Monday, December 31, 2012

Wow... So, New Years Resolution... Blog more.  One of the joys of being a small family business is that you never know where you'll be next.  For example, most of my (Jeff's) day is on the phone, dealing with homeowners, contractors, or our distributors helping folks with their historic buildings.  Sandwiched in with that, I'm looking at creating or revising product data sheets, establishing new distributors, and thinking about how our website and other outreach might be more effective and helpful.  Blogging SHOULD be a bigger part of what we do, and in 2013 it is my goal to blog AT LEAST once a week.  Every day I have a conversation with someone and answer a question that might be of help to other people.  I'll try to relate those conversations here.

Anyway, here's to all of you and our best wishes for a great and prosperous 2013!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Welcome back!

Sorry guys. I know its been a long time since a blog post. A lot has happened over the past year and trying to keep "blogging" up to date has been a chore. We'll do better.I'm currently headed up to DC to visit with the new rep for us at Frager's Hardware. Capt. Apollo has been a stalwart fixture for years at Frager's, and he will certainly be missed by me, as well as the countless contractors and homeowner's he's been able to help over the years. Frager's was Virginia Lime Works first "real" distributor, who had faith in putting our products on the shelf to give their customers a local source for preservation materials. Today they move a tremendous amount of material for us, and I look forward to working with Henry Jeanes, who will be the new go-to guy at Frager's with info on Virginia Lime.

We've also got new distributors popping up everywhere. Today you can buy our products on the ground in Boston, Chicago, Albany, NYC, Toronto, Poughkeepsie, Philadelphia, DC, Winchester, Charlottesville, and of course in Lynchburg, VA. We have drop ship locations throughout the South and many of these locations will be stocking material in the coming weeks. We're also expanding our current warehouse network. Currently we have our materials stored in Ohio, Virginia, and South Carolina, to feed our distributors. Over the coming months we'll be adding at least three new warehouses to our network, which will help keeping shipping costs as low as we can. There you go.

If you need anything check out our website (which is currently being revamped) for the closest distributor or rep to you or any product data or help you might need. Or feel free to shoot me an email at Holler if you need us!Jeff

Monday, September 19, 2011

now on facebook

Hey gang,
I've just set up a facebook page for Virginia Lime Works which will act as our new clearinghouse for posts, vids, new products, services, and news about what we've got going on.



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sorry for the delay

Sorry for the delay in between posts. I had promised myself to blog daily, but the past week has been rather hectic. Kim Floyd, who has been the helpful voice over the phone and at the front desk for over 6 years has moved on to Sweet Briar College, where she will be one of the managers of their catering department. Kim's been a vital part of our team over the years and will be missed. Her absence has caused "blogging" to drop down on the list of daily priorities.

In my previous post I mentioned we'd be talking about the first stage of the lime cycle: The raw material. To start making lime, you must have a source of calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate can be in the form of stone, shell, coral, marble, marl, and more. Each form of CaCO3 has different properties. For example the molecular structure of limestone is plate-like, whereas the molecular structure of the more "organic" oystershell is composed of tightly interwoven strands of CaCO3.

When burning limestone, the raw mineral's mineralogy will play a huge factor in the end product. High calcium limes are relatively simple to burn, whereas magnesian and dolomitic limes may be a bit more difficult to hydrate due to the lower temperatures in which magnesium carbonate converts. If your limestone contains varying levels of silica and "clay minerals" your raw stone may yield hydraulic (or water setting) limes. If the limestone contains high levels of these minerals your stone may not yield a lime at all and may in fact produce a natural cement.

Next up... Burning.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Let's start at the very beginning

When discussing historic mortars, and lime mortars in particular, its helpful to understand where they come from.

The first question we often encounter from someone that hears that we make "oystershell" lime, or handmade limestone limes is "How (or where) do you grind your shells?" The simplest answer is: we don't. When you make lime there doesn't have to be any grinding or crushing in the process.

Today, I'm going to talk generally about making lime and then through the rest of the week I'll talk about the various processes that are involved. There's a great little diagram known as "The Lime Cycle" that shows the whole process pretty clearly.

So, it all starts with Calcium Carbonate. We'll talk about the forms of these more specifically tomorrow, but at Virginia Lime Works we use either limestone or oystershell. We're going to take this calcium carbonate and burn it in a kiln. The burning does two things: First, we're going to drive off the moisture from the stone and secondly we are going to drive off carbon dioxide. This yields a material called "quicklime" or lump lime.

We take this lump lime and we hydrate it. When lump lime comes in contact with water it generates heat and will start to dissolve and break down. If we hydrate with a little bit of water (steam, etc.) we've got hydrated lime (or lime in powdered form). If we hydrate with a lot of water we make lime putty.

Now we've got the material in a "lime" form, ready for use. Sand is added for mortars, plasters, and stuccos, or water is added to make limewashes/whitewashes and the material is applied. While the material cures, water evaporates out and carbon dioxide is absorbed, in a way reverting the material back to calcium carbonate (or limestone/oystershell).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lime & Sand

So, the purpose of this blog is becoming increasingly clear. I hope this might provide a forum in which I can share little bits of information regarding questions we get on a daily basis.

Just a few minutes ago I got a phone call from a homeowner who has recently repointed his home. However, he repointed 70% of the work without realizing that as he did not buy a pre-mixed mortar, he needed to add sand to the mix. The subsequent "dried lime" is cracking and not holding up.

Sand is a important component to mortar. It adds body, it increases durability, and it takes up shrinkage. It provides a vital service to the material. It's tough to make mortar without it.

The type of sand that can be used for mortars/plasters/renders in a perfect world should be clean, sharp, and well graded. Clay or silt will absorb water before the lime causing overdosing with water (hence clean). Sharp and well graded sands will reduce the lime content to "bind" the mix together. Most often these sands have a void ratio of about 33%.

How much sand is often the question most often asked. For more workable and creamy mortars (where you need to have clear and crisp joint profiles) two parts of sand to one part of lime is a often a good mix. For general work 2.5 parts sand is often utilized. For thin joints (under 1/4" or so where the exposed surface area is minimalized) one part of fine sand to one part of lime is often prescribed.

For more information check out the main website at


Okay, first blog post at our new blog. We'll be blogging about various situations, projects, and other items of interest to historic masonry preservation. Stay Tuned!