1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brick
BRICK (derived according to some etymologists from the Teutonic bricke, a disk or plate; but more authoritatively, through the French brique, originally a “broken piece,” applied especially to bread, and so to clay, from the Teutonic brikan, to break), a kind of artificial stone generally made of burnt clay, and largely used as a building material.
History.—The art of making bricks dates from very early times, and was practised by all the civilized nations of antiquity. The earliest burnt bricks known are those found on the sites of the ancient cities of Babylonia, and it seems probable that the method of making strong and durable bricks, by burning blocks of dried clay, was discovered in this corner of Asia. We know at least that well-burnt bricks were made by the Babylonians more than 6000 years ago, and that they were extensively used in the time of Sargon of Akkad (c. 3800 B.C.). The site of the ancient city of Babylon is still marked by huge mounds of bricks, the ruins of its great walls, towers and palaces, although it has been the custom for centuries to carry away from these heaps the bricks required for the building of the modern towns in the surrounding country. The Babylonians and Assyrians attained to a high degree of proficiency in brickmaking, notably in the manufacture of bricks having a coating of coloured glaze or enamel, which they largely used for wall decoration. The Chinese claim great antiquity for their clay industries, but it is not improbable that the knowledge of brickmaking travelled eastwards from Babylonia across the whole of Asia. It is believed that the art of making glazed bricks, so highly developed afterwards by the Chinese, found its way across Asia from the west, through Persia and northern India, to China. The great wall of China was constructed partly of brick, both burnt and unburnt; but this was built at a comparatively late period (c. 210 B.C.), and there is nothing to show that the Chinese had any knowledge of burnt bricks when the art flourished in Babylonia.
Brickmaking formed the chief occupation of the Israelites during their bondage in Egypt, but in this case the bricks were probably sun-dried only, and not burnt. These bricks were made of a mixture of clay and chopped straw or reeds, worked into a stiff paste with water. The clay was the river mud from the banks of the Nile, and as this had not sufficient cohesion in itself, the chopped straw (or reeds) was added as a binding material. The addition of such substances increases the plasticity of wet clay, especially if the mixture is allowed to stand for some days before use; so that the action of the chopped straw was twofold; a fact possibly known to the Egyptians. These sun-dried bricks, or “adobes,” are still made, as of old, on the banks of the Nile by the following method:—A shallow pit or bed is prepared, into which are thrown the mud, chopped straw and water in suitable proportions, and the whole mass is tramped on until it is thoroughly mixed and of the proper consistence. This mixture is removed in lumps and shaped into bricks, in moulds or by hand, the bricks being simply sun-dried.
Pliny mentions that three kinds of bricks were made by the Greeks, but there is no indication that they were used to any great extent, and probably the walls of Athens on the side towards Mount Hymettus were the most important brick-structures in ancient Greece. The Romans became masters of the brickmaker’s art, though they probably acquired much of their knowledge in the East, during their occupation of Egypt and Greece. In any case they revived and extended the manufacture of bricks about the beginning of the Christian era; exercising great care in the selection and preparation of their clay, and introducing the method of burning bricks in kilns. They carried their knowledge and their methods throughout western Europe, and there is abundant evidence that they made bricks extensively in Germany and in Britain.
Although brickmaking was thus introduced into Britain nearly 2000 years ago, the art seems to have been lost when the Romans withdrew from the country, and it is doubtful whether any burnt bricks were made in England from that time until the 13th century. Such bricks as were used during this long period were generally taken from the remains of Roman buildings, as at Colchester and St Albans Abbey. One of the earliest existing brick buildings, erected after the revival of brickmaking in England, is Little Wenham Hall, in Suffolk, built about A.D. 1210; but it was not until the 15th century that bricks came into general use again, and then only for important edifices. During the reign of Henry VIII. brickmaking was brought to great perfection, probably by workmen brought from Flanders, and the older portions of St James’s Palace and Hampton Court Palace remain to testify to the skill then attained. In the 16th century bricks were increasingly used, but down to the Great Fire of London, in 1666, the smaller buildings, shops and dwelling-houses, were constructed of timber framework filled in with lath and plaster. In the rebuilding of London after the fire, bricks were largely used, and from the end of the 17th century to the present day they have been almost exclusively used in all ordinary buildings throughout the country, except in those districts where building stone is plentiful and good brick-clay is not readily procurable. The bricks made in England before 1625 were of many sizes, there being no recognized standard; but in that year the sizes were regulated by statute, and the present standard size was adopted, viz. 9 ✕ 41 ✕ 3 in. In 1784 a tax was levied on bricks, which was not repealed until 1850. The tax averaged about 4s. 7d. per thousand on ordinary bricks, and special bricks were still more heavily taxed.
The first brick buildings in America were erected on Manhattan Island in the year 1633 by a governor of the Dutch West India Company. These bricks were made in Holland, where the industry had long reached great excellence; and for many years bricks were imported into America from Holland and from England. In America burnt bricks were first made at New Haven about 1650, and the manufacture slowly spread through the New England states; but for many years the home-made article was inferior to that imported from Europe.
The Dutch and the Germans were the great brickmakers of Europe during the middle ages, although the Italians, from the 14th to the 15th century, revived and developed the art of decorative brick-work or terra-cotta, and discovered the method of applying coloured enamels to these materials. Under the Della Robbias, in the 15th century, some of the finest work of this class that the world has seen was executed, but it can scarcely be included under brickwork.
Brick Clays.—All clays are the result of the denudation and decomposition of felspathic and siliceous rocks, and consist of the fine insoluble particles which have been carried in suspension in water and deposited in geologic basins according to their specific gravity and degree of fineness (see Clay). These deposits have been formed in all geologic epochs from the “Recent” to the “Cambrian,” and they vary in hardness from the soft and plastic “alluvial” clays to the hard and rock-like shales and slates of the older formations. The alluvial and drift clays (which were alone used for brickmaking until modern times) are found near the surface, are readily worked and require little preparation, whereas the older sedimentary deposits are often difficult to work and necessitate the use of heavy machinery. These older shales, or rocky clays, may be brought into plastic condition by long weathering (i.e. by exposure to rain, frost and sun) or by crushing and grinding in water, and they then resemble ordinary alluvial clays in every respect.
The clays or earths from which burnt bricks are made may be divided into two principal types, according to chemical composition: (1) Clays or shales containing only a small percentage of carbonate of lime and consisting chiefly of hydrated aluminium silicates (the “true clay substance”) with more or less sand, undecomposed grains of felspar, and oxide or carbonate of iron; these clays usually burn to a buff, salmon or red colour; (2) Clays containing a considerable percentage of carbonate of lime in addition to the substances above mentioned. These latter clay deposits are known as “marls,” and may contain as much as 40% of chalk. They burn to a sulphur-yellow colour which is quite distinctive.
Brick clays of class (1) are very widely distributed, and have a more extensive geological range than the marls, which are found in connexion with chalk or limestone formations only. These ordinary brick clays vary considerably in composition, and many clays, as they are found in nature, are unsuitable for brickmaking without the addition of some other kind of clay or sand. The strongest brick clays, i.e. those possessing the greatest plasticity and tensile strength, are usually those which contain the highest percentage of the hydrated aluminium silicates, although the exact relation of plasticity to chemical composition has not yet been determined. This statement cannot be applied indiscriminately to all clays, but may be taken as fairly applicable to clays of one general type (see Clay). All clays contain more or less free silica in the form of sand, and usually a small percentage of undecomposed felspar. The most important ingredient, after the clay-substance and the sand, is oxide of iron; for the colour, and, to a less extent, the hardness and durability of the burnt bricks depend on its presence. The amount of oxide of iron in these clays varies from about 2 to 10%, and the colour of the bricks varies accordingly from light buff to chocolate; although the colour developed by a given percentage of oxide of iron is influenced by the other substances present and also by the method of firing. A clay containing from 5 to 8% of oxide of iron will, under ordinary conditions of firing, produce a red brick; but if the clay contains 3 to 4% of alkalis, or the brick is fired too hard, the colour will be darker and more purple. The actions of the alkalis and of increased temperature are probably closely related, for in either case the clay is brought nearer to its fusion point, and ferruginous clays generally become darker in colour as they approach to fusion. Alumina acts in the opposite direction, an excess of this compound tending to make the colour lighter and brighter. It is impossible to give a typical composition for such clays, as the percentages of the different constituents vary through such wide ranges. The clay substance may vary from 15 to 80%, the free silica or sand from 5 to 80%, the oxide of iron from 1 to 10%, the carbonates of lime and magnesia together, from 1 to 5%, and the alkalis from 1 to 4%. Organic matter is always present, and other impurities which frequently occur are the sulphates of lime and magnesia, the chlorides and nitrates of soda and potash, and iron-pyrites. The presence of organic matter gives the wet clay a greater plasticity, probably because it forms a kind of mucilage which adds a certain viscosity and adhesiveness to the natural plasticity of the clay. In some of the coal-measure shales the amount of organic matter is very considerable, and may render the clay useless for brickmaking. The other impurities, all of which, except the pyrites, are soluble in water, are undesirable, as they give rise to “scum,” which produces patchy colour and pitted faces on the bricks. The commonest soluble impurity is calcium sulphate, which produces a whitish scum on the face of the brick in drying, and as the scum becomes permanently fixed in burning, such bricks are of little use except for common work. This question of “scumming” is very important to the maker of high-class facing and moulded bricks, and where a clay containing calcium sulphate must be used, a certain percentage of barium carbonate is nowadays added to the wet clay. By this means the calcium sulphate is converted into calcium carbonate which is insoluble in water, so that it remains distributed throughout the mass of the brick instead of being deposited on the surface. The presence of magnesium salts is also very objectionable, as these generally remain in the burnt brick as magnesium sulphate, which gives rise to an efflorescence of fine white crystals after the bricks are built into position. Clays which are strong or plastic are known as “fat” clays, and they always contain a high percentage of true “clay substance,” and, consequently, a low percentage of sand. Such clays take up a considerable amount of water in “tempering”; they dry slowly, shrink greatly, and so become liable to lose their shape and develop cracks in drying and firing. “Fat” clays are greatly improved by the addition of coarse sharp sand, which reduces the time of drying and the shrinkage, and makes the brick more rigid during the firing. Coarse sand, unlike clay-substance, is practically unaffected during the drying and firing, and is a desirable if not a necessary ingredient of all brick clays. The best brick-clays feel gritty between the fingers; they should, of course, be free from pebbles, sufficiently plastic to be moulded into shape and strong enough when dry to be safely handled. All clays are greatly improved by being turned over and exposed to the weather, or by standing for some months in a wet condition. This “weathering” and “ageing” of clay is particularly important where bricks are made from tempered clay, i.e. clay in the wet or plastic state; where bricks are made from shale, in the semi-plastic condition, weathering is still of importance.
The lime clays or “marls” of class (2), which contain essentially a high percentage of chalk or limestone, are not so widely distributed as the ordinary brick-clays, and in England the natural deposits of these clays have been largely exhausted. A very fine chalk-clay, or “malm” as it was locally called, was formerly obtained from the alluvium in the vicinity of London; but the available supply of this has been used up, and at the present time an artificial “malm” is prepared by mixing an ordinary brick-clay with ground chalk. For the best London facing-bricks the clay and chalk are mixed in water. The chalk is ground on grinding-pans, and the clay is mixed with water and worked about until the mixture has the consistence of cream. The mixture of these “pulps” is run through a grating or coarse sieve on to a drying-kiln or “bed,” where it is allowed to stand until stiff enough to walk on. A layer of fine ashes is then spread over the clay, and the mass is turned over and mixed by spade, and tempered by the addition of water. In other districts, where clays containing limestone are used, the marl is mixed with water on a wash-pan and the resulting creamy fluid passed through coarse sieves on to a drying-bed. If necessary, coarse sand is added to the clay in the wash-pan, and such addition is often advisable because the washed clays are generally very fine in grain. Another method of treating these marls, when they are in the plastic condition, is to squeeze them by machinery through iron gratings, which arrest and remove the pebbles. In other cases the marl is passed through a grinding-mill having a solid bottom and heavy iron rollers, by which means the limestone pebbles are crushed sufficiently and mixed through the whole mass. The removal of limestone pebbles from the clay is of great importance, as during the firing they would be converted into quicklime, which has a tendency to shatter the brick on exposure to the weather. As before stated, these marls (which usually contain from 15 to 30% of calcium carbonate) burn to a yellow colour which is quite distinctive, although in some cases, where the percentage of limestone is very high, over 40%, the colour is grey or a very pale buff. The action of lime in bleaching the ferric oxide and producing a yellow instead of a red brick, has not been thoroughly investigated, but it seems probable that some compound is produced, between the lime and the oxide of iron, or between these two oxides and the free silica, entirely different from that produced by oxide of iron in the absence of lime. Such marls require a harder fire than the ordinary brick-clays in order to bring about the reaction between the lime and the other ingredients. Magnesia may replace lime to some extent in such marls, but the firing temperature must be higher when magnesia is present. Marls usually contract very little, if at all, in the burning, and generally produce a strong, square brick of fine texture and good colour. When under-fired, marl bricks are very liable to disintegrate under the action of the weather, and great care must be exercised in burning them at a sufficiently high temperature.
Brickmaking.—Bricks made of tempered clay may be made by hand or by machine, and the machines may be worked by hand or by mechanical power. Bricks made of semi-plastic clay (i.e. ground clay or shale sufficiently damp to adhere under pressure) are generally machine-made throughout. The method of making bricks by hand is the same, with slight variation, the world over. The tempered clay is pressed by hand into a wooden or metal mould or four-sided case (without top or bottom) which is of the desired shape and size, allowance being made for the shrinkage of the brick in drying and firing. The moulder stands at the bench or table, dips the mould in water, or water and then sand, to prevent the clay from sticking, takes a rudely shaped piece of clay from an assistant, and dashes this into the mould which rests on the moulding bench. He then presses the clay into the corners of the mould with his fingers, scrapes off any surplus clay and levels the top by means of a strip of wood called a “strike,” and then turns the brick out of the mould on to a board, to be carried away by another assistant to the drying-ground. The mould may be placed on a special piece of wood, called the stock-board, provided with an elevated tongue of wood in the centre, which produces the hollow or “frog” in the bottom of the brick.
Machine-made bricks may be divided into two kinds, plastic and semi-plastic, although the same type of machine is often used for both kinds.
The machine-made plastic bricks are made of tempered clay, but generally the tempering and working of the clay are effected by the use of machinery, especially when the harder clays and shales are used. The machines used in the preparation of such clays are grinding-mills and pug-mills. The grinding-mills are either a series of rollers with graduated spaces between, through which the clay or shale is passed, or are of the ordinary “mortar pan” type, having a solid or perforated iron bottom on which the clay or shale is crushed by heavy rollers. Shales are sometimes passed through a grinding-mill before they are exposed to the action of the weather, as the disintegration of the hard lumps of shale greatly accelerates the “weathering.” In the case of ordinary brick-clay, in the plastic condition, grinding-mills are only used when pebbles more than a quarter of an inch in diameter are present, as otherwise the clay may be passed directly through the pug-mill, a process which may be repeated if necessary. The pug-mill consists of a box or trough having a feed hole at one end and a delivery hole or nose at the other end, and provided with a central shaft which carries knives and cutters so arranged that when the shaft revolves they cut and knead the clay, and at the same time force it towards and through the delivery nose. The cross section of this nose of the pug-mill is approximately the same as that of the required brick (9 in. × 41 in. plus contraction, for ordinary bricks), so that the pug delivers a solid or continuous mass of clay from which bricks may be made by merely making a series of square cuts at the proper distances apart. In practice, the clay is pushed from the pug along a smooth iron plate, which is provided with a wire cutting frame having a number of tightly stretched wires placed at certain distances apart, arranged so that they can be brought down upon, and through, the clay, and so many bricks cut off at intervals. The frame is sometimes in the form of a skeleton cylinder, the wires being arranged radially (or the wires may be replaced by metal disks); but in all cases bricks thus made are known as “wire-cuts.” In order to obtain a better-shaped and more compact brick, these wire-cuts may be placed under a brick press and there squeezed into iron moulds under great pressure. These two processes are now generally performed by one machine, consisting of pug-mill and brick press combined. The pug delivers the clay, downwards, into the mould; the proper amount of clay is cut off; and the mould is made to travel into position under the ram of the press, which squeezes the clay into a solid mass.
There are many forms of brick press, a few for hand power, but the most adapted for belt-driving; although in recent years hydraulic presses have come more and more into use, especially in Germany and America. The essential parts of a brick press are: (1) a box or frame in which the clay is moulded; (2) a plunger or die carried on the end of a ram, which gives the necessary pressure; (3) an arrangement for pushing the pressed brick out of the moulding box. Such presses are generally made of iron throughout, although other metals are used, occasionally, for the moulds and dies. The greatest variations found in brick presses are in the means adopted for actuating the ram; and many ingenious mechanical devices have been applied to this end, each claiming some particular advantage over its predecessors. In many recent presses, especially where semi-plastic clay is used, the brick is pressed simultaneously from top and bottom, a second ram, working upwards from beneath, giving the additional pressure.
Although the best bricks are still pressed from tempered or plastic clay, there has recently been a great development in the manufacture of semi-plastic or dust-made bricks, especially in those districts where shales are used for brickmaking. These semi-plastic bricks are stamped out of ground shale that has been sufficiently moistened with water to enable it to bind together. The hard-clay, or shale, is crushed under heavy rollers in an iron grinding-pan having a perforated bottom through which the crushed clay passes, when sufficiently fine, into a small compartment underneath. This clay powder is then delivered, by an elevator, into a sieve or screen, which retains the coarser particles for regrinding. Sets of rollers may also be used for crushing shales that are only moderately hard, the ground material being sifted as before. The material, as fed into the mould of the press, is a coarse, damp powder which becomes adhesive under pressure, producing a so-called “semi-plastic” brick. The presses used are similar to those employed for plastic clay, but they are generally more strongly and heavily built, and are capable of applying a greater pressure.
The semi-plastic method has many advantages where shales are used, although the bricks are not as strong nor as perfect as the best “plastic” bricks. The method, however, enables the brickmaker to make use of certain kinds of clay-rock, or shale, that would be impracticable for plastic bricks; and the weathering, tempering and “ageing” may be largely or entirely dispensed with. The plant required is heavier and more costly, but the brickyard becomes more compact, and the processes are simpler than with the “plastic” method.
The drying of bricks, which was formerly done in the open, is now, in most cases, conducted in a special shed heated by flues along which the heated gases from the kilns pass on their way to the chimney. It is important that the atmosphere of the drying-shed should be fairly dry, to which end suitable means of ventilation must be arranged (by fans or otherwise). If the atmosphere is too moist the surface of the brick remains damp for a considerable time, and the moisture from the interior passes to the surface as water, carrying with it the soluble salts, which are deposited on the surface as the water slowly evaporates. This deposit produces the “scum” already referred to. When the drying is done in a dry atmosphere the surface quickly dries and hardens, and the moisture from the interior passes to the surface as vapour, the soluble salts being left distributed through the whole mass, and consequently no “scum” is produced. Plastic bricks take much longer to dry than semi-plastic; they shrink more and have a greater tendency to warp or twist.
The burning or firing of bricks is the most important factor in their production; for their strength and durability depend very largely on the character and degree of the firing to which they have been subjected. The action of the heat brings about certain chemical decompositions and re-combinations which entirely alter the physical character of the dry clay. It is important, therefore, that the firing should be carefully conducted and that it should be under proper control. For ordinary bricks the firing atmosphere should be oxidizing, and the finishing temperature should be adjusted to the nature of the clay, the object being to produce a hard strong brick, of good shape, that will not be too porous and will withstand the action of frost. The finishing temperature ranges from 900° C. to 1250° C., the usual temperature being about 1050° C. for ordinary bricks. As before mentioned, lime-clays require a higher firing temperature (usually about 1150° C. to 1200° C.) in order to bring the lime into chemical combination with the other substances present.
It is evident that the best method of firing bricks is to place them in permanent kilns, but although such kilns were used by the Romans some 2000 years ago, the older method of firing in “clamps” is still employed in the smaller brickfields, in every country where bricks are made. These clamps are formed by arranging the unfired bricks in a series of rows or walls, placed fairly closely together, so as to form a rectangular stack. A certain number of channels, or firemouths, are formed in the bottom of the clamp; and fine coal is spread in horizontal layers between the bricks during the building up of the stack. Fires are kindled in the fire-mouths, and the clamp is allowed to go on burning until the fuel is consumed throughout. The clamp is then allowed to cool, after which it is taken down, and the bricks sorted; those that are under-fired being built up again in the next clamp for refiring. Sometimes the clamp takes the form of a temporary kiln, the outside being built of burnt bricks which are plastered over with clay, and the fire-mouths being larger and more carefully formed. There are many other local modifications in the manner of building up the clamps, all with the object of producing a large percentage of well-fired bricks. Clamp-firing is slow, and also uneconomical, because irregular and not sufficiently under control; and it is now only employed where bricks are made on a small scale.
Brick-kilns are of many forms, but they can all be grouped under two main types—Intermittent kilns and Continuous kilns. The intermittent kiln is usually circular in plan, being in the form of a vertical cylinder with a domed top. It consists of a single firing-chamber in which the unfired bricks are placed, and in the walls of which are contrived a number of fire-mouths where wood or coal is burned. In the older forms known as up-draught kilns, the products of combustion pass from the fire-mouth, through flues, into the bottom of the firing-chamber, and thence directly upwards and out at the top. The modern plan is to introduce the products of combustion near the top, or crown, of the kiln, and to draw them downwards through holes in the bottom which lead to flues connected with an independent chimney. These down-draught kilns have short chimneys or “bags” built round the inside wall in connexion with the fire-mouths, which conduct the flames to the upper part of the firing-chamber, where they are reverberated and passed down through the bricks in obedience to the pull of the chimney. The “bags” may be joined together, forming an inner circular wall entirely round the firing-chamber, except at the doorway; and a number of kilns may be built in a row or group having their bottom flues connected with the same tall chimney. Down-draught kilns usually give a more regular fire and a higher percentage of well-fired bricks; and they are more economical in fuel consumption than up-draught kilns, while the hot gases, as they pass from the kiln, may be utilized for drying purposes, being conducted through flues under the floor of the drying-shed, on their way to the chimney. The method of using one tall chimney to work a group of down-draught kilns naturally led to the invention of the “continuous” kiln, which is really made up of a number of separate kilns or firing-chambers, built in series and connected up to the main flue of the chimney in such a manner that the products of combustion from one kiln may be made to pass through a number of other kilns before entering the flue. The earliest form of continuous kiln was invented by Friedrich Hoffman, and all kilns of this type are built on the Hoffman principle, although there are a great number of modifications of the original Hoffman construction. The great principle of “continuous” firing is the utilization of the waste heat from one kiln or section of a kiln in heating up another kiln or section, direct firing being applied only to finish the burning. In practice a number of kilns or firing-chambers, usually rectangular in plan, are built side by side in two parallel lines, which are connected at the ends by other kilns so as to make a complete circuit. The original form of the complete series was elliptical in plan, but the tendency in recent years has been to flatten the sides of the ellipse and bring them together, thus giving two parallel rows joined at the ends by a chamber or passage at right angles. Coal or gas is burnt in the chamber or section that is being fired-up, the air necessary for the combustion being heated on its passage through the kilns that are cooling down, and the products of combustion, before entering the chimney flue, are drawn through a number of other kilns or chambers containing unfired bricks, which are thus gradually heated up by the otherwise waste-heat from the sections being fired. Continuous kilns produce a more evenly fired product than the intermittent kilns usually do, and, of course, at much less cost for fuel. Gas firing is now being extensively applied to continuous kilns, natural gas in some instances being used in the United States of America; and the methods of construction and of firing are carried out with greater care and intelligence, the prime objects being economy of fuel and perfect control of firing. Pyrometers are coming into use for the control of the firing temperature, with the result that a constant and trustworthy product is turned put. The introduction of machinery greatly helped the brickmaking industry in opening up new sources of supply of raw material in the shales and hardened clays of the sedimentary deposits of the older geologic formations, and, with the extended use of continuous firing plants, it has led to the establishment of large concerns where everything is co-ordinated for the production of enormous quantities of bricks at a minimum cost. In the United Kingdom, and still more in Germany and the United States of America, great improvements have been made in machinery, firing-plant and organization, so that the whole manufacture is now being conducted on more scientific lines, to the great advantage of the industry.
Blue Brick is a very strong vitreous brick of dark, slaty-blue colour, used in engineering works where great strength or impermeability is desirable. These bricks are made of clay containing front 7 to 10% of oxide of iron, and their manufacture is carried out in the ordinary way until the later stages of the firing process, when they are subjected to the strongly reducing action of a smoky atmosphere, which is produced by throwing small bituminous coal upon the fire-mouths and damping down the admission of air. The smoke thus produced reduces the red ferric oxide to blue-green ferrous oxide, or to metallic iron, which combines with the silica present to form a fusible ferrous silicate. This fusible “slag” partly combines with the other silicates present, and partly fills up the pores, and so produces a vitreous impermeable layer varying in thickness according to the duration and character of the smoking, the finishing temperature of the kiln and the texture of the brick. Particles of carbon penetrate the surface during the early stages of the smoking, and a small quantity of carbon probably enters into combination, tending to produce a harder surface and darker colour.
Floating Bricks were first mentioned by Strabo, the Greek geographer, and afterwards by Pliny as being made at Pitane in the Troad. The secret of their manufacture was lost for many centuries, but was rediscovered in 1791 by Fabroni, an Italian, who made them from the fossil meal (diatomaceous earth) found in Tuscany. These bricks are very light, fairly strong, and being poor conductors of heat, have been employed for the construction of powder-magazines on board ship, &c.
Mortar Bricks belong to the class of unburnt bricks, and are, strictly speaking, blocks of artificial stone made in brick moulds. These bricks have been made for many years by moulding a mixture of sand and slaked lime and allowing the blocks thus made to harden in the air. This hardening is brought about partly by evaporation of the water, but chiefly by the conversion of the calcium hydrate, or slaked lime, into calcium carbonate by the action of the carbonic acid in the atmosphere. A small proportion of the lime enters into combination with the silica and water present to form hydrated calcium silicate, and probably a little hydrated basic carbonate of lime is also formed, both of which substances are in the nature of cement. This process of natural hardening by exposure to the air was a very long one, occupying from six to eighteen months, and many improvements were introduced during the latter half of the 19th century to improve the strength of the bricks and to hasten the hardening. Mixtures of sand, lime and cement (and of certain ground blast-furnace slags and lime) were introduced; the moulding was done under hydraulic presses and the bricks afterwards treated with carbon dioxide under pressure, with or without the application of mild heat. Some of these mixtures and methods are still in use, but a new type of mortar brick has come into use during recent years which has practically superseded the old mortar brick.
Sand-lime Bricks.—In the early ’eighties of the 19th century, Dr Michaelis of Berlin patented a new process for hardening blocks made of a mixture of sand and lime by treating them with high-pressure steam for a few hours, and the so-called sand-lime bricks are now made on a very extensive scale in many countries. There are many differences of detail in the manufacture, but the general method is in all cases the same. Dry sand is intimately mixed with about one-tenth of its weight of powdered slaked lime, the mixture is then slightly moistened with water and afterwards moulded into bricks under powerful presses, capable of exerting a pressure of about 60 tons per sq. in. After removal from the press the bricks are immediately placed in huge steel cylinders usually 60 to 80 ft. long and about 7 ft. in diameter, and are there subjected to the action of high-pressure steam (120 ℔ to 150 ℔ per sq. in.) for from ten to fifteen hours. The proportion of slaked lime to sand varies according to the nature of the lime and the purity and character of the sand, one of lime to ten of sand being a fair average. The following is an analysis of a typical German sand-lime brick: silica (SiO2), 84%; lime (CaO), 7%; alumina and oxide of iron, 2%; water, magnesia and alkalis, 7%. Under the action of the high-pressure steam the lime attacks the particles of sand, and a chemical compound of water, lime and silica is produced which forms a strong bond between the larger particles of sand. This bond of hydrated calcium silicate is evidently different from, and of better type than, the filling of calcium carbonate produced in the mortar-brick, and the sand-lime brick is consequently much stronger than the ordinary mortar-brick, however the latter may be made. The sand-lime brick is simple in manufacture, and with reasonable care is of constant quality. It is usually of a light-grey colour, but may be stained by the addition of suitable colouring oxides or pigments unaffected by lime and the conditions of manufacture.
Strength of Brick.—The following figures indicate the crushing load for bricks of various types in tons per sq. in.:—
- The term “marl” has been wrongly applied to many fire-clays. It should be restricted to natural mixtures of clay and chalk such as those of the Paris and London basins.