Tag Archives: plastic

It’s the wire that makes it all work

One of the most common comments I get are about the use of the wire in making the block.  Usually heat or chemicals are suggested to make the block without the wire.

That is being done.  Peter Lewis in New Zealand is an aeronautical engineer and licensed architect.  Mr. Lewis has millions of dollars and about twelve years invested in his Byfusion system.  Watch the videos, read the story, you will be impressed.  A small Byfusion recycling machine will cost about $600,000.00 US.  It takes one kilowatt of electricity to make one block.  When volume is a consideration the Byfusion system is probably the most viable one out there.  Peter Lewis is a genius.

Our manual machine makes a compressed plastic block without any electricity or petrochemical fuels.  It transforms seven pounds of plastic trash into a seven pound building block, ten pounds of plastic trash into a ten pound building block.  There is no waste or loss of material in the compressing of the plastic into a recycled plastic building block.  It is one hundred percent efficient, ounce of trash, ounce of building block, no carbon based energy consumed.

I woke up from a sleep baling plastic blocks with wire.  That’s not genius.  That’s dreaming.  As I thought about it I realized that wire not only was perfect for holding the shape of the block, it also presented the best method to form a wall with the baled plastic blocks.  A couple of things need to be considered here.  One of them is my mind wasn’t working in a vacuum.  I knew wire was used to bale hay and straw.  The other was I  knew wire was used to help hold bales of straw together in strawbale houses.  Wire is also used to strengthen earth bag houses.

I appreciate that the recycled plastic block construction concept is difficult for most people to grasp.  That’s because most people aren’t familiar with earthbag home construction, strawblale houses, and compressed earth blocks for housing.  Those who are familiar with those methods of building shelters understand the recycled plastic block is another variation of what has been done to build shelters since mankind left caves and needed protection from the elements and predators.

The alternative to wire is either a mortar like conventional concrete and stone walls are put together.  Or there is the mortise and tenon fit method that offers a mechanical connection. Byfusion and Oryzatech use that approach.  Oryzatech also uses a contact type cement as I understand it.  So it uses the mortise and tenon and mortar approach to stack blocks to make walls.

I wasn’t able to form the recycled plastic blocks where the mortise and tenon approach would work.  Using all seven grades of plastic trash ruled out the use of a polymer answer to connecting the blocks in a wall.  So I was stuck with wire and re-bar.

This turned out to be a very good thing as I see it now.  The wire provides a more flexible connection than mortar or mortise and tenon connections do.  It also provides a stronger connection.  The wire method allows more creative shapes and designs of walls without sacrificing the integrity of the connections.  The wire connection I believe is in our genes too.  Before we stacked rocks I’ll bet we were tying limbs and grasses to make shelters.

The wire is what makes this system work.  It holds the shape of the block during and after it is placed in a wall.  The durability of the galvanized wire has been questioned.  The link suggests that it will last inside the wall almost as long as the plastic used to make the block.  It simplifies the construction process labor and material wise.  It takes less skill to build a shelter with wire than it does to lay a concrete block wall with mortar.  Concrete and mortar usually use cements that are not made locally.  They also consume petrochemical and electrical energy to produce, transport, and to build with.

Mother Earth News Blog

Dr. Owen Geiger did an article on the recycled plastic blocks in Mother Earth News.  http://www.motherearthnews.com/hands-on-and-how-to/recycled-plastic-block-houses.aspx  He put the same article up on his Earthbag blog  http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/

If the name Dr. Owen Geiger sounds familiar it’s because it should be.   His passion and expertise is sustainable housing.  http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Homes-Expert-Owen-Geiger.aspx  http://www.grisb.org/

Another day, another compression test

I  took the truck to Pearson Stone and we weighed the front axle weight.  6,800 pounds.  That means 3,400 pounds per front wheel weight.

I went to the shop and put the front of the truck up on wood blocks.  Then I jacked up one wheel and placed a ten pound plastic block under the wheel with a piece of steel on top of the block to eliminate the distortion caused by the tire patch only being on part of the block.

The block compressed about three quarters of an inch with the weight on it.  When I removed the weight the block returned to its original shape.

I repeated the experiment with a nine pound block.  The compression was about an inch and a half this time.

It will take some more tests by those a lot smarter than me to figure out the ideal weight of a block for making walls for a shelter.  As far as I am concerned that is just work that has to be done.  Engineers can figure out how much strength is required.  Then plastic blocks can be tested and we’ll have the information we need.

Block Press Construction and Measurements

After the camera fiasco the other day we finally found another camera.

This after noon I made another block and feel we have the one we want now.  It isn’t perfect and will still need some tweeking to make it work better.   But it is at a point where others can copy it and start making blocks.  Their experiences along with ours will help us find the final block making machine.     Bob Warner took a picture of the plastic block box machine yesterday and then put down all the measurements on the photo to make it easier for others to copy.

We have a bolt with a 15/16  nut on it so we can use a rachet to turn the Acme screw.  We were given a steering wheel from a bus today.  We might change out the bolt and nut for the steering wheel.  Eveyone that makes a plastic block box machine will find their own way of turning the Acme screw.  I think the steering wheel will be my favorite though.

http://www.mcmaster.com/#93410a632 is the part number and source for the Acme screw.  http://www.mcmaster.com/#94815a037 is the part number and source for the nut.  A substitute that might be available locally is scaffolding screw jacks.  http://www.affordablescaffolding.com/accessories.html?gclid=CKOCytL5_qUCFYde7AodXBOqow#screw_jacks The downside of using them is their length, usually only sixteen inches of travel available.  We’ve found the thirty six inches of travel about what you need.  Less than that will mean repeated compressions to get the pressure needed.

This is detail shot of the ram itself.  The three slots are the wire retainers.  You can see in the block box the wire guides.  The wires can’t be installed after the block is compressed, at least we couldn’t do that.  So we designed the machine to locate and maintain location of the wires during compression.

I welded half of a steel ball to the end of the Acme threaded rod.   I used a piece of pipe and a rounded piece of tubing from a tractor attachement  to contain the threaded rod.  I put in a grease zert to make things work better and live longer.  This gives a wide surface for the pressure applied by the threaded rod.  The grease keeps it smooth.

The threaded nut was welded into a hole cut into a piece of half inch plate that is welded to the back or end of the block box  Care must be taken to insure alignment with the ram as it travels down the block box.

Everyone will find a postion that works best for them when it comes to using the block box.  I find this position just about perfect for me.  It has enough angle so I don’t have to fight the plastic falling out like I did when it was vertical.  And it is easier to keep the plastic in place while loading than when the block box was horizontal.

This little tool was designed by Bob Warner for tying the loops in the ends of the tie wires.  The handle is three quarter’s inch round rod and the shaft is half inch pipe.  The tab is 1/4″ by 1/2″ by 3/4″.  A slot is cut into the end of the pipe to allow post tensioning by twisting of the tie wires if necessary.

The small tab is used to make a ninety degree bend in the tie wire.  We’re using 12 gauge galvanized tension wire.  It is stiff to work with but will last a long time.  It is designed for use with chainlink and livestock fencing.

Then using the tab and the round shaft a loop is made in the wire.

This rod with the slot in it is located at the top of the block box frame.  It’s part of a guide for gauging the length of the tie wires.  After Bob made the trick little tool is was modified to make the loop using the tool.

The ends of the loop are placed in the slot.

Using the tool and the slot the eye is made in the tie wire.  Pliers could be used to do the same thing.  But it wouldn’t be near as easy.  Especially with wire as stiff as the twelve gauge.

This photo shows the three tie wires placed in the wire guides in the floor of the block box along with being properly placed in the ram.

This is loading the plastic before we put on the lid.  As you can see the angle position makes this easier.

I did this by myself and didn’t take pictures of the cover plate in place.  The cover plate was put in place.  Once it was in place I shoved in more plastic, occasionally compressing it with the business end of a sledge hammer.  I did one full compression stroke and then filled it back up.  One more full compression stroke and I removed the cover plate.

This is the compressed block of trash plastic.  As you can see it would be very difficult with this design to install the tie wires now.

This is the tensioning tool.  It’s made using half inch round rod.  The slot on the end is critical.  It was made with a chop saw blade and at about an forty five degree angle.

The end of the tie wire is fed through the wire guide on the end into the block box.  The tied loop in the wire at the ram is placed over the block of plastic.  The loose end of the wire is pulled through the loop.  Then the end of the tensioning tool is placed through the loop about five inches.  The groove is placed over the wire.  The loose end of the tie wire is folded over the handle of the tensioning tool.  The handle is forced towards the bottom of the block box.  When the loop is over the end of the tensioning tool the tool is folded down onto the plastic block.  Excess wire is cut off and the end is loosely wrapped around the tie wire.  This is done to all three tie wires.

The ram is pulled back away from the block.  I find a small lever bar is all that is needed to remove the block from the block box.

These blocks are a nominal 8″ X 8″ X 16″ .  They can take abuse and maintain their shape.  They weigh six to seven pounds each and difficult to compress or distort.  Tied to together with wire and rebar they will make a great wall ready for plaster inside and out.

They are a future based upon our past.

Another day in paradise

Before we bumped the table and the camera fell, fatal screw up on its part….

We were having an awesome day.  After that it was just a really good day for inventing in general.

This is the bottom of the new block box, alpha 2 I guess we can call it.  The two pieces of angle iron or for the future stand that will support the block box.  The three pieces of flat stock welded in the middle are to keep it from spreading when compressing a block.  The angle iron is 2″ X 2″ X 1/4″ .  The flat bar stock is 1/4″ X 2″.  The spacing is even spaces, about eight and  a half inches as I recall.

I cannibalized the ram and screw mechanism from the original block box press for the new one.  Here it is installed and ready for compressing the first block.   The next picture is of the business side of the ram with the wires in place.  The next picture is from the other end.  Notice the wires coming out of the bottom.

This is pre-compression chamber I made.  Basically it smashes the material a bit before I put it into the block box press.  I just put the stuff in there and pound it down with a sledge.  Works great.

With the ram back as far as possible I filled up the box press with plastic trash.  Most of it had been through the pre-compression tool.  Then I put on the cover.  I haven’t put on the permanent lid because I wanted to make sure that the new press worked first.  Once the lid was on I ran the screw down all the way as you can see here.

When I pulled back the ram this is what you could see at the other end of the block press.

I added some more plastic and ran the ram down one more time.

This is the good part.  I removed the cover plate. and pulled the wires up for tensioning with my tensioning tool.

First the wire is pushed through the eye or loop at the ram end of the block.  Then that slot you see on the bottom of the tension tool is pushed through the eye or loop and down the wire about five inches.  The loose end of the wire coming through the eye or loop is folded over the handle of the tension tool.  Then the tool is pushed over the eye or loop towards the end of the block.  This action pulls the wire to the loop tightening it.  When the tool folds the wire over the eye the wire is tight.  If it isn’t the tool can be relocated and it can be done again until the wire is tight.

This is when I broke the camera.  So I don’t have any pictures of the finished block.  First thing, the three wire block is a much better block.  Second thing, removing the block was much easier with the tapered sides.  I believe this design will be the final design.  There might be some tweaks but this thing here works.  I’ll get the top hinged and come up with an exact material list and dimensions so that others can copy it if they want.

I’m getting a lot of suggestions about using hydraulics to make it easier, faster and better.  My concern at this point in time is to prove that a wired recycled plastic block is a viable building material.  People a lot smarter than I am will come up with making the blocks faster and easier.  I’ll leave that up to them.

We started the block box today

The day started with a visit to the Republic recycling center in Plano Texas.  There we loaded up some number 3 to number 7 plastics for testing the block box, aka bottle brick machine.  Tommy Kirk is the manager of operations.  He’s a toot, generous toot.  What is refreshing  is everyone that I encountered was in a good mood and friendly.  Evidently his personality and attitude is contagious.

They offered me some free barrels.  They’re number two plastic but too large to process so they gave them to me.  My wife wants some rain barrels so that’s where they might go.  The metal ones are for the farm.

You’re not seeing things.  There is some number one and number two plastics in with the three thru sevens.  Today’s spot price is $420.00 a ton for the one and two plastics, $150.00 a ton for the three thru sevens.

One of the things I’m trying to do with the block box is make it like someone would under more difficult circumstances.  So I’m using common tools, no fancy machine shop lathes, sheet metal shop presses, etc.  I’m also trying to use scrap stuff found around the shop.  So far the only thing I’ve purchased for the block box is the three foot ACME thread rod and nut, $69.00 with shipping.

The block box has to be made for high pressure.  Since I’m not an engineer I’m probably over building it.  And that’s okay, better that than having it break when a couple of thousand pounds of pressure is applied.

One of my concerns is the pathway for the tie wire in the block box.  The width of the box is eight inches, standard width for a building block made of concrete.  I had a fifty one inch piece of five inch channel.  That meant the block box would have a length of fifty one inches.  It also determined that the width between the tie wire would be five inches.

The first thing I did was bend the guides for the tie wires with my portable bender I use on the truck.

I found some two inch heavy wall square tubing.  It worked perfectly with the five inch channel to make the bottom of the block box.  I placed the tie wire guides on each side of the channel and three sixteenths or so below the face of the channel.  I welded bottoms up first.

The tie wires will have to be able to slide down the box as the plastic is being compressed.  That’s why I have the guides in the bottom of the box and the gradual turns going up beyond the end of the box.  We’re not using anything but the tie wires to hold the plastic block’s shape. That’s all I got done today, a round trip to the recycling facility and a little cutting and welding.

One of the most common comments I get on this is about automating the process.  That’s for the smart people to figure out.  What I’m looking to do is provide a method that will work when the people are unskilled, electricity is unavailable. and they want to build a shelter with what they have available that’s cheap or free.

If you Google Haiti, President Clinton you will find a ton of stories about his visit to a recycling center where they use similiar technology to what I have here for making paper briquettes for charcoal cooking.  If they had a couple of machines like the block box they could also make blocks for building shelters to sell.

Another common comment is about the value of some plastics.  I believe the block box block can be made with literally trash plastics, film (shopping bags) and styrofoam.  We might have to have some bottles at the ends but everyting in between I believe can be the stuff that goes to the landfill.