Friday, November 30, 2012

Why aren't Timbrel Vault people like Linux Users?

 Why aren't Timbrel Vault people like Linux Users?

Say what?

A bit of background so this question becomes clear to the reader.  In my past life I managed a bunch of  network equipment, mostly Linux servers.  Not a handful, I mean like 50 of them. 

I started to install and learn Linux before there was Internet in my town.  In fact I needed to get a Linux server (  and a Cisco router) running before my town could have Internet.  It is a long long story,  suffice it to say that someone helped me in an email get going,  and then once a Linux server running I then had access to tons of discussions and FAQs about issues I was having with Linux and presto the question was already asked and answered about umpteen times.

  That started in 1997, and by 2000 I was hiring young people to help me manage the servers at the ISP and the 50 servers at clients premises.  During the interview a key question was, "what do you do if you are faced with an error or something is not working on one of your servers?"  Of course the answer is " I would google the error".   If you could google and read you could install and fix anything.  People were enormously helpful without thinking about charging.

I benefited , and yes I also participated, from this incredibly helpful community.  If I needed to setup a new service, say squid caching server, there were many HOWTOs and then when I was stuck on something, the same question was answered already, or someone or even crowds of hackers would come to my rescue.   it might even be one of the key people who made the particular software or application.  To this day I am amazed how helpful the Linux community is to one another.  It happens with Cisco users and other groups but not to the same extent.  Linux users will spend considerable time making step by step instructions, share the results, and refine them. 

So now back to building vaults. 

As you may have noticed I became interested in masonry vaults and domes a few years ago.  I started with domes where there are many masons in my locality with that skill.  I moved to Nubian vaults where there are some websites, to brick vaulted explained somewhat by auroville.  Eventually I have come to timbrel vaults where I looked at pictures on other vaults.

These sites were helpful in a passive sense.

But unlike the Linux world no one takes the time to make a step by step process and leaves allot for the newbie vaulter to work out himself.  Or at least I have not found details on timbrel vaulting.  And if you ask a question on email , well I have never received a reply.

Contractor Talk moves in that direction, but not with vaults.  Maybe the the pool of vaulters is too small?  Dry Wall builders are much more helpful and document much more.

Timbrel Vault stairs III

Dickson got some steps on the vaulted stairs in between jobs.

I am a happy camper.  I have been delaying the top part of these stairs for years.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Catalan vaulting in Cuba

This is one of the most remarkable examples of catalan vaulting.

Imagine it was never used.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Timbrel stairs - II

The temporary plywood sidewall was carefully removed. Dickson now can easily glue a line on both sides. You butter two sides with gypsum plaster, put in place and tap , hold a few seconds and then repeat. Better if you can have two lines going so it sets up a bit. Also we leave the plaster to set for 5-10 minutes before using.

Below  sees after three layers are in place.  the side will look better after pointing.  The courses all have different bonds and overlap joints.  It feels like a cast reinforced concrete slab.

Cleaning up some plaster. 
It is a bit hard to get perspective, from below looking up  the run to first floor. (second floor to Americans)

From the top looking down.  It would be better to have joints in the middle, but these are thin bricks and cutting makes them a bit weaker.  and it is covered of course.  I walked up the vault.  feels more solid than a full single brick in shiner orientation.  I mean it feels very solid, like i said like a reinforced concrete beam.
Now we let it cure a bit and put some treads, but not the final treads as we can't keep them clean.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Timbrel Stairs

The crew have been busy at Kisongo with the Widow's hall and houses (two now) since May.  I got Dickson to add a mason and finally I got Dickson back full time, on the groined vault house for awhile.  ( While the other mason Goodluck puts up the short walls on another vault in Kisongo.

I finally bit the bullet and went ahead this week with a "new" technology for me.  Timbrel or Catalan Vaults.

Where I want to use this technique is on the top half of the stairs in the groined vault house. Where the brightness is up to the top floor.  

I made a post about this technique, and I tried some trials and found the gypum plaster works for the first layer.

I know how to do timbrel vaults  but the catenary shape can vary, so I kept putting it off  and off and fretting about it.  I bit the bullet a weekend ago and traced the shape on some reclaimed chipboard.  The load on the arch will vary so I worried about that until i realized when someone is standing on it it would also change the line of thrust so i figured at any time the LT will stay within  1/3 of the arch.
So here is from the side, the first of the three layers. tomorrow we remove that chipboard.

Below is the view from below.  After removing the side "wall" we will add another row on both sides. the plywood is our template and we use that wall to "glue" the tiles.  We need more suport.

And what it looks like on top of the arch.
As I said we will add two layers on top of this one, different bonds, and then the treads sit on top of the vault. The mortar now will be cement-lime-sand.  Each layer is overlapping the bond below.  Should be fun.

Edit 7 November 2012:
This is a good link about Timbrel vaults.  It explains more and better than I can.

You too could have a roof/ceiling like this in your house.