What do you know about the process of traditional manual firing of bricks and tiles?

Handmade bricks and tiles make history, hard work for nothing

Traditional Qin bricks and hand-fired Han tiles have gone through more than 2,000 years of historical evolution and have made an indelible contribution to the development of Chinese architectural art. Today they have been officially replaced by modern new technologies and new materials. Gone from the stage of history. I was fortunate to witness and experience the latest glory of the brick and tile craft when I was a child. My father learned the trade of fired brick and tile when he was young because he had no other skills to support his family.

The manufacture of bricks and tiles is painstaking and unprofitable work. My family has been in the brick and tile business for over ten years. Except for ten years of hard work, the brick and tile business hasn't generated a dime of income, among which the father's personal vision of the business and his rampant gambling behavior are the key factors that lead to the ultimate failure of this business.

Twenty years ago, there were less than three brick and tile workshops in Taibai City, one belonged to the Huang family in Xiachankou, the other was the home of an uncle and a small workshop of his father. My father probably learned how to make bricks and tiles from his uncle. For as long as I can remember, he often worked with his uncle at the brick and tile kiln. The site where they made bricks and tiles, and the brick kiln for firing bricks and tiles are in the same place, and they are used in rotation.

When they first learned how to make bricks and tiles, their brick and tile factory was located at a place called "Brick Factory" three kilometers from home. It is assumed that at first it was a barren hill, because they opened the Brick Factory, now it is a field and is still called the Brick Factory.

For reasons unknown, the brick and tile factory was moved to an open site behind my uncle's new house, and the original brick and tile factory was abandoned. During the period of moving to the new brick factory, our family did not build a new house, and the whole family lived in the house with the uncle's family and the uncle's family. Later, the older uncle and the second uncle's family built a new house behind the old house where we lived. My family gave a third of the old house to the second uncle's family, and the older uncle's family still occupied a third of the old house alone.

At that time I was less than six years old, so I don't remember many things very clearly, I only have a vague impression, but I still remember the whole process of making and firing bricks and tiles. When my father was making bricks and tiles, I would tie up my pants and play with the mud next to him, and I could see the whole process clearly. My father and my uncle use the same production workshop and the same set of production tools. Since there are two processes in the whole brick and tile production process that take a relatively long time, a lot of time can be spent on repairs. One is drying. After the bricks and tiles are finished, they need to be carefully stacked and air-dried. This process cannot be exposed to the sun, but can only be dried naturally, which takes a long time; dry bricks and tiles are packed in a brick kiln, coal is fired. This process takes half a month from loading to turning off the fire and opening the kiln. The father and uncle used the gap between these two processes to alternately produce bricks and tiles.

Next, I will briefly talk about the production process of bricks and tiles. Bricks and tiles can be divided into blue bricks, red bricks and blue tiles and red tiles according to the color produced after firing. The blue color is a sign of successful firing, and the hardness of the finished product is also the highest, while the red semi-finished product has low hardness and is easy to break. Making bricks is easier than tiles. In terms of price, the price of blue bricks and blue tiles is also higher than that of blue bricks. Except for the difficulty of making them, the firing process is the same.

First of all, loess is mined. For the production of bricks and tiles, highly purified yellow clay is used at a depth of more than one meter from the surface. Loess is only found in places with thicker soil, which is a relatively scarce resource. Clean up the fertile black soil on the surface, dig it up with a hoe and transport it in a basket. Having made adobe once, you need to carry hundreds of baskets of loess in a basket.

Secondly, this is the preparation of adobe. Once the loess is collected, it is folded into a flat circular pit and filled with the appropriate amount of water to completely soak it. It is fully bound, sufficiently viscous and able to form. The process of advancing and kneading the soil takes about a day.

The next day, after the mixed loess has taken on water, gather it in a pile and cover with plastic wrap so that the water does not evaporate. When making bricks, take as much as you need, and all the mixed adobe must be turned into bricks within a week, otherwise the adobe cannot be used after the water has evaporated after more than a week.

The last step is the production of raw bricks, that is, bricks before firing. The main tools for making bricks are brick boxes, wire arcs and base plates, and these tools need to be used in combination with each other. The brick box is a mold for making bricks. When using, put the brick box on the working platform, place a base plate under the box, cut a piece of adobe with a wire arc, hold the adobe with both hands. , and break it into a brick box Inside, use a wire shackle to cut off the excess adobe on the surface of the brick box. There is a gap in the middle of the brick box. Cut the wire shackle along the gap to split the whole brick into two. Take them together with the brick box to the mound where the raw bricks lie, and lay them carefully, then with your right hand unlock the lock on the side of the brick box, loosen the tire and take out the brick box, so that two raw bricks at a time are considered ready, next time wait for it to dry naturally.

Tile making is relatively more difficult than brick making. The method of making adobe is the same as before, so I won't repeat it again. Let me introduce the following process in detail. The tools used to make tiles include tile cylinders, tile cloth, polishing sheets, arc wires and turntables.

First of all, a “tile” 120 cm long, 30 cm wide and 150 cm high is made from the mixed adobe and placed in a cool place next to the rotating platform. The next thing is to make the tile. Place the tube of the tile on the round rotating platform, put on the tile a piece of cotton cloth, cut off a piece of tile blank about two centimeters thick on the tile with a wire bow, and lay the tile evenly with both hands. Hold the blank, wrap it around the cylinder for tiles, rotate the turntable with your left hand, hold the polishing pad with your right hand and dip it into the water, and beat the tiles evenly. until the surface is smooth and even. After these processes are completed, hold the handle of the tile cylinder with your hand, take the tile cylinder, put it in a bamboo basket filled with sawdust, let the bottom of the tile cylinder be covered with sawdust, and then lay the tile. Cylinder on flat surface At the top, manually remove the fixed lock of the tile cylinder and pull it up, the tile cylinder will separate from the tile blank and become a cylindrical tile blank.

Because there is a layer of gauze and tile fabric between the tile cylinder and the tile blank, they do not stick together and are easier to separate. There are five micro-separating lines on the body of the tile cylinder. After the tile blanks have dried in the shade, gently stroke the sides of the cylinder with your hands, and the cylindrical tile blanks will be divided into four tiles. However, this also requires some experience and skills. If you are not a professional, then if you lightly pat your hands, then it is very likely that it will turn into a pile of broken dirt.

One tile cylinder can produce four tiles at a time, and one person can make over a thousand tiles in one day, but all processes are added together and wages are calculated by the number of days. wages are estimated at less than ten yuan, which is indeed true. Relatively menial work. After the tiles have been flattened, they should be carefully stacked one by one and laid vertically on the mound to air dry. After about a month of drying, they can be fired in the kiln.

The process of firing bricks and tiles is similar. They can be fired alone or mixed with bricks and tiles. When fired together, bricks are heavy and have good bearing capacity, so they should be placed on the bottom layer, and tiles break easily, so they should be placed on the top layer. I have seen a lot of mixed firing of bricks and tiles, but I have never seen tiles fired separately.

The firing of bricks and tiles in the kiln is the most difficult and tedious process in the production of bricks and tiles. The rest of the processes are carried out by the father alone, without any help, except for the work of firing bricks and tiles and maintaining the kiln, more than 20 people helped .

Before preparing for the installation of the stove, the mother will notify the relatives and neighbors who came to help in advance so that they determine the time for the installation of the stove. On the day the stove is installed, a few people should be specially invited to help with food preparation, tea making, and logistical support. Except for the adults, the children in the family also did not sit idle, everyone ran back and forth with bricks and tiles, exhausted. The father and uncle are responsible for laying the bricks in the kiln, while other relatives and neighbors who help are responsible for transporting the bricks, tiles, and coal. Older children can help pass the bricks, tiles, and charcoal to the brick kiln.

The technology of laying bricks and tiles must be operated by experienced craftsmen. When laying, it is necessary to mix and match horizontally and vertically. There must be gaps for ventilation at a certain distance. The gaps are filled with coal. A certain amount of bricks and tiles corresponds to a certain amount of coal. Make sure the charcoal can burn through bricks and tiles.

A traditional clay brick kiln can fire 30,000 bricks and 50,000 tiles at the same time, and it takes a whole day to install the kiln. After completing the oven installationthe oven door, skylight and window in the floor must be sealed, and the oven door must be repaired to look like a oven, with a hearth and viewing windows inside. For the first two days, heat slowly at a low temperature and over low heat so that the cracks do not heat up too quickly. After the temperature reaches a certain height on the third day, start roasting at high heat and monitor the color change through the viewing window so that after three days of continuous high-temperature roasting, there is no need to add charcoal. After the seventh day of firing, the skylight, the floor window and the furnace door are sealed, fill the water tank at the top of the furnace with water, and insert the cuttings from the water tank into the furnace with iron solder, so that the water in the water tank slowly flows into the furnace to achieve cooling effect under anaerobic conditions. Once the kiln has finished cooling, the kiln door can be opened to remove the fired bricks and tiles.

The key to the quality of kiln-fired bricks and tiles is the release of water for cooling, so the process of releasing water for three consecutive days should be guided by the experience gained in normal times. If you open the stove door and see that the stove is full of blue bricks and tiles, the whole family will be happy, but if it is full of red bricks and tiles, then you can only cry without tears.

Paternal technology for firing bricks and tiles is relatively mature, and his firing failures are relatively rare. Many years later we moved to a new house, and my father's brick workshop also moved to the site of the new house, and we took land from our garden for production. Many years later, China entered the industrial age, and high-efficiency, high-volume production of mechanized bricks and tiles replaced traditional handmade bricks and tiles.

With the advent of new modern materials such as reinforced concrete, new buildings no longer use traditional bricks and tiles, and some of the bricks and tiles used in ancient buildings are also mechanized and mass-produced. eliminated by the trend of history. Since then he has become a vagabond. He already enjoys gambling, but he becomes even more obsessed with gambling when he has no career restrictions and never came back. Looking back at the fact that he was in the brick and tile business for more than ten years, he not only did not bring any benefit to family life, but also dragged our family into suffering along with him.

Especially during my elementary school years, I will never forget that every time the brick kiln door was opened and the freshly fired bricks and tiles weren't sold for a dime, the card debt collectors came. to require The money was gone and the family really couldn't afford it, so they had to use bricks and tiles, fresh out of the oven, to pay off the card debtd. Later, card debt collectors booked our bricks and tiles before they even left the kiln, leaving the whole family in no mood to work. After a year of hard work, it was all in vain.