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Chris Tabel uses an ancient Roman technique to make bricks

Having a creative mind opens you up to a world of infinite possibilities.
One of these is the ability to make your own bricks and concrete.

Recently, I have been researching ways to make my own bricks (I did it for no particular reason but just out of curiosity). After reading countless internet articles and conducting numerous trial and error samples, I finally made my first Roman Concrete Brick on the 21st of July 2018.

If you look closely at the brick in my picture you will notice it has bits and pieces of seashells. I made this brick by burning 10 seashells with 20 coconut shells and mixing it with clay and gravel. I made a ratio mix of 1: 2: 1- one part calcium hydroxide to two parts clay dust to one part gravel.

Note that this is still a layman experiment. 😊

The result- a brick that will harden over time (boom😲) many of us uninitiated will ask how this is possible. I will explain this later in my article.

In the meantime, let me put my experiment into context.

Many Historians credited the ancient Romans for their various engineering marvels. Their knowledge of making concrete and mortar from volcanic dust and pomus enabled the ancient Romans to build and expand their Empire.

Historians said all roads led to Rome, similarly all these roads also led to Roman towns, cities, military bases and outstations that included aqua ducts, amphitheaters, mansions and public baths etc- all of which were built using Roman Concrete.

I recently discovered that unlike Portland Cement (modern concrete), Roman Concrete that is set under water- actually got stronger over time. How this happens – I’ll get to it shortly.

Romans discovered long ago that by burning limestone (Ca +O2= CaO) and adding water (H2O) produced a very strong binding agent (CaO +H2O = Ca (OH2). By combining this with volcanic ash and pumice, they were able to create their own version of concrete and mortar. Also when the concrete and mortar is left to set under water, its chemical and physical composition reacted with seawater and created additional new mineral properties within its physical structure. These new minerals then grew over time to fill internal gaps inside bricks thus resulting in the mix “growing” stronger over time. This explains why Roman buildings don’t deteriorate quickly and have withstood the test of time.

And since the Roman political and military expansion covered most of the Mediterranean and a few bits of Europe – they used this knowledge to build roads and cities to all these places- an engineering feat that the modern world still observes in wonder to this day.

I am very proud to be part of the preservation of this historical knowledge. The ability to make bricks and mortar using ancient techniques is invaluable especially if you’re in a situation where modern materials are unavailable or in short supply or if you find yourself in a zombie apocalypse situation. I am also happy to share my story with my friends and family and I hope we can use (and improve on) this knowledge.

I will try another experiment with real fine sand apart from my my substitute clay soil.

Tune in for more updates in the coming weeks.

Kris 😊

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