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RMH for Dummies! Please help guide me through my first build!

 
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Update: I went straight to the "big guns" and asked Erica Wisner.
She suggested trying some wet pottery clay.
I will get some tomorrow and begin processing. And then back to batch tests,  phase 2.

 
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Stacy, have you checked tadelakt?
 
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Satamax Antone wrote:Stacy, have you checked tadelakt?



I followed that link, that's a rabbit hole.
I'm thinking I may finish my heater off with a super thin lime render to seal it.
We used lime render on the building with like half a cup of portland added to each cement mixer load, just to harden it.
It worked well. There are hair line cracking in it now after 5 years but it's a very lightweight building that moves when you slam doors (or rather my 6 year old slams doors)
 
Dan Hatfield Ii
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Staci Kopcha wrote:Update: I went straight to the "big guns" and asked Erica Wisner.
She suggested trying some wet pottery clay.
I will get some tomorrow and begin processing. And then back to batch tests,  phase 2.


When I went to collect my dried bagged clay from the pottery place, they had heaps of waste clay on a trolley.
I've heard Erica mention to ask for waste clay so maybe it's a fairly commen thing at pottery supplies???
Thanks
Dan
 
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Staci Kopcha wrote:

Dan Hatfield Ii wrote:Hi Staci,

I used air separated fire clay that came from a ceramics place. I believe the stuff you may be able to get hold of is called "lincoln 60 fireclay"

I used the potter's fireclay without any issue.  
I havn't sealed it yet so it's dusty (but very hard)
I need to find something to seal with that will not change the colour.
Lindseed will darken it.



Hi Dan,
 I have been using Lincoln 60.  Not happily.
Erica Wisner (author of one of the RMH books) was speaking of Lincoln 60 and of another type of fire clay (more potters type)..maybe that is what you had?

You have dust- but does do you have sand sloughing off?

Just a tiny bit of dust comes off.
The clay I used is a local company and not lincoln 60. I did go on the lincoln 60 website and looked and the contents of the clay (silica etc. blah blah I have no clue) and the guy at my ceramics shop said they were the same thing kind of.
Mine worked fine.
Thanks
Dan

As for sealing, I have read (and planned to do it) that it can be rubbed with natural soap- glycerin type. I think you just rub the bar around on the plaster.  Wouldn't work on mine though- with the crumbles. ;)
Might be something to try...?

Staci

 
Staci Kopcha
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I got 4 blocks of scrap (wet) potter's clay yesterday. Broke up and soaked over night, then mixed by hand and then with paint stir.
Trying combos of wet clay  alone and wet clay mixed with fire clay. (with sand and horse manure).
Now it is wait and see.


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Staci Kopcha
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I am seriously being reduced to tears of frustration!!
I spent 8 hours on this damn thing yesterday and looking at it this morning it is STILL a hot mess.
I redid the plaster mix:
3 buckets sifted sand (through window screen)
1 bucked sifted horse manure (wider mesh -hardaware cloth)
1/2 bucket fire clay
1/2 bucket potters clay
8 cups wheat paste
1/3 cup dry milk powder (slurry with water)
cat tail fluff.

This morning- bits of hay are so prominently visible???
I tried to push through a finer mesh, but it all just gets gummed up and not much comes through.

QUESTIONS:  Is the hay supposed to be visible???
SHould I just go with a lime plaster (I looked up tadelakt)??
If I go with the lime plaster, do I finish with the current (horse manure) plaster on the rest of the bench first???

Thanks,
(A very very tired and frustrated) Staci
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Staci Kopcha
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Satamax Antone wrote:Stacy, have you checked tadelakt?


Satamax,
 Have you any experience making it?
Thanks!
 
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Hi Staci,   So sorry for your woes! :(   In all my experiences, the straw does show through. It reminds me of the look of basalt. If its the finish coat and you don't want to see it and have a homogeneous look, then just leave it out (which includes the horse manure) and replace it with the cattail fluff (or hair), which replaces the straw acting as the tensile strength. From my memory, the cattail fluff is fine enough so that you don't really see it unless you get up real close.
Your picture looks quite good to me. Hold in there!

I've been following Daniel Ray's building of his Balecob home. His last post was pictures of his newly finished tadelakt tub/shower surround. Perhaps he could give you some pointers on how the process is done and how it went for him:
tadelakt

Tommy's Tea Dome is a nice use of lime plaster with a very smooth and clean look:
Tea Dome

Also, there might be someone in the Natural building forum that may be more experienced with plaster.
 
Satamax Antone
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Staci Kopcha wrote:

Satamax Antone wrote:Stacy, have you checked tadelakt?


Satamax,
 Have you any experience making it?
Thanks!



Absolutely not Stacy. Sorry.

Over here they're trying mud and lime plasters, with some surprising results.
 
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You should leave the hair/straw out on the last coat for sure. If you want to remove it now, just go over it with a small propane torch and it will burn away very easy.
If you want to try lime, you need to dry it out 200% and wait for any cracking to finish.
If you use hydrated lime I have a recipe.
If you want to make lime putty, you need to soak it now and leave it as long as possible. We are talking months ideally
 
Staci Kopcha
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Getting so close...!!
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Looking really good Staci!
 
Gerry Parent
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Very nice indeed Staci! Good job!
 
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That is beautiful!

I think the small bits of straw in the surface look fine, but if you don't want the look, so be it. If you don't put some sort of sealer on it, you will get a powdery surface, that's just the way it is. It is going to get spills and stains over the years, so trying to keep a light surface is  likely to cause long-tern stress. Better to start with a medium tone.  As you are using commercial fireclay and/or potter's clay, it should be able to make a hard surface (still scratchable with a thumbnail). More clay to sand will make a somewhat more solid surface. I would try burnishing the surface with a very hard smooth object, like a piece of polished quartz or other hard glossy stone. You want to do that when it has mostly dried, but not completely turned color, so the clay particles can be compressed and sand grains pressed down below the surface.
 
Staci Kopcha
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Hi!
 Letting the thing dry and then will burnish with soap.  If I need to do a lime- wash, it will happen next year.

QUESTION:  Nearing the time to fire it up- it has been about 4 months and I want to get it prepared.  What do I do to cleanout?? I do not have a shop vac.  It is my understanding that they get clogged by ash.
  I have a removable lid, so will take a look at the tower and manifold area.  I also have an endoscope-like camera attachment to my phone to take a look inside the pipes.
 Do need to start searching Offer Up for a shop vac?
Thanks!!!
 
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I have no idea why this idea even came to me, but the way you say your cob finish is crumbling made me think of how the properties of a protein based egg wash might hold the surface together and give you a more durable finish.  Have no idea how this might affect the color or durability but my instincts rarely fail me.  I know you are not afraid to experiment judiciously so I'm just throwing this out there for your consideration.
 
Satamax Antone
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Stacy, get yourself an ash bucket like this

 
Staci Kopcha
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Satamax Antone wrote:Stacy, get yourself an ash bucket like this



Hi Satamax-
 Is this a DIY contraption? I can try to look it up if it is. Thanks!
 
Satamax Antone
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Nope, commercially available,  at harbor freight or home depot, i can't remember where i nicked the photo.

Costs a tenner usually over here, or may be a twenty.

https://www.google.fr/search?biw=1228&bih=588&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=CP6IXcfwNKGLlwSAv5yABA&q=ash+separator&oq=ash+separa&gs_l=img.1.0.0i24.11485.13061..16895...0.0..0.85.438.6......0....1..gws-wiz-img.......0i67j0j0i10.44PLW1DKWo4
 
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If you can remove the barrel or get the camera into the manifold and take a picture aiming down the first pipe in the bench, you can see if a vacuum is needed or not. I’ve seen some pictures where the pipes are almost spotless and others where there’s an inch or two buildup every year. If the bench clean out faces down the length of the pipe, a telescoping brush could push it all to one end and be scooped out.
 
Staci Kopcha
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Good Morning!
I got the Ash can as Satomax suggested- Offer up for $20. Also got a 6" round wire chimney brush.
Going to give it a clean today and fire up maybe tomorrow.

Erica Wisener suggested in one of her builds, rubbing glycerine soap over the cob as protection.  I did a test swatch and then started some more this morning.  Kind of slow going.
Anyone used this soap method??
  Would Linseed be a better option?

Thanks!!
 
Staci Kopcha
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I did my first big cleanout today.
Under the chimney (I used a telescoping pipe up to the ceiling box) had the most ash...?
I measured about 2" deep.  Is that normal??  Other cleanouts, including manifold and under the barrel had less.
Also, The ash can completely died after 5 minutes of use.  I think the filter clogged and the motor overheated.  I did not turn off soon enough.
Is that normal??
Thanks.
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Gerry Parent
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Hi Staci,  I don't have any experience with glycerine soap. I'm assuming your rubbing a bar of it over the surface and it leaves a coating that acts like wax? Wonder how it behaves when warm?
I do have experience with linseed oil though - It stinks for about 3 days until it dries, it makes the cob much darker (especially when wet but minimizes so when dried) and changes the look of any colours it goes over.You could say it 'brownifies' everything. It is a hardening oil so it gives a solidness to the surface which takes quite a bit of abuse. It also makes the surface water resistant.
A little info on other types of oils: Drying oils
Your ash buildup sounds quite normal to me.
Sorry to hear about your vacuum.  :(     Some motors have an overheat trip switch. Did you try it again once cooled? Sounds rather odd though unless it was a lemon.
 
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Hi Staci.

Is your cleanout under a chimney which was in use before?

Because i find your ashes a bit dark. If it's under an old chimney, may be some of the stuff which was in there previously fell down.

And about your vacuul. I didn't talk about a vacuum, but kust an ash can. Which filters the ashes in front of a shop vac.  This is what i have. A pain to use. But it works for me.

Let's hope everything is ok with the motor.

Compressed air is your friend for cleaning that.
 
Satamax Antone
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I forgot, as far as soap goes, i would try liquid black soap in a corner.
 
Staci Kopcha
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Gerry Parent wrote:You could say it 'brownifies' everything. It is a hardening oil so it gives a solidness to the surface which takes quite a bit of abuse. It also makes the surface water resistant.
A little info on other types of oils: Drying oils



Hi Gerry,
 Thanks for the info.  I did try it after it cooled- nothing.  I am hoping it will have made a miraculous recovery overnight. :)
I think I will proceed with Linseed.  After the stink of fermented manure, I can probably withstand a bit of flaxseed smell.
Do you just paint it on?

 Also, do I use "hardware store" oil with other crap in it, or  food grade, raw, boiled, ???

Thanks!!
 
Staci Kopcha
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Satamax Antone wrote:Hi Staci.

Is your cleanout under a chimney which was in use before?

Because i find your ashes a bit dark.  


 Hi Satamax,
    I will look into the other type -ash separator.  Maybe I could fix this one up to work with another vacuum...?  I should have a year to figure it out.

It was a brand new chimney.  Should ashes be lighter?  There are also flakes of black- it that early creosote build up??
If ash is too dark, would that mean incomplete burn?  Trying to learn for this year.
Thanks!!!
 
Gerry Parent
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Staci,  Yes, you just paint it on with a brush. Its helpful if its warmed up a bit (becomes runnier) so it can penetrate the cob better.

Although not a floor, the following is useful info you might like to know. Adjust as you see fit.
Some advice from the book: Earthen Floors by Sukita Reay Crimmel and James Thompson

- "One gallon of oil will cover 35–45 square feet, usually in four coats. Make sure there’s enough oil to complete the job, as all the coats are applied on the same day (the oil does not need to dry between coats). It can be applied with either a brush, a paint roller, rags or a sprayer.
- Each coat will require progressively less oil to cover the floor. The oil pattern is easy to see during the first coat. Pay close attention to where you have oiled with the next few coats. Darker areas have more oil than lighter areas. A brush tends to apply more oil than a roller or rags."
- The whole floor may show darker and lighter areas, and possibly even spots where oil has dripped off a bucket or brush. These irregularities will typically balance out and not be noticeable once the oil has dried.
- Apply oil until the floor is saturated, usually about 4 coats. The saturation point will become apparent when the floor stops absorbing oil, and oil starts puddling on the surface, usually in an irregular pattern.
- Stop applying oil to the areas where this occurs."

EDIT:  More info from the same book:  "Today, boiled linseed oil sold at hardware stores and building supply stores is usually treated with chemical drying agents that contain heavy metals such as cobalt and manganese. These additives speed up the drying process, likely more than the traditional heat-treatment method."  
- "Typically linseed oil is thinned with a solvent to help it penetrate more deeply into the surface it’s being applied on (wood or earth)."
- "Raw untreated linseed oil oxidizes (dries) very slowly—it can be used as a sealer, but more commonly the raw oil is treated to speed up the drying process."
 
Satamax Antone
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Staci Kopcha wrote:

Satamax Antone wrote:Hi Staci.

Is your cleanout under a chimney which was in use before?

Because i find your ashes a bit dark.  


 Hi Satamax,
    I will look into the other type -ash separator.  Maybe I could fix this one up to work with another vacuum...?  I should have a year to figure it out.

It was a brand new chimney.  Should ashes be lighter?  There are also flakes of black- it that early creosote build up??
If ash is too dark, would that mean incomplete burn?  Trying to learn for this year.
Thanks!!!



I don't know what this is, but certainly not fly ash! Incomplete burn it should be then.
 
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Bahaha I still haven't finished mine, you've definitely surpassed me and I started first.  I had wondered about the final seal as being paraffin wax melted onto the surface with a heat gun. Has anyone tried this? This idea came to me when my wife exploded beeswax all over the kitchen and concrete floor. The only way to spread it and get it off was a heat gun and it put a pretty nice sealer all over.the floor! I dont have enough beeswax to cover the bench but paraffin is reasonably priced?
 
Staci Kopcha
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QUESTION:
 For Linseed coat, so I use boiled Linseed from Hardware with nasty stuff added??
Thanks.
 
Staci Kopcha
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HELP!!!
I am being smoked out!
Went to light RMH as usual and flames are coming out the feed...?? We're talking 1-2 feet straight out above feed hole.
Shoved them back into the tunnel and now smoke is bilowing out??

Is it "cold start"... hasn't been used in a few days?
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Satamax Antone
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Well, IIRC you haven't changed anything on the inside.

So that should be a cold start issue. Or a weather issue.

If i'm remembering well, you have cleaned it not long ago. Check that you haven't pushed fly ash down the pipes.
 
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I don't think you're supposed to use a vac on very fine dust as it will clog your filters and then maybe burn out your motor.  What Max was suggesting was a can that attaches to your existing vacuum cleaner but removes the dust, and never reaches the vacuum cleaner.

I don't believe you ever reported solving your draft problems.  You showed one picture of smoke drifting horizontally suggesting poor draft or an inversion layer above the house stopping the smoke rising.
 
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While I'm no expert, having started building my RMH just after you, Staci, my first thought would be a cold start issue keeping you from having a strong enough draft.  With my heater I didn't have any issues with smoke coming back out into the room until a couple times at the end of the season last year.  My guess then for me was that ash build up was altering the draft, and probably more importantly it wasn't as cold outside at the time so I would expect a weaker draft to begin with.  For me I just had to get some paper burning right up under the heat riser initially to get the air flow moving in the right direction and then everything was fine.  

I haven't yet started mine up for this new season.  I would have I'm sure, but right now I'm out on an extended trip to Arizona where it's plenty warm!  :)  No rocket mass heater here, though I did help build a small new hugelkulture raised bed.

Regarding the annual clean out of built up ash I just made a post on my blog documenting the various things I tried as I'm working to learn what will be the best way for me to do this, as well as showing pictures of how much build up I had and where it was located in the system.  It might be of interest to some here.  https://theartisthomestead.com/being-a-chimney-sweep-with-a-rocket-mass-heater/
 
Staci Kopcha
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David Huang wrote:
Regarding the annual clean out of built up ash I just made a post on my blog documenting the various things I tried as I'm working to learn what will be the best way for me to do this, as well as showing pictures of how much build up I had and where it was located in the system.  It might be of interest to some here.  https://theartisthomestead.com/being-a-chimney-sweep-with-a-rocket-mass-heater/


 Thanks for the input, David! Will look at your blog post.
Enjoy the warm sun- we have rainy grey in PNW Washington.
Staci
 
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Staci, I just got to light my stove for the first time this year yesterday and today. I had a realization. Everytime I have read your post about getting smoke out of your feed tunnel, your pictures do not show any half bricks over the feed tunnel to control air flow. I have two half bricks that sit on top of the feed tunnel and I can slide the to partially block the air coming in the top, if I narrow the feed opening, the velocity of the air coming in increases and will help suck all the smoke down and out. I usually need to block the feed off all last partially when I first start it until I get a good bed of coals going.
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Eric Hammond
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I guess now that I think about it, I never have the air feed completely open. I just restocked the wood box, set the brick like this, and I know I don't need to check on it for at least 45 minutes. If I left the brick off, I know I would have to come rearrange the wood to keep some smoke from coming in the house. Knock on wood, but I would say I never have smoke back issues and i attribute this to partially restricting the air feed.


Please ignore my pink crocs....they were the cheapest lol
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Location: Northern panhandle of West Virginia
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Eric Hammond wrote:Bahaha I still haven't finished mine, you've definitely surpassed me and I started first.  I had wondered about the final seal as being paraffin wax melted onto the surface with a heat gun. Has anyone tried this? This idea came to me when my wife exploded beeswax all over the kitchen and concrete floor. The only way to spread it and get it off was a heat gun and it put a pretty nice sealer all over.the floor! I dont have enough beeswax to cover the bench but paraffin is reasonably priced?

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Your bench gets hot or warm right? Wax gets soft or liquid when it gets warm. Just remember this.
 
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