Here in Europe, most bricks used for building are machine made with only special bricks being “hand thrown” – hand made.
If you are of a certain age you may remember LBC – London Brick Company – Flettons, or common bricks as they were called. Billions were made and laid after the war in housing projects all over the country.
The LBC common bricks were made in and around Bedford. As you drove down the M1 you could see dozens of chimneys in the brick yards churning out smoke making bricks from London clay. This clay had a carboniferous content so the cost of firing was less than conventional clay.
In India the process is somewhat different, using the “clamp” technique (which produces an intermittent type of kiln as opposed to continuous) to fire the hand thrown bricks. Labour intensive, hard work defines the process. The clay-rich soil is tempered by hand with water to make the mouldable clay which is then scooped up by hand and thrown into the metal moulds – hence hand thrown.
The mould is then emptied and the brick is dusted with sand before being left to dry in the sun for up to 15 days. The unfired brick is turned every so often during that time to allow uniform drying so as not to make the bricks distort whilst firing. Once more hard, back-breaking, manual work.
Although there are some modern conventional brick ovens in India this “clamp” system is still widely used. The dried bricks actually make up the kiln itself. Wood is stacked in the bricks and the whole is covered with old bricks and a layer of earth before the fires are lit.
Once fired and cold, the bricks are removed and sorted.
Each person making bricks is expected to hand throw at least 1000 bricks a day. The pay for doing that is likely to be around 300 rupees a day – about £3.50 at today’s exchange rate – though the team work as a whole being paid around 2 rupees per brick for the whole process, end to end.
The dry weight of 1000 bricks is about 3.4 tons. When wet, they would be considerably heavier.
Pictures copyright Sue Naylor and PDBarton March 2017.