To kick off the month of March, our Young Designer’s Core (YDC) spent an informative and fun afternoon with Steve Bolognese and Danny McCarthy at the Bricklayers & Allied Craftsmen Apprentice Training Center.
People from all walks of life come to the Center to learn “trowel crafts” through a hands-on experience with brick, block, stone, tile and terrazzo. An apprentice bricklayer typically takes an intensive 10-week course at the Center and then spends several more years in on-the-job training. While we only had one afternoon, we learned a lot about brick construction and took home some good tips and design insight.
For YDC’s first hour at the Center, Steve presented examples of brick construction details and discussed how they can fail in the field. With brick construction, common flashing and joint problems can occur but with proper detailing this can be prevented. Steve directed us to some great online resources with brick construction details and technical notes.
For the second hour, we got our hands dirty with real brick and mortar! After a quick tutorial on the “pick and dip” method of bricklaying from Danny, we started constructing courses of running bond. We scooped the mortar with our trowels and carefully laid the bricks into (what we hoped were) neat rows. After a laying a few practice courses we felt emboldened and experimented with soldier courses and angled brick courses. We even built a small arch using a wooden form!
As we learned in the presentation, bricks are not uniform units – their size can vary by ¼” or more. This is very apparent when your last brick in the course doesn’t fit. To solve this problem, Danny showed us how to knock a brick down to size with a hammer. As designers, we can be selective about the bricks that we choose for a project and understand a mason’s methods for dealing with variances in the field.
Below you can see our brick creations which we made sure to photograph knowing they would not last long. The mortar we used is for training purposes and does not set. All of the brick we laid will be dismantled and used again by masons-in-training.
Special thanks to Steven and Danny of the International Masonry Institute for introducing us to the world of bricklaying.