Reviewed by Jeff Ruppert
Earth Render: The art of clay plaster, render and paints by James Henderson is a refreshing, easy approach to what can become an overwhelming process. As anyone knows who has worked in the natural building trades, earthen materials are highly variable and therefore require a basic understanding of those variables. James Henderson explains this process in a concise, easy-to-read format with plenty of illustrations.
What is nice about the approach of this book is that it is meant for the novice as well as the seasoned tradesman. It can be followed by anyone and needs little introduction. It focuses on how earthen materials are used to clad and finish walls, and that is it. There are no lengthy chapters espousing the virtues of earthen construction. Mr. Henderson assumes that you are reading his book to learn the finer points of his trade, and therefore an ethical discussion is not necessary.
The book begins by making a distinction between clay-sand and clay-straw materials. This is important because it is becomes easier to communicate what type of application you are doing. Clay-sand materials tend to be used for finer finishes and clay-straw tends to be for more rough, bulkier work. Clay paints are also emphasized in their various forms.
You will find many gems of knowledge here. From render recipes to instruction on how to mix render in a wheelbarrow and with a rotary hoe, this is a practical guide. Chances are it will get dirty as you hold it with your earth-covered hands on your next project. Wheat paste, Casein and lindseed oil…types of mesh, tools and techniques are all here.
James Henderson is from Australia and therefore some of the terminology is Oz-centric, which isn’t a big deal, but is something to be aware of as you read about the various tools and materials if you are from North America.
Earth Render is available for $30 AUD from Python Press. It is 88 pages long and available in paperback.
Paperback ISBN: 9780975778203