chrispy thoughts

-the world as I see it

Building my dreams, with brick and mortar

I am a civil engineer. There… I can almost hear the masses go – “Why Civil? Why not E&C/ Computer engineering?You poor thing!” All this falls on deaf ears, as I couldn’t care less about what other people think or say I should be doing, unless I ask them.

After the crazy roller coaster ride (minus the excitement and amusement) through 2nd P.U or the 12th Std. as most people know it, with those board exams and the competitive entrance exams behind me , I had to make a choice between taking up E&C/ Computer engineering in a good college in Bangalore or Civil Engineering at NITK. After some thought, I decided I would head the NITK way, and that is a decision I have never regretted. In my opinion, success is achieved when you like what you’re doing, whether you are a carpenter, or an artist, or an investment banker or a priest or a zillion other professions that are there to choose from. Follow your dreams, build on your ideas and give your thoughts wings.

Well, I guess I must have lost a lot of you readers by now, but to those of you who are still with me, here’s a heads up. This post is about how I built my masonry specimens required in the experiments conducted for my Master’s thesis. Fare ye well to  all those of you who have already been put off by the subject matter of what is to follow. While a great many people would consider building masonry specimens quite a mundane task, I was thrilled to bits at the prospect of getting my hands soiled with mortar and building something, however small, with my own hands.
Now, for the very few (or maybe none) who are with me, let me just recall what the term masonry means. Masonry is one of the most widespread construction techniques and has been used right from the ancient times. It is basically bricks, stones or adobe bonded together with mortar. For my experiment, I had to build ten masonry prisms, stacked with nine bricks each. Seemed easy enough and I thought it would be all in a day’s work. Turns out, it was “ALL in a DAY’S work” *whew*.

So I got to work at 9 a: m outside the LITEM laboratory in Terrassa, a city near Barcelona. I started by opening this big bag of mortar and dumping it into a container. I mixed it with water until the desired consistency was achieved; a task similar to making cake batter, the difference being the end product doesn’t taste nor smell good. In the meantime, I kept some bricks to soak in a dish of water. After five minutes, I took them out and kept them in the open air to get rid of excess water. It is important that the bricks should contain just the right amount of water, so they don’t absorb water from the mortar. Rectangular wooden pieces were placed in two rows on a pallet, over which the first bricks were placed.  A pallet is a portable platform on which goods can be moved, stacked, and stored, especially with the aid of a forklift.
Using a trowel (a small hand-held tool with a flat and pointy blade), the mortar was placed on the first brick. To ensure the uniform depth of the joint (the space between successive bricks filled with mortar), two markers of 1 cm height each are placed at diagonally opposite corners of the brick and the successive brick is laid over the mortar and tapped down until the joint is uniformly 1 cm thick. The excess mortar that fell from at the sides was cut away using the edge of the trowel. The bricks are leveled using a spirit-level to ensure that the bricks are level and plumb. The same procedure is used to lay the successive seven bricks with periodic checking of alignment to ensure that the specimen is straight. After the specimens were built, the sides were scraped with a brush to remove excess mortar and ensure that the surface is even. The scraping has to be done right away as the mortar hardens with time.
This was the basic procedure I followed to build my babies, some of them turned out not-so-straight, but my PhD supervisor said it was alright and that I had done a great job as a first-timer. Turns out a brick layer gets paid 300 Euros for the equivalent amount of work done :O.
Anyway, that was how I spent a sweaty, back-breaking 8 hours fabricating masonry specimens for the purpose of “destroying” them in the laboratory as part of my further experiments.

The above picture gives a brief outline of the process. Now you know how to build mini walls 🙂

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2 comments on “Building my dreams, with brick and mortar

  1. Sanga
    September 6, 2012

    He he…So what tests did you do on these?

    • C.
      September 6, 2012

      I reinforced them with textile rf placed in shotcrete n did flexure tests

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This entry was posted on August 27, 2012 by in Civil Engineering, Personal and tagged , , , , .

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