Charoset – alkali activated cements
dry ash, from wood (especially palm fronds) alkaline
dry calcined clay (clay contains alumina silicate).



G’day Sunburn

I guess you looked up what a calciner is, but in case you haven’t ,most mortar are made from minerals that need to be calcined or burned to become reactive. The range for this is 750oc to no more than 900oC, so you can imagine the amount of fuel just to do this, and far far more in the manufacture of portland cements. So a solar calciner can hopefully really change things for the better, though I won’t help the cement industry as portland cement doesn’t re-absorb the CO2 released, though some in the pr spin say it does, this is the same line of thinking as clean coal lobby.

For eg Gypsum plaster( which I don’t use ) is burnt at around 140oC(depends on the type of plaster), and as gypsum is made up of approx 1/3 water, 1/3 calcium and 1/3 sulphuric acid, the water is calcined off to varying degrees hemi-hydrate (most gypsum plasters) is where most of the water has been calcined off, and anhydrous where all of it has. This now make the material thirsty for its water, and it wants it back.

In the case of lime this has to be burnt at around 850-900oC and this is to burn the carbon dioxide off, making it calcium oxide or quicklime THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS MATERIAL , and should only be used after being taught in person by someone who has experience. I don’t wish to put anyone off though as I was taught young, as my grandfather had a lot of experience and when shown properly is like teaching a child to cook on a hot stove or to chop wood.
There are certain precautions that MUST be taken as a she’ll be right attitude with safety when dealing with caustic materials can end up with serious pain,injury and death. Think the lye-kiss scene in Fight Club.
Now the ‘hydrated’ dry bag lime that you can buy at building supply places is probably the least useful of all the lime family,unless you get it from the calcining plant the day they cook it, as what happens is they spray it with just enough water as to slake it, to lower the ph, but still keep it ‘dry’. This however means it has started its quest to go back to what it was….and it wants that CO2 that was burnt off back.
The other means is to add quicklime to water (never ,ever do it the other way around) and turn it into a lime putty also calcium hydroxide, which happens after a violent reaction , and this is kept under water to prevent the CO2 getting too it.
In ageing lime putty this has to be done properly in well created pits otherwise you are wasting your time ageing it for years.
So those are the Hydrated Limes
Hydraulic Lime is similar in the sense that it wants the CO2 back, but because of aluimina silicate impurities in the original stone , they react and make it have that pozzolanic reaction, which will cause an initial set however this is just the beginning, it will still absorb the CO2 and won’t be fully reverted back to stone until it has it all. This has many advantages in some cases especially as a render, as it has time to move with the building, getting to know the building over time while slowly curing.Though it will be hard to the touch the next day.
Now Charoset is completely different and is a limb on its own on the mortar tree and a major one too.

This also due to the initial danger this MUST be shown in person by some one experienced, but again don’t let the adhearance to safety put you off…..once the reaction has taken place it is safe enough to put your hand in it.

I hope you don’t confuse me as being cagey with this method that has been kept secret throughout history, as I am not, in fact I am more than happy to share this with as many people as possible through out the world now as the peak oil effects will begin to take hold. And one of the many things that eventually won’t be available or just prohibitively expensive…..(I bet a builder I know 2 milking goats and 12 Australorps that portland cement in 10 years will not be available, probably less, but I’m just covering myself LOL).It’s just as I have seen on youtube videos people for eg. being rather reckless with dangerous materials. And so would be very irresponsible of me to not teach the way I was taught.
The other part is that because this has been patented by Davidovits and others, and as far as I know so far from all my travels the only one who’s family has prior knowledge, but I am sure because of this I can pass it on to who ever I like, as my family has been doing this before patents existed.
But if you take into account that besides water, portland cement is the most used material on the planet, you can understand that that some may see their wallets getting lighter etc. So caution is needed here at least before the peak oil bite. So when teaching I advise a strong occupational health and safety regimen and a modicum of subtlety when getting this methodology ‘out there’.

Charoset is the reaction between any alumina silicate and a catalyst, this is not a reaction with lime, as you can do this without lime if you don’t want to, or don’t have access to the material locally.
However all clays are an alumina silicate, and as I have shown a few fellow members of EBAA (Earth Builder Association of Australia), it can make ordinary mud bricks or rammed earth much much stronger without loosing any of the properties that these also wonderful methods offer.And the ramming of the earth takes far less energy, as the ‘gelling’ is achieved from very little vibration. So little that for eg when making a bucket full, just a light tap on the side of the bucket is enough to gel out a moist mix.This is part of the reason for its high strength, as it can become very dense.

I would advise anyone with a woodstove or oven, to from now on collect the ash and store it in a dry water tight plastic bucket, and this includes palm fronds as they are especially valuable….and treat this ash like gold. The charcoal of course goes into the garden or compost.
And also to weld up a metal tray that each time you have a fire that you take dry clay that has been crushed into a powder and calcine this in your fire. And collect this and also keep it dry. In biblical times people paid their ‘taxes’ this way but did it as a civic/community duty. And we should all do this again to as it fits in with permaculture principles.

These materials would be all you need to make a concrete, and depending on the effort and technique you will EASILY achieve a 20-60 Mpa concrete, and depending on the aggregate, you will have a stone.

This isn’t the only source or direction that the same chemcal reaction can be made from though, but the most readily available as most have access to clay and hard wood or old palm fronds for fire fuel.

I hope this gives you a better idea on what I mean about having a local means to make a ‘concrete’ without portland cement as this nightmare material’s manufacture is entirely reliant on fossil fuels.

When building a home, the way I was taught, would be to dig out (can be done with beneficial chemical reaction in the hard places like huge rocks) a cistern, usually at least a few meters deep and obviously keep the clay, which you let dry,crumble or crush to dust and then calcine.
This is then then most of the materials you will need for building.

You would then construct a cistern lining wall, and the best cisterns are usually circular to be able to handle earth movement (in fact this is also been used for thousands of years as a seismic dampener).
Within these walls and the base are formed pipes which water is circulated down through constantly and these pipes have air inlets that allow air to be drawn into the water(trompes), this air becomes compressed the further the depth of the pipes and in a chamber is drawn out from the water and this compressed air is bubbled through the constructed base and out into the bottom of the cistern water, oxygenating it and keeping it healthy, the excess can be also used to help keep the water flowing and for other uses, that hopefully if with the help of others will create a diversified energy system.

the forum tazered me by saying I went over the word limit…so here is part 2

The material is then used to create a vault and either the building is built on top of or near this.The walls formwork is either done like rammed earth or you can just do it in stages and work your way up.
Finally a vaulted roof is formed, and this is designed to harvest water and done in a way that water surface tension assists in the water holding on to the roof and flowing where you want it, and that leaves and so forth just blow off in dry days.A filter is still done and this is often another use for the charcoal.
There is an ancient technique in making this cast stone translucent so that during the day you don’t need light or can direct light into where you want , however this technique is without a doubt in the top 5 of all the most labour intensive techniques. I did however work out a way using a modern appoach 20 years ago that can make this process much easier and less labour intensive. So your ceiling would let the sunlight through during the day but without the heat, and at night you would be able to light it up with just a few LEDs. You could do this with walls too, however remember just as you could see silhuettes of people outside , they can also see you, especially at night, though this can be put to various artist and practical uses in parts.It isn’t so costly material wise (at least not for now) but labour wise it is still intensive, but no way near as much as it was in the way I was taught from ancient methods.

My girlfriend and I will be building a workshop/guesthouse in this way on our property, and would like an aquaponics system integrated into it as well. And in answering sunburns book writing question, I wrote out a plan of the various chapters, and started and got about 450 pages in without illustrations, and realised there are at least 2500 pages to go, so decided that maybe film is the better way to go and that a writer and photographer could do a book from the film. But would also love it if these technique could be taught before then, as this is just the tip of the iceberg, there is the art and problem solving of forming these material into whatever design you wish, and to imitate any stone.

We will be exchanging knowledge of this to make beautiful but most importantly safe, insulated hives for bees, and would love to work with any one else with bee keeping experience, will share this as soon as it is worked out.

Our chicken houses for nighttime will to give you an idea on the formwork, will be Rue de Poulet, a Parisian streetscape scaled down, so each chook gets their own insulated, comfortable ‘apartment’ that is safe from foxy,easy to clean,collect eggs and should be fun for our daughter when she grows older.

Am really glad I found this forum, as this site is one of my favorites, and I hope can be useful to the permaculture community.


Perhaps we first need to look at some terminology, just so everyone knows what we mean by certain terms.

Cement (or Portland Cement) = powdered limestone, chalk or ancient coral reefs, often with the addition of fillers/binders like fly ash (called pozzolans). Has been in common use since WW2 in civil construction, due to it’s faster setting times than lime.Uses a huge amount of energy to produce (burned at around 1450 deg. Celsius). Does not breathe. Cannot be crushed and re-used (other than as aggregate) once it has set.

Concrete = cement mixed with water, sand and (usually) some aggregate (stone, usually up to 20mm (3/4 inch) in size).

Mortar = mixture of cement and/or lime and loamy sand, used to bed bricks or rocks together

Plaster = thin mix of lime/cement and fine sand, used on internal walls or ceilings

Render = as above, but used on external walls, roofs, etc.

Lime = similar to cement, but is not as hygrophobic (doesn’t tend to “go off” just from the moisture in the air). Has been in common use in concrete for thousands of years. Produced at much lower temperatures than cement, so not as energy intensive in production. Breathes. Can be crushed and re-used indefinitely. When drying, lime mortar will re-absorb all the C02 it emitted during the burning process. Takes longer to set than cement based plasters, but gives a much better finish.

Lime can be used in a number of uses – including foundations, walls, floors, vaults and roofs. Also used in paints, plasters, renders and decorative cornices, stuccos, etc.

Lime comes in two main types – hydraulic and non-hydraulic (or “air” limes). Hydraulic uses active clay particles containing certain amounts of silicates and aluminates, which set when combined with water (just like cement does). Air limes use the C02 in the air as their catalyst, and actually absorb the gas in the process of setting/drying. Hydraulic lime is the stronger of the two.
Lime can be slaked in water to obtain lime wash, a very good, low-cost paint.

Burning the quarried material (at around 900 deg. Celsius) produces quicklime. This is then slaked in water, producing lime putty (especially good for fine plasters), and hydrated lime (can be mixed with cement/sand to make a better plaster than just cement).

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