Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brick Making and Kilns in Sonora, Mx.

     (PLEASE NOTE: To see an updated version of this post please go to: Making Fired Bricks In Alamos, Sonora.)

      Welcome to this new blog on alternative building which will cover topics such as earthen building, passive solar energy, energy conservation, owner builder issues, tiling, stone masonry, woodworking, and the trades in general. Mixed in will be design ideas and as we ( my wife and I ) travel we will be reporting on what we find on the road especially in Mexico. Comments would be very appreciated and please bear with me as I learn the ropes on blogging.
     We are currently in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico where there is much of interest for builders. A friend of ours at our campground was interested in wood fired kilns for ceramics and ran across some guys firing a brick kiln nearby. Having worked with adobe as much as I have in New Mexico I  was always interested in the "next step" of firing the bricks. Here is what we found:

        I want to start with making the bricks. David watches as the mud is 
mixed and loaded in the wheel barrow. The mud is a mix of dirt from the
 site and some very red clay from about 10 Km away. I think the proportions
  are about half tierra roja and half tierra negra.

The mud is very tightly pushed into the forms, this is important.
When finished the top of the bricks are wet with water from the bucket and
 then smoothed with the metal bar in the bucket. The mix should be fairly 
stiff so the bricks do not slump when the form is removed.

 Form and bricks for a column.

This very friendly man lives on site under a plastic tent
and cooks on an open fire.

Bricks are drying ( about 3 days flat on the ground before standing on
edge ) and in the background the fire in the kiln has been started.

Bricks are stacked for further drying.

The Maestro of this operation shows us how to begin the
 building of a kiln.

This is the first of 5 rows of the inside of the kiln. The 1st course is of bricks
that have already been fired. The kiln is built from the inside out and
 dismantled after the bricks are fired. 

The fire is started and kept burning for 24 hrs.

Note how the outside bricks are sealed with mud.

There are four fireboxes - two on each end.

The top of the kiln during the firing.

The fire is out and after a couple of days the top course
is removed to help things cool off.

The outer layer of bricks are taken off.

There are 8,000 bricks here.

The fire chamber.

Must have been hot here.

This is how the bricks are used. In a later blog I will talk about how houses
are built here.

While we are on the subject I want to show you some ceramic kilns
which was the whole point of the search of our friend David. This is a 
view of the fire chamber.

This is a view down from the top showing the chamber where the 
ceramic pieces go. The supports are all masonry arches, no metal is used.
The loading and unloading is done from the top.

The back of the same kiln showing the sheet metal cover.

This small kiln in the nearby town
of La Aduana was used to fire this
 bean pot for every day use.