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Kiko Denzer on Art

[Cob] Sticky Countertop

Stephen Karrington sales at
Fri May 16 15:03:32 CDT 2008

In the real world I would agree with you completely.
Testing, checking, studying, analyzing . . . It's all good. But this is
Thailand. Things don't work that way here :) LOL.

Please send Kiko's number. I'll give him a call. Thanks for your input.


"Ok, I've been reading about this sticky wet countertop for weeks now,
and have to chime in.

(Disclaimer:  I've made the following comment on this list several  
times before, but here it again bears repeating...)

This project is a good reason to learn earth building from "experts"  
who have experience in proper techniques.  Kiko Denzer and Ianto  
Evans always recommend making "test bricks" of cob or "test swatches"  
of plaster and floors, letting these dry completely to check for  
cracking/hardness (usually insufficient sand).  Also you need to test  
any finish treatment you are going to use on these test swatches,  
BEFORE applying it to your beautiful creation.  Hence the trouble you  
are having with red food coloring, veggie oil, etc..."

So on to solving your problem:

Sounds like your counter is either saturated with veggie oil, which  
will never dry, or was treated while still wet with water?  Think of  
trying to paint wet wood - would you expect the paint to adhere or  
dry, ever?

Cob floors are treated with several coats of "boiled linseed oil"  
blended with various amounts of solvent - it's nice to use citrus  
solvent instead of turpentine (huge areas lead to very stinky and  
toxic air).  For example, there's a little cob building at  
Breitenbush Hot Springs which has a floor which was obviously treated  
with turpentine - you go in there and the toxic fumes are still  
strong, YEARS later!

For application to a floor (not unlike a countertop situation), one  
must start with a bone-dry earth/sand floor surface, apply the  
linseed/solvent mix, let dry completely, then apply another coat,  
dry, then another coat, etc.  The final layer is a mix of beeswax  
with boiled linseed - caution here, since too much beeswax results in  
a sticky surface that never dries, stays tacky...(ask me how I know  
about this!)

I know everyone on the coblist wants natural products, but raw/ 
natural linseed oil will NEVER dry.  The "boiled" variety actually  
has "drying agents" - which are a bit nasty (carcinogens, etc).  You  
might find a natural version with citrus drying agents, let us know  
if you do.

However, all the above directions won't help with your existing  
sticky wet countertop.  If your surface has a deep penetration of  
veggie oil, it will likely stay soft, tacky, and red-staining  
FOREVER.  I don't agree that a surface treatment of some conventional  
wood sealant would help - again, imaging trying to paint wet wood.

Sadly, I think you'll have to start over - chip off the red clay oil  
mix, build again with a proper cob floor mix, let dry, then apply the  
above linseed treatment.  Sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but I  
don't see any way out of this, especially if this is to be a high  
impact commercial surface!  And when you do rebuild it, please call  
Kiko Denzer for advice, an expert on cob surface treatments,  
plasters, etc (I have his phone number, ask me for it), and make test  
patches and test your surface treatments before applying them!

Good luck!
Ocean Liff-Anderson