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How a Pro Lays Numerous 12-Inchers
July 23, 2012 3:40 AM   Subscribe

It's oddly mesmerizing to watch a pro at work. (In this case, masonry blocks.)
posted by maxwelton (44 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
What are the little eyelets inserted in the mortar for?
posted by brokkr at 3:46 AM on July 23, 2012


What are the little eyelets inserted in the mortar for?

Wall ties
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:52 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ack, the second breeze block he laid didn't look true! So annoying.
posted by Jehan at 3:53 AM on July 23, 2012


Does this kind of music play every time one lays masonry blocks? If so, I'm in the wrong line of work.

seriously though, very mesmerizing
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:57 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now I have something to imagine every time my little Dwarf Fortress dwarves do this.

I know for certain that if I tried to do the same thing my ears and the pockets of my overalls would end up full of mortar.
posted by XMLicious at 4:15 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's so efficient with his movements. Pick up block, turn it around while laying mortar on it, place, tap, etc, never doubling back.

Also with the mortar.. scrape up the placed bits, put it on the next block.

I can't escape the phrase "unreinforced masonry building" though. I guess I spent too long in earthquake country. (Of course I don't really have a clue what a "reinforced" masonry building would be...)
posted by nat at 4:30 AM on July 23, 2012


If you've ever done repetitive work like this, you'll know how hard it is to stop your mind from thinking about it when you're finished. I feel for this highly skilled mason!
posted by orme at 4:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Work is fascinating, I can watch it for hours...
posted by BigSky at 4:59 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a thinker, not a doer, I am profoundly jealous of the care, attention and skill needed to do this.
posted by cthuljew at 5:18 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I painted houses for many years and you get into that kind of rhythm while you're working. Once you've done it for a few years, you don't even stop to think about what you're doing, you just keep working. We usually had classic rock blasting at job sites though.
posted by octothorpe at 5:28 AM on July 23, 2012


the reddit thread on this video seemed to indicate that this guy is more showoff than pro.
posted by Mach5 at 6:03 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jesus.

That "people who are better at something than I'll ever be at anything" file gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:20 AM on July 23, 2012


Of course I don't really have a clue what a "reinforced" masonry building would be...

It would have rebar and concrete in (some of) the vertical holes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 AM on July 23, 2012


I was just doing some concrete work over the weekend and this guy makes me look like total chump. I don't care if Reddit thinks he's not so hot, he's leagues beyond me. I should make a video of me cursing and sweating and dropping mortar all the hell over and double it with this video.
posted by echo target at 6:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


the reddit thread on this video seemed to indicate that this guy is more showoff than pro.

My great grandfather was the first (so the story goes) secretary of the bricklayers' union in Michigan. His father was a bricklayer. My grandfather and dad were bricklayers. At 12 I began my apprenticeship and became a mason tender. Working for my dad was not always a whole lot of awesome, but I learned a lot. Mostly I learned I needed to go to school. By 14 I was laying brick and block on the line. Did some stonework, too, but that was mostly under close supervision.

Watching the guy on the video was okay, but I kept thinking: Did my dad teach me wrong? Nope.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would have rebar and concrete in (some of) the vertical holes.

And some periodic horizontal ties, as well.

Skilled masons are amazing to watch. They make it look easy, and then you try it with hysterical results.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 AM on July 23, 2012


the reddit thread on this video seemed to indicate that this guy is more showoff than pro.

Further reading seems to indicate there is some debate on this (emphasis in original):

My dad is an artisan level mason and owns his own masonry contracting company for 30+ years, and raised me to do what he does. He's built craftsman, multimillion dollar jobs for the Street of Dreams, did the Amazon.com founder's pizza oven, and built homes all around Medina where Bill Gates lives.
He said this guy's technique is impeccable and he wishes he had five more masons like him. The naysayer above is full of shit, probably does brick work (Edit: "cultured stone") commercially for corporate interests like McDonalds.
Edit: I doubt he has the talent or patience to lay a straight run of brick without criticizing the other masons for not going fast enough. Cultured stone is the lowest of the low in our trade. Low-grade, pretend McDonalds shit that every Tom Dick and Henrietta wants on their McMansion.

posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 6:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Edit: "cultured stone")

My brother calls it "lick n' stick".
posted by Mojojojo at 6:44 AM on July 23, 2012


Wait. Is that the new name for Formstone?
posted by schmod at 6:46 AM on July 23, 2012


Once upon a very long time ago I worked as a brick mason so I can tell you that he's not the only professional in that video, there are a number of other things that I like;

1) The setup is covered meaning that the mortar is protected from the sun which keeps it from drying out too soon. Trying to do what he is doing with mortar the consistency of crumbly bread dough is difficult at best.

2) The platform on which the blocks and mortar are on are elevated which saves the mason's back, and therefore his long term career. The mortar platters are also nicely spaced out.

3) The mortar he is using is perfect consistency, not too runny and not too dry, which means the man mixing it knows what he's doing as well.

These three things indicate to me that the guys setting things up know what they are doing as well.

I would also like to point out that the man is wearing gloves, another long-term health saver. Concrete blocks have a surface like sandpaper and can, quite literally, sand off the pads off your fingers. Not to mention that mortar itself is slightly caustic.

Kudos all around.
posted by Barticus at 7:04 AM on July 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


I love this sort of thing where somebody does their work at the highest level. Chai pourers in India are really cool.

I also saw this video of a dude peeling potatoes with a massive knife and it was equally hypnotizing (Can't find it again, though).
posted by Phreesh at 7:47 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


My great grandfather was the first (so the story goes) secretary of the bricklayers' union in Michigan. His father was a bricklayer. My grandfather and dad were bricklayers. At 12 I began my apprenticeship and became a mason tender.

You'd think they call me the wall builder, but no... F%$k one goat....

I'm sooo sorry....
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:11 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's so efficient with his movements.

My favorite worker video.
posted by dobbs at 8:19 AM on July 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


From the comments: I like the part where he laid that cinder block.
posted by mochapickle at 8:22 AM on July 23, 2012


But Shukhov never made a mistake. His bricks were always right in line. If one of them was broken or had a fault, Shukhov spotted it right off the bat and found the place on the wall where it would fit. He'd scoop up some steaming mortar with his trowel, throw it on, and remember how the groove of the brick ran so he'd get the next one on dead center. He always put on just enough mortar for each brick. Then he'd pick up a brick out of the pile, but with great care so he wouldn't get a hole in his mitten — they were pretty rough, these bricks. Then he'd level off the mortar with a trowel and drop the brick on top. He had to even it out fast and tap it in place with his trowel if it wasn't right, so the outside wall would be as straight as a die and the bricks level both crossways and lengthways, and then they froze in place.
  —Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, tr. Hayward and Hingley, p. 109.
posted by languagehat at 8:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


The tapping each block just after it was laid appeared to be important, but I couldn't tell why. It doesn't look like he's hitting it hard enough to help settle it in place.

Anyone know what that's about?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:56 AM on July 23, 2012


That's just beautiful. Grace and economy.

When I try this I drop so much mortar I look like a homunculus stuck in a landslide.
posted by dowcrag at 9:05 AM on July 23, 2012


He's laying the block to the line. The line he hits frequently with his trowel. The block settles and then you have level the far top edge to the line.

Hitting the line with your trowel is a good way to cut it. And if other bricklayers are working the wall it's a little annoying to see the line vibrate.

It's been years since I did any bricklaying.
posted by Mojojojo at 9:06 AM on July 23, 2012


Nice smooth trowel action.

I once hitched a lift with a truck driver who could do much the same thing with the edge of a credit card, and his prep work was excellent as well.
posted by flabdablet at 9:12 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I dropped out of undergraduate school for a while, a buddy who had dropped out of architecture got a contract to build a small concrete block office building for a lumber yard. He didn't actually know how to do construction, so we would go to the library and look shit up just before we had to do it. We had a poured foundation that we had dug, and then we poured the floor, but used a subcontractor to finish the floor knowing that screwing that up would be unfixable. When it came to laying the block for the walls, we tried, but it was taking forever and we knew we weren't doing it right. We went to a construction site and hired a master mason to come and lay one course of block, watching him like a hawk. This video perfectly captured what we saw.

The coolest part was when he dug the mud out of the wheelbarrow and did that little flip that lays the mud out evenly on the trowel before buttering that line of mud onto the edge of the brick. The first time he did it, he quickly glanced up at us to see if we had noticed and we just grinned back. The other tricks, like setting several blocks at once and using the long level to level all of them at once by tapping with the trowel handle on the ends of the blocks, we also picked up as we watched.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:41 AM on July 23, 2012


Like butteh.
posted by yoga at 9:48 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mental Wimp: When I dropped out of undergraduate school for a while, a buddy who had dropped out of architecture got a contract to build a small concrete block office building for a lumber yard. He didn't actually know how to do construction, so we would go to the library and look shit up just before we had to do it. ... We went to a construction site and hired a master mason to come and lay one course of block, watching him like a hawk. This video perfectly captured what we saw.

...The other tricks, like setting several blocks at once and using the long level to level all of them at once by tapping with the trowel handle on the ends of the blocks, we also picked up as we watched.
You two were much smarter than the average college-age workers. Kudos.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2012


I once hitched a lift with a truck driver who could do much the same thing with the edge of a credit card, and his prep work was excellent as well.

But could he do it while changing gears and merging with traffic in the left lane?
posted by BigSky at 10:16 AM on July 23, 2012


There's a movie called Christ in Concrete where the main character is a bricklayer. They would intercut close-ups of the hands of a professional laying bricks with the shots of the actor, and you could always tell the actor was never quite as graceful.

So it's become one of my little fixations for movies, when they get the feel of a job right.
posted by RobotHero at 10:25 AM on July 23, 2012


That was fascinating to watch, but then an idea occurred to me: what would a similar video of the elites, the 'real owners of the country'
( as George Carlin put it ) at their jobs look like?

Would it just be a bunch of smug middle-aged white guys playing golf, talking cut-throat business and political maneuvers in between sharing dirty jokes, and critiques of each other's swing?

Or, would it be footage of some regal boardroom, with people playing subtle (or not so subtle) power games in conversation, while some hapless flunky makes a presentation in the background?

I wonder.
posted by KHAAAN! at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


KHAAAN!, I could answer that, but I suspect it would trigger a massive derail.

Does this kind of music play every time one lays masonry blocks?

I was half expecting James Garner to start reading a letter from a Confederate soldier. "My dearest Lucy. Our defenses at the Shoney's on the Marietta road were hastily laid but as firm and fine as any mason in Dixie...."

The tapping each block just after it was laid appeared to be important, but I couldn't tell why. It doesn't look like he's hitting it hard enough to help settle it in place.

My theory, applied from a level of DIY that is slightly beyond the average person but a lot less than this guy, is that it activates the elasticity of the mortar so that it fills gaps and settles into the concrete blocks just enough that it acts as a binder. The position of the tap guarantees that the block will not settle too far in relation to the other blocks.
posted by dhartung at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2012


I used to do this.
posted by Hobgoblin at 2:15 PM on July 23, 2012


There's a name for that.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:30 PM on July 23, 2012


He's only using one hand to lift those cinder blocks and yet he handles them with the delicacy of a dollhouse furniture-maker.
posted by schroedinger at 2:59 PM on July 23, 2012


My dad and sister are both masons. This is comforting to watch.
posted by TheCoug at 4:47 PM on July 23, 2012


I noticed he lifted each block as if it weighed no more than a loaf of bread. I find those blocks heavy! Two-hander, probably even if I had gloves.
posted by Listener at 5:06 PM on July 23, 2012


I love watching a master plying his trade. Interesting that they seem to be using at least three different types of block (regular, grade beam and whatever the block with the vertical groove is called).

nat writes "I can't escape the phrase 'unreinforced masonry building' though. I guess I spent too long in earthquake country. (Of course I don't really have a clue what a 'reinforced' masonry building would be...)"

It's possible they are going to be filling the cavities later.
posted by Mitheral at 5:36 PM on July 23, 2012


My dad's response:

HEY MARK... THAT GUY HAS A STRONG LEFT ARM TO LIFT AND LAY THOSE ONE
HANDED... THE WEIGH LITE BLOCKS HELP THOUGH.. GRANDDAD MILLER WOULD
SAY HE WASTES TIIME WITH TOO MANY EXTRA MOVES WITH HIS TROWEL IN
PARTICULAR... USUALLY ONE MOVE DOES THE TRICK WHEN YOU ARE PICKING UP
THE MUD AND THE SAME WITH CLEANING OFF THE MORTAR JOINT...ALSO
NORMALLY AN ARCHITECT WOULD CALL FOR ALL THE WEBS TO AHVE MORTAR ON
THEM TOO..TO MAKE A STRONG WALL.

WE COULD TAKE MY TOOLS AND GO OUT AND SEE IF WE COULD HOLD A JOB..
PREFERABLY BRICH OR ONLY 8 INCH BLOCKS..LOVE YOU TOO... AND LOOKING
FORWARD TO SEEING YUOU SOON... DAD


I love my dad.
posted by Mojojojo at 7:00 PM on July 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


I suspect that Granddad Miller would approve of this guy's action.
posted by flabdablet at 8:29 PM on July 24, 2012


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