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Colonial Williamsburg to begin brickmaking for restoration projects

Saturday - 11/10/2012, 6:30pm  ET

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) - Brick makers at Colonial Williamsburg are preparing to fire up the kiln to make bricks to be used in reconstruction and restoration projects throughout the historic area.

Next week the historic tradesmen will burn about 20,000 bricks for the reconstruction of the James Anderson Blacksmith and Public Armoury and other projects.

The reconstruction plan recreates the industrial complex owned and operated by James Anderson. He was appointed public armourer in 1776 by the General Assembly of Virginia.

Officials say firing the kiln is a 24-hour operation as the fires are fueled day and night.

Colonial Williamsburg said the brickmaking season begins in mid-spring. Barefoot guests walk through the brick mud pit to help mix the clay and water to the consistency of bread dough. The brick mix is molded into unfired, bricks and allowed to dry in the open air for at least five days. Then they are moved under cover to continue the drying process. After at least one month of drying, the bricks are ready to be stacked in the kiln.

The kiln typically produces three grades of brick, distinguishable by color. Most of the bricks will appear dark red, indicating they are the strongest bricks. Their characteristics depend on their location in the kiln _ bricks farthest from the kiln fires turn a salmon color and are softer, while those closest to the fires are often darker and the most brittle. Those bricks are used in decorative masonry patterns.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates and maintains the preserved 18th century site as an educational and tourist venue.

Its current brickmaking program began in 1987, when brick makers began by investigating and testing 18th-century brick formulas, kiln construction and drying and firing techniques. Because they're used for restoration and reconstruction projects, they must pass tests for compression strength and porosity. Bricks fired this year should satisfy comfortably modern building code requirements, officials said.



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