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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm wondering how mason crews in different part of the world operate. Ie laborer bedding with mason head jointing and laying then labor strikes the joints later or labor just keeping the mason stocked with brick and mud. Just curious I am always out to learn new tricks.

What some techniques different crews have used to increase block and brick count without reducing quality. It's probably small detail things that hadd a couple here and a couple there than usually add up. Just curious what others have done.
 

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The only time a tender will get up and spread mud is if he's got us stocked up good and heavy and extra mud on and below the boards. Otherwise masons around here do all the mud spreading, laying, and usually striking themselves.
 

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The only time a tender will get up and spread mud is if he's got us stocked up good and heavy and extra mud on and below the boards. Otherwise masons around here do all the mud spreading, laying, and usually striking themselves.
Same here, that is what makes a mason not a laborer.
 

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What some techniques different crews have used to increase block and brick count without reducing quality.
when i started working in the late 70's early 80's there were still a lot of brick sewer structures being made. the best "underground" bricklayer i ever worked with was a guy that started doing it in semi-retirement after years of doing "real" masonry work. He used a cool technique that no other underground guys used that gave him twice the production (5250 brick per long day with (1) helper) and perfectly straight walls. If you're interested i'll describe the technique. Back then he was getting $125 per thousand for "labor only". Looking back on it, that must'a been killer money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hey Pipeguy
I d love to hear the technique whether i can use it or not id love to know how he did it.
 

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Sewers and manholes are a far different world than exposed brick or block.

In every country I have been in the mason spreads the mud and lays the masonry. There is not enough room for extra people, especially if you have a scaffold.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
well those are just examples. I was just wondering what techniques in general not a pick between the two .
 

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I learned to stack the next course of block on top of the just laid course. Stand them heads up and top side facing the direction you plan to lay. Leave enough room for the mud for the first block (about 24"'s)and then spread mud, butter the head joint that is standing up and tip down in place repeat til the end of wall.

I haven't seen this done any where else, but I don't drive around watching guy's lay either, so maybe every one does it like this. Moisture issues will cause a problem as the fresh laid block will drop if you start adding more block too quickly, but when it is hot and dry the joint is set in about 1 minute.

I watched the block laying comp in Vegas last year and of course they wouldn't let the tenders stage the block on the wall, but one guy had his block staged in an identicle manner. They stood the block on end, butted tight three in a row so a trowel full would butter half of three and another trowel would do the other side. Then he was ready to lay three block as fast as he could set them.

I supose it will take a picture to properly describe what I mean, or else you already do it.

On another note,
As soon as you let your tender touch the trowel, you are going to be waiting for mud, they get side tracked and forget about everything else.

Just let a guy go for this problem, nice kid but ADD plus cell phone plus trowel equals one urinated mason.:furious:
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
thats interesting ill have to try that

my problem with labors is opposite their minds wonder when they arent bedding. they just stand there and talk then the masons are yelling for mud and block. ive had to fire a few for that.
 

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Give the masons a knife and you wont have to fire anyone.:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
haha well mine wont say anything until they are completely empty and they arent that mad about it haha
my masons are very laid back
i wished i had some more aggressive masons
most of the ones around her would rather ride the clock than work and ive wnt thru several
 

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Try paying by the piece, that will light a fire under them.
 

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i would rather my laborer not spread or strike my work.it seems unless they really know how to handle a trowel,i have to respread part of the wall anyway,so im not gaining much.i also am picky about striking of my joints.it is very easy to get waves in your joints when round jointing,and most laborers dont know the difference.when raking joints most laborers will leave hangers.beeholes are another issue that laborers overlook,that a good mason will not.i use the term good there because i have seen walls where it looked like a beehive,there were so many holes.and that is just a mason not caring about his work.
as far as block.when im laying a block wall i will spread out the wall,then set my block on end on the ground and butter 4-5 block,lay them and move on to the next set.if i have a laborer who is standing around watching me,i will ask him to set the block on end for me.
i dont know if i gain anytime when laying block,but if i am on a wall,say 20-30 block.i will lay 10-12 block,raise the line,then lay another row and so on.this is mostly when laying foundations.like i said i dont know if i gain any time but it seems to go faster.
 

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stacker -

You are right about not letting a laborer or tender to strike the joints. They normally do not even know when to it and then not know how to do it properly. The mortar joint is critical to the appearance, durability and water-tightness of the masonry part of a wall.

I set up some one and two week classes (8 hours per day) for people to learn to "lay to the line" because of a possible shortage of real masons in the future. It was surprising who was in the classes - (apprentice brick masons in the program that had their time paid for their employers), laborers that wanted to know more and improve and a few engineers that wanted to learn more about masonry, there were also a few insurance adjusters and housewives looking for new experiences. The entire program for 30 students at a time was rewarding and educational to everyone including me. I had my tires slashed after a mason contractors program, but luckily the union B.A. called me in advance, so I had rags put on and had an alternate way home. - He called me after watching the training sessions, so they are not all bad, but they are just serving the rest of the bunch that pay them a salary to represent the trade.

A tooled joint is the simplest, but even the wrong timing can ruin the appearance of a exposed wall. A tougher joint is a raked joint that should be skimmed over to maximize the mortar compaction and minimize the leakage from the "shelf" it creates.

Just don't ask them to do strike a flush joint or a weeping joint!

If the wall is exposed, the signature of the mason is in the appearance and it can be very important.
 

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We are a small crew( 4 guys) My apprentice and labor, both lay block, some brick, set stone, pavers, fisnish concrete, stamp concrete,I've made them that way, everybody gets good money, we are like a family, they feel important, because in every possible way I can , I let them know they are; my philosophy is that making a mason is better than hire one; my guys know that whoever is a labor today will be a good mason tomorrow, it's my responsibility and I guarantee it, most of the time just that, will get you more than any raise; my guys don't work for me because of the money(they can make more money anywhere else) but because they enjoy it, they know there's no ceiling and that I'm not the boss(I don't like to be called like that), I'm the leader, the hardest worker, and they have to follow me, this builds integrity and team work sense, most of the time I push them(perhaps punish them) and they've never fainted and when I do faint, they pick me up and run with me, they know there's no room for loosers in our team and whoever's not willing to put up with the s...., is not worth having and whoever comes next, will have to take it as it is or leave it; I'm very proud of our working and personal relationships, as well as our achievements, I consider myself very lucky for having the crew I have and I know that by making them better every day, I've become a better leader.
I'm not running a masonry crew, I'm running a craftsmen factory and I hope that'd be my legacy.
Regards!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thats great CR2. I'd love to have that kind of crew but I can't seem to find guys that are that willing or motivated to be a cohesive part of a team. they simply want to do their time and go home. This isnt just the ones I have now but all of the ones I've had. Let me restate that. I have one mason that has a great personality and works hard and eager to do what ever is necessary with out complaint just wished his quality would pick up.

Id love to hear any tips you have that could help me with it.
 

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I was striking joints and spreading mud for my dad before I could handle a block. He had me practicing joints below grade before I realized it would be covered.:clap: For the most part we spread our own mud and joints unless the tender has time.
 

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Hi Todd, I know is very hard to find good people, but there are a lot them out there, like diamonds, it's our job to filter through the s..., find them and make them shine, if we faint in the search we'll never make it; you have to concentrate on getting young people, there are more willing to learn and feel the need to prove themselves, for them is a challenge; remember, you can shape a young tree in anyway you want, but it'll never happen with an old one, old masons are what they are(good or bad) and will never change.
In the process of finding the right guys, you might suffer and will have to pay a price, contract losses, longer hours, multi tasking......, but if you don't go through all that, you'll never have the right guys, some people opt for the easy way and still make big money, but they will never have the right people, if money gets scarce, that people will go; you need the kind of people that are willing to work for free(yes, FREE) if needed(very extreme and unlikely situation, but not impossible either) and you need to be the guy that when you do very well in a job is willing to share 40% of your profits with those same guys .
I' ve known quite a few good masons that are not worth a dime and think that they have to be hired just because there's nobody else out there, those guys I let go with the easy way choosers and I've proved them wrong, even though this meant working twice as much sometimes; I value people for what they are, not for how much I can get out of them and I expect the same from the guys next to me.
I can define and explain all this now, but I know it all started over 17 years ago, with my old boss, he was what I am today and I was what my guys are now,even though one day I took my own way , we're still one team, we help each other in every way we can(equipment, labor, leads...) we are both stronger like that , I know the story will repeat itself with my guys and I wait for that time happy and confident, because I know they won't be my competition, but my partners instead.
Regards!
 

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Sewers and manholes are a far different world than exposed brick or block.
How true. I've worked with 4 or 5 sewer bricklayers over the years. A couple were true hacks. One of them's still a damn good mason at 60 y/o or so now (still climbing in and out of holes everyday). But the best I ever worked with stood head and shoulders above the rest. He outproduced everyone by 2K-3K brick per day and at the same time did the prettiest work; never wasted a move of his trowel and put almost every ounce of mud on the brick - not on the ground. That was probably because he'd spent years doing "real" masonry and only took up sewer work in retirement for sidework.
What he did that I've never seen any other sewer brick mason do was use story poles. He carried a couple of 12' long x 4" steel angles that he'd cut to a sharp point on one end. He'd take 20 minutes or so to drive them into the ground, good and solid and plumb in both directions, right on the long wall line at each box he'd build. After driving them in he'd take a brick rule and layout the courses from the top down to the footer. Often times the top of the box would need to slope considerably from one end to the other and knew how to layout the courses so the walls always topped out right on grade and in one plane (flat all the way around).
Once he'd set up his poles he'd lay a trim course at the footing slab and just start advancing a stringline up the story poles one course at a time. By laying both the face and the top of each brick to the string there was hardly any need to put a level on the work except for the odd check to assure a flush face line now and again. Since the back wall was relatively close to the front wall, carrying it plumb was just a matter of maintaining a uniform distance between them.
I don't know if the story pole technique is typical to masonry; what I do know is he used it well and to his great advantage. Keeping him stocked was a chore in and of itself. He could run up a couple of 6' tall boxes in a good day, put a brick "channel" in each and clear almost $700 on 10 cube of brick with just one helper, a mixer, and pick-up truck for expenses (we even put the gas in his mixer) I'm thinking that was good money in 1981.:thumbsup:
 
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