In The Beginning . . .

It’s interesting how an idea or bit of information can lead to research on an idea, whose research leads to another idea, which leads to another . . .  Well, you get the idea.  You’ll find the research and the work in progress in the blog portion of this site.  The static design pages are listed in the menu under Pages.

I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time researching building methods. If you want to read the whole first part of the saga, visit my original house plan site. I’ve had to back away from that plan because of health issues. I cannot afford to have someone else do all the work, and with my original awesome house plan I could not do the work that would have been left up to me, so I’ve had to retrench and rethink. I have put a lot of hours, thought and research into this new plan, and I’m very pleased. I feel it’s not only something I can build myself, it’s something I can afford to build myself and something in which I look forward to living. That, in itself, adds its own charm.

So share my journey with me. Read through the pages listed in the sidebar in the order they’re presented and then read the blog starting with December 2006 and you’ll have a good idea where I’m at and how I got to this point.

13 Responses to In The Beginning . . .

  1. Barry says:

    Hj! I just found your very interesting blog as I watched the goings-on in the Papercreters forum. I have been doing a roughly similar garden planning process akin to your most thoroughly documented blog, only I am a “slow-blogger” type, mainly reading others’ posts, and occasionally trying to make a post of my own in Blogger.
    I am very intrigued by your grinding machine for eps, as I want to build a series of raised garden beds, using precast blocks. It looked [and still does] like an expensive idea, but after many hours of daydreaming and reading about hypertufa, papercrete, and lots of arcane crap about cementious materials, fiber reinforcement, water-reducing admixes, pozzolans and the like, I chanced to see a PDF about your eps grinder. Shazam! A great way to re-use Styrofoam I’ve been storing up for no definite future use! I will find some old electric motor to hook onto a belt-driven chipper cylinder, and maybe make/find a collecting box to catch the “snow”. I read your anti-static dishwash solution advice, and thought “Wow, I was thinking that should work just fine!” I will probably start some sort of ACTUAL garden later this summer, making some molds later on. Could I please ask you a question or two about your epscrete experiences from time to time?

  2. Nori says:

    It’s amazing stuff! I am not kidding, amazing! If you have any questions or need more detail on what I’ve got and have done, let me know.

  3. Barry says:

    Hi, again, Nori!
    I got an idea to make bagging the shredded eps easier, by attaching a vertical dust collector. I had a used collector, I thought, but the fellow who promised it had to decline, as someone else showed him a bit more money…. ah, well, too good to be true. But – in the meantime, I found a terrific 55 gallon barrel, squeaky clean, that I can mount the shredder on, and then I’ll run a 4 inch hose to the dust collector. So, I’m wondering, is that motor like a furnace motor, maybe 1/4 HP, maybe runs at 1725 rpm on 115 or 120 volts? Does it turn the shaft pulley clockwise?
    I can get a stainless steel 1/2 inch shaft about 2 feet long, and I found pillow block bearings for cheap to mount the cylinder, once I can center it. I am looking for some PVC in about a 6 inch diameter, or maybe settle for 5, and just drill end caps to slide onto the shaft. I might add some quickset mortar to give it weight and to keep those roofing nails in place. It looks like your wastebasket top works, maybe a bit of duct tape might secure it. Did you add a screen on the underside, or does it do a good shredding without it? I see what looks like a standard V-beli, but are those pulleys like 1 1/2 or 3 inch on the motor, and like, 6 inch on the shaft? I can buy those new easier than I can dig through Goodwill (almost nothing metal, it gets sold for scrap, they tell me!). Same for those motors, the gut them for the windings, whether or not if they work. Odd how the economy forces work, eh?
    Well, now I’ve covered about all I can think of at present. I can wire up an on-off switch to the motor, just not for 230V. And I want to thank you a million times over for showing me how it can be done – I know I won’t save money (buying new stuff is why), but with your kind advice, I won’t waste it on the wrong stuff, either.
    I hope your house is getting done – you have terrific ideas and plans!

  4. Nori says:

    I’ve got the barrel ready to use. I’m setting the shredder up inside a bird house my brother built. It’s about 6’x12′ and it’s half screen (galvanized woven wire). I’m mounting the shredder head to a hinged platform that will allow me to move the barrel out from under.

    I don’t have any screen for the shredded foam. It comes out uniform enough that no extra work is necessary. If I see any bigger pieces when I’m mixing, I just crush them with my hand.

    I need to make some 55 gallon drum sized cloth bags for holding the shredded foam. That would allow me to use a vacuum cleaner filter and motor ported into the barrel at the side at the bottom as my suction. I have it in my mind . . . you know how that is. It doesn’t need much, just enough to made the storage side slightly negative pressure in comparison so it controls the errant bits. Without the suction it isn’t bad, much less messy than you think it would be.

    I think you’re on the right track. You need something to keep the heads of the nails in place and concrete is what the other person used. I think the mortar might not be strong enough and the nail heads would eventually eat it away. The extra weight of the cement helps keep a consistent rotational speed/momentum which helps with wear and tear on the motor. Make sure you use the shortest nails you can get. Mine are pretty close to 3/4, maybe just a hair shorter and they could easily be shorter yet and work just as well or better. The longer nails allow foam pieces to get trapped between the nails so don’t go that direction. Make sure you stagger the nails in a diagonal grid so you get an even grind.

    The waste paper basket top works great. I don’t fasten it down, just let gravity do its thing. If I was going to do it again I’d make it a little more even but I don’t think I’d make it an taller. It just clears the ends of the nails and the height limits the size of the pieces that can go in. I don’t end up with unground chunks. I have U shaped cut-outs for fitting over the shaft between the pillow block and the roller. That’s what keeps it in the right position. If you need me to take pics of that bit, let me know. I would make it shorter, front to back on the back side. It’s a bit longer than it should be and I end up with a little ridge of ground foam behind the roller. I don’t let me fingers go past the waste basket lip and don’t get torn fingers from the roller. That’s my “go no further” point.

    The pulley on my roller is 8 or 10 inches, not six. Speed is good.

  5. Barry says:

    Hi, Nori,
    Look at this:

    Aha! I think I can combine your invention with this set-up, and fill lots of big plastic bags with shredded Styrofoam. I am still working on how to hold the roofing nails in, but I think I’ll try splitting another piece of PVC, minus a slice, so I can compress it to fit inside the outer one, along with a good coating of PVC glue. To add mass I might slide in some cast iron pipe or galvanized pipe over the shaft or even a hundred or so large washers. Do you think a quarter-horsepower furnace motor is strong enough? I’m told I can run it clockwise or counterclockwise – which way does yours run? My ideas are driving me crazy, like mounting the motor on a board that hinges on the base of the “deck”, so that I can get the drive belt tension correct. I’m going off on a short business trip, but I really want you know, I value your opinion and your experience.


  6. Nori says:

    I’m betting that gizmo costs a lot of moola just to shred foam.

    My motor is 1/4 horsepower. I think it’s 1750rpm but I’d have to go look at the label again to confirm.

    Don’t over-think your setup. Keep it as clean and simple as you can. The fewer parts the less there is to fuss with and the less room there is for things to go wrong. Use the weight of the motor to keep the tension on the belt. Gravity won’t fail you. Take the tension off when it’s not in use. Plastic fails so don’t use it for anything that’s going to be vibrated or pulled on. If you need a mounting plate for the motor, get a piece of black iron pipe welded to a metal plate. Drill holes or have holes drilled for mounting the motor. My plate/motor came right off an old cement mixer. Keep your pull as close to the business part of the roller as you can. Mine has room for the plastic garbage can to slide in and not much more.

    With my new setup I’m going to have to have some sort of belt cover. I won’t do more than ponder that until I start assembling. It doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to work well.

  7. nibs says:

    Nori, Just registered, inspiring, I am excited about making and using EPS cement. Built a grinder very different than any I have seen, works ok may build a mark 2.
    I rebushed my cement mixer took me maybe an hour, with a tiny bit of fiddling afterwards. It has been working fine for two summers of serious mixing since. Would you like details, total cost under $10.
    For a hot wire cutter try using a 6volt golf cart battery (you can get them used at battery recyclers), and a 6 volt charger
    with a metal guitar string, second string I think.

  8. Nori says:

    I can’t begin to describe how much I like this stuff. It is awesome.

    On the foam cutter . . . I’ve read about home built ones using a light dimmer switch and a length of chrome moly wire. I bet I’m using the wrong name for the material . . . I wonder what guitar strings are made of.

    I wasn’t successful mixing eps in a mixer. It just wouldn’t blend. It’s such a low moisture mix the sand and paint stick to the sides of the barrel and the foam is so light it doesn’t integrate. I’ve got a mortar mixer all ready to go, I just need to start making batches. I’m almost ready. I have two glass panels and a door to put in, then I should be ready to go.

    In using a cement mixer . . . I wonder if you mixed the paint and water and eps until it was fully integrated (assuming it doesn’t just coat the inside of the barrel) and then added the sand . . . that’s one I didn’t try.

  9. nibs says:

    Hi Nori,
    I much prefer to work with 6V batteries rather than mains voltage…….. safer.
    My eps crete is very low tech. I mix it in a barrel mixer start with some water, add 1 unit sand, one unit cement, a shot of superplasticizer with a bit of detergent mix for 2 mins, then add 5 or 6 units of dry ground eps. I find that if I add the eps slowly ( unit every 30 econds or so) it mixes right in, mix well, adding just enough water so that there are no white beads, the mud will only just fall out of the mixer, migration is minimal, but increases with water content, compact in place by hand tamping. Any mix left in the barrel just becomes part of the next batch. Am planning to make blocks to use as permanent left in place insulating forms for my next length of foundation wall.
    One of the reasons for joining was that I read earlier you had a barrel mixer that needed bearing help, I used an easy technique for re-bearing mine.
    Building season is over here, so we are off to warmer climes for winter.

  10. Nori says:

    After the unsuccessful attempt at using it for mixing eps, I left the motor repurposed to the grinder and got a mortar mixer.

    It sounds like you’re mix is a bit wetter than mine.

    I agree the battery voltage is safer. The dimmer switch setup allows for adjustment of the power going through the cutter. The only plus to that I see is if I run into a damp piece that needs more oomph.

  11. Nori says:

    If you’ve got the time, do share your bits here. Every technique we can include will help someone somewhere.

  12. d says:

    Hi Nori, love the wall you made so far. I will start building my shed with this stuff also soon. Do you have any new pics of the building?

  13. Nori says:

    I don’t. I’ve had such a bugger of a time with my health I haven’t done much. I have the mortar mixer all ready to play with . . . hopefully soon.

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