Chris Pike is an interesting bricklayer from the central Victorian town of Dunolly, near Bendigo. He’s a man who’s dedicated to delivering expert repair to old brickwork, for which he’s in high demand. But my guess is he’d take the same pride and care in bricking a new house as he does on restoring an old building.
Chris made the news recently when featured by the Sun Herald in Melbourne and I’m giving his story a second run because I’d like to also applaud Chris for his craftsmanship, on behalf of his industry and to pass on the learning. Chris has restored several of the very old public buildings in Dunolly, built between 1862 and 1884 during the gold mining boom in central Victoria.
Determined to achieve a quality restoration, Chris does his research on the mortar and bricks. To quote the Herald Sun, Chris explains “The mortar used originally was 3 parts sand 1 part lime, but now its 1 part cement, 1 part lime and 6 parts sand. There wasn’t any cement in those days but the mortar was just as strong then, as it is now. The main difference is in the colour of the mortar. I used the old way of mixing so it would blend in with the old buildings.”
“If I used cement and the modern lime it would stand out like a sore thumb and I don’t want that. I don’t want to change the buildings. I want them to stay the same.” Chris searched nearby areas to find the perfect matches for the bricks. He even dug ditches in an effort to find matching buried bricks – and was successful.
Chris clearly gets enormous pleasure out of his work. “It’s true that I do take pride in what I do. When I finish a job, I stand back looking at it and think to myself that this will last for another 100 years, when it could have crumbled if I didn’t fix it.” He explained that back in 1862 bricks were cooked in big fires and those on the outer edges of the fire are not as strong. “Then the rain and wind gradually wash the brick away and it starts to erode. Now bricks are kilned properly and are much stronger.”
Well done Chris, there are some beautiful old buildings of that era in central Victoria so there should be plenty of work in restoration to keep you and others busy. Sounds like you need a bricklaying apprentice and we can help you out there! 1300 66 44 96. Excellent Industry Subsidies.
As a final thought, our WA ABBTF Field Representative, Ian Fitzgerald, wrote a blog on this topic a while back concluding that “It’s easy to say the trade no longer needs to learn (restoration) skills, but without this training being continued, these skills will be lost completely, forever. The clever bricklayer will seek out this type of work and keep himself and his apprentices trained up and ready for any opportunity.”