[GSBN] Hand Compressed bales

Derek Roff derek at unm.edu
Thu Nov 3 17:06:25 CDT 2011

-        Are there certain car or lorry jacks that work better than others?

The Hi-Lift jack (which Darcey mentioned), and similar designs, have a couple of useful design features for making hand-compressed bales.  One is that they have a greater range of travel than most auto jacks- sometimes a meter or more.  Another is that they offer controlled movement in both directions, rather than relying on gravity, and/or potentially releasing too quickly or incompletely, as some jacks would when adapted to a new use.  They often come with a square metal base, and a larger lifting surface than many jacks, which makes attachments and modifications easier.  They lack the finicky precision mechanisms of hydraulic and screw jacks, which makes mud and dust less of a problem, and servicing/cleaning easier.  


Derek Roff

On Nov 3, 2011, at 3:36 PM, Darcey Donovan wrote:
Hi Andy and everyone,
The PAKSBAB team is making great little 1' x 1' x 2' bales in Pakistan using our hand balers (compression moulds and farm jacks).  I initially took an American made Hi-Lift jack to Pakistan which is still in use, and we have since imported additional ones from China.
The straw is cut by hand using a sickle and is wrapped into sausage-like bundles and placed side-to-side in the mould.  Andy, I will email you some pictures of the moulds and bale fabrication process, farm jack specs, and our fabrication procedure off list.  I need to update my compression mould drawing, but I can do this in the next week and email it to you as well.  If anyone else is interested in this information please send me an email off list and I will cc you on my correspondence with Andy.
We often use wattle and daub for our interior partition walls. 
I haven't been to Pakistan in almost 2 years but Surkhab Khan and the team are forging ahead.  We're about to start our 27th straw bale house - our 3rd one in collaboration with the organization SCIPPER (Spinal Cord Injury Project for Pakistan Earthquake Rehabilitation). We also recently formed an advisory board and are working hard to bring straw bale construction to scale in Pakistan.  Step by step...
Darcey Donovan, P.E., C.T.O.
Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building (PAKSBAB)
P.O. Box 1083
Truckee, CA 96160 USA
(530) 902-5516 cell
(530) 582-4965 fax
darceydonovan Skype
darcey at paksbab.org
From: Andy Horn [mailto:andy at ecodesignarchitects.co.za] 
Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2011 7:29 AM
To: 'Global Straw Building Network'
Cc: ecoengr at sbcglobal.net
Subject: Hand Compressed bales
Dear Darcey & others
Some time back in the Dec 2006 Last Straw there was an article about the work of Darcey Donovan and Greg Zaller in an earthquake struck area of Pakistan, where they used hand compacted bales using car jacks to make their bales for some community projects.
We have a Hospital project in the icy highlands of the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, where the locals are growing wheat (organically) and harvest by hand. We intend to build using straw bales and I am looking specifically for information about how best to make and utilize a hand compactor.
We did already make up a simple timber mould simply to establish the quantity and hence cost of the supply of the straw that we would likely need to bale with. We used a hacksaw (with a fine steel cutting blade) to cut the straw, placing the cut ends to the outside and thinning ends towards the inside alternately so as to lay it in a regular fashion. We did not try use a car jack as at that stage we were just looking at quantities. The locals sell their straw in bundles for roof thatching. We found that it will take approximately 20 of their bundles to make a single bale.
In order for the idea to be replicable we need to keep it as simple but effective as possible. There is a local metal worker who could weld up a mould for us and I am sure we can lay our hands on some car or lorry jacks. I have never been down this road before and have no idea of the finer technicalities of making your own bales.
-        Are there certain car or lorry jacks that work better than others?
-        how to best design the mould?
-        how best to lay the straw into the mould?
-        What kind of level of compression is one looking for and how does one establish the right level of compression?
-        How to get this as efficient as possible?
-        What can go wrong?
-        etc etc
I did already try follow John Glassfords link on his web site that he mentioned (see his mail below) in regards to looking at this for th Haiti project, Thanks John ….but would appreciate much more specific detail.
The other thing that came up was the possibility to make thinner bales for internal walls ….but again I have had no experience with this.
Any input would be hugely appreciated.
Many thanks
Andy Horn

G ' day Balers

Sounds good to me bales for Haiti. Remember it was an earthquake and if you have not seen the work been done by Darcy Donovan here is a story posted some time ago now:

(Just scroll down)


Also you must all have seen the video of the test done in Reno:


I love the hand baler that the Pakistanis are using.

Seeing there is high unemployment in Haiti and if there is any rice straw in the paddocks then the hand balers would work.

Anyone know how Darcy is going last time I heard Darcy was still in Pakistan?

Kind regards
The Straw Wolf
Huff 'n' Puff Constructions
61 2 6927 6027
In Australia (02) 6927 6027

Mountains of the Moon 2011
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