use this ancient paint because of it’s work ability and the tone of color.

Step Two

Click to enlarge This recipe uses fresh milk that is curled by using the vinegar. By using the curdling method you have a stronger paint that is resistant to mold.

To begin: allow the milk to come to room temperature, but no warmer than 115 degrees. Pour the milk into a large container and add the 2 cups vinegar which starts the curdling process. Allow the mixture to sit overnight in a warm place stirring every once in awhile. The next day you’ll be able to notice the milk solids separating from the liquid whey. Have everything ready prior to mixing in the pigment as milk paint should be used when it’s fresh.

Step Three

Click to enlarge Put the pigment powder in a plastic container and add an equal amount of water and allow the powder to soak. Begin to stir until you have worked the ingredients into a paste, set aside. Put the lime into a small container and add the 1-1/2 cups of water and stir until you have a smooth paste. Please wear a dust mask to do this step as you don’t want to inhale the lime dust. Next you must pour the bucket of curds and whey thru a colander to separate. Wash the curd with water and allow to remain wet. Remove the curd or Quark from the colander and put into your paint bucket breaking up any larger pieces. Add the lime paste and stir well, then add the pigment. Again, stir well to dissolve any quark pieces. Strain the paint thru a piece of cheesecloth and your paint is ready to use. Stir the paint freguently as it tends to separate. If you have any extra paint and want to keep it, store in the refrigerator, it will keep for several days, although milk paint is best when used fresh. Since milk paint is a thin mixture, you may want to use more than one coat. After the paint is dry you can rub over it with fine steel wool or wax to give it a smooth, sealed finish.

Tips & Warnings

Since milk paint is made up of natural ingredients it is a safe product to use throughout your home. It can be used for walls and furniture and is a wonderful alternative to using petroleum based paint that contains caustic ingredients.

For pigments:

Many natural pigments come from mined minerals so buying them makes life easier. They’re just a Google search away.

You can make your own: Char, for example, makes a good black pigment. You can use almond shells, peach pits, bones, wood, etc.

Here is Lemoine de Gascogne in Texas making bone black from pieces of deer bone:

And here he is collecting and processing earth pigments (ochres):

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