A self-sufficient, healthy lifestyle can be available to everyone without breaking to bank. Preppers, homesteaders, microfarmers, gardeners and anyone concerned about their food or their wallet will find ideas and suggestions to help further their goals.
Monday, February 18, 2013
How to make concrete or mortar that can harden underwater, from scratch.
Have you ever
wondered how people made concrete before there were bags of ready to mix
cement? Well good news, you're about to learn.
is one of the strongest, and most versatile building materials that mankind (or
womankind, I irritate them, but I don't discriminate against them) has at its
disposal. It's instant rock. "Just add water". Kind of like the Wal-Mart
brand corn tortilla mix, only it doesn't smell funny. The problem with concrete
is the price. The high price tag stems mainly from the fact that industrial
concrete plants require massive amounts of energy. This is no less true of
homemade concrete however, due to the smaller scale, it's more manageable. That
said, you really need one heck of a bonfire for this one.
main ingredients of cement are quicklime (which is made from limestone), sand,
and aggregate, which is normally gravel. To make "hydraulic cement"
(cement that can set underwater), you'll need terra-cotta in place of sand.
Limestone, seashells, bone, and chalk are all made of calcium carbonate. Any of
these materials can be used to make quicklime, although limestone is more
readily available in large quantities. Limestone occurs all over the world.You may well have limestone on your property
and not even know it. After all, it makes up about 10% of the sedimentary rock
this side of the Earth's crust. It is also available at most lawn and
garden/home improvement stores relatively cheap for use in landscaping. But
with limestone, remember that the whiter the stone the more pure it is. Purity
is especially important if you plan on making hydraulic cement. If you only
need a small quantity of hydraulic cement, I suggest using chalk for that
quicklime, you’re going to need to build a really hot fire. You're going to
have to get your material glowing white-hot for this to work. This is easier in a kiln, but can be done with
a bonfire. Take your limestone, seashells, or chalk and place them in the fire.
Be sure to keep the fire burning hot around them, while also raking coals
around them to get them as hot as you possibly can. If you're using powdered
chalk or small pieces of limestone, you may want to place a steel plate in the
fire to place your limestone on.The
calcium carbonate (CaCo3 ) will go through a chemical reaction in which carbon
dioxide (CO2) will be cooked off, leaving calcium oxide (Ca0), a.k.a.
quicklime. Once your quicklime has cooled, use a brush to remove any impurities
it may have picked up in the fire. It's important to remember that although you
can store quicklime in an airtight moisture-free container, quicklime is highly
caustic (so use gloves when handling it) and unstable. (Relax, it's not gonna
blow up. I'm not going to teach you how to make anything that blows up for
three reasons. One: I'd rather teach you something useful. Two: my family made
me promise not to. In the words of my
mother, "Please, don't put some poor parent through what I had to go
through when you were growing up". Three: It’s just too easy. So, if you are
one of the small contingent of people who know what I do for a living, and are
waiting around for me to teach you how to make a bomb….You're a moron, grow up).
By unstable, I mean is difficult store to for long periods of time without it
When water is
added to quicklime, it becomes slaked lime. This creates an exothermic (that's
fancy talk for it gets hot) chemical reaction in which the water is expelled
leaving behind a solid rock. (The hissing and bubbling are not a part of the
chemical reaction. That's actually black magic, so draw a cross on your forehead
to keep the devil from climbing in through your butt and taking over your body.)
This is where the magic happens. By adding aggregate and/or sand, you can
create a concrete wall mortar to suit any application. Again, use gloves.This stuff can take your skin off.
I'm going to
give you recipes for several basic mixes; however it is important to remember
that different mixes work better in some areas and climates than others. To
find out which mix work best in your area, you can look it up on the Internet.
(Unless you get extremely lucky, this won't work). You can do some small-scale
experiments of your own. The best way I have found to do this is to ask an old-timer.
I'm serious.They have done all this
stuff before. In most cultures, the elderly are held in a place of honor. One
of the many downfalls of our culture is that we toss them away in
"homes" and stop listening to them. They’re old.They are not children, nor are they stupid…unless
they were stupid before they were old. Anyone who is interested in
homesteading, survival, self-sufficiency, gardening, building or hell, anything
else for that matter, can obtain a wealth of all but forgotten knowledge for
the price of a cup of coffee.Oh wait,
most places give seniors free coffee! Knowledge is, without a doubt, the single
greatest resource humankind has access to. To ignore those who have almost a
century of that knowledge is completely, and utterly asinine. Young people,
let's not forget that they were at one time farmers, construction workers,
sailors, soldiers, housewives, welders, cooks and doctors. They were brilliant
inventors, brainless jocks, dirty little schoolgirls, and they were that weird
guy that everybody likes and nobody understands. They were the loved, the
hated, the strong, the weak, the courageous, the cowards. They were us.
Before we get
into actual recipes, it's important that we first discussed the mason's
paradox. It is thus, "The more water you add to the mix, the easier it is
to work. The less water you add to the mix, the stronger the final product will
be." You have to add enough water to get the entire mix at least damp. But
beyond that, the choice of how much water to add is up to you.
Basic Cement Mix
1 part quicklime
3 parts sand
3 parts aggregate
quicklime the first, then add your sand and aggregate.
Basic Mortar Mix
3 parts sand
quicklime first, then add the sand.
cement, or mortar, is a cemented wall mortar that will harden underwater. It's
not quite as strong as normal cement or mortar, but when you need hydraulic
cement not much else will do. This is good for preparing swimming pools,
building ponds, cisterns, or dams. It is important to note that your quicklime
must be incredibly pure for this to work. Also, instead of using sand, we will
be using crushed terra-cotta. If you don't have enough terra-cotta or really
like your flowerpots, you can use fired clay instead. Either way, it must be
crushed into a powder.
Hydraulic Cement Mix
3 parts crushed
quicklime, then add your crushed terra-cotta and aggregate
Hydraulic Mortar Mix
quicklime, then add your crushed terra-cotta.
I'm going to
build a concrete Darth Vader statue. But you can build a castle, or dam, or
something useful like a patio. Whatever you build, please tell me about it. As
always, I hope this tutorial has taught you something and sparked your
imagination. I hope you put to use.