Monday, December 27, 2010

The end of the hiatus is nearing...

I started this blog last summer while I was taking a design-build studio. We built an absolutely AMAZING ceramic tile roof. Then, I spent a few weeks building a greenhouse.

Fall term started and I had decided to not take studio last term. So I had very little to share and post about. Most of my classes were heavy in reading and writing. Remarkably, after having spent the last two years expressing my thoughts in pictures, I found that I had a hard time finding my words.

I'm glad that I took studio off last term. First, I really needed a break. Next, I had the opportunity to focus myself on Ecology which was really quite time intensive due to the volume of reading and written assignments. Finally, from what everyone said about the Fall studio, I would have been very frustrated by the process.

One of the classes I took Fall term, Theory of National Parks gave me the opportunity to spend a weekend at Crater Lake National Park, listening to the park historian, touring the park and meeting with the superintendent. The weather was AMAZING. Just perfect.

On our last day, I had the opportunity to hike and chose to hike up Garfield Peak. It was a good hike, the trail has been well maintained and the view from the top was fantastic. There was a breeze that day so the lake wasn't as reflective, but it was still a great view.

During the term, I only had the opportunity to draw once or twice for projects for Ecology, but I enjoyed it immensely. This diagram was part of my "species project" on dragonflies. I know so much more about dragonflies then I ever wanted to know.
I missed creating, designing and drawing. I'm really looking forward to jumping back in this term. Next week, classes start up again and I'll have more than a full load of coursework.

So look forward to more adventures.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Greenhouse at the Urban Farm

After spending weeks creating, designing and fabricating the "green roof" ceramic tiles, I was a bit worn out. I spent two more weeks learning about how to build a pre-fabricated greenhouse at the Urban Farm here in Eugene.

We dug the foundation and created form work using dimensional lumber for the footer. I learned how to cut, bend and tie together rebar.

We poured concrete into the form work footer. Then attached additional form work and rebar for the stem wall.

We also did a little bit of irrigation pipework to extend the irrigation line into the greenhouse. Although I had done a bit of drip irrigation line work earlier in the spring, it had been at least 3 years since I'd done any work with pipes (yes, please bring on the pipe laying/handling/joining jokes). So it was good to get a little bit of practice in.

It was supposed to only take 2 weeks to build and put together the green house. Unfortunately, there were some issues with the plans and permitting, as well as in getting the proper fasteners so we were delayed a bit in finishing.

In the end, we started to put up the frame and then had to stop when we found out that the city was actually going to do something with the permit application; other than put it under a stack of other applications. So work stopped for several weeks. The photos I had taken, with measurements were helpful for the inspections and ultimate approval. Yay for pictures!

I need to get over there and take a few photos of the finished project. But I figured I'd wait until it was spring and the garden was in bloom again.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Roof Final: We Built a Roof

This morning, Crystal and I went over to Gray's Garden Center in Eugene and bought about half of the plants that went on the roof. The other half came from "sedum walks" where we went and foraged for planting material. Yes, I called it foraging instead of stealing. It's kind of like taking a cutting, but less invasive. *shrug* We're propagating here!We selected a variety of thymes, sage, sempervivums and a few others. All of these are ideal in hot and dry conditions, using the ecological template of a rock wall or rock garden.
We went back to the Courthouse Garden and started to plants.The plants going in really changed how the roof looked.OH EM GEE. I'm so in love with our little roof. I want to publish every single picture I took, but that's a bit silly. So I'll just post a few of the really pretty details.

Now, if only I could put a seat under the roof. But instead, we'll have to live with a straw bale. Here's Team Ceramic, celebrating our accomplishment:

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Over the last few weeks we've been jokingly saying, full of twang, "We're buildin' a roof." At the end of 8 weeks, we've done it. We built a roof. Oh, and not just any stinkin' roof. We built a beautiful handmade ceramic tile roof.
Here's lovely Amanda, very Vanna White-like, showing what the roof framing looked like:

It was a pretty simple, yet elegant construction plan. The roof was added on to the "green box" roll-off storage container. The roof is at a 4/12 ratio, and the supports were cut to fit the space exactly. All four 2x6 supports are lag screwed into the 2x4 studs which are in turn, bolted through the metal ribs of the storage container. Prior to installing the tiles, we all hung off of the roof to verify that it would hold the weight of the tiles/soil/plants or approximately 150 lbs. Our instructor even took a turn then said, "Well, it holds 220 lbs, you should be fine."
Next, we installed roofing felt and lathe nailing strips. We then started to install the roof tiles.

The actual tile installation was ridiculously tricky. It took approximately 15 hours to properly and neatly fit all 40 tiles on the roof. In between, we took a "team building" break and went to Sweet Cheeks Winery for a wine tasting and picnic. Here's the official Team Ceramic:

Each tile had a slightly different shape and curve, making the interlocking of each tile and row uh, interesting. But we did it and when we were done we thought it looked beautiful

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another FANTASTIC day at the Ceramics Lab. We had planned to meet at 8am, but Amanda and Crystal both overslept and arrived a bit late. Happily, the delay gave Theresa and me the time to sit, chat and leisurely enjoy our coffee and toast.

Amanda arrived and it was time for our moment of truth. All of the work we'd put in over the last month would either be worth it or not, in a matter of seconds.

We opened the kiln and this is what we saw:
Six levels of perfectly fired, unbroken roof tiles!!! YAY YAY YAY!! *happy dance* *high fives* WOOT! Here are two VERY happy girls:

We unloaded the tiles, packed them with copious amounts of newspaper and then ran off to the home improvement store to buy the last few items.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cleaning, glazing, firing and building, OH MY!

So it's been two full weeks of tile fabrication. Team Ceramic is absolutely exhausted. But, don't get me wrong, we're still having a ton of fun:

We've fired all 50+ tiles in the big gas fired kiln called "Olsen". Yeah, for whatever reason, here at the U of O they seem to want to name everything. In the output room, there's Gehry, Yamasaki, Foster, etc., and in the kiln shed there's Olsen, Salt, etc.

On Sunday night, Theresa (Stephen's mom) came with me to the ceramics lab. Together we cleaned the kiln, kiln boards and I got to make kiln wash. Kiln wash is painted on to the clean kiln boards to help keep the boards clean. Meanwhile, Crystal and Amanda waxed the edges of the tiles, to keep glaze from sticking to the kiln boards. Then we glazed until the sun went down. Stephen arrived with Thai take-out and a couple bottles of wine (yay!). After feasting, we loaded up the kiln, and it thankfully only took us two hours to finish.

Now, we're waiting for it to be done firing again.
We spent some of our "free" time yesterday, cutting the wood framing pieces for the roof. Action shots:
In the meantime, we spent this morning busting our butts some more, by helping the other roofing team mix their soil medium and then haul it up on top of the roof. My arms were still sore from loading/unloading the kiln. Now they are like spaghetti, all sorts of wibbly. Bowling tonight should be interesting!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"This is serious tile manufacturing"

Yesterday, we used a plasma cutter and today we got to play with the pneumatic clay extruder. Ah yes, day after of day of playing with cool toys.

My very LONG morning began at 6am. We met up over at the ceramics lab, ready to figure out how the heck we were going to fabricate 50+ ceramic roof tiles. We started out by kneading the clay, putting it into the extruder and then..... nothing. It wasn't soft enough. So we kneaded it more and added some water.... still nothing. After spraying with water, throwing it and kneading it FOREVER, we put it back into the extruder and woah! It came out like a shot. Don't blink or you'll miss it (pardon the giggling, I like to think lack of sleep has something to do with it):

The problem was we had unknowingly grabbed a box of clay with grog. Grog in this case is not a delightful drink shared with your mateys, it is a clay with a much higher percentage of silica and alumina. This means its not nearly as soft as other clays, although from what I've read it also has less shrinkage during firing.

Regardless, I spent 6 glamorous hours kneading 100 lbs of clay to the consistency of butter. My two team mates also worked on similarly exhausting tasks, such as cleaning out the extruder after each pressing, then helping to knead, or trying to fit together the few tiles we were able to extrude. A VERY long morning indeed.

Never a dull moment

Yesterday was the day I decided that the adventures that I'm having as part of school are far too awesome to not be shared. Hence, this blog. Yes, yet another irregularly updated blog to be followed.

I am enrolled in a summer term design/build studio at the University of Oregon that focuses on horticultural building systems; specifically green walls and roofs. We were tasked with creating a green roof or wall system that could be modular or reproduced. You can read all about it here.

My team chose to design, fabricate and install a modular ceramic tile. As part of that we chose to extrude our tile pieces using an aluminum die. Sadly, the extruder we have access to is only 5" wide at its widest aperture. This meant that we had to plan to extrude half of a tile at a time, ultimately meaning that we needed 6 dies cut. These dies were cut from an 1/8" aluminum sheet, a material that could not be cut cleanly on campus. So e-mails were passed, phone calls were made and ultimately we were able to get access to a plasma cutter cnc table at Willamette High School (they have a wicked awesome metal shop!).

Here is the video awesomeness:

So, for my inaugural adventure, I present to you: PLASMA CUTTING AWESOMENESS.

You'll notice that the sparks are blue. Aluminum throws blue sparks when its cut, while steel throws yellow-white sparks. Cool, right?

Days like that are why I love what I'm studying.