We started out like everybody else using the most primitive available strategies for building earthbag walls. We used flat rocks or bricks to hold the springy barbed wire down while laying the next row of bags. This works fine for building a low garden wall. As the wall gets higher, though, it becomes a pain in the butt to have to keep heaving the bricks on and off the wall. So, in keeping with FQSS, we devised a technique that solved the brick-heaving dilemma and turned out to serve another purpose.
stumpy bags pre-FQSS technique results ofFQSS bags, diddled and hard-assed
3.15: Left to right: Loaded suspended brick weight; homemade wire hanger clip; store-bought spring clip.
We bought a roll of polypropylene bailing twine used for tying bales of straw or hay. We tied a metal spring clip onto one end of 50 feet (15 meters) of twine and wound the twine around a brick. The loose end of the twine is then tied to the first row of barbed wire and clipped with the spring clip between the brick and the barbed wire so that the twine doesn't unravel and the brick will hang freely (Fig. 3.15).
After the next row of bags is laid and tamped, the next two rows of barbed wire goes on. We then swing the weighted twine over the top of the wall suspending the brick on the other side. The weighted twine holds down the wire and the brick is out of the way, yet easily accessible to reel in from atop the wall, as it grows taller. The twine is unwound from the brick as it is woven back and forth between each row
3.16: Interweaving suspended brick weights holds down barbed wire and weaves each row together.
and clipped into a locked position at each desired length (Fig. 3.16).
The initial investment may be more; we paid between 35 and 46 cents for new bricks, less than one dollar for each clip, and about $25 for one 1,000 foot (300 meters) roll of bailing twine. We use one suspended brick set-up about every two feet (60 cm) on the wall with a few extra for the ends of buttresses and corners. So, for 30 feet (9 meters) of wall we need at least 15 setups, or 50 brick set-ups for 100 feet (30 meters) of wall, etc. The additional money and time spent prepping the weights more than pays for itself in fewer backaches and less down time. Inexpensive substitutes for bricks can be, of course, free salvaged bricks, plastic one-half gallon (or 2-liter) milk jugs filled with sand and homemade clips made from wire coat hangers.
We mentioned another purpose the suspended brick weight serves. A low (up to four feet (1.2 m) high) serpentine curved wall built with tubes (see Tube Chutes in this chapter) would not necessarily require barbed wire. The solidity of the tubes laid in an S-shaped curve inhibits shifting. We feel we can limit the use of the barbed wire to the first row as a "tie-on" for the suspended brick weights. Tying all the rows of tubes together by weaving the suspended brick weights between each course helps to remind the rows they are one (Fig 3.17).
A fan bag is a specific type of earthbag. It is specific in its shape, size, and function. It is used exclusively to form the opening of an arch. Because it is strictly used to conform to the shape of an arch form, the bag is treated differently from a bag in the wall itself. It is always filled and tamped 12 inches (30 cm) in height. A bag in the wall will be tamped flat while a fan bag is hand-shaped and tamped in the shape of a wedge with the narrow end down, or rather, against the arch form. This is done to accommodate the curve of the arch. The inside circumference of a curve is always
shorter than the outside circumference. Therefore, the fan bags must be wider at the top ends than at the bottom. They got the name fan bags from the way they resemble an open, folding hand fan.
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