Bricks, as we all know, are quite literally the building blocks of construction. Eventhough these days a lot of houses are made from modern construction materials, a vast majority of them are still constructed using bricks. The use of bricks as a construction material is most commonly found in developing countries – Indonesia being one of them. As I said in my previous blogs, I visited Indonesia from the United Kingdom. A place where almost everything is done with the help of modern technology. Most of the bricks we see today have been created by machines on a large scale, which not only decreases the amount of time required to make the bricks, but also increases the amount of bricks that can be made.
When I was told that we (our group) were visiting a brick maker, I was told that the brick maker does not have the technological exposure necessary to use a machine in the brick making process, and therefore he doesn’t use any machines. But I assumed he may be using some form of a machine no matter how small, to help him. Upon arrival, I was amazed just how simple the set up was.
A brick undergoes 4 different processes in order to be strong enough to be used as a building material. The four processes are :
- Clay Preparation
- Molding the Clay
- Drying the Bricks
- Firing the Bricks
Before making a brick, the ingredients that are used are first mixed with water and made into clay. The mixing can be done either by machines, or by humans. Since this was a brick maker who didn’t use a single machine, the clay ingredients were mixed by the workers. The workers were people from 3-5 families in that particular area. After the clay is formed, workers use a simple hand made wooden mould where they put the clay into the mould and give it the rectangular shape.
Water was added during clay preparation to increase workability of the mixture, but in drying it is removed for several reasons. First, there will be less cracking in fired bricks with less water content. Second, additional fuel is needed, beyond what is used for firing, to dry the bricks in the kiln. Proper drying of bricks will involved rotating the bricks for different exposures to ensure even drying rates. For best results, drying should be done slowly. This will help with more even drying. Also, the best drying technique may change from location to location, so the brick makers must gain experience to determine the best way to dry bricks for each production process. The bricks made here however, are dried by simply placing them inside a wooden tent. In the image below, you can see the finished clay brick.
It is important to know that these bricks were made without the use of any machine or modern technology. With very limited workers and working space, the workers here are able to make about 4000 bricks every day. The brick is sold for about 300 Indonesian Rupiyah (IDR), giving the workers a profit of roughly 50 IDR. This is however, the result of Dompet Dhuafa’s help. I was told that before the organisation helped them, the workers here were producing less bricks, and were also getting a lower profit of only 15 IDR. The reason why the workers were making so less profit is because prior to Dompet Dhuafa’s financial aids, the brick makers usually borrowed money from money lenders which charged high interest rates. 15 to 50 is a big jump, which is made possible with Dompet Dhuafa’s help.