Stoke-on-Trent - photo of the week


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early tile making by "pressing"

early photo of tile making by hand pressing

The clay mixture is converted into a powder form before it is pressed into a tile. The clay is placed onto special iron trolleys shaped like giant toast-racks on wheels, on which they are conveyed into the drying kilns, there to be freed from all traces of moisture.

From these kilns the cakes emerge, hard as boards, to be broken up, slightly moistened, and finally ground in pans or mills to the fine powder known technically as "dust," which is automatically conveyed to the department or "shop" in which it will be converted into tiles. 

A tile-shop, with the tiles in transit to the kilns
A tile-shop, with the tiles in transit to the kilns

 

Tile making. All fettling dust is carried off by suction-draught hoods
Tile making. All fettling dust is carried off by suction-draught hoods
 

"Tile "making," then, is done in powerful presses. Of the three main types of press available the hand, the automatic, and the semi-automatic the last named has proved the most generally useful; and of our total of no less than 140 presses considerably more than half are of this type. At the same time we have a number of completely automatic presses, operated, like those of semi-automatic type, by electricity, while for certain classes of work we still find hand presses the most serviceable. The making procedure is essentially the same in all three types. A steel well or "box" sunk in the bed of the press is filled with "dust," and a heavy steel die descends into it, forcing the dust against another die forming the bottom of the box. 

The pressure is such that the dust is knitted into a solid of the required size and shape a plain tile, for example, a capping, a skirting hard and strong enough to stand any reasonable handling. As the "green  tiles (so called in their unfired state) come from the presses, their edges, to which loose dust may be clinging, are lightly trimmed by hand; in technical language, they are "fettled." They are now ready firing, but an interval of at least a few hours, during which they may dry, will elapse before they reach that very important stage of their manufacture. "

From: "A Century of Progress 1837-1937" a publication to commemorate The Centenary of Richards Tiles Ltd.