By Libby Smith
CASTLE ROCK, Colo (CBS4) – Manufacturing has always been a main driver of the Colorado economy, and bricks are one of the original products made here. By 1900, there were more than 200 brick making factories in Colorado, including the Denver Brick Company. That company is still operating in Castle Rock as part of the Acme Brick Company. It’s one of a handful of companies that still make bricks in the state. Recently, CBS4 got a tour of the plant.
It all starts with a big pile of dirt. Mined in Colorado, there are several huge pile of dirt housed in a shed at the back of the property.
“Different kinds of clay, grog… what we call grog.. broken brick, silt, and sand,” Roger Wille describes the contents of the piles of clay.
Wille has been making bricks for 34 years.
“I was right out of high school when I started here,” Wille told CBS4.
While the process is the same, the product has changed dramatically over the years.
“The queen size was actually developed here…probably in the mid-90’s,” Wille remembered.
The onyx king size is the best seller now.
Machines mix the clay with water and coloring, forming it into one continuous brick, and trim it to size. Employees constantly monitor the process for quality control.
“Slurry goes on top… a light gray and a dark gray,” Wille explains part of the process.
Then the actual bricks are cut and stacked, ready for drying.
“There’s about 17-percent water until it hits the holding room. And it will take several days to extract all the water out of there before you can put it in a kiln,” Wille explained while showing CBS4 a brick off the line.
The kiln is Wille’s specialty. The size of a football field, the kiln fires over 2000 degrees. Wille monitors the cars of bricks as they go through.
“We like the brick to soak at the high temperature for 4 to 4 ½ hours at least,” he said.
With proper drying and time in the kiln, the bricks come out hard and sturdy, but still able to absorb the mortar when they’re laid.
“I feel like we make one of the best bricks in the country,” Wille said.
The Castle Rock plant produces 25 million bricks a year, most of which are shipped out of state. But there are buildings along the front range made with these bricks, so Wille gets the chance to see his work on a daily basis.
Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.