Articles on hollow bricks

(Note – SBH – Some of the sentence construction and grammar makes reading the following a little difficult at times but hopefully, it is understandable).

02/05/1849 – North British Agriculturist – Improvements suggested in brick making. (Mr Thomas Dean writes).

You will oblige me by inserting in your valuable journal the following few remarks on the use of hollow bricks, &c.

It is well known that the brick-maker is compelled by law to make his bricks of a certain capacity, which, if he exceeds, he is charged double duty. The standard size of ordinary bricks is 10 in. long, 5 in. broad, and 3 in. deep. The law, however, does not confine him to that size as a maximum under the single duty but allows him to adopt other forms, so long as the capacity of his bricks do not displace a given number of cubic inches of water when immersed in it. The excessive duty on bricks is not only severely felt by the public, but it also cripples invention and cramps construction.

To reduce the expense of brick erections recourse has been had to building walls hollow, and many churches, garden walls, cottages, &c, have been so constructed. Hollow walls are of great variety; that in general use is termed a fifteen-inch wall worked in Flemish bond, so as to use half bricks showing themselves on the face of the wall as headers, or, in plainer terms, the five-inch by three-inch way of the brick. By building brick walls on this construction and having the ties, every two feet, going through the walls, a saving is effected of 1s 4d. per yard, and on a rood of 36 yards, of £2, 8s. on the article bricks alone. Such walls have the merit of strength and durability and at the same time exempt from the absorbent qualities of solid walls, free from damp, capable of being heated by hot air or hot water pipes, resisting both the extremes of cold and heat, and so rendering houses not only dry, but of a uniform temperature both during summer and winter.

A plan may be easily devised even to supersede the above mode of building, and that by very simple means. It is admitted that we can make a brick to have one hundred and fifty cubic inches in it. Now any gentlemen who has a common tile machine can make perforated bricks, and of a size equal to 10 in. in length, 7½ in. broad, and 4 in. in thickness, having only 150 cubic inches of solid contents, the capacity allowed by law. Such bricks could be made, burned hard, and sold at 25s per 1000 in the field perforated with holes, which could be easily done in the dies. Should the colour of the brick, generally red, be objectionable, or even the fear of the action of the weather in a northern climate, they could very easily, and at little extra expense be glazed, so that in cottage buildings a double object might be attained, namely, by rendering unnecessary plastering or white-washing the inside, and adding beauty and durability to the exterior. Any colour could be given to the glaze – that of a soft stone colour might be the most desirable.

The glazing would add 5s per 1000, which in a cottage built of perforated bricks 7½ in. broad, 4 in. thick, and 10 in. long, would do 33 superficial yards and 10 feet. Therefore, for the expense of glazing, it would be little more than 1¾ d per yard, the two faces included. Any improvement in manufacturing bricks so as to ensure greater dryness and warmth, durability and economy, must be considered highly important. In this county (Lanarkshire) we have clay in abundance, fuel cheap, tile and brick-making machines to economise labour, railways to transport them, &c. But no doubt the greatest drawback of all is the excise duty. To show the severity of this obnoxious tax, I am an eye-witness to the fact that a gentleman, who this season commenced brick-making, from one night’s frost lost 25,000 bricks, all of which he will have to pay duty for, and still have to wheel them off the hacks into the clay pit again. Thos. Dean. Wishaw Brick and Tile Work, 21/04/1849.

23/05/1849North British Agriculturist – Hollow bricks (R Glendinning writes). By the last number of your Journal, I observe that you have drawn the attention of your readers to the subject of hollow bricks, which appears to be a matter new in Scotland. It is, however, by no means so in England. I have used them for many years; they are extensively made at Ware, in Hertfordshire. My object, in this communication, is to point out a valuable kind of brick for many purposes where walls are not required very high. They are made larger than the common brick, and six inches thick; they are hollow, the bedding side presenting three openings.

These bricks are used in building 6-inch walls; and some that I have examined, which have been erected a number of years, are quite sound. If wire were stretched along their surface they would suit admirably for low garden and division walls. The trees could be trained to the wire, as their thinness would not admit of nailing—a practice to be condemned, even where walls are as thick the foundation of your castle. There is another kind of hollow brick which I have used extensively, and which I have found extremely valuable for forming tanks to receive rainwater from hothouses. And there are few gardeners, who aspire to eminence in tho culture of choice exotics, who do not value soft water. These bricks are also hollow and similar to the one already described. They are made to form a circular tank, and the curve is given to suit the size of the well from 3 to 12 ft. in diameter. They are set in cement and rendered with the same material. The depth and diameter is, in all cases, governed by the supply required; and, by attaching a common pump, the water may be drawn in the shed or hothouse as may be convenient. When soft water is a desiderata to dwelling houses, these tanks will be found a very great convenience. Solid garden walls cannot be defended by any reasoning that I have heard. For many years, and in an extensive practice, I have invariably recommended the adoption of hollow walls for all garden purposes. 9-inch walls for pits are stronger, drier, and resist a much greater degree of cold than when built solid. – R Glendinning.  (We are quite aware of the existence of hollow bricks being used in England and have used them ourselves. Our remarks were made chiefly in reference to Scotland where brick making is much less understood. We are, nevertheless, extremely obliged to our excellent friend for directing our attention to the case – Hort. Ed.).

20/06/1849North British Agriculturist – Brick manufacture. (Mr Robert Boyle writes).

In your journal of May 9, there is an editorial article on the advantages of using bricks for garden walls, and a communication from Mr Thomas Dean, recommending certain improvements in their manufacture. As it is desirous to have as much light thrown upon the subject as possible, I may be permitted to put a few queries and solicit additional information, which may be of use to a numerous class of your readers. In the first place, then, we are told that up to the year 1839 there was not a brick of proper mould or quality in the country.

Query 1. What kind of bricks were manufactured prior to the year 1839, and what were the improvements made upon them at that date.

2. Prior to the year 1839 were there no English brickmakers or bricklayers employed in Scotland?

3. Are the old garden walls unsuitable from the formation of the material of which they are composed, or is the material itself inferior? Mr Dean says, ” Any gentleman who has a common tile machine can make perforated bricks.”

4. Will those clays which undergo the usual preparation be found suitable for being perforated by the dies of a tile machine?

5. Of what consistency must the clay be to stand a pressure through dies, and retain a proper shape?

6. Will there be any danger of the parts of the clay being detached by the friction it has to undergo in its progress outwards.

7. If the outward parts of the clay be loosened in coming from the die, will the article produced be deteriorated in quality?

8. Will manual labour be sufficient for the propelling of such a substance through the dies of a machine?

9. Will perforated bricks retain their shape in the drying and burning process.

10. Will the glazing of bricks, as Mr Dean recommends, render them more imperishable?

11. What is the composition of the glaze alluded to by Mr Dean, and how is it applied to the bricks?

12. How is the glazed bricks placed in the kiln, and what is the degree of heat necessary for their induration?

13. What construction of a kiln is recommended for burning these glazed bricks in?

14. Will clays which are in general use in brick-making, and which undergoes the usual preparation, be found suitable for applying the glaze to?

An answer to the above queries, at your earliest convenience, may be beneficial at the present time.

Robert Boyle. 04/06/1849.

[We have no hesitation in answering Mr Boyle’s three first queries, as we acknowledge having written the article to which he alludes; and we doubt not but that Mr Dean will answer the remainder in due time.

Ans. to Query 1.—The bricks made in general in Scotland, prior to 1839, were of the most inferior quality possible; indeed, worse could scarcely be made. The improvements made at, and about the period in question, were equality in size, improved form, and increased durability.

Ans. to Query 2.—There were English brickmakers and bricklayers employed in Scotland prior to 1839, nor did we state to the contrary, knowing, as in one instance, that the greater part of the east wing of Taymouth Castle, while we lived in that establishment, was lined with bricks made by English brickmakers brought to Scotland for the express purpose. These bricks, however, were not by any means of the best quality as they were used for partitions, and for lining the external walls, to prevent the admission of damp through the soft micaceous stone the castle is built of; and being plastered over their form was of less consequence, as well as being placed beyond atmospheric influence, their quality was less an object of attention. Still, even they were a great improvement, at the time, on Scotch made bricks, and justified the late Marquis of Breadalbane for employing English makers who made as good, if not a better, article, and at 20 per cent under the estimates given in by highly respectable native makers.

Ans. to Query 3.—The material being vastly inferior, the unsuitableness of the walls followed as a natural consequence. We are rather surprised that a gentleman of Mr Boyle’s reputed intelligence, and extensive practice as a manufacturer of bricks, should put the three first queries to us, as he must be equally aware with ourselves how very far behind the art of brickmaking has been, until very recently, in Scotland, compared with a country where brick has, for centuries, been the common building material, as much as stone has been with us. Nor can it be considered as any great disparagement to Scotland to assert that she does not excel in either the making or building of bricks—she excels sufficiently in another department, viz., in her building in stone. Whoever has seen a rod of first-rate brick work, and has sufficient capacity to judge of its merits, will admit that our assertions are substantially correct. If Mr Boyle will do us the favour to call at Dalkeith, (but, pray advise us previously, that we may be at home,) we will show him what we call a well-built wall and a well-made brick.

20/06/1849 – North British Agriculturist – (Mr Thomas Dean writes). In again referring to hollow bricks I may mention that any gentleman having a horizontal machine of any make, can make any description of perforated bricks. They can either be perforated vertically or as shown in the drawing horizontally. It is my opinion that bricks perforated vertically would fill their cavities in bedding them with lime which would render, as far as dryness or admitting air was necessary, a failure.

Still, supposing neither was necessary, by perforating them as shown in the drawing, it would increase the size of the brick to the consumer nearly one-third, and at less cost. I believe it is generally known that the contents of a brick, when in a fit state for lifting, allowed by law, is 150 cubic inches. Therefore, supposing we make a brick 12 in. by 6 in. by 4 in., its contents would be 288 inches. By perforating the brick with, say two holes, as shown in fig., 2 in. diameter, its contents would be reduced to the cube inches allowed by law. By the bye, the exciseman would have to alter his gauge, although in many parts of the country it would not be worth the expense; for, to my certain knowledge, it does not pay the expense to visit the fields.

In many country parishes there are very few bricks required, and a great many tiles, which pay no duty. Still, the manufacturer has, at certain times during the season, to manufacture bricks for his private use, for the repairs of his kilns, and the exciseman has to attend every twenty-four hours; and I can state, from my own personal knowledge, instances where they do not make more than from 30 to 40,000, the exciseman having to come from 8 to 10 miles daily, or he is neglecting his duty, and the revenue derived from the above quantity would only be about £11 12s 6d and would cost the country double the amount to collect it, besides the annoyance it gives to the manufacturer. It likewise greatly raises the price of both bricks and tiles, and prevents a great many labourers being employed both in making bricks and tiles and laying them; and what is more, I am fully persuaded this duty has been the cause of preventing a great deal of improvement taking place by draining more of our land (which would increase its produce), the produce of which at present the country stands so much in need of.

I am a large manufacturer of bricks, tiles, pipes, &c., and I am certain when I state that the duty on bricks raises the price of tiles and pipes 7 1/2 per cent., from the losses we sustain in out-door brickmaking, and upon such losses, we have a heavy-duty to pay, and that, I may state, before the article is made a brick, when a lump of clay, which, after being charged by the exciseman, has, from very frequent causes, to be wheeled into the clay hole again —except where they make slop brick, and perhaps not very particular as to shape or any other quality combined in a brick, as many builders will buy them for partition walls, at a reduced price, when even stated to be of the very best description.

To keep, however, to the construction of houses built with perforated brick. There is no reason for supposing that a 6-inch wall may not be made sufficiently dry and warm to render any further increase of thickness of little moment, compared with expense.

Hollow bricks, it may be stated, from experience of hollow walls, will transmit far less sound than solid walls. Bricks three inches hollow may be made for partitions, which will attain the end exceedingly well; but another, that of superseding the hollow wood partition, which gives great facilities for the spread of fires and still the brick is much more economical than wood and lath partitions. If the ceilings should be high, a few of the bricks could be perforated vertically, so as to admit of say three iron rods set in the wall vertically, with a piece of flat wood or iron laid on the wall horizontally, which would add strength, and give 2 inches all round the room, from the 5-inch brick. The absorbent powers of either solid or hollow bricks, it may be submitted, is a bad quality, for the removal of which it is worthwhile to make exertions. To this end the machine pressure through dies has its great advantages over the more slow and watery system of handmaking; and avoiding the annoyance the manufacturer has to encounter by overbearing and drunken men, which is, I am sorry to say, too general, especially in men occupying this particular capacity.

But, by machines, we can make more bricks, and better worked by boys, with no risk of annoyance to the manufacturer and done at a great deal less expense.

04/07/1849 – North British Agriculturist – (Mr Deans’ answer to Mr Boyle’s queries given in our last)

The Hort. Editor having answered Mr Boyle’s three first queries, I beg to answer the rest, as the assertions Mr B. thinks requiring explanation were written by me.

Query 4 and 5. Will Mr Boyle inform me what is meant by “the usual preparation,” as almost every brick maker differs in his mode of preparing the clay for this purpose, which, in many instances, to my knowledge, is the cause of so many bad bricks being made, and, as a consequence, tends greatly to injure the sale of this class of bricks; but, I may state, clay mixed with a portion of sand, if too strong, and well ground through a pug mill in the way they do in every field where good bricks are made, will answer the machine. But the usual way of preparing clay will not answer, being only dug, turned once, and taken to the table in a soft state, and, after that, put into a mould dipt (dipped) in water, and laid on its bed, instead of being made of stiff clay, set on their edge, 4 or 5 high, and moulded with steel moulds, with sand, which would suit the machine, and make perforated bricks of good shape.

Query 6. Temper the clay as stated in query 4 and 5. There will be no fear of friction is its outward progress, as it will retain its shape. The machine will have to make them horizontally so that several of the present machines employed will be of no use for bricks.

Query 7. The clay being well ground, there will be no fear of the bricks loosening coming from the die, any more than a 4-inch oval-shaped pipe, which is nearly the shape and size of a brick, being made by me, 6 inches deep and 4 inches wide, but only once perforated, and a sole attached to it.

Query 8. Manual labour will be sufficient, as in all machines that I have seen working, the larger the size of pipe, tile, or brick, &c, the less the pressure on the die, and they come out much faster.

Query 9. I have never seen an instance where bricks get out of shape if put in the kiln dry and properly attended to in the burning, which, I am sorry to say, is but little attended to, to the great injury of selling this article, which, if made and burned well, is quite calculated to resist the weather, and can be sold much cheaper.

Query 10. I am afraid I would be adding but little information, by stating that glazed bricks are more imperishable than unglazed bricks; if not, the public are greatly imposed upon, as the glazed ware is double the price, which is where I would take my standard.

Query 11. If it is, as stated, or wished, by Mr Boyle, for the information of a numerous class of your readers, I have no doubt it will be in abler hands for Mr Boyle to state how it is applied, as I am aware he has a perfect knowledge of applying glazes.

Query 12. The bricks are set on the beds with a small dump of fire clay between them, to keep the glaze from sticking to the under brick. The two perforated holes will allow them to get burned through. The glaze only being applied to the two ends and two faces of the brick, I would recommend the heat to be nearly white or fire brick heat, which will be found to be quite sufficient.

Query 13. A common kiln, say about 26 feet by 10 ft. 6 inches, riddle bottom; or, it can be riddled with unglazed bricks, but they must be either fire clay, or composition bricks, set on edge in the usual way.

Query 14. Clays such as referred to in my way of making bricks will, when perfectly dry, be found suitable for applying the glaze. I hope the above will be found to be of benefit to your numerous readers.

Thomas Dean. Wishaw Tile Works 23/06/1849.

15/08/1849 – North British Agriculturist  – Further improvements in brickmaking – Beedle and Rodger’s ventilating bricks. Under this head has been registered a brick so shaped that when two are placed end to end a circular space is left at the junction. This circular space, connecting from course to course, a wall formed with them is, to a certain extent, hollow, and admits of currents of air through it, either heated or otherwise. Each brick is nine inches square and three inches thick, the size of two common bricks, so that only one half of the usual number is required to do a rod of brickwork, and as they pay but one duty, and are laid with very little more labour than a common brick, work may be executed at a considerable saving. A common brick is used at the angle of each course.—The Builder. (Note – SBH – I am uncertain if this is Scottish related but I add it for interests sake).

29/08/1849 – North British Agriculturist – I hope you will again permit me, through your Journal, to offer a few remarks upon economy in brick-making, also with remarks on the superiority of the perforated bricks over solid ones. With regard to economy in brick making, I may mention it would be a great saving of duty to make the bricks of the following dimensions, which would suit all thicknesses in both walls, cottages, &c. With regard to cottage walls, I would make the bricks 8 inches wide, 8 inches thick, and 15 inches long, so that the bricks being 15 inches long, they would, by perforating them on the 8-inch side, do for a 15-inch garden wall, having three perforated holes 3 inches diameter horizontally, which would cause them to dry sooner, also to burn much better, and be a saving of duty to the amount of £1 6s 4d on the 1000. The brick being 8 inches by 15 inches by 8 inches, its contents would be 960 cube inches or 6 1/3 bricks of 150 cube inches each, and 60 inches over the duty on the 6 bricks if  paid singly, would be at 5s 10 1/2d per,  1000, £1 17s 2 1/2d; but, by making large bricks, only double duty would be charged of 10s 6d per 1000, make them as large as you please, and by perforating them with three boles 3 inches diameter, it will reduce the cube inches of the large brick 405 inches or 21 lbs. in weight, and it will also be found quite practicable to glaze the faces of the brick so as to make it more imperishable, and be a great advantage in a northern climate, especially as but little lime would be required. There would not be one-tenth part of the lime required as is now used by the common size brick (which, I am sorry to see, is often used unnecessarily, having 1/2 inch joints where 1/4 inch ought to be used). The second size bricks I would make for partition walls would be 10 inches by  15 inches by 3 1/2 inches, with a one inch perforated horizontal hole; and, if thought necessary to have a few perforated vertically for iron ties, as stated in my former remarks, (see page 204) as often unnecessary thicknesses of brick or stone are used for partitions which take up a great deal of the room of a house. The class of bricks to which I have referred to, can be made to any size as the perforated holes will ensure their being dried and burnt properly, and Palaces, Hospitals, Churches, Gaols, Work-houses, &c., may be benefited by their adoption, and what is of great consequence is that the cartage would be considerably less, being about half the weight of ordinary bricks, compared with the size, and less weight would be in floors arched with hollow tile or brick.

Museums, picture galleries, &c., would be freed from damp and rot, to the preservation of the works of nature and art. The dwelling of the wealthy and the cottager may have, in every room, a completeness of ventilation at present unattainable with solid bricks or stone. Factories, also, may be made fireproof, and be less weighty than the present system of wood floors.

Then, referring to the price of the perforated bricks in comparison to the present made bricks; the price of the present made common clay bricks, say, made 10, and 5, and 3 inches, is about 28s, as an average per 1000, weighing 4 tons, if made the usual size of 150 cubic inches. The perforated brick 15 x 8 x 8 inches, and glazed on the outward face could be made for £7 per 1000, these being 960 cube inches or about 6 bricks of the ordinary size, and these too, imperishable from being glazed. The saving of lime would be nearly a 6th part per common brick, and a 20th part less than rubble stone walls, besides the advantages of lees carting. But, independent of every other advantage, a saving would be effected. Say 6333 bricks cost 28s per 1000 unglazed, £18, 17s 4d, their tonnage would be, at least, 25 tons, and it would take 5 cartloads of lime to lay them. Now, 1000 of perforated 15 x 8 x 8 being equal to 6333 bricks of the present size, could be made and glazed for £7 per 1000, the weight of which would be 12 3/4 tons or a saving of 12 1/4 tons in the equality of bulk; then one cartload of lime would bed 1000, saving of 4 cartloads of lime, and, say, 8 carts of sand. The lime at 11s a cart, including carting sand, 1s 3d, which, with the saving of £1, 17s 4d on the bricks would amount to, (Lime,) £2 4s (Sand,) 1s. Total £4 11 4

Therefore, by taking the large perforated bricks, without taking into consideration the beneficial results derived from them, you save, not including the difference in carting, per rood, of, say, 16-inch wall, £3 1s 3d.  8-inch wall for cottage walls, per rood, £1 10s 9d.  I may, however, mention that you would save, in duty alone, the difference from £1, 17s 2 1/2d, being the duty on 6333 small bricks as made at the present day, and 10s 6d per 1000, make them as large as you please; while to those noblemen and gentlemen living at a distance from stone, should avail themselves of this mode of brick making, as very indifferent clay would make brick if handmade and by glazing them they will suit all climates. But I may remark, that all clay, either for brick or tile pipes, &c, should be put through a pug mill; and, if very stony clay, a small engine with bruising rollers, which would add but little to the expense, as the bricks above mentioned may be made by machine dies, and could be made to bring out any kinds of mouldings on the bricks, viz., for cornices of any form desirable. Before leaving the subject, I beg distinctly to remark that I do not contemplate superseding with hollow bricks all practised forms and modes of construction, but an adaptation where reason can clearly demonstrate the advantage.

Nature revels in an infinite variety of structure, but she is always perfect in adaptation and usefulness. Then let us break the shackles of precedent, and try to imitate nature in her economy, use, and beauty; but even with consistency. Hoping I may not be considered out of place by making the above remarks on our style of brick making. The following is a sketch of the bricks above alluded to.

This class of bricks can be made to any size suitable to the purpose intended. But, to keep on the safe size, I would recommend to have the box of the machine-made large enough to answer for a larger size; but I may mention that the weight of the above bricks, is when burnt, about 40lb.

Hoping I have not occupied too much of your paper on this subject, as I wish to give all the information my humble abilities will allow, to try and economise, as far as possible, the obnoxious tax on bricks, or more properly, lumps of clay; hoping some more able brick manufacturer will assist me in the object we all ought to have in view, that of trying to do away with a tax upon bricks which is a greater drawback both to comfort and also labour. Thomas Dean Wishaw Brick and Tile Work 19/08/1849.

(It is easy for us to show how it is possible to reduce the present price of bricks by a superior mode of making, and by saving half the enormous duty paid on them, by increasing their size without enlargement of their cubic contents, which duty last year amounted to £448, 310. But will Government allow us to pocket this £224, 155? No! The chancellor of the exchequer will in all probability, seeing how easy it is to defeat the wisdom of his predecessors, bring in a bill from which it may be impossible for the maker to escape. Why not reduce the duty on bricks, and lay the deficiency on manufactured stone, which all stone hewn, carved or polished must be so understood. Such stone is only used by those who can afford to pay a duty upon it, while the consumption of brick falls heavy on the middle classes and especially on the poor as it prevents those improvements being made on their dwellings so loudly called for by the voice of humanity and the earnest desire of the philanthropist who would wish to see their present less than homely habitations improved – Ed.)


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