I am writing this early, in preparation for Friday. I have already done some fill work on the new hearth for the smithy. So as it goes along I will add to this until it is done. Hence, “Chapter 1” in the title. Really it is more chapter two, but we will call what has gone before, the prologue.
Around the bits of brick I laid in the bottom before, I filled in with the finely tamped clay dirt. I did this dry to make it fill in all the voids around the brick. After it was filled in I tamped it some more, then a little more. Layer by layer, about level with the brick. I wet this layer pretty liberally with the hose. Then I walked away and let it soak, then came back and wet it again. After about three cycles of that, I had the mud mixed up. I used a drill and auger to mix.
I let the mixture slake for a time, then came back and mixed again. After this I added water and lumps of old clay and mixed it up into a kind of grog. I tried to get it as smooth as possible. There are always a lot of little lumps and rocks that do not want to break down. I do not worry, I get it fairly smooth then let it slake one last time.
I used a masonry trowel and a small margin trowel to work the mud down. I do this in several layers to make sure there are no air bubbles, and that the wet base and wet mud adhere well.
As you can see, the box is only half full. I will have to get more dirt. That has not happened yet. The rest of the chapter will be completed directly after the steps are complete.
The mud in the box is still wet. As it dries it shrinks. It pulls away from the walls and develops large holes and cracks. I mixed up more mud and troweled it in.
I have about a quarter of a bucket of dirt left. This box will sit in the sun and dry over the course of a few days. As it dries it will shrink more and I will tamp around the form to settle the clay down. Once the box is completely dry and the cracks and voids are filled, I will remove the form. The hole it leaves will be rough and porous. Taking the remaining dirt I will make another batch of mud and thinly coat the bowl. This will be another chapter in the process.
This is as far as we go for now with the hearth. I am excited to show you the end result. Today’s article has been a departure from the normal way in which I write. I hope it remains informative, and entertaining, as we go on this new path. As you read this article fresh, the week is ending. I hope your weekend is full of rest and joy. The best rest is a change of work, sometimes.
You will hear, or read rather, from me on Monday. I am not sure what I will write to you about. Whatever it may be, I am sure we will enjoy it. Until then dear reader, I wish you to,
Fare well, wherever you fare,