| Village-Level Brickmaking |
Many countries have an abundance of the natural elements needed to produce bricks, but there are usually few areas which have all the necessary conditions within a 15 km radius of the brick site. It is essential to verify before beginning to establish a small brick production centre that all these conditions do exist. If the planned brick site lacks even one of the minimum conditions listed here, it is not advisable to establish a production centre at that site.
The ten minimum conditions that a first-time producer needs to examine very closely are:
4. Fuel (firewood or coal)
9. Tools and Equipment
A production unit needs to have good quality clay to produce a strong brick that can be used in construction. Certain types of clay are not good for making fired bricks. For example, the clay used by a potter to make bowls and cups is not good for making bricks because it has a high shrinkage rate which causes the bricks to crack during drying.
If there is no tradition of making bricks in your area and if you are not certain that the clay you intend to use is the correct type, contact your local public works office and ask for assistance in analysing the soil. Never begin the full scale production of bricks with a clay soil which has not been thoroughly tested. In Appendix 1, there are some simple initial tests which can be done to check clay quality, but it is still recommended that you contact a knowledgeable person to assist in selecting the correct clay.
To produce 1,000 bricks per day, about 3 cubic metres of clay soil must be prepared each day. The distance between the place where the clay is dug and the brick moulding site should not be more than 200 metres.
To produce bricks you must have water available in sufficient quantity. If you plan to make bricks during the entire dry season, check with the local population that your planned source of water (a lake, stream, pond or well) does not dry up during that time. Also make sure that the brickmaking unit will not be competing for the same water used for public bathing, washing, drinking, irrigating crops or watering animals.
To produce 1,000 bricks per day, at least 600 litres of water will be needed. You will also need to have a container to store that water in; three empty fuel drums, each with a 200 litre capacity, are ideal.
If the water is to be carried daily to the brick site by hand, the distance between the river or lake and the brick site should not be more than 500 metres.
Sand is used as a releasing agent during the moulding of a brick. It prevents the wet clay from sticking to the sides of the mould. It is also sometimes used as a stabilizer and mixed with very clayey soils to prevent the bricks from cracking when drying.
If sand is used as a releasing agent and must be fetched with wheelbarrows or buckets, the distance between the source of the sand and the brick site should be less than 1 km.
4. Fuel (firewood or coal)
To fire the bricks well, you will need sufficient amounts of fuel; either firewood or coal.
If you fire bricks with coal, you will need 1 1/8 sacks of coal and 1/2 sack of cinders for every 1,000 bricks. For example, to fire 20,000 bricks, you will need 22.5 sacks of coal and 10 sacks of cinders.
If you fire bricks with wood, you will need one ton or 3m3 of firewood for every 1,000 bricks. For example, to fire 20,000 bricks you will have to gather 60 cubic metres of firewood.
Because there are so few areas with forests that can meet the demands of a brick producing unit, it will be necessary to establish a woodlot to supply firewood if you plan to fire many kilns every year. Well managed woodlots can produce from 25 to 60 m, of firewood per hectare per year. In comparison, a natural forest may yield only 2 to 8 m3 per hectare per year.
Firing brick kilns will use large quantities of wood and if the cutting is carelessly done, it could lead to deforestation in your area Contact your local forestry department for advice and assistance.
If there is insufficient firewood or coal in you area, or if you are not willing to establish a woodlot, consider producing other building materials which do not need firewood or coal, such as soil-cement blocks, sand-cement blocks, or stabilized soil.
To minimize the cost of transport, the fuel should be as close as possible to the brickmaking site and should not be more than 10 km.
You will need sufficient space to mould and dry the bricks. The site should be smooth and level. A brick unit producing 1,000 bricks per day will need an area from 600 to 1,000 square metres.
It is essential that a brick producing unit has some type of transport to fetch firewood or coal and possibly deliver the finished bricks to the customer. The transport used could be trucks, tractors with trailers, or oxen with suitable carts. The important point to remember, especially if the vehicles are borrowed or rented, is that the brick unit will need regular access to this transport. The amount of tune which is involved can be quite substantial, so this part must be well planned
Consider also where the brick site will be located. It should be possible for vehicles to easily enter the site and if your intention is to sell the bricks to nearby communities, the site should be located near a good access road.
The production of hand-made bricks is exhausting, tedious and dirty work. Therefore, in order for a brick production unit to succeed, the workers must be motivated or want to produce the bricks. They have to feel that the making of bricks will either benefit themselves personally by earning them a fair and just salary from the sale, or benefit their village by using the bricks in the construction of a public building such as a school or clinic.
As with any production unit or business, good management is essential. Unfortunately this aspect is often ignored or forgotten because brickmaking is considered to be a "low" or relatively simple technology. Remember that a brick production unit cannot withstand more setbacks and difficulties than a normal commercial business would be expected or prepared to tolerate.
Management of a brick unit means planning, organizing, staffing and controlling the production in order that the bricks can be produced within budget and sold at a reasonable price. This includes ensuring that:
- adequate supplies of raw materials are obtained;
- the equipment is maintained;
- suitable production facilities are available for the workers to work in safety and comfort, at a reasonable pace and for the hours allotted for the tasks;
- the quality of the product is checked regularly;
- there is a smooth flow of production;
- adequate financial arrangements are made for wages and general purchases (with a good bookkeeping system);
- suitable skilled personnel are recruited and trained; and
- the staff have specific tasks or roles and have the necessary tools and information to do the job.
9. Tools and Equipment
A brickmaking unit will need basic tools in order to make bricks. A group of 15 people producing 1,000 bricks per day will need the following minimum equipment:
2 pick axes
3 empty fuel drums, each with a 200 litre capacity
7 buckets or pails, each with a 20 litre capacity
6 hinge moulds (see page 34)
2 moulding tables (see page 34)
4 bow cutters (see page 35)
8 pallets (see page 36)
4 carrying boards (see page 44)
Financial Assistance: The time between preparing to make the first brick and selling it can be very long; this period can often be between 3 to 6 months. For this reason you have to plan how the workers' salaries and general expenses will be paid. You may have to borrow money from the bank. If you do, plan on at least 3 to 6 months of no earned income. Remember too that if you borrow, this money is not a gift and must be paid back to the bank.
Technical Assistance: All brickmaking units need technical assistance to continually improve their methods of selecting and preparing the clay, moulding the bricks, and firing them in a kiln, especially if production has only begun recently. Contact the local public works department for assistance.
Management Assistance: Finding capable people in rural areas with the expertise to manage a brick production unit is difficult and is often the greatest problem to overcome. For this reason, it would be beneficial if a production unit had access to advice on how to run a small business. Possible organizations that might offer this service are development banks, government ministries, development agencies, churches, schools, or chambers of commerce.