Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Limey (Stucco Calce)

In sketching and laying out subjects to paint last night, I imagined a new painting project I have in mind would look best in fresco. And you can't have fresco, or a cuba libre for that matter, without lime. But the lime I'm talking about isn't this of course.

It's this, the same stuff I use as a temporary base for laying out the more complicated marble mosaics, lime plaster putty to be specific. It's different than the stuff that goes on the walls in more modern US construction (gypsum sheetrock).

Two years ago, I made several five gallon buckets of this by burning hydrated lime that you can buy in the local hardware store in large stainless pots (which made some of it revert to CaO which is necessary to get the putty just right). Then I mixed the super dried powder with distilled water and saw more bubbles than a Michael Jackson birthday party.

Be very cautious though if making lime at home. I wore some goggles because when you first pour the water into the lime to make putty, it is reactive in a way that would make a mad chemist's heart warm. And, the resulting splash of lime in the eye would definitely ruin your entire day (and maybe eyesight).

In ancient times, they had very large holes dug in the ground (pits, I think they call them), in which they would toss crushed limestone and burn it with large peat fires. Then they poured water into the pit to hydrate or 'slake' the lime to make it ready to use on walls, pinatas, or a weird army of decorative lawn jockeys.

Two thousand year old frescos still intact and with vivid color locked in is testament to how durable lime is after it dries completely. It basically loses moisture and reverts back to limestone. So after drying, it's now limestone shaped how you want it and with the images you have painted. I imagine if you put your mind to it and with enough effort, you could even make limestone rocks.

If you have the lime and want to do a fresco of your own, you need inert ingredients like marble dust, sand, or perfect diamonds to keep the lime from cracking as it dries and to add strength. Lay down a base coat 10mm thick on a frame (or on a prepared wall) at about 2:1 sand to lime.
After the base coat dries, wet it down and put an 'intonaco' skim coat on that 3mm thick with a 1:1 sand to lime ratio. When mixing the sand and lime, resist the temptation to add more lime even though it looks very sandy and doesn't mix well at first, eventually it will become plastic-ish and spreadable.

Here is one I did earlier this year, the next one will be a bit more involved.

On a completely unrelated matter, does anyone see a typo in the latin below that I want to carve into some marble? I'm not sure if liquid paper or backspace will work to correct any errors in the stone, so I want to be pretty sure it is right.


P.S. - a super prize for anyone that can interpret all parts of the inscription above.


  1. AnonymousJuly 01, 2009

    I always say no one's forays into art are complete without a weird army of decorative lawn jockeys! As for the latin, I studied it for five years and I can't remember a damn thing. I have nightmares of an elderly lady with vaguely blue hair tapping my shoulder and going "DATIVE CASE DARLING!"

    What's that about luddites? :)

  2. AnonymousJuly 01, 2009

    P.S. I love your limestone angel beast.

  3. Ooh, you mentioned mad scientists and reactive materials ... MJenks is gonna love this post.

    I thought your fresco was lovely, as was the ancient one which made me think of me and my cat ... except that cheetah/leopard or whatever it was actually looked quite friendly and wasn't hissing, spitting and giving the girl "the evils". Sigh.

  4. Ps: When I saw your post title I headed over here in dread of a bit of Brit bashing ... top marks for resisting temptation :P

  5. Word, man. Chemistry AND Latin, all in one post? Work me into a tizzy.

    Yeah, CaO is pretty basic. Not only should you be wary of getting it in your eyes, but you should avoid getting it on your skin.

    Base burns are worse than acid burns because acid burns pucker and stop hurting after a while. Base burns stick around for a long time and your skin feels extra slippery.

  6. "Then I mixed the super dried powder with distilled water and saw more bubbles than a Michael Jackson birthday party."

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who doesn't think it's too soon... ;-)

  7. AnonymousJuly 01, 2009

    Just a suggestion... ask Mjenks - - to check your latin. He's a latin guru.

    Your project sounds bitchin. :)

  8. something to do with warm springs (thermae) if my recent trip to Bath has anything to say about it...

    which makes me wonder what you get up to for fun texas ;)

  9. Vegetable Assassin, I'm glad that you found them as unsettling as I did, and sorry to hear your experiences with Latin were sub-par. Hey, did you just call me a luddite? And thanks, I like my limestone angel (and why does 'limestone angel' remind me of an 80's song)?

    Girl Interrupted, I think he did enjoy it profusely... Thanks, and I love the leopard one, with its awesome cinnabar background and all that. I'll bet they had to pay the human model handsomely for putting up with the wild
    animal. Talk about getting distracted from the pose...
    p.s. - hah, that was a provocative title for you all wasn't it? I'm not like that...

    Mjenks, lol, yes I was hoping you would see this post, it was like 'double word score' in Scrabble. Good points about the dangers of highly base lime. You also must be careful about the color pigments used in the lime because of all that alkalinity.

    LiLu, hehe, I didn't think Bubbles the chimp would be offended...

    Kimizzy, Thanks for the recommendation! He's already been here and didn't take a shot at interpreting. :( Thanks, I want to see some more of your projects too!

    Sas, You are absolutely on the right track, it is about a pool. Let's see, fun in Texas...
    1) barbeque-ing (all four seasons, even when it snows).
    2) horse riding, playdays, rodeo
    3) shooting stuff
    4) NASCAR
    5) football with the weird shaped ball
    6) trips to San Antonio's River Walk
    7) trips to Austin's Sixth Street
    8) beer
    9) talking slowly and using expressions like 'fixin to'
    10) going out to stock tanks on oil leases to do some fishin.
    11) girls with big hair
    I'm sure there are more things to do, but those spring to mind.

  10. The inscription: Relax and play, warm water baths and a castle with central heating?????????

    Yeah, I know it’s time for me to quit sniffing that lime.

  11. poo. all I got was sweet warm water bath too. Of course, I only know some latin for medical terminology purposes only.

  12. I cannot believe you have an army of jockeys in your garden. Isn't that illegal?

  13. Dutch Donut Girl, you've got the relax and play part correct. It is 'bath' or 'pool' and 'sweet' which in context means freshwater not ocean. But castle and central heating is not right :)

    Valerie, medical latin is good too.

    Mo, not if you have lots of little horse statues for them to ride. Plus, when they aren't riding, the yard is super bright with all the little lanterns.

  14. I'd like to meet the person who invented lawn jockeys...the most useless piece of lawn equiptment ever. I'd rather have a gnome. Wait I take that back...if I could have a collection of them then I'd pick a jockey.

  15. #9 of fun things to do = HOTNESS ;)

  16. This is truly a post with everything! Latin, chemistry, art, decorative lawn jockeys - truly, truly delightful. I love your blog!

    And the Latin looks fine to me, but it's been awhile, so take this with many grains of sea salt.

  17. I dropped by after chuckling at your comments on Kitchen Retro. Now, however, I'm afraid that I learned something, which is a strange sensation. I think I'll be okay, though. Your blog is informative and humorous.

  18. Just when I thought that hydrating one's own lime was going out of style, BAM! There you go! Loved your angel-medusa-thingy (sorry I couldn't see it properly, as my eyesight hasn't been the same since that horrible backyard lime-hydrating accident...)

    And sadly, my Latin is, like Valerie's, strictly of the medical kind. (Incidentally, I've never actually studied a European language - ancient or modern - at school. It was always Chinese/Japanese/Indonesian here in Australia. Good for conversing with our Asia-Pacific neighbours, and also handy for restaurants and what-not.)

  19. Nikki, those gnomes are a bit odd, but I'd rather have lots of marble sculptures instead of either.

    Sas, lol, I'll have to make a point of typing with a bit of Southern drawl.

    Lidian, thanks! Your blog posts really brighten my day too. I love all the retro stuff you manage to find and the commentary. :)
    ps - ok, I'm starting to chisel now based on your interpretation...

    Bill, welcome to Bored Neoclassical, and don't worry the learning sensation will go away. 'It's tingling? That's how you know it's working.'

    the girl, hahahha, BAM!
    Thanks, you are a funny one! Asian languages are quite a challenge, they remind me of the Michael Coe book on Mayan glyphs since they have the symbols and a phoenetic component to them. You are very bright to be able to pick those up.

  20. wait, I think when I was little and my grandpa had a camp in the woods with an outhouse, we used to have to throw lime into the wooden toilet after using it.

  21. Not only do I always walk away from your blog feeling a little bit smarter, but today I feel like I want to go create art...with lime!

    Where do you get all of your art materials? Is there a store I don't know about that sculptors and tile mosaic makers go to creat art?

    In other news...I had a dream--no a nightmare last night about old Greek/Roman sculptures w/o heads chasing me. I have a feeling the images were gathered from your thanks for that. come I don't get you in my regular feed on Twitter? Like, I never get your updates or anything...I only get your @ replies. Have you forbidden me from seeing your tweets?

    Finally...I play Mafia Wars on Facebook. ADDICTED. I need a lime and a Cuba Libre drink right now to add to my vaulted collections. that was the first thought that came to my mind when i opened this new post!

    RIP MJ! [i feel since i'm being totally random, i would just add that at the end.]

  22. Is it true that this stuff will make a body decompose more quickly? Or is that a different kind of lime? I can't screw this up, please advise.

  23. Mr C, My grandpa always just told me to use toilet paper. J/k, yes lime has many wonderful uses.

    Lopez, Well great, go do a fresco, really fun! I make the lime, but usually
    a typical art store has most of what you need. Still debating on whether or
    not to order some big blocks of marble from Polycor (very heavy).
    Sorry about the nightmares, to be fair though, there are much scarier sites than this one.
    Lopez, I think you have to follow me on Twitter to get my updates. I mean, I'm following you and all, so the basketball is on your part of the ice.
    Have you been drinking Cuba Libre's already??? It's before noon!!! lol

    Shawn, Um yeah, I think the Nazis used it. Thanks for bringing that up, I think... I almost went the whole post without it.
    Note to Self: DO NOT make Shawn angry under any circumstances.

  24. Ooh what a pretty angel in that other fresco you did!

    Here's my translation of the Latin:
    Secret Luddite
    Sweet Hot Water
    This is the Castle of SP.


  25. I did follow you! On Twitter! Will go try it again.

  26. Soda, Thanks! Um, no, but I completely understand how you got there... :)

    Lopez - can you hear me twitter now? Just sent one...

  27. AnonymousJuly 03, 2009

    vado a linkarti......... patty

  28. Oh Holy Crap--an art blog! Yippee! (I came across your site reading your Cola song on Homemade Hilarity--very cute!)
    I will go back and reread this more--I ADORE art history; my favorite classes ever!

  29. Patty, avete goduto di linkarti? :)
    Ciao a presto...

    B. Diderich, Thanks, I always enjoy getting comments from artistic people. You have some good things going on your blog, I'll have to read some of the older posts.

  30. AnonymousJuly 07, 2009

    as you have understood I don't know' well the English but I wish you a good day patty

  31. Grazie Patty, Ho capito perfettamente il tuo inglese. Mio italiano ha bisogno di competenze migliore. Mi tornare in Italia nel mese di ottobre per la pratica... :)

  32. Sigh. I'm just now catching up...which means I couldn't get the super prize. That blows.