The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Mixing the Mortar

I was down at the dry store early this morning to see a batch of the mortar being mixed for use in the continuing task of stabilising the stone walls in the north range.  The store is a quarter of a mile from the site, and I was there to meet....

....Iain MacPhail, one of the workmen whom John-Paul had described as being very good at this task.  Iain - pictured here earlier in the year -  is a local man, from a crofting family in the small township of Achnaha in the centre of the peninsula.  Sadly, Iain wasn't there - he'd had to go off to see the dentist at short notice - so John-Paul stood in for him.

Everything is extremely efficiently organised for the task, one which, in so many ways, is just like cooking.  There's equipment, in this case a pan mixer, 1, there are the ingredients - 2 is whin stone and, in the sealed bucket, lime putty, 3 is hydraulic lime in a bag, 4 is the Durham beach sand, and 5 is a bucket of water - and then there's....

....the recipe, neatly pinned up on the wall with simple, step-by-step stages.  At present, because there are only three men working on the pointing, they're making a half load which lasts them all day.  In summer, they'd be making a mix every couple of hours as that's the working time they have in warm temperatures, but at this time of year, with the temperature lower and the air damp, they have up to two days working time on a load.

First to go in was the lime putty, which very much resembled cream cheese, followed by the whin stone.

The pan mixer had these blended very quickly, the mix looking very much like a cake with currants.

The other ingredients followed quickly, care being taken at all times to make sure the mix never became too dry.  It all looked incredibly easy, but I have a nasty suspicion that this was only the case because J-P has done this a few times before.

A lot of care was taken towards the end, as the last of the sand was added and then just enough water to get the perfect consistency.  A quick test is to take some of the mix out on a trowel, and then hold the trowel upside down: if it sticks, it's right.

Here, chef John-Paul is seen beginning the process of removing the mortar from the mixer.  It's put into plastic buckets, and these are then sealed until they're ready to be used.

This last picture shows the mortar loaded onto the little, all-purpose dumper truck to be taken over to the castle.

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