Making Red Ochre Paint - Eco-construction

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“ECO – Traditional Techniques for Construction and Landscape Sectors”
INFO SHEET
BASIC INFORMATION:
Country:
Name of the technique:
Finland
Making Red Ochre Paint
Description of the technique:
The current recipe of the Red Ochre paint, which is consisting water, rye flour, linseed oil, salt and
red ochre pigment (punamulta), was finalized in the 1920s. As punamulta paint ages, the binder
deteriorates leaving the colour granules loose, but restoration is easy since simply brushing the
surface is all that is required before repainting. The red ochre is nontoxic and since the binder is
starch, the paint is permeable to water.
Historical aspect:
The prehistoric dwellers may have discovered that unlike the dye colour derived from animal and
vegetable sources (which we do not have traces anymore), the colour that comes from iron oxide
deposits in the earth would not fade with the changing environment. For this reason, it is
estimated that men traveled long and far to maintain a steady supply of red pigment. Natural red
chalks, with their rich, warm colour, were popular from about 1500 to 1900. The earliest evidence
of its use dates from the 16th century. The traditional colour remains popular today due to its
effectiveness in preserving wood. In Finland, the Red Ochre is known as punamulta ("red earth")
after the pigment, very finely divided hematite. The red ochre is nontoxic and since the binder is
starch, the paint is permeable to water.
Tools and materials:
120 l hot water, 4-6 kg iron sulphate or copperas (well-equipped color movement), 12 kg rye flour
and 30 l cold water, 3-6 l linseed oil varnish, 25kg sack of red ochre , 1 kg fine sea salt, 200 l old
steel drum or barrel, mixing stick, scales for weighing the components of the paint
Step-by-step instructions:
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make a firebox out of bricks
pour 60 liters of water into a drum
light the fire under the drum
mix iron sulphate with 20 l of cold water
add iron sulphate mixture to the drum
when the water is boiling, add flour and
stir continuously to prevent lumps
continue heating and stirring until the
mixture boils and add the 3 l of linseed oil
keep the mixture simmering and stir
continuously - when the base of the drum
feels slippery the paste is ready
gently stir in the red ochre, little at the
time
reduce the heat before adding the
pigment as the paint is liable to boil over
the paint is ready once it has cooled. It
stays fresh for several days, or a week if
stored in a cool place
Other information about the technique
Once the walls are painted, the paint
lasts for decades, looking even more
beautiful as years go by. Repainting can
be done straight on top of the old paint.
Simply brushing the surface is all that is
required before repainting.
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