pile of scrap

19.10.12 | building the mock-up

This week we finally got started on the mock-up… and began to understand some of the challenges of working here! The main problem we’ve encountered is the difficulty of finding committed workers. Our ambition had been to employ the parents, but so far we’ve had to depend mostly on two local guys Sorad and Vipin (who are in fact great workers and very reliable!) and people that Kapil has introduced us to; in one week we’ve had three different masons! The explanations we’ve heard range from them ‘getting lost on the way’, to the fact that they don’t actually want the work that much, to the fact that they’re contracted to another employer and don’t have time to work for us, and finally that this period before the Dussera festival next week is when many people return to their villages to see their families. We’re trying to work out which is the real reason, and how we can find ways to resolve it. Kitraram, the father who was due to start with us last week, is back on Sunday so we’re hoping do develop a better working relationship with him during the construction of the students’ project. At least he can’t get lost during the 3 minute walk between his house and the school!

Nevertheless, the mock-up is finally emerging and looking pretty nice. So far we’ve slotted in the timber steps, and a frame for a small window. We decided to use Eucalyptus wood for these non-structural elements, and Sal for the roof truss that will go on top and span across to the boundary wall 5 meters away. For the bricks around the steps we used a cement mortar, which sets much faster – but for the rest of the wall, we’re using a lime mortar that we’re mixing ourselves on the site using a nice little roller devised by Ivar. The ingredients are: lime, brick powder, crushed fiber… and half a cup of boiled rice! (This acts as a binder, and then when the grains decompose the remaining pockets of air increase the wall’s insulation – pretty clever!) The brick powder turned out to be hard to find – we spent a while crushing some ourselves, and ended up with about three handfuls, then bought some from some very drunk builders round the corner, and finally had a night-time delivery of a huge truck-load of the stuff.

The process of buying the timber was great fun for us (not so much for Kapil who was doing most of the hard work haggling)…. and so very different from a trip to Travis Perkins or Home Depot! All the timber yards are in one area of the city – for some reason full of monkeys – and each specialize in a specific type of wood. The Eucalyptus trader’s site was on a steep incline, and the logs were arranged so that they could be easily rolled down to the saw. Every now and then you’d hear a shout and a rumble and you knew it was time to dodge out of the way! The site was surrounded by huge piles of scrap off-cuts, which we’d like to encourage the students to find uses for in their pavilion. All the wood on the site was still in logs, so we could custom cut the pieces we needed; once they were ready, the whole lot was weighed and the price set.  The Sal wood, was already cut into long lengths, and not so much fun to buy – but is very beautiful stuff and we’re excited to start working with it. The carpenter is due on site today to help us work out joints for the truss, and we’re crossing our fingers that he’ll stay with us throughout the next two weeks to work with the students.