Making Bricks The Hard Way.

Written by: The Bridge on Friday, April 4th, 2008

When I think of getting some bricks for a garden, I think of getting a pallet from Barkman Concrete. Here in Palmgrove things are a lot different. Bricks are made entirely by hand. In the end, the finished product is of low quality and very inconsistent. But, with a rainy season that lasts eight months the people of Palmgrove rely on bricks to stop erosion. The termite ants are also a major reason for brick usage. Overall, the most notable thing about brick making is the amount of labor it takes.
To make bricks they need cement. There are five ingredients in making bricks: sand, granite, cement, water and lots of work. First two wheelbarrows of the yellowish sand are brought. Then they bring one wheelbarrow of granite sand. The two sands are mixed by reshovelling the pile of sand three times.Then they add cement and again re-shovel the pile three times.After this, water is added and again the pile is re-shoveled three times.The water is slowly added so they get moist, but not wet cement.

Left to dry.If the cement has the proper moisture, they will then shovel it into a form.The form is packed full and stamped to make sure the cement is packed properly.After this, the bricks are removed from the forms by shaking and tapping much in the same way one would make a sandcastle.They are left to dry in the sun and another set of bricks is packed in the form.They have only two sets of forms and each form will make four bricks.

However, even after all this the bricks are of low quality because they were made with such a low moisture level.The brick is not dense but reminds one of pumice stone.If the brick wasn’t packed properly and it was dropped two days latter it would break in two.Sometimes people even cheat and add more sand.I have seen a brick that I was able to crush with my hand.I have seen a stonewall where I could stick a knife through the brick and it would crumble.

So then, you ask why.All I can figure out is that they only have a few forms and invented this method to cope with what they have.These forms have to be reused to make a batch of bricks.If the cement was wetter then the bricks would run apart.As for mixing more sand, it is only a way of cheating someone of a few nairas.

Laying bricks

The people of Palmgrove make all their own bricks and in the past have had a business of selling bricks to people.One wonders why they would not use a mechanical system for mixing the cement, but as Eddy Vetter from Cascade Colony said “They’ve always done it like this, how else would they do it.”The truth is they don’t want to do it differently.

The bricks play a major role in preventing erosion around the buildings.Bricks are also used in building buildings.The bricks used in buildings are a lot larger and are mortared into place.In fact buildings have to be made of brick to prevent termites from destroying the building.Any thing that’s made of soft material may be eaten by termites in one year.

Palm wine break.Around here, when I see a brick building or a stone fence, I think of all the labor that went into making the cement. Places like the fish pound, the drainage system that runs all over Palmgrove, and all the buildings are something to marvel about when you think that it was all mixed by hand. Of course the Palmgrove young men also don’t appreciate the hard labor that goes into it.Sometimes they have to be pushed to make bricks. But at the end of a hard day of laying bricks they want their palm wine.A proverb they’ve taught me here in Palmgrove is “In the absence of what you don’t have, you do with what you got”.


Showing 17 comments

Derek said:
On: 5th Apr, 2008 at 09:21

I have a few questions. Wouldn’t it be possible to get a cement mixing machine and go into the business of selling bricks? If they have to be pushed to make bricks, wouldn’t the machine make it easier for them? Eddy Vetter says that, “They’ve always done it like this, how else would they do it.” Maybe you could show them how much easier it is with a machine.

Anonymous said:
On: 5th Apr, 2008 at 11:56

Hope You are doing all you can.And that God will gave you strength and good health to continue your journey,Thinking of and and keeping you in prayer….sandra

sandra-MGC said:
On: 5th Apr, 2008 at 12:14

Wishing you God’s protections in all you do.And also lots of Good Health.Thinking of you all. And hope you are enjoying your journey in spreading the word of God and helping out the people in need.God bless you all!

bruce said:
On: 5th Apr, 2008 at 12:54

hi .maybe this is a project that could use some north american know how.i think Hallaburtan is into cement .also they have third world experiance .and lots of it.I will have to get in touch with them and see what they recomend.good luck .bruce

MH CS said:
On: 5th Apr, 2008 at 14:34

Brian, you’re going to have one nice set of pipes when you get back, ha ha. I guess doing that in the heat also makes it more difficult. Can i hire you to make me a garden and patio when you get back?

Anonymous said:
On: 5th Apr, 2008 at 19:34

Hi Brian! Nice to hear from you! Been wondering what you have been up to on the other side of the rock. Your making bricks!! In Ancient Egypt they added straw to make them stronger. Just a thought, might help. I guess I really dont know if it is available over there. Is it?
Take Care!

Anonymous said:
On: 6th Apr, 2008 at 17:27

Great blog, Brian. We appreciate the time you two take in keeping us all updated. You’re going to have to set up a brick lab, with the help from Hallaburtan, of course, to try and develop some hardier bricks.

Nelda said:
On: 6th Apr, 2008 at 18:44

Hi Brian, I just know that not every day is free sailing over there, so I want to encourage you not to forget to do all you do with love, then it won’t matter if you’re making bricks or cleaning a dirty floor. If we keep our focus on that the burden of the day seems lighter. Keep up the good work; we continue in prayer and gratitude that you are there.

Lynda said:
On: 6th Apr, 2008 at 21:23

“I’ll huff and I’ll puff…” nope, not this house! Nice to hear from you Brian, thanks for the interesting blog,
Machs Gut

Paul Koop said:
On: 7th Apr, 2008 at 09:08

Hey Brian,

Being in the Brick business, I though I’d add my 2 cents. Here at Barkman Concrete we also add very little water, in some cases when the sand is wet we virtually add none, the difference is we vibrate the concrete while its under great pressure, that makes it strong. A dry brick like you have there, has positives, it sticks to mortar extremely well better than our bricks would, it’s lighter and easer for building structures. I agree, the powered mixer would really help. Take care. Paul

Anonymous said:
On: 7th Apr, 2008 at 14:11


Palmgrove dose have its own cement mixing machine, but the men in Palmgrove would rather mix cement the way they have always mixed it, with shovels.
They also have a tile roofing shop in Palmgrove but orders for roofing tiles are sometimes scarce. Not too many orders for roofing tiles when your surrounded with mud huts and brick homes with metal sheets for roofing. Only the rich can afford roofing tiles.

cm said:
On: 7th Apr, 2008 at 15:09

Hi Brian. Do you experience the lack of the will to change for the Nigerian folks in other area’s?

Why do you think they balk at the suggestion for something more efficient and easier?

How do you deal with the heat? Do you get used to it?

Appreciate your posts.

Kevin & Marlene said:
On: 8th Apr, 2008 at 08:51

Hello Brian We have really enjoyed your writing and also the pictures. It has helped to make the project more real when you can see what its about. Hope you are in good health and will continue to feel God’s presence with you.

anonymous coward said:
On: 8th Apr, 2008 at 10:45

let me guess…

1) the mixer runs on electricity and NEPA is off?

2) the mixer runs on gas or diesil and they have no nira to buy any?

3) the mixer is in need of repair?

3) they’re avoiding the cement mixer due to superstitions?

Anonymous said:
On: 13th Apr, 2008 at 16:50

Brian, your doing a great job! The pictures are fantastic! That’s quite some drainage system they built, and all by hand!! How long does it last before the bricks need to be replaced? They must be pretty tough if they can withstand the rainy season.
The mention of palm wine once again provokes my curiosity why Talita warned Leanne about drinking palm wine! The only thing I can think of, is because of some bad bacteria, considering it’s not made in the sanitary conditions we are used to.
Thanks to all of you dear people who are making an effort at answering our questions or helping clear things up for us!Do keep it up!
May the Lord continue to bless and keep you all!!!

jake gross said:
On: 13th Apr, 2008 at 20:51

forward to Inno fetter

The children from our school are wondering if your school has received the World Book encyclopedia volume set we sent? Would love to hear from you, God bless!

Jake Gross

Eddie Waldner, missionary said:
On: 24th Apr, 2008 at 16:42

Hi Brian my son and Brother. You must submit a picture of the old orange cement mixer in the weeds behind the mill.although I’m never too fond of Anonymous blogers, I have to refer to our anonymous coward #14. Line 1,2&3 puts it well