Red hot: brick baking at CW's special brick kiln open through Saturday

Staff writer

In a special spring firing, the Colonial Williamsburg brickyard crew set up about 9,000 salmon bricks to bake.

The under-baked and porous bricks were fired to strengthen them so they can better endure Virginia’s weather changes when they are eventually used in construction projects, according to Colonial Williamsburg spokesman Joseph Straw.

The salmon bricks have been fired in a kiln at least once already, however, the type of brick is less suitable for outdoor construction.

Every year, the brickyard uses about 150 tons of clay — seven dump trucks full — to make red common bricks, according to interpreter and master brickmaker Bill Neff.

The special March firing started Thursday and should wrap up this weekend, according to interpreter and journeyman brickmaker Kenneth Tappan. Crews have worked through the night to tend the kiln.

Tappan said the brick kiln’s temperature will peak Saturday afternoon and the bricks will begin to glow yellow or orange depending on their position within the kiln.

The brick-making process is straightforward: interpreters and Colonial Williamsburg guests stomp through wet clay and mix it while they remove pieces of hardened rock. The mixed clay is rolled into a ball, thrown into lightly sanded molds, removed and dried for several days on a drying bed.

Later, the bricks are stacked tall inside the sheds in preparation for firing inside an on-site brick kiln known as a clampe.

For every 1,000 bricks fired, about a cord of wood — a stack of wood that’s 4-feet high, 4-feet deep and 8-feet tall — is required to fuel the fire, Tappan said.

For this weekend’s “burn over” clampe, roughly nine cords of wood will be used.

Want to go?

The brickyard crews will fire the bricks through Saturday, Tappan said. They’ll be present through Friday night until the bricks are done firing. The brickyard is off E. Nicholson Street near the Colonial Williamsburg cabinetmakers.

Find more information, go to colonialwilliamsburg.com or check in with the Colonial Williamsburg Facebook page at facebook.com/ColonialWilliamsburg/. To buy tickets to Colonial Williamsburg go to colonialwilliamsburg.com/tickets.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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