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!




Marble Hearth recycled as a garden bench

As the back of my garden continues to produce tons of good quality stone, I am coming up with more resourceful ways of using it, to avoid having it thrown out or buried.

I realised that one of the ways I could cover some of my tyre wall would be to have a bench built infront of it, and a wooden back covering the tyres above the bench. The natural lean of the retaining wall is a perfect back for the bench to lean back and relax on.

Using the stone at my disposal, I created a dry stone wall which sat solidly, but I found that the top of the bench was far from smooth. To resolve this, I figured some paving stones would be nice, but then I struck a much better idea – use the marble hearth from a fireplace!

The hearth as it appeared on eBay

After a little search, I came up with this beauty listed on eBay. It’s got a few scratches, but for £10, I thought you can’t go wrong!With this as a top to the dry stone, I figured I could level it out and get a nice finish on the bench. So, this is the dry stone wall almost built..

Almost Complete…


Once that was in place, I just needed to level it off and put the marble on top. To ensure that the stone doesn’t scratch the marble when it is in place, you need to line the underneath with some planks of wood.

You then have to fill in all the gaps to ensure that the wood/hearth is fully supported all along it’s length. If you don’t do this, you will find that the marble splits when you sit on it! (Unfortunately, this happened to mine). But given the nature of my garden, I’m not looking for perfection, so I don’t mind too much. here is the finished article!

The finished bench.

If the weather is good this Sunday (50/50 at the moment) then I am going to get some wood for the tyre wall to be finished off with a wall plate. I might then have a chance to get this bench finished as I’ve had some ideas with how I can really make a feature out of it. I’ll post an update when I can get the time to finish it!

Pallet Computer Desk (crafting in the bedroom part 2)

This Saturday, I managed to make the most of the good weather to get my pallet stockpile broken up, and my pallet computer desk finished. I’m pretty impressed with the results! Below are some photos from the construction.

I got the glass pane from IKEA, measuring 80cm x 48cm, so built the pallet desk to fit underneath that. The total cost of materials was simply the price of the glass top – £10. I’m pretty impressed with the final result considering that!

I will do a cabinet under the bed next, so I’ll keep this blog updated with my next stage of craftwork.

Crafting in the Bedroom part 1 – the bed

Over the last two weeks, I have transformed my spare bedroom. I managed to take some time after work each day deconstructing the bulkhead that was in my bedroom, and using some things I had in the attic from FreeCycle (I knew they would come in handy!) I built a new bed over the staircase and a lovely computer desk from pallet wood. This post shows the bed frame I made, and I will add another two posts showing the construction of the computer desk, and the cabinet underneath the bed which I have yet to create.

The bed was a fairly simple construction. All the main work was put into destroying the bullhead that was above the staircase. Unfortuantely, I can’t find the ‘before’ photo I had of it, so all I have is of the wall after I had ripped it out, but the bare brickwork shows how much was covered.

After taking that down, I had to buy one 2m long length of wood which would support the bed frame which I salvaged from the old bunk bed I took down (also from FreeCycle a year ago!). The rest of the wood was used from an old pine double bed frame that I got last yearfrom someone on.. you guessed it, FreeCycle!

By chipping away with a wood chisel and some cuts with a saw, I was able to put in the grooves needed for the wood to slot in nicely and before I knew it, some screws here and there, and my bed frame was complete. All I need now is some plasterboard to cover up the brickwork, and I’ve got myself a nice bed, which is a little higher than usual, but nothing to complain about, considering how close the old one was to the ceiling!

Rain only stops the lazy!

With the bad weather the last few weeks, I have found that getting garden work done is a little harder than it should be. Tyres are not ramming because of the muddy earth, soil is heavy to move and mood is not great when you are wet! As a result, I have moved my current attention to the indoors.

My spare room is a little cramped, with a bunk bed supplying a comfy place of rest for a guest. It isn’t, however, very light, and the bed is close to the ceiling! As a result, I have come up with a plan to take down the bulkhead in the room (see what a bulkhead is at the bottom of this post!) and construct a bed over the top of it. Work has commenced, and I will be posting up progress, as I need to get it done before I have guests come and visit!

Fortunately, I am able to do this at little cost. I have parts of an old pine double bed which will form the frame, and the old bunk bed can be used in part as a base for the mattress and other parts here and there. As for a new desk for the computer, I have collected some ideas on my Pinterest board, which I will implement into a little pallet craft for the home. I’m excited to see the results of all this tinkering, and hope I can do it while the weather is wet. If it gets warmer, I might end up rushing back out into the garden, as that’s my real priority!



Good point. A bulkhead (in this example, at least) is the area above the stairs that invades the room above. See this photo for a pictorial example. (taken from