Wattle & Daub: Craft, Conservation & Wiltshire Case Study
3.6 Daub
4.1 Soils
4.1.3 Strength
4.2 Dung
4.2.2 Lignin
4.2.3 Urine
4.3 Fibre
5.4.2 Renewal

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4 Material Characteristics

The craft of grading and mixing daub materials, such as by listening for the crunching of well-mixed clay and aggregate under foot, has all but gone.[49] However, the loss of skill can to some extent be compensated for by the application of science. With conservation of historic buildings positioned centrally between engineering and the arts, daubing also falls between these disciplines.
The selection of materials for daub is not so critical as for solid earth walling since wattle and daub is not structural. However, an appreciation of the materials and their characteristics provides many benefits: it is the basis for an understanding and appreciation of historical methods; it is required for the analysis of historic materials in archaeology and in conservation work; and is helpful in maximising the reliability and repeatability of repairs and new work.

The description of the soil content of a historic daub or of an earth that is to be sampled for new daub is an important part of an investigation, firstly because the description may form the only evidence on which an archaeological record is based, long after any samples have been lost. Secondly, descriptions of soils help conservators to share their knowledge of daubs in a meaningful way and classification may assist in predicting the subsequent behaviour of a particular soil. Samples can be taken from historic daub and from the ground. A rigorous approach to sampling and the description of soils is given by BS 5930:1999.

[49] The crunching of aggregate was noticed during hand-mixing at Bowhill, Devon. Whether this was a rediscovery or an entirely new observation may never be known. Harrison (1999), p.20.