One Solution for Large Earthen Building Projects

Dump TableIn building any large earthen dwelling, the materials for the build are typically inexpensive and plentiful. The labor to put it all together can be a different story.

In the early planning phases of my earthbag project I calculated the volume of dirt required at around 200 cubic yards. The thought of moving that much dirt with a shovel quickly set in motion a plan to innovate and mechanize the process. The result is what I’m labeling a dump table.

The idea is a simple slanted table that can accept dirt from the back via a loader bucket and funnel it into a mixer.
Dump Table Top
I started by taking some measurements from my Mixer and backhoe, which gave me the basic dimensions needed. A table 8′ wide/tall at the back, that funnels into a 6′ high x 2′ wide circle, with enough room to hold at least a cubic yard of dirt weighing about 3000lbs.

In my case, the mixer and Backhoe bucket both hold a cubic yard of material, but this could easily be scaled down for a smaller tractor or skidsteer on medium sized projects. I had originally planed to fabricate a metal dump table, but since I live on a tree farm and own a sawmill, the nearly free lumber changed my plans.

The end result has worked out nicely so far:   Dump Table Mixer

I made sure to leave the top open so a rake could be used to pull dirt into the mixer barrel. I also left a few extra inches above the barrel to ensure it could rotate over to dump the Sand/Clay mix without catching on the table.

One thing I would do differently is cut a flatter circle so the dirt is brought out closer to the center of the mixer barrel, and maybe make it a bit smaller than the hole.

To give you an idea of the scale, the 4 corner T-posts are made with two rough sawn 2″x13″ boards, and the finished product weighs around 350-400lbs. The cross bracing and extended feet are very important to ensure a safe and stable platform. Be sure to consult with a structural engineer if you don’t have adequate experience in this area.

Dump Table Move I’ve used this table over the last year to load a few dozen yards of dirt. Depending on what I’m mixing, I load the highest percentage material (sand or clay) onto the table and shovel the other material in as it mixes. It has worked flawlessly with minimal spill, even heavy clay is easy to pull down with a hoe into the mixer. I’ve experimented and found different ways to mix up heavy sand mixes, heavy clay mixes, and even clay slip for earthen plasters. The mix time, the amount of water, and order used to mix the ingredients makes a big difference in the quality of the final mix. Above all my dump table beats the hell out of a shovel.

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