update on silly ideas 1

On reflection it really was a silly idea in that it did work but was totally not needed. And this is the point. Despite the mix being 1 lime to 2 sand and the plaster being on average 20mm thick and in places a little more, I got no cracking and the reason for this is simply the quantity of hair.




Posted in technical stuff, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Silly ideas that might work. no.1

I found one of these in my local store, I think it’s for rubbing horses down. The balls rotate as you move it around.

The idea:

now that my plaster is drying nicely ready for the top coat, but despite the quantity of (horse) hair I have put in it and due to the quantity of lime putty I have put in it, there is a little bit of cracking  – no much – just a teeny bit. But because I don’t want to smooth off the surface too much but do want to close up the small cracks I thought this would be worth a try.

they are only £4. The balls press against the plaster as you move it around the wall pressing in the plaster but leaving a nice compacted groove behind, it doesn’t gouge out the surface but it does compact without smoothing.

Of course, this doesn’t replace a float in that it won’t smooth off any lumps and bumps but it does compact as I say and for  four quid what’s to quibble about.

It comes as a mitt type thing but I couldn’t get my hand in it very easily so I am going to cut the back off and fix it to a plastic float, I might get two and fix both to the same float. they will fit ok so why not.

I have tried it out and it seemed pretty effective, but the thing is not to use it on soft plaster as it does gouge, the surface needs to be quite firm but still slightly pliable, which is about the time the cracking has stopped.

I must emphasise that there isn’t much of this cracking and it’s only due to shrinkage caused by the mix being 1 part lime putty to two parts sharp sand.  or to be more helpful: 3 parts putty, 6 parts sand, 1 part horse hair.

It’s funny how cracking has become such a bad word in plastering, look at any historic plaster and there are cracks all over, some are subsequent to it being plastered and probably down to movement in the building but some, and they are easy to spot when you know how, are cracks that were caused as the plaster dried and shrank. As long as the plaster has not actually pulled away from the wall as it can do with excess shrinkage, a little crack here and there is not a problem to worry overly about. Close up the cracks one way or another then when it has dried enough so no more cracking is likely, on with the JBLIME FINISHING PLASTER  and the jobs a goodun.





Posted in Lime Plaster, technical stuff | Leave a comment

Tricks of the trade number 1


This wall, being damp, had over the years been repaired with a host of materials, plaster board, metal lath and cement, universal one coat and gypsum. All that was removed and the wall was pretty undulating and there was a lot of depth to be made up. To make things easier I made five vertical ribs with the plaster and brought them up to the required level for the first coat. I was pushing it a bit as it was plain at least three coats where required but time was not available so I had to do it in two coats and a finish coat i.e a scratch and a float coat. So given the depth I opted for this age old method; with the ribs giving me clear indication  of how much depth there was I got some plain terracotta roofing tiles and built up the thickness with them.

dubbing out

dubbing out with broken roofing tiles

The tiles take the place of some of the plaster and the ribs make sure you don’t pack the wall out too far, the ribs were all on the same level so that I knew that I would end up wit a flat wall.  There were places were no packing was needed and places were two layers were needed. but the process was easy and quick.

make sure the tiles are tapped deep into the plaster

At the end the wall was level and the next day I was able to put the float coat on. Thereby successfully applying an inch and half of plaster in two coats with no risk of cracking.

This technique has been used for centuries and can even be seen in Pompeii.

ready for the float coat

ready for the float coat

Posted in Lime Plaster, technical stuff | 1 Comment

Lime for beginners training course. Cotswolds Rural Skills.

So another course has come and gone.


We had fun. and sun.

and got a lot of work and learning done.

So what happens on a John Byrne led lime workshop? We start with an introduction to the ingredients: limestone, quick lime, hydrated lime (lime putty), sand. mortar, old mortar, and completing the lime cycle – stone again.

Calcium carbonate, calcium oxide, calcium hydroxide, calcium carbonate

we mix up some mortar, talk about recipes, and where to buy ready mixed mortars ,and when and how, we add horse hair to make  plaster. Then we practice pointing and practice plastering, dubbing out the wall, getting it level or at least not so uneven. The following day we look at finishing the pointing, pressing back and brushing off, we apply finishing plaster to our first days plastering,  smoothing the surface, plastering corners  All this is done on a real building not in some workshop on a concrete block wall, all the work produced by the participants  becomes part of the fabric of the building and builds, course on course, until the building has been repaired, pointed, plastered. The only recycled work is the Plastering on a lath panel. but its good to be able to see both sides.  Then we have a break from plastering and look at limewash and its pigmenting and application, and we end with lime slaking, which lays down lime for the next course.




Posted in Training courses, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I like this too

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

my favourite plastering technique video

A master of plastering – I aspire to this level of dexterity and cleanliness!

Posted in Lime Plaster, technical stuff, Training courses | Leave a comment

Plastering with my own Lime Rich Mortars



I have been lime plastering for a number of years and over those years I have usually bought in ready mixed course stuff and fine stuff, however I have recently developed my own finishing plaster as mentioned already and I think it is the best finishing plaster I have ever used and it should be as I developed it for that purpose.

Recently I began to think about the course stuff, that too could be better and I have just done a job where I made my own.

I have been thinking for some time that there is never enough lime in the mix. Most mixes nowadays are in the region of 1 part lime putty to 2 1/2 parts aggregate and in the Cotswolds that is usually a mixture of sharp sand and Cotswold stone dust. For me that is not enough lime.

The recipe I am using at the moment is 1 part lime putty to 2 parts sharp sand, this gives a really sticky mix to which can be added a lot of hair. It is a happy fact that when you add a lot of lime, the plaster will tend to crack as it dries out, but being so sticky it will hold more hair and that hair stops the cracking. This is a rule worth remembering, the stickier the mix the more hair it will take, of course the best way to get a sticky mix is to add more lime putty – not more stone dust.

Lime putty has never been easier to produce so why skimp on it?

Once you have a really sticky plaster the technique of plastering changes – you don’t really spread it on directly off the hawk but apply it to the wall in dollops and then spread it flat, it’s amazing how easy the process of plastering becomes when the mix is right (and how difficult the job is when the mix is wrong).

Another penny dropped the other week when I saw a scratch coat of render that hadn’t rendered the wall flat, it was almost as bumpy as before. there is no point in this, if you are after a flat wall the scratch coat is the time to get it flat – dub it out to even out the surface, apply the first coat, get that as flat as possible and any undue thickness, due to the undulating surface might well crack a little, even with plenty hair, but this cracking is in the first coat and as long as the plaster hasn’t become detached from the wall (which can happen) it is of little consequence. Once you get it flat, and you can use a straight edge such as a rule, or derby float for this, then you scratch it ready for the next coat.

Scratch coat applied

The next coat is now easy to apply, it is of even thickness, dries even and is easy to get flat. This second coat is brought up to within 4 mm of the final level and trowelled or floated flat, corners crisp or nicely rounded.

second coat ready for the finishing coat

The finishing coats can then be applied in a couple of passes and trowelled flat and smooth.  By getting the wall flat as soon as possible makes every other stage really easy and efficient.

All of this is so much easier with a mix with 33% lime putty by volume and loads of hair – you really do need to be able to see the hair in the mix – they need to be really obvious – horse hair is best, don’t bother buying the nicely wrapped in string stuff, find yourself a friendly horse owner or two and ask them for the hair off their horses. It’s cheap and it works great.

so there you have it my own recipe from now on is a minimum of 33% lpbv (lime putty by volume) for backing coats and a minimum of 60% for the top coat.

Lime rich, fibre rich mortars for excellent results

(The blue colour is caused by the slate granules used in recipe for the top coat – 66% lime putty : 33% slate granules – it will dry white of course)



just needs the dado rail and fire surround fitting… and the skirting painting.

by John Byrne ~ Artisan Lime Plasterer

Posted in Lime Plaster, technical stuff | Leave a comment