I have just now (Friday evening) confirmed that I will be able to acquire mortar material tomorrow morning. If anyone is interested in the finer points of different mortar mixes, mortar vs. lime, etc. then by all means swing by. As Natural Building purists we would ideally want to use only lime mortar, but Building Lime suitable for mortaring bricks is about 10 times as expensive as Mason Lime suitable for mixing into a mortar with Portland Cement, and that doesn't include our decision to use mortar in our infill in some places in the wall (to conserve brick).
Therefore, we will be using only one bag of crazy expensive Building Lime just to have it represented in the wall and get the chance to work with it; the rest will be done with Type N Mortar (which is only one part Portland Cement to 7 parts lime and sand, so it's not that bad!)
I found some great links of interest - one on mortar types and proportions (these include mortars made with Portland Cement and also straight lime mortar, which contains no Portand Cement): http://www.mc2-ice.com/services/estref/popular_conversion_files/masonry/mortar.htm
Here is a pdf from the National Lime Association on Lime Mortar: http://anfacal.org/media/Biblioteca_Digital/Construccion/Mezclas_Repellados_y_Stuccos/LIME_THE_OLDEST_PROVEN_MORTAR_MATERIAL_FOR_DURABLE_WATERTIGHT_MASONRY.pdf
And here is an interesting article on mixing mortar for properties (vs using a straight proportion as the guide) from Masonry Magazine: http://www.masonrymagazine.com/9-02/mixing.html
Take a look and if any of these links are your brand of geeky, then by all means swing by tomorrow (Saturday).
Learning about mortar mixes is important for the following reasons:
1) If you are not purchasing all conventional materials (and the entire point of this group is to do better than to purchase conventional, manufactured materials for our building projects), you are going to be using a combination of scavenged material (which may be 100+ years old and have different qualities than today's version, as is the case with our brick) and natural material. When you "fall back" on conventional materials at Home Depot (or wherever) for some elements of your project as we did initially for our mortar, you will be in unfamiliar territory and without some deeper expertise you will be flying blind (and deeper expertise in Natural or Traditional Building will almost certainly not be found at Home Depot). Our result in taking the "flying blind" approach was to construct a brick stem wall that I pushed over with my foot 3 weeks after initially building it. Making these kinds of crazy mistakes so that you can learn from them – and to stop you from making the same mistakes and building on a foundation that is weaker than a banana - is the MOST VALUABLE thing we have to offer you.
2) This topic is part of a larger learning curve dealing with the incompatibility of conventional vs. natural materials, and how to get from "here" to "there." In theory, natural building is pretty straightforward – elegantly simple even, which is why we have over 300 members that find this stuff so compelling. In practice, we live in the real world, and our elegantly simple plans need to be executed in an environment that is not currently designed to facilitate Natural Building.
If you are still reading, then you will enjoy talking about this with us tomorrow. This is last minute, so I expect this will be a small get together. It will consist of me out in the backyard mixing mortar and laying a first course or part of it, and maybe you helping me if you feel like it, and that's about it. Oh, and lots of mortar talk. I intend to spend the better part of the evening reading up on different types of lime.
All you building material geeks, please consider this a warm welcome.
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