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What are 'Sand Moulded' brick slips

Sand moulded brick slips and bricks are made in a similar way to handmade brick slips but in more of a mechanised way.

When making ‘stock’ bricks (the technical term for sand coated brick slips derived from the old handmaking ‘Stock and BIock’ mould) machines take over the role of part or all of the process.

 Traditional but regular

Sand moulded brick slips are reasonably regular and have a relatively featureless face compared to handmade bricks but exhibit some of the soft, rounded edges and irregularity of shape and size due to the moulding process.

The ‘Pros’

Cost Effective
Being machine made they are faster to produce and involve less labour. Sand moulded brick slips are mostly used as facing brick slips in the Southern Counties as a facing brick.
Aesthetically attractive
Matclad sand moulded brick slips are still sanded and demoulded by hand rather than using a fully automated brick pressing machine. This gives the end product a slightly more irregular (but more controlled) size and finish.

The ‘Cons’

Relatively mono-textured
If you are looking for a feature wall handmade or reclaimed brick slips are more textured and varied.

The process of making brick cost effectively and in volume began, as with many industries, to become achievable in the late 19th century with the advent of steam power and the Industrial revolution. Gone were the days of ‘pugging’ clay by foot and throwing the shapes by hand and in it’s place the skilled artisans were mostly replaced by machines.

The Pug and Brick Kettle Press

Machine designers produced simple ‘pugging’ machines to more complex presses. A whole suite of machines were designed from c. 1850 onwards and in principle have barely changed in design albeit with more automation and safety features than the hand-cranked clay press shown below…

Hand cranked clay press from 1851
Hand cranked clay press from 1851

Mixing and moulding the clay brick slips

Clay is put into a mixing machine either dry or semi-wet and water is added until, as the machine mixes and blends the clay and water, the clay becomes a soft pliable material ready for a shaping machine.

This ‘soft mud’ clay mix is then fed into a brick press which, dependent on the design, either pushes or drops the clay into more modern plastic moulds fed around in a circuit. These presses, due to being mechanically driven can exert more pressure and as a result mould more bricks at a time than a person can.

Matclad have invested in, and modified, brick machines to produce brick slips for the UK and international markets. You can watch the handmaking and sand moulded brick slip production process in the following video.

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