Retying Bales Part I

Retying bales is one of the most important techniques on a straw bale construction job site. You will be required to retie many bales over the course of the construction and each retying episode will take time. It is not a fast process to retie bales so every step that can be done more efficiently will impact the overall timeline of the job. In the following video, the first in a series of two, I teach you how to make two bales out of one bale with speed and accuracy. I also talk about spreading the bales and other details that will save you time and energy.

Obviously a quality baling needle is needed for retying bales. You can get the design for our needles at strawbale.com/store which you can then take to a local metal worker. Our needle design is the best and most efficient needle I have ever used and is well worth the time to build. In fact, I suggest you build at least two and perhaps even four needles before you start building. The needle design package at the above website includes an e-book on how to most efficiently use the needle, a scaled shop drawing for the metal shop, and a separate video on how to use the needles on everything from sewing and retying bales to cooking rotisserie style! Everything you need to know about baling needles is in that package.

Although the above video offers a lot of information about retying bales, the more you practice, the better you will get. Be patient with yourself as you get started, especially with the miller’s knot. Most balers are used to using a trucker’s hitch knot which is an adequate knot, but not nearly as fast or strong as the miller’s knot. If you are used to tying a trucker’s hitch, it may take you some time to learn the new knot. Stick with it and you will be thrilled in the end. Next week I will post the second half of this video which shows you step by step and up close how to tie a miller’s knot. This single technique will save you hours on the job and a lot of headaches during construction. Happy Baling.

16 Responses to Retying Bales Part I

  1. LINO ANTIVILO TEJEDA Mon, November 19, 2007 at 5:07 am #

    Ladies and gentlemen
    Chile and I live in my house built on the basis of the system construcccion with bales of wheat straw. The truth is that I am quite happy with the outcome of the case, both in the economy of the construction as well as the livability and comfort to live in it. With great effort I managed that, look, stay with angles and edges of walls completely upright, creating a layer of mud prior to wheat straw, which greatly diminished the cost of cement mortar lining and walls.
    My idea is to be able to communicate with you, in other latitudes, and to know the behavior of their houses in their countries and generate potential business between us. Chile we have here in woods that we are recycling old houses in demolition, wood oak and pine fir for example applications and carved splendid.
    I hope your answer, thank you

  2. Cor Mon, November 19, 2007 at 5:41 am #

    I live in a wire world. The twine will work well for retying and I can use original wire for tying the leftover. Is there a downside to wire bales? I doubt I have any options but it’s good to know any shortfalls before they show up on their own.

  3. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, November 19, 2007 at 1:24 pm #

    Thanks Lio for writing and I am glad to hear your project turned out well. Please continue to use this blog as a way to connect with other people interested in straw bale construction. I hope it proves to be a good way to make connections for you.

    Andrew

  4. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, November 19, 2007 at 1:29 pm #

    Cor,
    Wire is a bit of a pain. It is hard to work with, but as long as you only use it for whole bales and the wire is close enough to the center of the bale that it does hno interfere with your notching process, it should be fine. Do not use it for re tying bales. Be sure to use twine instead on both halves of the bale. If you try to use the wire to retie a section, new or original, you will find it very hard to get the bales as tight as the section tied with the twine in a miller’s knot.

    Andrew

  5. Beth Adams Wed, November 21, 2007 at 9:47 am #

    All the farmers I know use wire to bale their straw.

    I have read that some straw balers are concerned that repeated annual condensation on the bale wire in heating climates may cause future moisture problem where the wire makes contact with the straw.

    I may have to look outside my local county to find a baler that has equipment that bales with twine.

    Thank you for the re-tying bale video!

  6. Ilse Gordon Thu, November 22, 2007 at 3:45 am #

    Actualmente estoy construyendo mi casa en gradúa, barro,fique,y cal estabilizada, con cubierta en teja de barro, no soy arquitecta ni ingeniera, y por las malas experiencias vividas con los arquitectos en la región me he visto obligada a construir mi casa, con el apoyo de la información obtenida a través de la web, hoy le he conocido y me siento feliz pues he aprendido y confirmado mucho, gracias por su valiosa contribución, soy perfectamente bilingüe, aunque para escribir prefiero el español, menos riesgos de error.

  7. Andrew
    Andrew Thu, November 22, 2007 at 6:52 am #

    Here’s the above message in English:

    At present I am building my house in graduates, clay, fique, and lime stabilized, with cover in tile of clay, I am not an architect neither engineer, and by the bad experiences lived with the architects in the region I have seen me obliged to build my house, with the support of the information obtained through the web, today I have known him and I feel happy therefore I have learned and confirmed a lot, thanks by Contribution, I am perfectly bilingual, although to write I prefer Spanish, less risks of error.

  8. Leslie Thu, November 22, 2007 at 12:11 pm #

    Hey, Andrew – This is Mike and Leslie in Ruch. Just bought you a Stout thru the paypal to say, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! You do a wonderful thing providing all this infomation, and you do it well.

  9. Andrew
    Andrew Thu, November 22, 2007 at 3:26 pm #

    Thanks guys! I appreciate your kindness. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

    (I forwarded the technical website “broken links” info to the webmaster. Thanks again.)

  10. Eshita Thu, January 3, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    Hi Andrew!- this is Eshita from India. Im a writer with an online service and currently im working on an article on Strawbale structures-the alternate face of home-making. I came across your website and i find it to be extremely informative for beginners like me. I was wondering if you could help me out with some basic information on strawbale structures for my article.
    1. What are the prospects of strawbale structures in India?
    2. Any statistical data to show the percentage of strawbale users all across the globe?
    3. How Why people should opt more and more for strawbale houses?
    4. Even if it is so eco-friendly, why dont we see large number of people opting for strawbale houses?

  11. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, January 7, 2008 at 8:56 am #

    Eshita,
    Thanks for contacting me. I think you will find answers to most of your questions within this blog. You can use the search bar at the top to search for key words. Just make sure the button is on “strawbale.com.”
    Parts of India will likely be well suited to straw bale construction while others will not. It is climate dependent. Areas of high humidity are harder to work with than dry areas. Rain is okay, but continued humidity is hard to deal with as it increases the chance of bale decay.
    You can check out the International Straw Bale Building Registry at http://sbregistry.greenbuilder.com/search.straw. It is not a complete list by any stretch of the imagination, but it does offer some insight into the different regions that most support this type of construction.
    The need for highly efficient housing is definitely here. In addition, the need for housing that can be built by people with minimal background in carpentry is also great as many people live in very poorly constructed homes made from scrap materials. Straw offers an alternative to make shit homes and brings the super efficiency with it. Right now, the biggest draw back to SB construction on a mainstream level is lack of education and vanity. Many people think bale builders are crazy and would never build a bale house because they don’t fully understand the technology and how well it works. Others don’t want to spend money on bales, plaster, and other Green aspects because they want to have the flashy counters and appliances instead. All of these attitudes take time to change. I hope this helps and good luck with your project.

  12. Eshita Tue, January 8, 2008 at 1:02 am #

    Thanks a lot Andrew, it was really informative. I’m sure to trouble you in future with my queries. Hope you will not mind.

  13. chris Wed, June 24, 2009 at 2:00 am #

    Hi Andrew; For the past few years we have contemplated build
    ing a house on our property out in the eastern San Diego co.
    desert. When we first heard about straw bale construction a
    few years ago we took notice. Right off the bat it was obvi-
    ous the the R factor would be very high and when considering
    the details in designing the outer wall construction that is
    one of the major decisions that must be made. High R
    factors can cut cooling costs significantly. Other advan-
    tages were the fact that the Imperial Valley, which is one
    of the major agricultural industries in the country is
    only 40 miles to the east therefore making the availabi-
    lity of straw a plus. There is also the lower price as
    compared to other parts of the country. Another advant-
    age is the extreme low humidity conditions that accomp-
    anies the desert climate. So, with all of these “pluses”
    in our favor I do have one concern. Just half a mile to
    the east of our property is a minor earthquake fault known
    as the “split mountain fault” and in fact still further
    to the east is the San Andreas. While I don’t have any
    worries about the straw bales to “give and take” with any
    seismic activity I do wonder about the plaster and whether
    or not it can be substituted with paneling or siding. Is
    the plaster a contributor to the overall strength and in
    tegrity of the structure? I also was wondering, while
    watching the retying process video, if a banding machine
    would be the ultimate answer there. The extreme amount of
    pressure that could be applied in the compression process
    would be outstanding, and as far as the extra cost is con
    cerned, well, you get what you pay for, to rest your mind
    at ease knowing that the bales used in the building of
    your home have been compressed to the max along with the
    fact that the straw used to make my bales came from an
    extremely low humidity environment is comforting. What’s
    your read on that? thank you very much…….chris

  14. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, July 15, 2009 at 6:50 am #

    Hi Chris. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I think the banding machine would definitely create some strong bales; however, I don’t think it is necessary if you get quality bales from the farm. Look for bales tied with blue twine. It is really strong and does a great job at strengthening the bales. As far as the faults go, bale houses are known for their resistance to earthquake movements. The plaster most definitely could crack if the movement was big enough; however, it is somewhat integral to the whole package of the home. You could shear the building with systems that don’t require plaster, but making the whole thing come together is harder without it. Consider the deep window wells and how the plaster rolls into them. That is hard to do with plank materials. You can do it, it is just harder and you lose some of the feel of the bale home. So, it is a balance. Do you want to create extra work and have a home with less of a bale feel and have a better chance of the finish not cracking or do you want a bale home in its full glory with a higher chance of plaster cracks? If you choose the prior, you may want to consider using a more conventional system like SIPs as they give a good R-value but finish as a conventional home. Good luck.

  15. apoorva Mon, February 6, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    hello!
    I am looking for resources who are proficient to work on bale house in India. would you have any names for me?

  16. Andrew Morrison Mon, February 6, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Unfortunately I don’t have any contacts in India. Sorry i can’t help with that. Please let me know if you find anyone. I can help with consulting, but I’m in the US (Mexico right now actually) so that may not be what you are looking for.

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