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Kiko Denzer on Art

Cob cinva ram

M J Epko duckchow at
Tue Jan 6 18:51:59 PST 1998

At 09:41 AM 1/6/98 -0500, Doug Patterson wrote:
>I'm forwarding this request in the hopes that someone on the list can help.
>Please respond to Lenore directly.
>>Have you any idea where I may find a cinva ram or the plans
>>to build one? Thank You.


	I wrote none of the following. It's all from other sources. (Good to see
Steve Berlant and Doug Patterson here among us.) Apologies if this is
deemed too long & off-topic...


The "Cinva" ram was invented in Columbia in 1952, used in international aid
projects, and was made popular by its continued listing in the legendary
Whole Earth Catalogs.  I don't know where this model may be currently
found.  It's like "Kleenex" - there are many presses, but because of the
WEC, people call them all "Cinva Rams".

I do know that lever-action earth block presses, which is what a Cinva ram
is, are in active use all over the world.  The Earthbuilders Encyclopedia
lists 14 different names used in different countries.  I have personally
seen models that were made in France, India, and Australia (none of which
were mentioned in the EC).  The press I used here in the Colorado was
hydraulic, as almost all of them are in this country.  Here's some
addresses (don't ask for a "Cinva Ram" unless you are doing an historical
re-enactment;  ask for a "lever-action earth block press").

Centre Simone Signoret
Bolte Postale 53
F-38090 Villefontaine

*By far* the leading organization for all forms of earth construction.  The
name mean the International Center for Earth Construction.  They are one of
the members of BASIN (Building Advisory Service and Information Network),
which is a European consortium of Appropriate Technology groups, also
fabulous.   Info on them may be requested at the same time.

Development Alternatives
Tara Nirman Kendra
B-32, Institutional Area, New Mehrauli Rd
New Delhi 110016

This is the best AT organization I've ever seen.  One of their projects was
to design a earth block press and sell it at cost all over India to reduce
the consumption of fuel used to make bricks (the most common construction
method in rural areas).  I went in their office - one room has a large
barrel vault ceiling made entirely of unreinforced blocks with no mortar.

Earthbuilders Encyclopedia (and)
Southwest Solaradobe School
POB 153
Bosque, NM  87006

These guys aren't great (all their publications are primarily paid ads and
appear to be produced by a 10th grade journalism class), but they do know
their craft, and its the only game in town for general info.

Adobe International
POB 1284
Grants, NM  87020

They make hydraulic machines, but might know who manufacturers a lever-action.


Pacific Adobe sell an HP3 interlocking block system cinva ram. The listed
price is $3,000.00  makes up to 400 blocks daily.  They are located at
13207 Hemrick Ave, Sylmar, CA 91342  Voice 818.362.0235  fax 818.362.6132


Mother Earth News (April/May 1996) had an article about building a
hydraulic ram for around $100. I think it is similar to the Cinva.
Alternative Energy Engineering ( or 1-800-777-6609)
sells the Fleming Ram pump for not too much more. Most full service RE
companies sell some similar type of ram.


>A good source for information on earth ram presses and lots of other
>"appropriate" technology is:

>SKAT, Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management
>Vadianstrasse 42
>CH-9000 St. Gallen

>They put out a newsletter called "BASIN-NEWS", BASIN being the "Building
>Advisory Service and Information Network which is furhter broken down into
>the Wall building advisory service, cements and binders advisory service,
>roofing advisory service, and earth building advisory service.


>CRATerre - International Centre for Earth Construction
>Centre Simone Signoret/ BP 53
>F-38090 Villefontaine

>Tierra Sol y Mar
>505 Santa Clara Avenue
>Venice  CA  90291
>(310) 392-2775


>         John Cruickshank's photos of the Cinva Ram manual 
>pressed-earth-block machine are up at the Natural Building 
>Resources site, in the Gallery section:

tvoivozhd>>>followup on the "urp" duckchow for those who don't want to (or
don't know how) to dig through the archives for sources on hydraulic CEB
block machines which they probably can't afford to buy anyhow and if they
could, cannot be economically justified on a single house (or ten), here is
the VITA source on plans for the old CINVA block machine---and a few other
gadgets if you are on the "appropriate technology" wavelength.

VITA Village Technology Center and Catalog

A supervisor's guide to using the CINVA-Ram block press. Detailed
instructions for mixing material, organizing construction, and more. $6.25
ENGLISH 26pp. ISBN 0-86619-012-0

tvoivozhd>>>might as well throw this in for free, since most of the CEB
construction and research (or anything truly low-cost) is taking place
outside of the U.S., with India a principal player.

Vol 7 No 5 May 1997
The monthly newsletter on issues of sustainable development.

The views expressed in the articles in this newsletter are those of the
authors and not necessarily those of Development Alternatives.

Owner, printer and publisher: Dr. Ashok Khosla.

Published from:
B-32 Tara Crescent, Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 016.
Tel: 91+11+685-1158; 696-7938
Fax: 91+11+686-6031
Email: tara at

tvoivozhd>>>The basic argument and description of CEB

TNK - Our Name is in Mud
by Mukesh Jain

Use of mud in spite of proven and durable building material since long, is
restricted to the poorer communities only. It is the oldest building
material to be used by man. In the river sites of the Mesopotamian,
Egyptic, Chinese and the Indus valley civilizations, readily available
alluvial soil was used to make the first mud brick dwellings. Jericho,
history's earliest city, had houses built in raw earth. Harappa and Mohenjo
Daro saw the use of adobe walls faced with oven baked bricks. In the
Americas too, there are ancient examples of earth being used as a building
material. The Mexican city of Tenochtitlan had structures built of earth
walls faced with lime rendering. With the advent of industrial revolution,
new construction technologies spread, and earth construction skills were
lost or relegated to the vernacular builder. Impetus was given to earth
architecture in the post World War II years due to economic and energy
saving concerns.

To create awareness about its useful, durable, comfortable qualities among
middle class and affluent groups, Tara Nirman Kendra is taking a step
forward. With manual compaction using simple press like BALRAM and
scientifically backed technology inputs like stabilisation, durable 3-4
storey load bearing structures can easily be built in mud. The bricks used
in mud buildings are called Compressed Earth Blocks - CEB.

Advantages of CEB
* Low cost in comparison with burnt clay bricks.
* Low energy consumption because it is sun dried.
* Comparable in strength with burnt clay bricks
* Aesthetic in nature
* Labour intensive
* Utilises local resources, materials and labour
* Can be made with compact, transportable and low cost manual press BALRAM
- costing Rs.14000/- only
* Stabilisation with cement / lime increases resistance to erosion

* 1000 - 1200 blocks/ day produced by team of 5 labourers.
* Blocks cured for 2-3 weeks, then air dried for 1 week.
* Manually operated machine like BALRAM is adequate for production of high
density stabilised soil blocks.

Technical Details
* Size of CEB is 230 X 108 X 76 mm, same as that of burnt clay bricks. 230
X 230 X 76 mm size also possible.
* Ideal soil for stabilised CEB is red sandy loam.

Unsuitable soils for CEB are
* Acidic soils with pH < 7 .
* Soils with high gravel or silt percentage.
* Soils containing more than 0.5% organic matter.

Suitability of soil for CEB
* Acceptable range of particle size gradation
............................................( in % )
coarse gravel ................................0
fine gravel ..................................0-10
coarse sand .................................20-35
fine sand ...................................20-30
silt ........................................15-30
clay ........................................10-30

Stabilisation - with 4-7% cement
Stabiliser is added to CEB during its production to prevent softening of
blocks on absorption of moisture. The possible stabilisers are cement, lime
or both. Cement is recommended for red sandy loams, low clayey soils. If
clay content is very low, the lime remains free. It can be remedied by
replacing 15-40% of cement (by weight) with a pozzolanic materials like fly
ash, rice husk etc. If clay content is high than lime cement combination
may be used or sand may be added to the soil to reduce the clay content.

Other Details
* Dry compressive strength - 50-70 kg/sqcm
* Wet compressive strength - 30-40 kg/sqcm (after 48 hrs) against
recommended 20 kg/sqcm as per IS code adequate for 2/3 storey house.
* Water absorption 10-14% only, against allowance of 20% as per IS code for

Economy in use of CEB
i) CEB masonry leads to about 15-20% saving in cost when compared with
conventional masonry because
ii) Only 400-425 CEBs are needed/cum of masonry against 500/cum of burnt
clay brick masonry.
iii) Mud mortar is used in CEB masonry against cement sand mortar in
conventional masonry.

Building in CEB
Tara Nirman Kendra has built many modern buildings in CEB - Indira Gandhi
National Centre for Arts at Delhi; workshop building of Sushant School of
Architecture at Gurgaon; hospital building at Bodhgaya, construction
project for Rural Development and Self Employment Institute at Nelamangala;
Bangalore district , Institutional building for the Dharmadhikari of The
Temple Trust of Dharmasthala, 50 IAY houses at Azadpura in Bundelkhand. The
world Headquarter building of TNK's parent organisation, Development
Alternatives is also built entirely in CEB. All these buildings are
standing testimony to the strength and virtuosity of the technology.

For more info contact:
Mukesh Jain
TARA Nirman Kendra, Village Sultanpur, Mehrauli Gurgaon Road, New Delhi -
110 030


tvoivozhd>>>and an interesting variant of standard CEB---an interlocking
block which provides wall integrity without the necessity of
mortar---further decreasing labor and material cost in construction.

Dry Masonry without Tears:
Hydraform (South Africa) Makes it Possible
by Chitradeep Sengupta
In the present age, we are accustomed to the concept of 'wet masonry', or
construction using cement mortar to bond two bricks together, which we
accept as the easiest, durable form of masonry. This is a very conventional
form of construction and have been used for decades now.

But, dry masonry using stones, or wood, ..etc., has been in use for
centuries. Wood is a scarce material and use of stones is location specific.

With the advent of quick, snap-o-fit plastic elements and systems for a lot
of things in our life, it did not take long for people to realise that the
same could probably be done with the so-called 'conventional' wet masonry
using brick and cement.

In the last three to four decades, easy to place, interlocking dry block
masonry have been demonstrated by many organisations all over the world.
Dry block masonry is not only simpler and faster to use, but also helps in
reducing the cost of masonry to a large extent because hardly any mortar is

The interesting part is the way these blocks are interlocked. Each of the
interlocking blocks has its own merits and demerits. Some, for example, are
hollow which not only reduce their weights but also let reinforcement rods
be passed through them. Some look very aesthetic in a masonry and some have
very intricate and fool proof interlocking system.

However what many of these blocks do not have is the ease of use, water
tightness, and flexibility in length. The hydraform block seems to
almost(!) - not fully as yet - solve these problems also.

Hydraform (S.A.) have developed a mould and a machine for dry interlocking
block masonry using one of the basic construction materials - earth.

The Hydraform building system uses a concept of dry interlocking blocks.
These blocks slide one on top of the other to make each course. This
concept reduces the use of mortar to the minimum.

The blocks have positive grooves on the top and front and negative grooves
at the bottom and back of the block. This ensures:

* Interlocking two blocks together both horizontally as well as vertically.
* Reducing the water seepage through the walls due to the positive groove
on the top and front face
* Having flexibility in the length of the block. This is also possible due
to the direction of compression in the machine which is along the length of
the block and can be varied to an extent
* Ease and simplicity of use along the length of the wall.

The blocks are easy to use and long walls can be erected at a very fast
rate. The skill level required of the mason is higher than the usual. Great
care has to be taken for achieving vertical and horizontal alignment.

However there is an inherent advantage in these blocks. Even if the wall is
not properly aligned, the block layer does not have to (in the worst case)
break down the wall and rebuild it. He just has to remove these blocks
carefully, without damaging them. After that they can be relaid. A mason
normally does not let his wall go off the plumb or the string by more than
say a cm or so. This can be corrected by gentle, careful strokes of a
"rubber" hammer. This rubber hammer has been prescribed as one of the
useful tools for masonry using the Hydraform blocks.

It does not take long to train a mason in using these blocks. A week of
using these blocks in different conditions will get him trained in the use
of these blocks. Field experience will make him a mason with expertise.
Working on an actual project quickly builds up skill.

Unlike most of other interlocking blocks, the Hydrablocks require some
'shaving' and/or chipping if two blocks have to be laid perpendicular to
each other.

Once the basic principle of using these blocks dry at various joint
conditions and angles is understood it is easy to make walls at any given

The grooving of these blocks have a gap of about 1-1.5 mm between the +ve
and the -ve groove when placed together. The reason behind this 'play' is
ease of sliding these blocks one on top of the other, for ease of laying as
well as the fact that any defect in the mould might result in uneven
sheering of these blocks. This however results in two problems.

(i) Water seepage through this gap if exposed outside (this is through the
edges mainly). Solution is nominal plastering only at the top, edges,
corners and joints. A well made hydraform wall will not require to be
plastered on its face to protect it laterally from rains (water seepage
inside). Thus they go a long way in saving the basic cost of masonry by
saving on the use of mortar to the extent of 60-80% depending upon the kind
of wall built.

(ii) Uneven shearing of the block if the load applied comes directly on the
mid point of the block as this portion is, shall we say, a simply supported
portion of the block. Solution is use of slip or very thin layer of mortar
or masala.

Other principles of the Earth block masonry hold true for these blocks.
Being made of earth they need stabilisation for strength and resistance to
forces of nature.

Like most other interlocking blocks, the Hydra blocks also have a very big
advantage over wet block masonry systems. If you want to alter the plan of
your house, what would you do? Break down and build it all over again? That
would be quite expensive. With these dry interlocking hydraform block walls
you just have to take the blocks out and place them according to the new
plans. This recycleability is quite an advantage.

Contact for more details:
Chitradeep Sengupta, Architect
TARA Nirman Kendra, Village: Sultanpur, Mehrauli
Gurgaon Road, New Delhi - 110 030, Tel: (011) 680-1521

tvoivozhd>>>The cost of a CEB block machine from India (not the South
African interlocking block machine) which is probably compatible with
interlocking-block molds (inquire to be sure), at last count was 14000
Rupees.  As of 15 Dec. 1997, the exchange rate is as follows:

Rate: Indian Rupee per 1 United States Dollar : 39.575001
Rate: United States Dollar per 1 Indian Rupee : 0.025268

So, the price in India is currently $353.75, plus inland and ocean freight,
brokerage, and import duty, if any---probably around $800 total.

tvoivozhd>>>Other publications and equipment available from India:

Publications Available from CSR
General Publications
Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Technology
Ferrocement Building Technology
Prefabricated Ferrocement Biogas Plants
Renewable Energy
For more details on any of these publications, or to order them, please
contact Guy
at csr at

General Publications
An Integrated Approach towards a Sustainable Future (report).
Database for the Auroville Area: Climatic Data (report).
Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology in Auroville (pamphlet).

Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Technology
Auram Press (brochure).
Auram Press 240 & 290. User Manual.
Auram Press 3000. User Manual.
Auram Press 3000 (video presentation).
Auroville Experience with Mud. Paper presented at the Mud in Habitat
conference in Manipal, 1990.
Building with Compressed Earth Blocks in Auroville. Paper published in the
of the International Seminar on Low-Cost Housing and Infrastructure, New
Delhi, 1994.
CEB Training Course. Summary of Lectures.
CEB Training Manual for Block Makers.
CEB Training Manual for Technicians and Entrepreneurs.
Introduction to Block Yard Organisation (manual).

Ferrocement Building Technology
Design of Cost-Effective Ferrocement Latrine Floor Slabs (paper).
Ferrocement Doors: Fabrication and Specification. Paper published in
Ferrocement Journal.
Ferrocement Model House in Kottakarai (report).
Ferrocement Roof Channels:
>From Ferrocement to Un-Ferrocement (article).
Manufacturing and Specifications (report).
Ferrocement Roof Channels (photographic report).
Quasi Ferrocement Roof/Flooring Channel Design Tables with Calculation
Procedure and Some Application Strategies.
Proceedings Ferrocement Training Course held at AV-BC in February, 1991.

Prefabricated Ferrocement Biogas Plants
Ferrocement Biogas Applications. Paper presented at the 3rd International
Ferrocement Conference, Delhi, 1988, and published in the Ferrocement Journal.
Prefabricated Ferrocement Biogas Plants. Final report.
Prefabricated Ferrocement Biogas Plants. General Presentation.
Prefabricated Ferrocement Biogas Plants. User Manual.
Techno-Economic Feasibility Study of Ferrocement Biogas Plants.

Renewable Energy
Manual of Aquatic Weeds Lagooning in Tropical Regions (with permission from
Prof. Charbonnel, France).
Auroville Multiblade Wind Pump. Presentation and Final Report.
CSR Smokeless Chulas. User Manual.
End-User Survey of Wind Pumps and other Pumping Systems in South India.
Solar Photovoltaic Power Systems. User Manual.
Solar Photovoltaic Water Pumping Workshop. Report

Last updated on 10/17/97 13:09:59 by the Auroville Webmaster
© 1996 all material copyrighted by AuroNET! unless stated otherwise.

tvoivozhd>>>oh, yeah---the two S. Africa companies manufacturing CEB machines:

Bricks from soil

FOR thousands of years, earth has been one of the most widely used
construction materials and it is still utilised today by about 30% of the
world's population, especially in developing countries and rural areas.

Now at least two local companies are offering a way in which earth can
counter South Africa's low-cost housing crisis and reduce building costs by
up to 70%.

Afrikya Development and Hydraform sell machines which turn most kinds of
soil into bricks. Using compression technology, their "mobile brickyards"
convert earth with a certain clay content, and a mix of 5% to 10% cement,
into blocks which can be used in most types of buildings.

Hydraform director Robert Plattner says these blocks are cheaper to produce
because the soil at a building site makes up the bulk of the raw material
used. As a result, there is no costly transport or burning and, in
addition, labour costs are lower.

(from the S. African "Business Times", Sunday Edition., URL is:


      M J Epko        duckchow at
      almost Wyoming, north of Nebraska, USA
               by way of New Mexico
      (not soon enough) - for now, Minnesota

       Each morning sees some task begin,
       Each evening sees it close;
       Something attempted, something done,
       Has earned a night's repose.
              - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
                   "The Village Blacksmith"