Bricks - Table of Contents................ Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Rubbed and gauged brickwork


Rubbed bricks used around window jambs

Rubbed: A finish obtained by using an abrasive to remove surface irregularities

Rubbing brick/Rubber: Bricks that were rubbed, i.e., smoothed

Rubbing stone or brick: A hard stone or brick used to rub, i.e., smooth, hand made bricks

Gauged bricks: Rubbed bricks cut to special shapes

Because of the uneven edges of hand-made bricks, rubbed bricks were used at corners and at window and door jambs to give a building sharp edges and snug fits around its openings.

Rubbed bricks were selected for their density and even color, and were rubbed to precise shapes with smooth faces using a special stone or hard brick. The rubbed bricks’ rich red color lent a wall surface handsome articulation.

The 17th and 18th centuries produced a new type of bricklayer whose skill in carving and laying bricks exceeded any that had been seen before.

Such work would be used for windowheads in virtually every house and to create sculpture in brick: Corinthian capitals, heraldic shields and cherubs, heads produced in exquisite detail and assembled with pinpoint accuracy. This technique was known as rubbed and gauged brickwork and it remains the very pinnacle of the bricklayers' art.

Special bricks were made for "rubbed and gauged work" called rubbers or rubbing bricks. These were exceptional, finely made bricks for which the clay had either been sieved or left in a settling pond to separate out all stones. They were then carefully fired to produce a uniform red brick without obvious creases or deformities. These bricks were never used in the shape that they came out of the kiln, but always rubbed on a rubbing stone on at least five sides (the one inside the wall did not matter) to reduce them to exactly the dimensions required. Each brick was continually measured (or "gauged") until the bricklayer was satisfied that it would fit in its allotted place.

The technique was also used for decorative details. Here again each brick was cut to size. However, this time the bricks were set out on a bench or board marked up with the position of each brick. Profiles were then cut with a brick axe. In the 19th century they were placed in a cutting box and cut using a wire saw guided by templates on each side.

The finest craftsmen could make curved niches and sculpted figures by using a combination of brick axes, saws, rasps and rubbing stones ....

- James W. P. Campbell, Brick: A World History, Thames & Hudson, 2003, p. 190


Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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