Sunday, December 12, 2010

More of the Real Thing

After my last post where I mentioned some nice rich red dirt I noticed next to a road about ten minutes from home, I had this great idea, go and get some instead of thinking about it.

It was located on what looks like the beginning of a 4WD track of sorts, and the ground was quite compacted and hard to actually get any fine dust from. After chipping away with a small hand spade and having a mere handful I stood up and looked around to see if there was any softer stuff around.

As it turned out closer to the tar road there was a a bit of a side passage which was more of a clay than a compacted dirt, and it came away in chunks that I figured would quite easily break down into a finer dust. I 85% filled a plastic dog biscuit container (about a litre in capacity or so I guess) with the clay as well as some really red small rocks and some lighter dirt and headed home.

Once home I was trying to figure out how to turn this mixture into a fine powder and then apply it to my little test module. The I figured with the hard stones in there with the clay chunks, if I gave it a decent shake the rocks will break down the clay and then all I need to do is separate the fine dust from the larger bits.

The shaking vigorously worked a treat, with a fair amount of dusty power being produced. I then had an idea that if I could strain the mix through a stocking or similar I should be able to get the fine stuff I wanted. Luckily my wife is usually sympathetic to me needs, and suggested a nylon sockette (basically like a stocking material that only covers the bottom half of the foot) might do the job. So after borrowing one (yeah like it's going on a foot again!) and stretching it over the container top, I could apply it directly by simply shaking the container above the area I wanted covered.

After sprinkling a quantity onto the are, I used a mixture of
Pascoe’s Long Life floor polish and Isocol rubbing alcohol sprayed from a plastic spray bottle to stuck it down.

Depending on how much spray I used, the dirt ended up light or slightly darker than in it's dry form, but this gives a bit of variation which I don't mind. It was still damp in sections when the pictured were taken so I expect it may lighten some more yet. The pictures were taken outside in natural light at about 5:30pm Sydney time.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the texture and basic colour, and I'm planning on collecting some more material in slightly varying colours to help with the random effect that occurs naturally.


Jim said...

On Yass I only used natual earth. I searched for the bull dust which is very fine and usually on the edge of a gravel road. I applied 80/20 PVA/water with a brush sprinkled on the dust then moistened it with PVA/water and a few drops of detergent from a spray bottle. It will dry hard overnight. Search your area you may find different colours. I found grey about 3 klms from where I got the red and brown. Drill 1.0mm holes on the plastic lid of your vegemite jar and use it as a dust shaker, worked fine for me.

The Nimmitabel Extension said...

Great job Darren, the results are well worth it and worth the strange looks you probably got while on the side of the road. Some years ago I put on my christmas list a 'mortal and pesol' sorry for the spelling. They are used for grinding up powders in the making of medicines. I use one all the time when collecting soil, clay and shale samples and it provides a very fine powder. Hope this helps Darren.

Julian Watson said...

Hi Darren,

Looking good. I was only today driving around Perth looking for sand to use for ballasting myself (it helps that Perth is one large sand pit...).

Glad to see that the Pascoe's Long Life is being put to good use! How are you finding its application? (The photos suggest 'very well'.)


Darren said...

Hi Guys,

Thanks for all the comments, there really is a wealth of knowledge and experience amongst us bloggers.

Jim, The Vegemite jar with the tiny holes drilled in the lid does work great for a shaker. I made one a while back for dispensing a flock mix so I only got the real fine stuff and not the big clumps.

Darren, funny you should mention it but I've been on the lookout for a mortar and pestle set for a few weeks now when I've been out and about, but I think I may have to visit a proper kitchen equipment style shop to find one.

You're right about funny looks when collecting dirt from the side of the road too. In my younger day I would have been too embarrassed to do it, now I tend to care a whole lot less about what other people think!

Jules, there certainly isn't a shortage of sand in Perth! The Pascoe's Long Life is definitely the wonder stuff. Works great on ballast, and it would appear to be equally as good on sticking this soil down as well. I've been mixing it with Isocol rubbing alcohol as well which seems to give it an even better capillary action and it also drys quite fast.

Maybe we should organise some little sample bags of dirt to send to each other to help get some varieties in colour. Not sure if sending dirt interstate is illegal or not though????


Julian Watson said...


I'll have to give the rubbing alcohol 'additive' a go. Yes, not sure about the posting of soil to each other. Nice idea though! It took my quite a little while to find the colours that I was after. I was going to wash the sand (to remove the salt. But then it occurred to me that, unlike using the PVA and water mix, the Long Life doesn't require everything to be flooded, and therefore not releasing salts onto the rails for them to go rusty. (Unfortunately, the resulting rust isn't very prototypical in size or appearance...much less that the resulting oxides are non-conductive and insulate the rail...).