Making Clay Paint

Only a few weeks ago, I was looking at paint for the clay plaster walls in the shed. Earthborn paints are the standard, apparently, and only after looking at the £60 (roughly) price tag for 5L did I try and think of alternatives. I was overlooking the obvious – making my own paint.

Fortunately, I found a recipe for paint in my recent purchase – “Using Natural Finishes, Adam Weismann & Katy Bryce” So I set about trying it out. The results are amazing! This was done with minimal cost – 60g of flour, 15 min spent boiling water made enough sample to cover about 4 square metres all I need to do is add some clay and paint pigments.

Making the paint is in two stages. First you make the flour paste, then you combine the flour paste with water, clay and clouring pigments to make the paint.

Flour paste (makes about 500ml paste)

60g flour (plain, white)
200ml water

600ml water (boiling in a pan)

Combine the two ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir with a whisk. You want the flour well mixed in. Don’t expect the mixture to be thick, it will be a creamy consistency. Whilst doing this, your pan of water should be heating up. Once the water is almost at boiling point, or is boiling, add in the flour mix and stir constantly.

You will notice the mixture thicken quickly, (despite the extra water) and I gave mine about 15 minutes before deciding it was thick enough to allow to cool.

Once you are happy with that, pour the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool. Over time, it will pretty much turn in a jelly. You have your flour paste!

Clay Paint

Once your flour paste has cooled (it’s a long wait if you want to do it the same day!) You can make the clay paint mix. For this you will need paint pigments, which you can get from suppliers over the country. I got mine from Ty Mawr – (here) but just search paint pigments on google and I’m sure you’ll find a local supplier. Earthborn paints do sell their own pigments too, so go on their website and look for their stockists.

1 part flour paste
1 part clay
2 parts water
1 part fine sand (optional, for base coat)
paint pigment

Combine the flour paste and the water in a large bucket so that the paste thins out. Add the clay and stir to remove all the clay lumps – if you use powdered clay this will be a lot easier. If you are using lumps of clay, like I was, you will be best off soaking the clay for a few days before making the paint, as stirring out the lumps is tedious work!

The fine sand is for a base coat and gives the paint a bit more volume to fill any cracks and even out any marks on the wall. In my photos above, I didn’t use it.

Once you have stirred all the parts together, measure out the pigment and add it in. The amount of pigment you add is your call, but be consistent between mixes! For a rough idea, in the photos above, I added 30ml of pigment (measured using a measuring spoon) to every 250ml of paint mix.

Once you have mixed in the pigment, apply the paint!

The paint should keep for a few days, but you will need to use it fairly quickly. Mist the clay plaster down before applying and apply liberally 🙂 Good luck!

Scaffold Board Flooring

Finally the bulk of the work is out the way. I received the scaffold boards last Thursday and managed to cut and plane them, finishing yesterday. My cold was not helped by the sawdust, but it is nice to sit back with an ever-shrinking list of tasks left to complete.

The photos below show what I’ve gained from the work. A weekend of sanding and varnishing and I’ll have a beautiful, weathered floor to look at!

The boards arrive in the back.

The boards arrive in the back.

This shows the difference between the planed and unplaned boards. It really does make that much of a difference!

This shows the difference between the planed and unplaned boards. It really does make that much of a difference!

The window seat.

The window seat.

Entrance is finished and planed!

Entrance is finished and planed!

A close up of the floor.

A close up of the floor.

The boards around the tyres was the hardest part to cut.

The boards around the tyres was the hardest part to cut.

Mistakes made in clay plastering

In the colder weather, my clay plaster walls have taken a little longer to dry out, however in the last week, they have started to look significantly drier and the mistakes made in mixing the plaster is now starting to show!
The pictures below are a good example of how varied my clay plaster was. Being the impatient & busy person I am, I abandoned the idea of waiting for a weekend to do a big plastering session with a good mix, and just mixed a batch of clay plaster up in a bucket an hour a day and worked my way around the walls of the building.

This got the job done in the week, which was handy, but as you can see, I had some good mixes and bad mixes. In the middle of the job, I ran out of sand, and ended up switching from sharp sand to builders sand. It turns out I needed more builders sand in a mix than I needed sharp sand. This resulted in a mix which was very high in clay content, causing the cracks you see in the photo below.

Here I didn't put in enough sand and you can see the results here. Excess clay is causing shrinkage and lots of cracks.

Here I didn’t put in enough sand and you can see the results here. Excess clay is causing shrinkage and lots of cracks.

Later on in the wall, I managed to get the correct mix, and as a result, the wall is smooth and has no cracks.

This mix was a good one - uniform, smooth and no cracks.

This mix was a good one – uniform, smooth and no cracks.

In the future, I should always remember to mix a decent test batch and actually write down my mixes! A scales would be a good idea to measure batches rather than just using a bucket as a rough measure…

The cracks shouldn’t cause me too much grief though. I’m patching them up with a new (decent!) mix tonight, so you wouldn’t even know!

DIY Clay Paint

Slowly, the clay is drying inside the shed. It’s taking a bit longer than I expected, but with the weather getting slowly colder it’s not a surprise. We’ve had a warmer few days over the weekend, and the dry patches are really showing now, which is great news.

I took some time to have a drive up to Ty Mawr and get some pigment samples from them. Once my floor is laid, I am going to have a mess around with making my own paint, and seeing how it turns out. Here are my colours; the sample pots were only £2 each, so I figured it was worth a try!

Clay Paint Pigments

When painting clay plaster walls, you need to make sure you are using “breathable” paints. The best known paint for clay walls is probably Earthborn paints. But at £60 for a 5L tin, they are a little more than the pots of paint you can pick up in B&Q!

Anyway, regardless of the cost this is my DIY project – the car tyres, straw, clay, the recycled stone patio; it’s all part of a DIY and recycle culture I’m trying to instill in the building, so it would be cheating to use paint off the shelves, when it is (apparently) so easy to make your own paint! So what’s the harm in trying?!

I found a recipe online for Clay paint here, and as it turns out, I bought this book when eading up on clay and lime plaster for the building. As a bonus, I found it has chapters at the back on making limewash and clay paint, so I’ve got plenty of materials ready for this.

I need to exercise patience on this particular task, however. I am well known for rushing into things, and one look at my clay wall will show you my mixes have not been consistently measured. The paint will be the final coat, so it needs to look good! I’ll be documenting my mixes and my test patches properly, so I can happily upload it when I am done. Maybe a few weeks and I can post about the test patches!

 

Interior Clay Plastering

As the summer ends, so does the work on my clay plaster wall. I got back from my holiday and started the mix on the final coat. It’s not been brilliant – I’ve been mixing fairly small batches in a large bucket, rather than using a tarpaulin to mix a large amount, as detailed in many other blogs. This means I’ve been able to complete it myself, fitting it around work hours, but it has also lead to inconsistencies – some mixes have more clay than others, and this is evident as the wall dries.

Clay Plaster_3

 

Here you can see the difference between the scratch coat and the final coat.
Clay plaster_2
Note the lighting in the shed!! This shows the plaster blending with the tyre wall.

 

Clay Plaster_1
The wall around the window is complete and looks great where it meets the frame, though this will shrink as it dries and pull away from the wood. I will have to patch this up as best as I can.

I’m planning on covering inconsistencies with a coat of paint, which I’m in no rush to sort out. The next plan is to lay flooring, so I’m tidying up the garden and any excess earth is going onto the floor inside the shed and being raked flat. Once that’s all done, the floor joists will go down, and I’ve ordered some reclaimed scaffolding boards which will lay down to make the final finish! I’m looking forward to seeing how this looks. Here is the lower tier with the repaired wall and almost flat soil..

Garden Tier is almost done.

Repairing Subsidence with Rammed Tyres

Well, I had a great summer spending a month in Canada, which is why this website has been left a little quiet. Upon getting back, the weather has started to turn and Autumn is making it’s presence felt. In the garden, things are progressing very well, and “the drummer house”, as it’s now known as, is simply waiting for it’s final coat of clay plaster inside.

Last spring, I posted about the subsidence that had occurred in the garden; my retaining wall built from telegraph poles was not strong enough to hold back the wet soil and pushed everything forward. This week I found the time to dig out enough soil to ram a few tyres onto solid ground and build up the wall this way, which should prevent any future subsidence.

The tyres will add stability to the soil which is not holding together well.

The tyres will add stability to the soil which is not holding together well.

With this almost finished, it means I can now focus on getting this garden tier flattened, and optimistically, have it looking like a garden for spring! I’m just hoping I can find somewhere to put the remaining soil without having to lug it down to a skip for removal.

Finishing the Patio & Clay Plaster on Tyres

As per usual, I feel guilty for not posting more updates on my work in the garden.

The weather has been outstandingly hot the last two weeks, as you would no doubt have noticed if you are UK based! This has been great for my plastering inside the building, but not brilliant for working outside – it’s far too hot!!

Before the hot weather struck, I found some time to get the patio outside of the building finished. Where the tyres end, I built up a wooden step and this frames the patio area very nicely.

The decking provides a step up around the tyre edge of the patio

The decking provides a step up around the tyre edge of the patio

On the patio, I got hold of a great cable reel which I nicely asked for down an industrial estate. It wasn’t very well protected from future element exposure, so I found a woodstain which was the right colour for me.

The original cable reel. I wanted to keep the logo markings to maintain the authentic feel!

The original cable reel. I wanted to keep the logo markings to maintain the authentic feel!

The stained cable reel looks great in my opinion. It sits very nicely on the patio, and I celebrated on a warm evening with a ice cold beer. Not a bad view, eh?

The markings on the cable reel shows through nicely. This photo shows the reel while still wet, the stain is a little lighter than this!

The markings on the cable reel shows through nicely. This photo shows the reel while still wet, the stain is a little lighter than this!

New patio, new cable reel table and a fresh beer. Glorious evening!

New patio, new cable reel table and a fresh beer. Glorious evening!

On the inside of the building, my clay plaster mix has dried on the straw, and I have started plastering over the tyres now, before I combine the two in a final coat which should finish off the wall before I can paint it and call the inside finished!

The tyre wall steps down at the back, and merge into the straw wall in the same coat of plaster.

The tyre wall steps down at the back, and merge into the straw wall in the same coat of plaster.

The straw and tyre walls have very different finishes to them. I might break this up on the finished wall with a shelf or a dado rail.

The straw and tyre walls have very different finishes to them. I might break this up on the finished wall with a shelf or a dado rail.

Once the tyres are plastered the wall has a beautiful texture to it. The bottles will push into the wall to a smooth finish.

Once the tyres are plastered the wall has a beautiful texture to it. The bottles will push into the wall to a smooth finish.

The finish of the tyres looks brilliant, in my opinion. I’m going to keep the undulating finish as part of a feature on the building, maybe separating the tyres and straw with a shelf, or other feature. We shall see how it looks when I get the paint on the walls and a flatter finish on our plaster.

Clay Plastering & Can Heater

Sorry I’ve been a little quiet over the last few weeks. The weather has been a very mixed bag recently!

We had absolutely scorching weather for a week, and then last week was rain, wind and clouds. It’s easy to forget how nice it can be when the wind starts howling. I think we hit 45mph winds on the weekend, which is pretty unpleasant. Fortunately, this week looks a bit more settled and I’m hoping I’ll get my scratch coat finished on the clay.

Not the best photo, but you can see the thicker coat going on!

Not the best photo, but you can see the thicker coat going on!

The scratch coat around the front is almost complete!

The scratch coat around the front is almost complete!

For my plaster coat, I made two test patches. They were (clay:sand:straw) 1:4:1 and 1:3:1. Having read that a lot of people can have ratios of 1:6:1, I thought I might have cracking in the patch with less sand, but as it happens, it turned out the better of the two. So that was the mix I settled on for the coat you can see in the pictures above. I’ve had to order some more sand, which is coming today, so once I get back I’ll finish this coat and start on the tyre wall before mixing a finishing coat over all of it!

However, one of the problems I’ve got is the drying time. With the smaller windows, there is not a lot of solar gain, and with the walls being so well insulated, the building stays very cool. To remedy this, I’m building a solar heater to see if I can increase the temperature inside a little, with minimal cost.

You can make a solar heater very simply, by getting a load of empty drinks cans, drilling a hole together and painting them black. There is a nice detailed building guide here if you want more information. I’m not expecting mine to put out a lot of heat, but it’s a good way of seeing if the theory works in practice, especially in Wales’ unpredictable weather!

Different shapes and sizes don't matter, as long as each column have the same number of each.

Different shapes and sizes don’t matter, as long as each column have the same number of each.

Remember to punch the holds BEFORE you do this!

Remember to punch the holds BEFORE you do this!

At the top, the connections need sealing to ensure the air flows through the cans.

At the top, the connections need sealing to ensure the air flows through the cans.

 

Standing the cans up and they hold well.

Standing the cans up in their stand and they hold well.

Spraying the cans

Starting to spray the cans

I’m going to see if I can find some perspex which will obviously keep the cans warm when it’s breezy by keeping them out of the wind. Aside from that, I’m getting some hosepipe to ensure the air flow and I’m got and old computer fan which I’ll connect to a 9v battery to force the air to circulate. Hopefully I’ll have this set up this week and I’ll share the progress with you when it’s up and running!

 

 

 

Clay Plastering. FUN.

This week I managed to find some time to get my first coat of clay plaster on the straw bale walls. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to not having to wear gloves and safety goggles like I had to with the lime render.

I soaked the clay I had for 24 hours and hand mixed it into the sand per bucket. For my ratio of sand to clay, I went for a high clay content and didn’t worry too much about accuracy or consistency between mixes, as this is the first coat and the primary aim is to get it keyed into the straw well, rather than smooth and crack free. In fact, cracks will help the second course stick well to the first.

My initial reaction is that clay is very fun to work with! It’s messy and sticky, but mixing by hand is nice and relaxing and easy. It’s also very fast, at least for the rough coat I threw on. I managed to get the inside of the studio done in two days, where as the lime render took five days, with help.

I’m letting the render dry over the weekend, and as it’s inside, this is going to be a slower process than the lime render, but once it’s done I’ll get some test patches completed and start thinking about my specific mix for the thicker coats.

By the way, I got my information on clay plastering from here – http://buildnaturally.blogspot.ca/2011/07/clay-plastering-strawbales-first-coat.html?spref=fb

Clay arrives

In the weekend just gone, I finished the lime rendering and had a nice relaxing Sunday, knowing all I have left to do is limewashing on the outside!

Meanwhile, I had organised a delivery of one tonne of clay from JJ Sharpe (in Devon) which was due to arrive on Monday, just in time for a new project!

Given the difficulty of access to my street for large vehicles, they brought the shipment in a large van with a tailgate lift rather than a lorry with a crane offload, so during unloading the clay was, rather unfortunately, dumped on the road!

The clay sits on the road as it  landed!

It wasn’t a major concern, as I needed to get it off the road anyway, so I had a spare tonne bag and we (me and my parents) set about loading it into buckets and shipping it up to my shed for shelter. 90 minutes later, we had a victory cup of tea and now I have clay plastering to look forward to!!

I’m busy reading up on mixes now, and I’ve ordered my first tonne of sand, though I think another one or two tonnes might be needed.. I’ll post mixes and results up here when I start, hopefully this will be in half term, which is next week!