Brickmaking was an essential activity in colonial times, and every town had a brickmaker or two who would travel to and live at the construction site along with his crew. Thomas Jefferson's journal mentioned that a crew of three laborers assisting one brickmaker could mold 2,000 bricks in a day. Making bricks was a relatively simple, if somewhat tedious, process and was generally considered unskilled labor often performed by slaves or even women and children. However, both the firing of the bricks in the kiln and the actual bricklaying was the work of a skilled and knowledgeable craftsman.
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In the 18th century, bricks were made by loading clay mixed with filler like ashes and sand into wooden frames, drying and then firing the bricks in a kiln. This meant that typical carpentry tools like a saw, hammer and nails were important parts of a colonial brickmaker's tool set as he built the frames for the several different types of bricks that might be used on a single project. Other important brickmaker supplies included drying racks, tables and sheds.
Shovels and Trowels
Shovels and flat-head trowels were used at several stages of the brickmaking process. Shovels and long poles were used for stirring the wet clay mixture and for the bulk filling in of the brick frames. Trowels of various sorts were used for final filling of the frames and the smoothing off of the wet brick surfaces.
Tongs, Shovels and Other Kiln Equipment
Operating a kiln, which was generally kept burning for six straight days, required a number of tools, including shovels and tongs. Even in the 18th century, kiln workers wore basic protective equipment like heavy gloves and aprons.