• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

twig structures, jute longevity

 
paul wheaton
master steward
Pie
Posts: 19842
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sometimes I gather some branches and throw together a trellis or some other simple thing.  I figure that most of this stuff is gonna end up decomposing into the soil, so rather than using nails or screws, I usually lash it together with jute.  That way I don't end up with a bunch of sharp stuff in the soil where my hands might be.  Jute seems like it would eventually decompose into pretty good soil. 

I seem to get about two years out of the jute.  And that's been in a moister area.  I'm hoping to get more longevity in a colder, drier climate. 

How long do the rest of you get?

I wonder if there might be a way to get more longevity out of the jute without having to use more jute or thicker jute.  Something that might do well composting in the soil later.

Any ideas?

 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Two years is about what I got in Oakland, but I used it to lash a planter to a balcony railing, so it was artificially moist.

You might try growing ramie, and using ribbons of whole bark rather than spun fiber.  I have read that ramie is naturally rot-resistant, to the point of being used in fish nets and mummy wrappings, and sounds like bark is fairly easy to remove from the living plant.

http://www.swicofil.com/products/007ramie.html

And, from "A Weaver's Garden" by Rita Buchanan (courtesy Google book search):
There are two alternative methods [in place of retting, which does not work]: an ancient hand technique, and a modern mechanical/chemical technique.  Either way, the processing should begin within a few hours of cutting the stems, before the gum starts to harden and set.  The Chinese handle one stem at a time and first peel all the fibers and bark off the stem in narrow strips.  Then they scrape each strip with a dull blade, from butt to tip and back again from tip to butt, to remove the outer skin.  Washed and dried, these strips turn into stiff yellowish or greenish ribbons called “China grass”, and they can be woven into coarse fabrics for work clothes.  China grass has not been degummed, but if it is repeatedly washed, boiled in wood ash solution, and dried in the sun, it eventually gets softer, cleaner and whiter.  The traditional Oriental approach to using ramie fibers was to weave China grass ribbons into fabric and sew it up, then continue the degumming process over the lifetime of the garment.  Years of washing and wearing could transform a shirt from outerwear to underwear as the ramie softened up…Ramie grows best in very fertile, sandy loam soil, and needs plenty of composted manure or fertilizer to sustain repeated harvest.  Full sun and frequent rain or watering are necessary.


If you feel like trying something wacky, you could smoke your jute.  One of the processes that can happen during smoking is called "acetylation," and it is done commercially to preserve wood in a non-toxic and (though it takes longer) biodegradable way.  Essential oils etc. would also collect on the fibers, and have the same preserving effect they do on bacon or lox.

I would probably try to find waste latex paint or primer to seal up the finished lashings.  My understanding is that it degrades OK, if slowly. A lot of paint gets thrown away...but there are lots of similar options if paint isn't your style.

If there aren't problems with soil salinity, water glass might be a good option: dipping the roll of jute in a solution of it, wringing it back into the bath so it doesn't drip much (and careful not to get any on your skin), and letting it dry, should make it last a lot longer.

Whitewashing (applying a thin solution of slaked lime) would help, especially if the structures don't shift around.  The only practical way I can see is to whitewash the whole lashed-together structure.  That would also preserve the wood, and would mean less sunlight absorbed by structures, so potentially more for plants.  Whitewash and waterglass work synergistically, but once you apply a coat of one onto the other, the layer between them won't decompose: a thick enough coating, built up from enough layers, might defeat the whole point of jute by introducing sharp stuff.  Mixing them wet gives a tub or brush full of low-quality cement: let one dry before applying the other.  On joints that really won't move, daubing some clay "slip" over the jute and letting it dry before whitewashing would have a similar effect.

Linseed/camelina/tung/other drying oil would cure to a waterproof coating.  It could go on after the structure was built, or you could keep the roll of oiled jute in an airtight container, or hang strands of oiled jute up to cure seperately (with good ventilation! Fibers soaked in drying oil can cause spontaneous combustion if they get enough air to continue curing, but not enough to carry away the heat generated).  There are lots of traditional things to do with a drying oil: speeding its curing time by mixing in iron oxide, mixing in filler minerals like subsoil or agricultural lime, thinning with turpentine...mostly variations on oil-based paint or putty.

Pyrolysis tar would probably preserve your jute, although it smells, and is almost a petrochemical.  Running sepp holzer's animal-repellent recipe with dry vegetable waste instead of bones would probably give a safer and less-nasty-smelling product with similar gumminess and insolubility; it would still be bio-degradable.

If you want to get fancy, beeswax would work.  There are better uses for it, though.  Mineral paraffin also decomposes, but I imagine that isn't your style.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Pie
Posts: 19842
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joel!  Excellent list of ideas!

After reading all of that, I would lean a bit toward tung oil.  And I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's because it keeps coming up in different forums of research and I've never used it - so it would be an opportunity to try it.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One quick note, Paul: it's most often sold diluted with mineral spirits.

I think it can also be had "boiled" (i.e., spiked with metal catalysts), raw, or diluted with orange oil.

It should be roughly equivalent to linseed or camelina oil.  I think camelina grows in your part of the world, whereas I had heard Tung nuts are mostly produced in southeast Asia.  You might want to compare prices, and look up the iodine absorption value of your various options: it's the quantitative measure of how much drying an oil can theoretically go through.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Pie
Posts: 19842
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ooof. 

Why do things always seem to get so complicated?

Excellent info, Joel.  Thanks. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One more idea for folks in warmer climates than Paul:  Crotalaria, specifically Sunn hemp:

http://www.new-ag.info/99-4/focuson/focuson6.html

It's a legume, and produces a rot-resistant bast fiber.  Like ramie, it's used in fishing nets, and it's difficult to ret: I think raw sections of bark would make good fiber to tie trellises together with.

It also fights nematodes with its roots, and is used as a cover crop (by those who can afford the seed...).

I wonder if a greenhouse operation to grow fiber (for use by the nursery) and seed (for sale, perhaps saved up for years if demand temporarily wanes) would be worthwhile, in some circumstances.
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have used it to create bean teepees and I probably could have got another year out of most of it but some of it just snapped when I was dismantling things in the fall so it all went in the compost. most of the areas that broke were knotted and probably held too much moisture for too long.

I think if I were to try and preserve it for longer I would soak it in neats foot oil. I may be totally off base with that but I love neats foot oil for leather. nothing works better to preserve and protect leather tack from harsh weather conditions. but obviously jute is a different substance. might be worth an experiment though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neatsfoot_oil
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fascinating.  I never knew about neatsfoot oil.

After reading the article you linked to, I'm tempted to say hard tallow is the way to go, as long as nothing would eat it.

Oil has to be worked into leather over time, at room temperature, so it makes sense to use the most liquid fraction of tallow for that task, and it's kind of amazing that cattle already have that fraction separated for you in their anatomy.   

Jute has a lot coarser fibers than leather, and so I think a swab of hot tallow would stay liquid long enough to soak in.  And since the structure doesn't need to stay as flexible as leather does, the fact that it hardens as it cools should be OK.

My concern with either would be that rats or similar would just eat the fat-soaked jute.

Edit:  A link at the bottom of the article mentioned Dippel's oil, which really surprised me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dippel%27s_oil

Dippel's Oil (sometimes known as Bone Oil) is a nitrogenous by-product of the destructive distillation manufacture of bone char [1]. This liquid is dark colored and highly viscous with an unpleasant smell. It is named after its inventor, Johann Conrad Dippel, the oil contains the organic base pyrrol.

Dippel's oil had a number of uses which are now mostly obsolete. These included medicinal uses [2], use as an alcohol denaturant, as an ingredient in sheep dips, as an animal repellent (tradenamed as "Renardine" and as an insecticide.


Sound familiar?     A mix of tallow and Dippel's oil seems like another good option to add to the list.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Pie
Posts: 19842
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's a nutty thought.

What if you can see some dried up nettle nearby.  Standing dead.  Couldn't you just use that like jute as is?  I know that when doing the whole twine/net/rope thing you process the netlle a bit.  But since this is for something in the garden and doesn't need to be fancy - maybe just grab some and use it as is?

 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I tend to use jute for climbers that get lots of blowing in the wind and plants pulling. tallow might harden and break or  chunk off when you knotted it....maybe. just a thought.


alot of people use glycerin based stuff on their tack. it seals it well but imo that is not acceptable for leather because it makes it slick. slick tack and rank horses don't combine but it might be good for jute.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
paul wheaton wrote:
Here's a nutty thought.

What if you can see some dried up nettle nearby.  Standing dead.  Couldn't you just use that like jute as is?  I know that when doing the whole twine/net/rope thing you process the netlle a bit.  But since this is for something in the garden and doesn't need to be fancy - maybe just grab some and use it as is?




I'm not sure how the fibers run in nettle, so it might or might not work.

If the fibers are very short, it will lose all strength as soon as it rets (i.e., when the natural bonds between fibers decompose).

I suggested the plants I did partly because the retting process takes so long, but in the case of ramie, partly because the individual fibers are so long (5 cm, versus milimeters wood) that the cord will hold anyway.

The link from the "cleaving brake" post a while back talks about weaving wickets, and from that I would guess that giving the nettle a half-twist for every bend you put it through would improve the chances of this working.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Pie
Posts: 19842
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nettles are harvested for cordage in the fall.  My impression is that there is a lot of stuff that is done with them before they end up as cord or net.  What happens if you don't do that stuff and just leave them as six foot long twiggy-like things?

 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic