Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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What Scramuses Did The Romans Use?

I was hoping to get back to working on some radios (or 'raidos,' as they say on e*a*) but, alas, I must Press On Regardless with the tiling.

Actually starting to feel as if there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

So I strap on my trusty knee pads. If you do any kind of tiling on a floor, you must have them. Simple as that. There are all kinds - from the cheap more or less unpadded, to the nice padded ones. These are more toward the latter - they have a nice thick layer of padding on the inside. When I bought 'em, I tried a bunch of them on in the store. Only way to figure out what would be most comfortable. I can't imagine doing this job without them.


On to the actual Laying-of-the-Tile. As opposed to the 'Laying on of Hands.'

It's straightforward and I think I documented it before, but here it is again. Put some mortar down - for this job we are laying a very thin layer - and then smooth it out.

I used the edge of a trowel with a 5/16 inch groove on it. Then used the other side to make the mortar smooth. Probably had about 1/8 or an inch on the floor after that. We have a thin layer because the height of the larger tiles has to match the small glass tiles in the center.

Once the mortar is smooth, you lay the tile. Just put 'em in place and press a bit. Then you have laid a tile!

You'll see the arrows I marked on the tile. This is for a reason.

Our tile is made in Italy (so it says) and in addition to saying Where It Is Made, there is an arrow. You want to ensure all of yer arrows are going in the same direction. There is a pattern of sorts (I suppose) in the tile and by laying them in the same direction, the pattern will look correct. Or at least it will not look goofy.

I took a picture of the back of the tiles. They are really really really thin - probably more suited to a wall than a floor, but they will work on a floor. They better, cause that's where we're putting them.

The arrow might be a bit hard to see in the picture, but it points down below the "Made In Italy" language molded into the tile.

I just went through a stack of tiles with a China marker (available at the Big Box store) and marked the direction. Just easier for me to grab a tile and know right away which way it should go. The marker will easily wash off later.

The whole time I was working on the tile, I was thinking about the Italians. Actually, the Romans. The ancient Romans.

What got me thinking was that I had the pleasure of seeing the recent Pompeii and the Roman Villa exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, and the experience was fresh in my mind. This is an exhibition of art and sculpture that was unearthed from Pompeii, one of the Italian villages that was destroyed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Beginning in the 1700s, archaeologists began to excavate the ruins. The art and sculpture is simply astounding.

The exhibit included some incredibly beautiful tile that had been laid in courtyards, foyers, and various houses in Pompeii. It got me to thinking: how did they cut the tile so precisely? How did they lay it so accurately? How did they get the tile spacing so perfect? Naturally, the answers to these questions were Nowhere To Be Found at the exhibit. I suppose the curators have never laid tile in their lives (for shame!) and just focus on the objects as Art. Not that there is anything wrong with that - after all, that's why I was there - but there is always the question of "how dey do dat?" in the minds of Doers such as myself.

Anyways, back to our Italian tile.

In the modern world, we use tile spacers. They're little plastic spacers one puts between tile when laying it to keep the spacing accurate. The spacers are available in different sizes - the ones I chose here are 1/8 of an inch. The spacers make it easy to get an accurate layout on your tile.

But what did the ancient Romans (and Greeks and others, for that matter) use to space tile? Let us ponder that while we work.

An aside: I was working on a tile job with someone once and we were using tile spacers. He said "my dad calls any little thing like this a 'scramus.'" So from that point on, tile spacers became "scramuses."

I put a gaggle (bunch?) of scramuses (scrami?) in a bucket so's I could get 'em when I needed 'em. They tend to go everywhere - I was finding them in the mortar too after a while.

After a while, we have a handful of tiles laid, with some scramuses between them. I'm using such a thin layer of mortar that there really isn't any chance the spacers will get stuck in the mortar. But if they did, it'd be easy to just yank them up or break them off with a pair of pliers.

And lookit! Our tiles are going the same direction. Aren't arrows a great thing?

I'm getting close to the wall and there's still a bunch of sawdust from cutting and drilling the various holes and cuts in the shelf panel.

Probably a good idea to clean that up rather than tile over it, yes?

So out comes my incredibly trusty vacuum, also my trusty incredible vacuum.

I believe I had a shot of my big shop vacuum earlier in the blog, but this smaller one really rocks and is more than deserving of some well-earned attention. It's an old (1980s I would guess) Eureka Mighty Mite. It was given to me by Ms. Yr Fthfl Blggr a few years ago. This puppy is very powerful for it's size and is just ideal for this kind of job.

Perfect for a job where you need a lot of power, but lugging out the 'ol 16 gallon shop vac is too much of a pain.

The Eureka was Made in The USA by the Eureka Corporation, Bloomington, Illinois. Why don't we make all vacuums here?

A side note: I bought Ms. Yr Fhthfl Blggr the modern commerical version of this vacuum, a Sanitaire, from our local vacuum dealer (ours is blue). As amazing as the Mighty Mite is, the Sanitiare is even more incredible. "Sanitaire" is the commercial line from Eureka and is highly recommended.

After about an hour or so, we wind up with about a third of the floor done. Looks pretty good at this stage.

Unfortunately I am out of mortar and need to get more. Can you believe it? I went through 3.5 gallons of mortar to do the the center and a third of the floor!


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