Monday, September 01, 2008

Keepin’ It Real

Yo, Dawg! Whas’up! This here is G-Diddy and I wanna give a shout-out to all my old house hommies….

No, sorry, I can’t sustain that for an entire blog entry. I am keeping it real, however, when it comes to my plaster walls. Today I finished the up the wall area round the soon to be built dining room cabinets. It came out very nice, but it was not without its problems. Actually, make that the singular: Problem. There was only one.

Before I get to the problem though, I wanted to talk about my new hawk (for those who don’t know, the hawk is the mortar board you use to carry the plaster on while it is waiting to be put on the wall). Thank you once again Mick. My old one was a homemade, plywood POS. This new one, with the padding for my hand was a dream to use, although it did take a little getting accustomed to.

First off, my old one was bigger and I guess I had a habit of loading it up, so it was very heavy. The old one was also plywood and had a bunch of caked on plaster so that only compounded the weight issue. The new one is smaller and made of thin metal. It was just so much easier to carry.

The smaller size did make it a little more difficult to get the plaster from hawk to trowel. I was accustomed to having a little more room to maneuver the blob of plaster. Also, because it is metal, initially the plaster would want to move around a little more. Once it started to set up though, it was fine. Those are all very minor issues, and really, I became accustomed to it quickly.

As it turns out I now own two of these metal ones. When I cleaned out the garages after booting out the woman renting them, I found one in there. So I have an emergency back-up. You know, just in case I have one of those late night plaster emergencies where I need a plaster hawk and I can’t find the first one. I can now go to my emergency back-up. I'm going to sleep a littler easier at night now.

As for the problem, it was with the plaster itself. I had about ¾ of a bag of the finish plaster left over from the butler’s pantry. I used most of that in the brown coat yesterday. There was enough left over for 2 small batches when it came time to do the finish coat. The finish coat goes on very thin, and sets up fast, so I make very small batches. It took 3 batches to do the whole wall.

I knew that the ¾ was not going to be enough for the whole wall. Last week I went back to the same brickyard I always go to in order to get more plaster. I pulled in to the second shed and told the guy I wanted 2 StructoLite and 1 Diamond Finish plaster. As he was loading on the StructoLite he told me he didn’t think they carried Diamond Finish Plaster. I had bought it there several times so I looked around and found 3 bags alone on a pallet several yards away.

He was nice about it, but I did get kind of a “Screw you, Mr. Know-it-all” attitude from him. I commented that I was probably the only person who bought it and I asked what happens when they run out. He assured me they would order more.

Anyway, after finishing off the old bag I cut open the new bag. This new stuff seemed to mix up fine, but when I went to apply it is was full of “floaters”. That is what I call them anyway. These are small chunks of dry plaster that didn’t mix up. Occasionally you will get one or two in a batch but this one was full of them. It was unusable. I went back and mixed some more and they didn’t go away. I mixed some more and they still didn't go away. I ran the drill mixer until it was blue in the face and they still didn't go away! I ended up dumping the whole batch.

I thought it might have been loose pieces from the bottom of the mixing pale. You always leave some residue behind that dries to the sides. It has never been a problem before though. Once plaster sticks to something it pretty much takes an act of Congress to get it off. I mixed up another batch and had the same problem only it seemed to be worse. Again I dumped up.

I then realized it was the plaster that was full of small, hard chunks that would not break down during the mix. Initially I thought maybe the plaster had got damp, but the bags have a plastic liner and they are stored indoors. The bag wasn’t ripped either.

I finally decided is was a combination of being old and because the bag was at the bottom of the pallet. Remember there were only 3 bags left on the pallet. I think the main problem was that it had become compacted at the bottom of the stack on the pallet. The partial bag I had left over from the butler’s pantry was the same age and was fine.

I made a third batch only this time I went through the dry plaster with my hands and tried to break up the hard chunks. It didn’t work. I eventually had to go by a flour sifter and sift the plaster before it would mix properly. I had to go to 3 stores to find the damn thing, too. Ninety percent of it would sift through by just shaking the sifter. I could then force most of the remainder though the screen by hand. There were these little bits at the end that just wouldn’t go through, though.

In the end I got it done, but it took a lot longer than it should have. The finish coat is always the quickest and should have taken about an hour. If you include all of the driving around to get the sifter, this was more like 3 hours. Its always something.



Oh, and guess how much sanding I will need to do?


Tarr said...

This is looking so good. Keep it going.

Jennifer said...

Nice! Did you use a sifter with the little handle and wire to make it go faster?

Greg said...

That's what I was looking for but I couldn't find one. It was a little frustrating. I guess baking is falling out of favor around here.

STAG said...

The that, like boards with grooves in them? It doesn't look like the stuff I see around here.

Greg said...


Good eye. yes, they are solid wood with dove-tail grooves. You can read about it here...

Perry Degener said...

I get rid of the floaters in the plaster by using an old Mixmaster mixer that is off the base. What works for chunks for frosting is great also for plaster.

Greg said...


Yea, like I said, normally my drill with the mixing attachment has had no problem mixing the plaster. It is usually less than a minute and I'm ready to go. This stuff was just un-mixable. Even after sifting it, those chunks would not even break up between my fingers!

Boolysteed said...

Greg, which Mikita sander did you use on the bulter pantry floor? And did you use polyurethane oil? I am refinishing a bathroom floor made of 8' x 8' old growth fir; it was preserved by a 4 layer dip. Not as fuggly as yours was. I have a Dewalt orbital palm sander but want an upgrade. Thanks.

Greg said...

It is the Makita 9910 3X18 belt sander. I think a paid a little under $100 for it.

Mick said...

you were lucky to get on with plaster that had gone like that - often its too off to use (sets crazy fast). Glad you are liking the hawk - you see this is why you need the right tools from the start - you are having to re-learn some technique ;)

For Perry - you can usually avoid "floaters" all together by adding plaster to water when you do the mix - rather than the other way around (are you doing that already?) - just add it slowly and steadily mixing all the time. It also makes it easier to vary the consisitency that way