Flasher

This last week I have been finishing off the roof flashing. I spent time cutting up gal steel off cuts left over from the construction phase of the project. I have pieces of corner section, ridge capping etc. I cut them into narrow strips and then folded them into the pieces that I needed for each specific place.After the brickies finished the walls, there was a gap between the steel shed and the new brick veneer wall that needed to be covered.


In one spot on the wall where the corner meets the verandah. I had to cut and fold a special section that is folded in 5 different directions.


That was a very satisfying little job. I’m pleased that it worked out well. I have no idea how much that would have cost me to get a plumber to do these jobs. But it wouldn’t be cheap.

I also needed to cover the electrical conduit brnging the power into the workshop.



This conduit needed to be protected from sunlight, but also mechanical damage.


I have finally finished the capping on the roof between the new brickwork and the steel shed.
All done, now back to the acid cleaning of the brickwork. I had to finish the steel capping before I could afford to pull down the scaffolding. Without the scaffolding, I wouldn’t be able to reach the central capping safely. Every job has to be done in its own specific sequence.

I’ll be pleased to remove the scaffold, so that I can finally see the arched wall and window in its complete form.

Frog up, or frog down?

The brickies have finished. However, there is still a lot to do to clean it all up. I still need to scrub it all down, fettle it, then acid wash the surface and water blast it, but even at this stage it looks great to me.

I asked Bill, one of our brickies, if there was a rule about laying bricks with the frog up or the frog down, as I had noticed while securing the brick ties to the shed frame, that some of the bricks were laid either way. Bill explained to me that he was taught by the English Master Bricklayer Dave Smith from Leeds in Yorkshire to lay bricks frog down, so he lays bricks frog down unless there is a reason not to, such as the need to get a particular face out, or if the brick is warped and won’t sit flat any other way.

At this point, I should explain to those not familiar with bricks, that old fashioned sand stock or modern day dry pressed bricks have an indentation in one of the broad, flat faces. This has a few functions, but mostly to provide a ‘key’ to allow the mortar ‘grip’ the brick and lock it into the wall.

Modern extruded bricks have a lot of holes all the way through them, so don’t require a ‘frog’, the extrusions provide the texture for the cement to grip the brick. BTW, Bill told me that he refuses to work on jobs that specify extruded bricks. He said that they aren’t ‘real’ bricks, just rubbish.

So a frog is an indentation in the brick. In old, hand made, sandstock bricks like ours, the bricks were made one at at time in wooden mould, also hand made on site and not always exactly the same as the other moulds that were being used, so there is plenty of variation in the size and shape of the bricks, but particularly in the size and shape of the ‘frog’ indentation.

We have diamonds and ovals, but mostly a huge range of rectangular shapes.

It appears that each brick maker seemed to make his own mould and chose what ever piece of wood was available at the time to add to the mould to make the ‘frog’ indentation in the brick. There is a huge variation. I have read that as each frog was different, the shape of the frog in the brick was a way of counting up the tally of each individuals daily output, as the brick makers were paid per brick produced.

You can see above, many of the various shapes of the frog, these varied from long, narrow and deep, made by using a squarish baton of wood in the bottom of the mould or ‘Stock’, to very wide and shallow, with tapered edges. Warwick Gemmell in his book ‘And so we graft from six til six’ – Brick makers of New South Wales. states;

Having a wooden piece in the bottom of the mould also had the beneficial effect of pushing or ‘kicking’ the clay slop out to the corners of the mould. It is important to fill the corners of the mould to get a well shaped, square edged brick. Having a ‘kick’ in the bottom of the mould made this easier to achieve by kicking the soft clay out to the edges and allowed the brick maker to work faster with less ‘seconds’.

So where does the word ‘frog’ come from in brick making? The the OED vol 6. P208/6 quotes it’s first use in print in 1876. But gives no indication of it’s origin. In a book called “Des Brykes”, I read that fancy brick work in many old English stately homes was done by imported Dutch bricklayers, as the techniques of sophisticated and decorative brickwork were well advanced in Holland at that time. The Oxford Dictionary also quotes on the same page that Dutchmen were called ‘frogs’ as a term of derision in 1652.

Could it be that immigrant Dutch brick workers introduced the frog into English brick making? It just might be possible, because the ‘Kicker’ piece in the bottom of the mould is also the same word in Dutch (kikker) that means frog!

Just speculation, but food for thought?

Easter is a Pagan Ritual of fertility

Given that this long weekend is the Northern Hemisphere’s Pagan ritual of fertility. We decided to have a few days off from the relentless building jobs and spend a bit of time in the garden to try and resurrect it from the dilapidated state that it has slowly fallen into, we need to restore some of its fertility. We have been so busy building every day that the garden has been a bit forgotten. Luckily Janine has been going in there every day to pick our dinner from the encroaching weeds, and doing a bit of maintenance at the same time. Otherwise it would all be so totally over grown that there would be little to eat. Thank you Janine!
I started by spending a couple of hours fossicking through the tomato patches, filtering out all those tiny little last ditch efforts of mini tomatoes. The effort paid off and I collected about 7 kilos of the little gems. They will keep us in salads for the next week or so. I made all the sub-prime ones into a tomato passata sauce.




There were just so many of the little buggers. I stated off with onion and garlic in good olive oil, boiled down to a pulp.

Ten added sweet basil and simmered again for a little while. Finally passing the whole lot through the moulii sieve, then reducing the liquid down to half its volume and bottling it.

Janine also made some lilly pilli jelly at the same time.

The lilly pilli tree is loaded again this year. The rain has done it good. We pick all the low hanging fruit and even the not so low hanging fruit. I use the 8 foot step ladder to collect what I can safely reach. a couple of baskets full.This will ad to our breakfast toast options for a few more months.
After I picked most of the last tomatoes off the early plantings. They have done well for the past 7 months. I then spend a bit of time pulling out all the old vines and then weeding the patch. 

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I also clean up the long row of garden that had all the summer veg. More tomatoes, Capsicum, egg plants, cucumber, chillies and pumpkins.Out they go and I dig over the bed ready for some winter veg.

In the new cleared beds I plant loads of garlic, about 400 cloves. I like to try and grow all of my garlic  for the year if I can. This is a good start. I should have got them in a month ago. But this will have to do. I can’t can’t do everything exactly as it should be. There just isn’t enough time. I may put in another 100 cloves later, if I can find the time. If half of them do well , we’ll be OK for garlic for another year.
While I was at it, I also planted out some lettuce seedlings and lettuce seeds as well as some radishes and rocket.

In the evenings I made bread, a flat focaccia loaf from rye flour and a few bread rolls for lunches.

They didn’t last long.While I was doing all of this Janine was harvesting out potato negra spuds.

She called out to me. She was cock sure that she had found something interesting, I pricked up my ears!

You can’t beat a good root crop!
This was our long weekend. All we have to do now is to think of some sort of pagan ritual involving a potato and a knob of butter.


A very Good Friday

Janine and I have been particularly busy today cleaning up the brickwork left as it was by our wonderful brickies, Gordon and Bill after they finished up their 4 day week on Thursday. They got the verandah wall all done, right up to the roof. That only leaves the top of the gable wall to be completed. If anyone needs a couple of very skilled and experienced brick layers to do a great job, contact me and I’ll pass their details. They only work a 4 day week, as with them both being well over 70, they can do that. We don’t want to wear them out.

What was particularly good about their working style is the number of times that they asked me what I wanted done here or there. What was I expecting. What did I think about this problem… How should the Sussex bond variation be interpreted and implemented here? etc etc. They’re always consulting and prepared to be flexible. Although I’m very tired from being the brickies labourer to two brickies. Constantly on the go, making mortar, or cutting special shapes on the brick saw, but mostly passing mud and bricks up onto the scaffold, I’m really glad the end of the day, and particularly now that this wall section is complete. We can stand back and appreciate the final ‘look’ of the project so far. And it looks great! Better than I imagined 12 months ago when I drew up the plans and started to get quotes on this crazy idea of buying 5 different ‘off-the-plan’ kit-form farm sheds of all different sizes, heights and shapes, and then bolting tham all together, to make something a little bit different and more interesting. It’s worked!

Today is Good Friday and everything is closed for some obscure ancient pagan reason, so we are working hard at home as usual. As the brickies have finished the verandah wall, we can start to fettle it and begin to wash it down with dilute hydrochloric acid and scrubbing brushes. I’m using a 0.5 norm muriatic acid from a big hardware chain. I’m diluting it to a 10% titration just strong enough to react with the lime in the mortar to dissolve the white ‘blush’ and occasional streak of smeared excess mortar from the brick face, but not strong enough to cause any damage to our skin if spilt. We are wearing long rubber work gloves and goggles, just in case.

We spent most of the day from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm. on the cleaning of the wall. We first went over the entire wall, every brick, brick by brick, scrubbing it down with acid, then follow this up with another going over with the water blaster gadget. The wall looks better, but not quite good enough or clean enough. There were still a few smudges here and there when we came back from lunch and got a fresh look at the surface.

We decide to go over it again with the dilute acid wash and scrubbing brushes. We follow this up again with the high pressure water blaster. Our supposedly, high pressure, water blaster is just a toy, We bought it very cheaply over 20 years ago and have hardly used it, as it’s not very powerful, but it does blow off just enough of the lime gunge without damaging any of the bricks or the environment. It turns out to be just perfect for this job. I wish that I had owned it 35 years ago when I had to wash all the brick work on the old school extension. I did all of that acid scrub and water rinse off by hand from buckets carried up onto the scaffold. It’s amazing how fast a bucket of water can get emptied by hand using a sponge. I spent more time climbing up and down the scaffold, than I did washing bricks.

But that was then and this is now. We have just had a massive down pour of rain last week, so we have an excess of water in the dams, as they are still over-flowing with the seepage from the saturated soil. So water supply is no problem for us this week. I can leave the pump on for an hour while I wash everything. The electric pump runs directly off the solar panels, it’s a sunny day, so we are just using up some of our excess solar-electric power as well.

The water is over-flowing from the dam, so If I don’t use it up in this way, it just flows out of the dam and out into the already saturated soil farther down the hill and into the ‘key-line’ system of dams that we have built over our 45 years years of living here. The water flows from one dam down into the next. We have 4 dams on the property, before the water leaves us and flows down the hill and into our neighbours dam.

We did the second acid scrub and water blast rinse, then stood back and had a good overall look. It looked better and was worth the extra few hours of work. Once the bricks were cleaned, it was time to dismantle the scaffolding piece by piece, removing all the planks and ply sheeting and stacking them all away for re-use again later. The planks and ply will be used as bench tops and tables in the pottery in a few months time when we get to that stage. They were 2nd hand when we got them given to us, as they came from a house that was demolished in Tahmoor. We had to de-nail them before we could use them as scaffolding, they will need to be heavily cleaned to remove all the spilt lime mortar before they can be used again. I will have to wash them and scrub them to remove all the sand before I can plane the surface without damaging the planer blades.

Once all the steel scaffold frames were removed and stacked on the ute, we could remove the plastic sheeting that I had stapled onto the timber windows to keep them clean. Only then could we get to see the outcome. The wall looks great. The Sussex brick bond variation that Gordon and Bill have created for us looks perfectly matched to the Old School building. It also matches the tone and hue of the old rusted galvanised iron sheeting that I used on the wall above the verandah.

I used almost 4 litres of acid to get this wall cleaned. I can see that I’ll use another 4 litres on the gable wall next week when that wall gets finished.

I’m starting to get a bit excited now as things are beginning to come together. The rest of this long weekend will be spent in the garden as everything is growing it’s head off and has been left somewhat neglected for a while now.

Lining the big shed.

We have spent the extended weekend from Friday to Sunday, in the absence of our brick layers, working on the lining of the big machinery and maintenance room. We finished the two smaller rooms, the clay making room and the other small rock crushing and grinding glaze preparation room. These rooms will have some dusty machines, crushing rocks into powder and milling that dust down to very fine glaze material. These activities need to be separated from the other working spaces to contain the dust and on occasion some noise, like the clatter of the ball mill tumbler and the chomp, chomp, chomp, of the jaw crusher.

I have ordered a dust extractor fan for each room, but they each have a big roller door in the back wall as well, so I can have plenty of fresh air in there when necessary, and I can also hose them out when required.

We have started in the big room, simply because the electricians have finished all the wiring in this room, so we can now cover all the wiring in the wall cavity. I’d rather be lining the pottery studio, but the electricians have left that room till last, so it is still not finished, hence, we can’t get in there to do any lining.

In the bigger industrially focussed maintenance and repair shed, we have been busy placing the insulwool into the wall cavity and then screwing on the re-cycled gal iron sheeting. The North wall is now complete and we have started on the West end and the southern wall.

The long weekend has flown by. The heavy rain turned to torrential, then to just short of flooding rain. All 4 dams filled up and over flowed on Saturday night. There is flooding reported in the lower laying areas around Sydney.

It’s an very odd image to my mind, to see a dam full of water and overflowing with a back drop of dead, burnt and blackened trees.

We have been dry and warm in our shed working productively and listening to the heavy rain beating down on the tin roof, drumming out a rhythm with the gusting winds, pulsing and hammering. So loud sometimes that we have to yell to be heard.

We have to wear ear muffs a lot of the time, not because of the rain, but because I have to cut the steel sheeting to size and profile with the small hand held angle grinder. This also entails wearing goggles and gloves. I start to feel a bit disconnected and isolated inside this safety gear. I’m pleased to remove it after each session of cutting.

Because of the flooding rain, we have postponed the bricklayers next visit for another week, as everything is just saturated. Even though we covered all the bricks with plastic tarps. The rain has been so severe, that the water flowed under the brick pile and the evaporation and condensation under the tarps is considerable. We need a few days of warm weather and sunshine to dry the site and the bricks out.

We have spent all of this Monday working on the lining of the big shed, making it 4 days straight of wall insulating paneling. We finished most of it, except the mezzanine floor today.

It’s starting to look more complete.

As we have a whole week without brick layers, we will get a lot of time to work on the lining.

The Rain Sets In and We Are Ready

The rain has set in now. The forecast is for lots of rain for the next week, possibly longer. Rain is usually good for us. We look on rain as a blessing. We exist here out in our little hamlet, relying on rain water for all our household needs, catching the rain on the roof and directing it into lots of rain water storage tanks for use later on in the dry times. There is no government supply of reticulated water here. That suits us fine, as we are well practiced in our self-imposed responsibility to be self reliant. managing water is a bit like managing money, We save our resources in times of excess and store it away safely ], then dole it out sparingly when there are lean times.

So although rain is good, very good in fact. On this occasion, we could do without it for the next week, but as this doesn’t look like it is going to happen, the next best thing is to change plans and take up the option of working under the verandah for the next couple of days.

We made steady progress under the verandah and next week we should be able to lay the arches over the front door and the 5 front windows. Building an arch is a slow process if you want to get it right. We have 6 of them to build next week when our bricklayers start back. The forecast for the end of next week is to be a lot dryer. Maybe then we can start back on the high south facade and complete the gable?

While the brickies have time off, Janine and I are working inside the building doing the lining. Janine is cutting and fitting the insulation wool into the wall cavity, while I come behind cutting-in and fixing the old re-cycled corrugated iron sheeting. It’s really nice looking material, old and well weathered, slightly rusty and matt grey. It’s the perfect lining for a hard working workshop. This part of the building will be for repairs and maintenance, so there will be angle grinders and welders being used in here. The great thing about an old weathered lining is that you can’t damage it or scratch it. Or at least if you do, no-one will notice. It doesn’t need painting or maintenance either.

While it rains hard, the best place to be is inside a new dry shed doing the lining. If we get a good couple of days in over the weekend we might get one of the long walls finished. We will really appreciate the value of the insulation when the weather gets hotter and or cooler with the changing of the seasons in the coming years. 

Cutting in around power points and windows is time consuming and the ladder work to get up to 4 metres to reach the top row of screws is taxing. The reward of seeing the progress keeps us going. However, when 5.30 rolls around, I’m happy to stop.

Modern steel framed kit-form farm sheds are pretty boring. I’ve tried here to use all the off-the-shelf components that are available, in a creative way to create a combination of varying shapes, sizes and differing heights, all bolted together to give a more organic composition. I think that it works. I’ve certainly never seen another ‘modern sheet metal shed’ like it.

A well constructed arch is a beautiful thing

When the weekend comes around, we spend time playing catch-up. There are so many jobs that don’t get proper attention during the week, just a cursory glance. I get stuck in and pick tomatoes, Zucchinis, pumpkins, etc.

Janine has been doing all the garden harvesting during the week while I’m flat out being builders labourer to our wonderful, sensitive and highly skilled, couple of brick layers.

Saturday is the time for washing, sorting and chopping all the sub-prime tomatoes. The best ones are put aside for the weeks lunch time salads. All the rest are chopped up and boiled down into passata, starting with frying brown onions in good olive oil, then adding a knob of peeled and chopped garlic. This batch, I’m adding lots of capsicums and chilli, as well as the usual bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, some sage leaves, and loads of sweet basil. The sweet basil is trying to go to seed just now, so I have to continuously pay attention to pick off the flowering heads, with a couple of leaves. Back in the kitchen, I strip all the useful leaves from the somewhat woody stalks and florets. I eventually get about 3 hands full of leaves and my hands smell divine for an hour.

I usually bring the chopped fruit to the boil and then continue for an hour longer on a low simmer. Once the vegetables and herbs are well and truely reduced to pulp, I put the pan aside and let it cool. Later, I come back to it and pass the boiled pulp through a moulii sieve to extract most of the stalks, herbs, seeds and skins. I choose not to use the very fine screen in the moulii. I usually use the medium screen. This lets a few tomatoes seeds through, but it also passes some of the herbage. I like the rougher texture. It somehow feels more honest and real.

This time, I also add 2 teaspoons of salt to the pan, just for that little extra savoury hit. I generally avoid salt in my cooking, but tomatoes and eggs, both really comer alive with just a little of the poison. I do this because salt is in everything that you buy, and in excess, it isn’t good for you. As nearly all processed foods are loaded with the stuff. I think that it’s best to keep my consumption of self-inflicted salt as low as possible. The result of this self-imposed restriction, is that Janine and I both have blood pressure that is at the lower end of normal. 110 over 60.

The resultant puree is again brought to the boil to reduce it by about 1/3 and then bottled. My 5 litres of original chopped fruit, is reduced to 2.75 litres of tomato sugo or passata.

This stuff is magic. It’s so hard to describe a combination of aroma and taste, but trust me it is amazing. This ritual of making tomato sauce every summer is the closest that I come to having a religion.

We chopped up one of our big greenish grey, glaucous ‘Queensland Blue’ pumpkins and Janine made pumpkin soup that will last for a day or two. Even feeding our two brickies.

We have been supporting our brick laying brothers by mixing lime mortar, stacking bricks up onto the high scaffold, passing up queen closers and snap headers to them and generally being helpful and supportive in whatever inept way that we can, whilst staying mostly out of their way. It can be a bit dangerous working below a scaffold, with occasion objects falling down at times. The odd trowel, but mostly brick spalls.

I had to go into town and buy us two safety helmets to keep us safe. Appropriately identified as belonging to the King and Peasant.

The work on the southern facade progresses this week with the home-made double story scaffold including safety rail. The arch is now completed, fitting the two keystones that close the archs. A ‘keystone’ is the last brick that fits in the arch, joining both sides of the span securely. The key stone is no more important than any other brick in the arch, every brick is equally important, it’s just the last one to be placed. Once the arch is secure, the wall is closed over the top, requiring me to cut a few special tapered ‘wedge’ bricks to bring the coursed brickwork back to level over the arch.

A well constructed arch is a beautiful thing. I built over 300 kilns over the course of my kiln building career. With the assistance of my good friend Warren, who was my right hand man for over 25 years, we prided ourselves in creating perfect arches in our brick lined pottery kilns. I know the whereabouts of some of these early kilns, and they are still working well after a very long life of untold firings over 30 years and more.

A well constructed arch is a beautiful thing!

We have spent two days on it and there is still the best part of a day to go the get the gable facade complete. It will require another small centre section of extra scaffold to allow the ridge to be reached comfortably and safely.

As the rain has started to set in, and is forecast for the remainder of the week, we finish the day by wrapping the new brickwork with its soft, freshly laid, mortar joints and covering it with black plastic to stop the rain from washing the joints out over night. If we are lucky, the rain will be very light or hold off for another day so that we can get the wall finished.

If the rain persists, we will be working under the verandah area and try to finish off the front wall around the door and windows instead.

Bonded

We have spent the last week working with our heritage bricklayers. The job progresses slowly and steadily. I spent the first half of the week working on the southern high arch window end wall.

Mid week I had to build a scaffold to allow the brickies to get higher.

On Thursday I got some help from our son Geordie and my good friend Colin the builder who came over for a couple of hour to help me erect the wooden arch former so as to facilitate support the arch bricks over the arch. I built the frame, but couldn’t hold it up safely while I secured it in place without help.

The brick work proceeded up the wall pretty quickly, so Colin and I spent Friday afternoon building the scaffolding up to the second level and securing it to make it very stable, then creating a safe ty rail around the top to make it safe for the brickies while they work up there next week.

While we worked on the end wall, the brickies worked under the verandah to keep the job moving along.

I secure the brick veneer wall to the corrugated ironed steel rail wall by using what are called ‘brick ties’. These are specially designed steel brackets that are screwed to the steel wall and are embedded into the cement mortar.

These are sold in boxes of 150 units. I am placing these ties on every 2nd brick, on every 3rd course of brick work. We are about half way through the job and we have used almost 4 boxes so far. I can see us using about 1,000 of these in total. Tragically for me, these things are made to secure the brickwork to a timber frame, so the hole in the tie to allow the nail or screw through is made too small for the big roofing screws that I’m using. So I have to spend half an hour a day drilling out the holes from 4 mm. to 6.5 mm.

To prevent any bricks being dropped onto the glass panes, I have screwed plywood panels onto the arch formwork supports and then covered the plywood with black builders plastic to keep it from getting wet in the rain that is forecast this coming week.

It’s all very tedious and takes so much time, but is so very necessary, as replacing a broken pane would take a longer time and cost more.

In chatting to Bill, one of the bricklayers, it turns out that he was taught by a master bricklayer, Dave Smith, who came from Leeds in Yorkshire. I tell him that my father was born in Leeds. Bill likes this bit of news and spends our next few ‘smoko’ breaks telling me all about his good ‘mate’ Dave. He even rings Dave up to tell him about the job, about our ‘Sussex bond’ variations, and about our Yorkshire/Leeds connection.

It also turns out that Bills brother Gordon, our other brickie, knows a lot of our friends here in the Highlands, as Gordon lived here for a decade in the 80’s. We discuss our connections and it turns out that we must have met 35 years ago, or if not, at least been at the same ‘open house’ music concerts.

It’s a small world. We are bonded by more than just bricks and mortar. We have the Sussex bond, the Leeds bond and the Open House music bond.

A weekend off

We are having a weekend off from the brick wall. We need to get into the garden, as there are tomatoes and chillis that need to be picked and preserved.

There are also capsicums, cucumbers and the sweet basil is always wanting to go to seed at this time of year, so it needs a good trim, taking all the flowering tops off to encourage it to put on new leaves and shoots.

I picked a 3kg basin of small egg shaped tomatoes. I didn’t select these plants, they were given to me as an unknown variety. I wouldn’t bother with them again. Too much work for so small a return. But they will make good passata sauce.

8 litres of rough chopped tomatoes, in two boilers, gets reduced and concentrated down to just 3 litres of sauce. But its really nice and intensely flavourful sauce. You can’t buy concentrated, intense, organic home made , small batch passata like this. Or if you could. I couldn’t afford it!

The kitchen smells so good. Especially when I come back in from working outside in the fresh air. The intensity of the fragrance hits me. You don’t notice it as much when you are working in amongst it. It becomes common place. You need a break away from it to realise/recognise the true intensity. Just like so many other things in life. Home made passata is concentrated life in a jar.

We need the weekend break to catch up on other jobs too. We have been collecting timber planks to use a scaffolding. There isn’t a single stick of timber that survived the fire here. I used to have loads of stacks of re-cycled lumber, all stacked under cover, just waiting for a time when they would become useful for some job or other. They all burnt.

We have managed to scrounge enough – I think, to do the job, but it all needs to be de-nailed.

It’s all a bit tough on our wrists, elbows and lower back, so we spread our attack over the weekend, a bit each day. It’s all done by Sunday lunch time. We are taking part in the ‘Clean-up Australia’, so need to be all done before that.

I also picked a load of spinach from the garden, so Janine made a couple of spinach and 3 cheese pies for dinner. Ricotta, feta and gorgonzola, extra yummy.

While I finished the de-nailing, Janine was inside milling up the red and green chillis into chilli paste with a little salt and olive oil. This will keep us going for a another year.

Then finally she stews up some pears for breakfasts, later in the week. This is self-reliance.

Creative Variation – Sussex bond

Our two brick layers turned up on Monday as promised. We have two brothers who have been laying bricks for most of their lives. They have done a lot of work on heritage buildings, so looking at our old school classroom dating back to 1893 was pretty straight forward for them. Yes, it is a variation on Flemish bond brick work, but not at all really like Flemish. It’s a variation!

I have done a fair bit of research on the brick pattern and it is some sort of hybrid along the lines of Sussex wall bond. So we assume that that our old brickie, way back in 1893 was from Sussex, or was taught by someone who was, and wasn’t too concerned about the regularity of his laying pattern. There are lots of variations from 3:1 stretchers to a header, to 2:1 stretchers to a header, right down to 1:1

He used both queen closers, which is a 1/4 sized brick, and king closers where necessary to fit the space allowed between windows and door etc. It’s a mixed bag variation. This is terrific for me, as it means that we can do almost anything that fits the space, as needed. As long as we put a snap header in every one or two stretchers. Gordon and Bill work it out with me as we go. “What should we do here?”, “What do you think of this”. I always refer back to the original building, but also to the addition that we did in 1985/86/87. Our brickie at that time was Denis, a semi retired, older Englishman, who lived locally and very experienced and capable tradesman. He did a terrific job of matching the additions onto the original building.

All of us added up, Gordon, Bill and I together, total 213 years of experience with this heritage brickwork. We are working it out as we go along in a really gentle and flexible way, so as to get the best outcome. It’s looking good. We are really lucky to meet these two guys. They are really great to work with, and the job is coming along really well.

I’m working pretty hard, keeping up the bricks and mortar to these two brickies. Janine is still at the brick cleaning bench part of each day, cleaning the halves and broken bricks that are so important to the look of the bond. We have so many broken bits in the pile of old bricks that we salvaged from the old Mittagong Railway Station. I want to use them all up, to save cutting whole bricks. We have them here, so we have to use them.

At the end of each day, while the brickies clean up and dress down the work. I go to the diamond blade brick saw and start to work through the pile of total reject bricks that have no real use as they are partly shattered, or broken at both ends. I cut these up on the saw bench to make 1/4 brick pieces to use as the ‘Queen closers’. This is an essential part of the ‘look’ of the brick bond pattern. These are an essential part of the bond pattern. At this stage in the job, I need 14 1/4 bricks in each course, as they are laying about 5 or 6 courses per day. I need to cut 70 or 80 pieces each afternoon after work, to be ready for the next day.

On the 4th day, there is just Gordon here for a short day. We place all 5 of the sand stone window sills that I made. The first one takes a little time to get right, then they all go in pretty easily after that, once we had figured out the best way to do it.

I’m very pleased with the outcome. Once they are bricked in and pointed up they look terrific!