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I built a Cinva-Ram CEB press, and I made it easier for you to build one too!  RSS feed

 
Mike Cantrell
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I've been meaning to share this for a little while. I hope it helps people.

A couple years ago, I got pretty excited about Compressed Earth Blocks, or CEBs. I hunted and hunted around for a set of plans to build one, and came up empty handed. So I bought a set of paper plans from a dealer of natural building books. (I forget her name. I believe she retired immediately thereafter and someone new is running her show.)

This was ok, except that the plans were in metric units! What's the big deal, just convert it, right? If something needs to be 1.845 cm, it's inconvenient, that's all, right? Well, no. Because you can't buy steel plate in the States except in Imperial units. And if the thickness changes, then other measurements have to change. Not just convert from mm to inches, but redesign.

So I set about converting it. It took a heck of a long time, because I wanted to do it in Google Sketchup, and that meant learning Sketchup first. But I got it done.

I first tried plasma-cutting my parts out of 1/2" plate (rounding up to the next larger thickness vs what the original plans called for). Mistake. The weight was impossible, getting smooth, square cuts was impossible, and welding it was no cakewalk either.

So plan B was, 1/4" plate, and I'll have it waterjet cut. That went wonderfully. Huge success.


So I got my machine welded up, and it works great.

Does a Photobucket slideshow work?
http://s82.photobucket.com/user/mscantrell/slideshow/Cinva%20Ram%20Block%20Press



If not, here's some of the parts:




The very first brick. Man, that felt good.



This was my first ever project, a little garden wall. (Actually, I pressed some blocks to see how it would go, then figured I should do something with them:


The Cinva-Ram pops your finished brick up out of the mold so you can carefully pick it up, and it keeps its crisp corners:


A recent set of bricks:




And, here's the plans:










But here's the best part of all.
When I had these cut, I chatted with the shop owner about cutting another set. He says he keeps his past jobs just about forever.

So if you'd like to build this press, you can
1. Call the shop I used
2. Ask for Mike Cantrell's press parts from March 2011
3. Get a kit in the mail


The shop was:
ECS, Inc.
Joe Rheingans
160 B East Randall Wobbe Lane
Springdale, AR 72764
479-751-1327
sales@ecscorp.net



The price for both the material and the cutting was about $215 three years ago. You'll have to add a few of the other pieces- the round rod, the pipe for the handle, the little 1.5"x1.5" square piece with the hole drilled in. That adds a few more bucks if you don't have it in your scrap pile.

But there you have it. Want to build a Cinva-Ram CEB press? That ought to make it a little easier.

Good luck!
If you build it, come back and post pictures!

Mike
 
Tim Nam
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Thank you Mike. Very cool.
 
Ken Peavey
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Well Done
 
Rob Lisa
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This is an extremely cool thread. Nice job!
 
Joe Rheingans
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Mike,
I still have the parts files and have had several quests for the parts. Current cost is $ 285.89 plus shipping for the sheet metal parts.
Can you send me a parts list for the additional parts that you sourced locally? Can you give me a call when you have time?
Joe
ECS Corp
 
Tom Connolly
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Have you seen plans for a press that uses hydraulic pressure? Can this be modified to make bricks of different sizes?
 
Amedean Messan
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Nice work, will follow this later!
 
Taylor Anderson
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Mike Cantrell wrote:


Mike,
On this last page of the plans, can you give dimensions for where the holes are located [from the edges]? It only shows the diameter.

Thanks!
 
Mike Cantrell
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Joe Rheingans wrote:Mike,
I still have the parts files and have had several quests for the parts. Current cost is $ 285.89 plus shipping for the sheet metal parts.
Can you send me a parts list for the additional parts that you sourced locally? Can you give me a call when you have time?
Joe
ECS Corp


Joe, I'll call you this morning.

Here are the missing parts:

  • 1" round bar, cold-rolled. Five pieces: 10", 10", 10", 8", 2".
  • 1.5"x2" bar, 5" long. One 1" (or slightly oversized) hole drilled in small end. One 1" (or slightly oversized) hole drilled through 2" face, near opposite end.
  • One top hinge assembly: Round stock at least 3/8" thick, and pipe with matching inside diameter (ID). Exact size not important, it just serves as a pivot. Pipe is welded to outside of box. Rod is welded to small piece of plate (again, thickness not important, as long as it's stiff enough to hold the lid up), and the plate is welded to the lid.
  • One hinge for the latch assembly: A piece of 1/2" round (2.5" long) and a piece of pipe with 1/2" ID (1.5" long).


  • Here's a rough video reviewing:

    Youtube Video

    Edit: Burra's got it embedded below. Thanks, Burra, you're the best!

    Tom Connolly wrote:Have you seen plans for a press that uses hydraulic pressure? Can this be modified to make bricks of different sizes?

    I've seen videos, but no plans. Not that I've looked. Working with hydraulics was beyond both my budget and my expertise. (Probably still is. )
    You could maybe make thinner bricks with this one by adding a spacer in the bottom. Any kind of spacer on the sides, or holes in the middle, would be tough, since the dirt would pile up around the edges of it before you apply the pressure. I haven't really tried, so don't let ME tell YOU it's impossible.

    Taylor Anderson wrote: On this last page of the plans, can you give dimensions for where the holes are located [from the edges]? It only shows the diameter.

    Sure can. The bottom holes just serve to attach feet of your choice, so their placement isn't important. Mine happen to be 1" from the bottom and 1" from each edge.
    The pivot hole is centered top-to-bottom (so, 7.5" each way) and 1" in from the edge.
     
    Burra Maluca
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    I beat that youtube link into submission for you with my big hammer.

     
    R Scott
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    Tom Connolly wrote:Have you seen plans for a press that uses hydraulic pressure? Can this be modified to make bricks of different sizes?


    I have seen divider plates made (think inverted T of plate steel) so you make two half-blocks.

    Hydraulics seem like they would be simpler, but the cinva is ingenious in the way it pushes from both sides--greatly reducing the stress and size of steel needed. Getting the same pressure from hydraulics is surprisingly hard. The manual press cycles faster, too, until you get to a $100k setup. I was shocked, too.

    I really like the ones made with the lego-like dimples to lock together and make vertical chases for wire or rebar/concrete, but they make the press much more complicated.
     
    Taylor Anderson
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    Mike Cantrell wrote:And, here's the plans:

    ...


    Mike,
    There is a short 3" long pivot tab, and a longer 4" long pivot tab. Which one connects to the pipe handle, and which one connects to the long arms that reach under to compress the bricks? (Hopefully that question is clear.)

    Thanks,
    Taylor
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Long ones on the arms, short ones on the L-shaped cam.
     
    Rick LaJambe
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    I don't mean to hijack this thread, but it reminded me of the first time I had heard of CEB. It was while watching a TED Talk by Marcin Jakubowski. He began an open source collection of DIY machines and called it the Global Village Construction Set. http://www.ted.com/talks/marcin_jakubowski

    One of the machines is a CEB press. One of the things I really liked about his designs was that most of the machines were designed to accept a common power source, a box containing an engine that is easily moved from one machine to another (such as from the tractor to the CEB press) thus vastly reducing cost.

    http://opensourceecology.org/gvcs/
     
    Mike Hegar
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    Great info here! I'm actually looking for the cinva ram plans in metric units! Anybody out there have that available?
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Mike Hegar wrote:Great info here! I'm actually looking for the cinva ram plans in metric units! Anybody out there have that available?


    Hi Mike,

    Here's where I bought the metric plans from:

    http://www.dirtcheapbuilder.com/Home_Building/Earth_Block_Construction.htm#CinvaRam

    Er, no wait, that's just the description.

    Here's the ordering page:
    http://www.papercrete.com/cinvaramplans.html

    Since I paid for them, I'm not sure of the copyright status. The above, I worked it all out myself. I know since I created it, I can give it away. But the purchased set of plans, I don't know that for sure, so I'm going to refrain from sharing, to make sure I'm on the right side of both the law and good ethics.
     
    Julia Winter
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    Good on ya, Mike. Thanks so much for sharing all this information (but protecting the rights of other innovators).

    It would be great to post a picture of something (larger) built with these blocks.
     
    Angie Bales
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    Mike, I just placed an order from the company in Arkansas for your list of parts. This may be a stupid question but, how will I know what to weld to what when they get here? I'm very excited!
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Well, you could wing it, or I could make a video of tear-down and reassembling, which would show all the welds.

    Lucky for you, I took the week off work, and making such a video might just be in the cards. No promises.
     
    Eric Northeast
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    Do you have the DXF or sketchup files for these plans? I may make one at some point at TechShop DC Arlington. I don't really have a use for one, I just want to build it and try it out. Anyone in the DC area interested in one of these?
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Mike Cantrell wrote:Well, you could wing it, or I could make a video of tear-down and reassembling, which would show all the welds.

    Lucky for you, I took the week off work, and making such a video might just be in the cards. No promises.


    Ok, well that took longer than I intended.

    But OP DELIVERS!



    (Good gracious I'm sorry about the audio quality. )
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Eric Northeast wrote:Do you have the DXF or sketchup files for these plans? I may make one at some point at TechShop DC Arlington. I don't really have a use for one, I just want to build it and try it out. Anyone in the DC area interested in one of these?


    I never did make DXFs; my waterjet guy did them.
    But here's the sketchup file.
    Filename: Cinva-Ram-freehand.skp
    File size: 849 Kbytes
     
    greg thompson
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    I am in the middle of building a ram right now. I did redraw these plans and can post them here in a DXF file, or the like, soon.
     
    greg thompson
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    So here is a DXF file of the drawings I did for my water jet guy. They are working good so far , but i am however , not done welding everything together yet. But i'm not seeing any problems. The slot in the side panels has been narrowed to 1 1/16
    I used Draft Sight to draw these. Its a free downloadable drawing software that seems to be fairly user friendly. Hope this helps.


    Well I tried posting a DXF file but keep getting... Files with the extension .dxf are not allowed as attachment in the message.
    If you want a DXF maybe try an email.
     
    Alberto Gonzalez
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    Dear Sirs
    I'm building a machine with a hydraulic piston and let me know how many inches or centimeters must press
    That is, how much to raise the bottom plate.
    thank you very much
    best regards
    Alberto
    Argentina Patagonia Chubut
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Alberto Gonzalez wrote:Dear Sirs
    I'm building a machine with a hydraulic piston and let me know how many inches or centimeters must press
    That is, how much to raise the bottom plate.
    thank you very much
    best regards
    Alberto
    Argentina Patagonia Chubut


    I'll try to go measure for you in the morning!
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Mike Cantrell wrote:
    Alberto Gonzalez wrote:Dear Sirs
    I'm building a machine with a hydraulic piston and let me know how many inches or centimeters must press
    That is, how much to raise the bottom plate.
    thank you very much
    best regards
    Alberto
    Argentina Patagonia Chubut


    I'll try to go measure for you in the morning!


    On my machine, the chamber starts at 6 1/8" deep. The bottom plate travels 2 1/2". The finished block is 3 5/8" thick.

    In centimeters, the chamber starts at 15.5cm. The bottom plate travels 6.3cm. The finished block is 9.2cm thick.

    I hope that helps!
     
    Alberto Gonzalez
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    Thank you very much Mike
    It worked very well with those measures.
    I enclose picture of my first brick
    Best regards from Patagonia
    Alberto





     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Hermosìsimo!

    Can we see your machine?
     
    Alberto Gonzalez
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    Chris Contreras
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    I am very excited and interested in this but I have some questions.
    1- Do the bricks have to be fired to be cured?
    2- What is the curing time?
    3- Will water destroy/deteriorate the bricks? (Is it like a normal fired brick or will it wash away?)
    4- Is it feasible to build a dwelling structure using CEB? If so will it pass NC building codes?
    5- Has anyone made an interchangeable mold cavity for the machine so that multiple molds can be used in the same press?

    Thank you in advance for the input on any or all of these questions!
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Chris Contreras wrote:I am very excited and interested in this but I have some questions.
    1- Do the bricks have to be fired to be cured?
    2- What is the curing time?
    3- Will water destroy/deteriorate the bricks? (Is it like a normal fired brick or will it wash away?)
    4- Is it feasible to build a dwelling structure using CEB? If so will it pass NC building codes?
    5- Has anyone made an interchangeable mold cavity for the machine so that multiple molds can be used in the same press?

    Thank you in advance for the input on any or all of these questions!


    Hi Chris!

    I'm going to assume you meant questions about my process, rather than Alberto's.

    Here's a good start:
    Wikipedia

    1. No. CEBs are like "green bricks"- they're unfired.
    2. If you don't mix anything else in, then curing time = drying time. Depending on the weather, it's a few days.
    3. Yes. These are susceptible to water. People do different things to mitigate that. I've tried adding 10% portland cement, and found it to make bricks that are QUITE waterproof. I've destroyed a few with freeze/thaw spalling, but not just water.
    4. Yes. Lots and lots and lots and lots of building have been built with CEBs. Practically all the buildings at the Auroville Earth Institute are CEB built. Midwest Earth Builders in Wisconsin is making CEB buildings professionally. As far as North Carolina's building codes, I sure don't know. There are sections is most model building codes for adobe. These, being unfired clay bricks, would be subject to the codes that talk about adobe.
    5. Yes they have, but I think it's only been done on hydraulic machines, not mechanical pressers. I can't seem to put my finger on a link right now.
     
    Chris Contreras
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    Mike Cantrell wrote:
    Hi Chris!

    I'm going to assume you meant questions about my process, rather than Alberto's.

    Here's a good start:
    Wikipedia

    1. No. CEBs are like "green bricks"- they're unfired.
    2. If you don't mix anything else in, then curing time = drying time. Depending on the weather, it's a few days.
    3. Yes. These are susceptible to water. People do different things to mitigate that. I've tried adding 10% portland cement, and found it to make bricks that are QUITE waterproof. I've destroyed a few with freeze/thaw spalling, but not just water.
    4. Yes. Lots and lots and lots and lots of building have been built with CEBs. Practically all the buildings at the Auroville Earth Institute are CEB built. Midwest Earth Builders in Wisconsin is making CEB buildings professionally. As far as North Carolina's building codes, I sure don't know. There are sections is most model building codes for adobe. These, being unfired clay bricks, would be subject to the codes that talk about adobe.
    5. Yes they have, but I think it's only been done on hydraulic machines, not mechanical pressers. I can't seem to put my finger on a link right now.



    Thank you for your answers. Unfortunately my area in coastal NC receives a lot of rain .... which I imagine would not be favorable to green bricks. Have you ever heard of individuals firing their own CEBs to make them stronger?
     
    Peter Lattey
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    Mike. I have seen postings elsewhere for inserts into a cinva ram machine to make "lego" blocks. These are a male bottom plate with two round tabs and a female top plate with two round depressions. The bottom plate just drops in and the top plate replaces the regular top plate. You then get a block that interlocks.
     
    Christopher Marshall
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    Mike -- I'm wondering has anyone posted to you that they're willing to weld this for someone? I don't know how to weld, but want to own a small cinva-ram such as the one you have here. I've had trouble finding an affordable one in the US. Have you ever seen one like this for sale for a reasonable price (<$500)?
     
    Mike Cantrell
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    Hi Chris,
    In the different places I've lived, I've always found it very easy to find welders. People, I mean, not machines. Or actually, both. Used welders are like used cars- there's a solid secondary market for them.

    So my first thought would be, if I had $500 to make this happen, I'd order the waterjet set from Joe above ($285 plus shipping last year, probably a tad higher now), and have him mail them to the closest or nicest guy I could find around me who welds, and pay that guy to build it. He'd SURELY be able to do it for less than your remaining $215.

    Plan B, though, would be to buy the set of parts, and then go spend the remaining $215 on a used welder, mask, and some rods. Then I'd practice till I was confident, and sell the used welder and mask for what I paid for them. Now you've got a Cinva-Ram, a valuable skill, and money left over. That would be harder and slower, sure, but a better long-term idea for sure.
     
    Christopher Marshall
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    my instinct has always been to go with plan B (keep the welding gear-- because I have a hunch that once I learn how to weld...i'm gonna have a ton of projects!)... the issue is time -- I want raised beds before next year..and in Oregon that means I'll have to get my CEB's made before the rain sets in! So I think I'll hunt around to find a local welder for now -- who knows -- maybe for an extra few bucks...he/she will throw in a lesson or two!

    thanks,
    C
     
    richard walker
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    I recently bought a kit from the supplier on your link. You may want to let him know that the slot size has been changed from 2" to 1" for the pull arm guide slot.
    So far I have everything welded except the cam. It appears to be going well and Thank You for posting this!
    A lot of welding could have been avoided and a stronger product as well, by building certain components out of 1/2" steel such as the bottom push assembly could have been cut as a T, as well as the top and bottom plates. I am currently working with a Machine shop and will have an alternative source available soon for these parts as a kit, using the same dimensions but a slightly different part layout using 1/2" where needed for those of us who are not quite as handy at welding.
    Again it was Awesome of You to post his resource! I will post again when it's done.
    Thanks,
    Richard
     
    richard walker
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    It works! now I'm off to get some Portland Cement. My first Brick
    First-brick-001.JPG
    [Thumbnail for First-brick-001.JPG]
    First Brick
     
    richard walker
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    I need help with the Cinva Ram. Its making the bricks just fine but I cannot lift them without them breaking in half! What am I doing wrong?
     
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