The Fechino Files: Conversations and Tips with Some Old Bricklayers

Words: Steven Fechino

Steven Fechino

With the holidays on their way, I thought some easy reading might be better than something technical.

A few weeks back, Allison Verley and I taught a class at the Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers Training Facility in Las Vegas.  First, I must say that the team of instructors, Jack Gray, Moses Mora, Omar Mendoza and Alejandro Mozqueda, have a disciplined program with some of the most interested apprentices I have ever met. If you know me, you know I like to laugh; I bet it was an hour or two before I even got a smile out of this group.  They were focused and eager.  I was proud to be a part of one night with them. I also realized my jokes were just not that funny…or I was told anyway.

Just for fun, we had a discussion about how things have changed and sayings in the industry. For this article, I wanted to share some of what was said and some of what I added.  These are not for education; though some may make sense, they are intended for entertainment. Everyone that has been around for a while knows most of these.

We discussed conversions for when we need to do some “head scratchin’ in the field,” sayings, and old-time lessons learned, but over the years, some things have changed, and some things have stayed the same.

  • Do you call ‘em Chicken Legs or Line Dogs?
  • Do you call ‘em Twigs or Trigs (and all of the different versions, metal strap, dollar bill etc.)?
  • Mud or mortar when talking about the product?
  • In your area, is it a Garden Hose, Hose or Hose Pipe?
  • In the tool bag, is it a Tuck-Pointer Tool or Slicker?
  • For hand work, is it a Cape Chisel or Plugging Chisel?
  • When you are setting up a job, do you call it a Mud Tub or Buggy?
  • On the wall, have you heard it called a Level or Bubble Stick?
  • Rule (retractable measuring tape) or Tape Measure (different from stick rule)?
  • String or Line, and do you reuse it or drop it at each wall?
  • Bag of conventional mortar lays about 40 concrete block was once, now 25 block/bag.
  • A yard of concrete will grout fill a cube of 8-inch or a cube of 12-inch concrete masonry units.
  • Bag of conventional mortar lays about 140 brick was once, now about 125 brick/bag.
  • The conversion for modular brick per square foot is still 6.8 units.
  • The conversion for Queen brick per foot is still 5.7 units.
  • A yard of concrete weighs about 4,000 pounds- depending on if wet or dry it can vary.
  • 8-inch by 8-inch by 16-inch heavy weight unit can weigh about 30 percent more than a light weight 8-inch unit. (of course, this depends on the manufacturer and market product is sold).
  • Rebar number represents the number of 8ths; for instance, #4 rebar is 4/8-inch or ½ -inch steel.
  • Estimating a set of full-size drawings, bound on the left side with a strip of paper, tends to be about equal to $250,000.00 per pound of drawings (this is definitely an old timer’s thing).
  • Though not widely used any longer, a conventional bag of mortar still uses 16 shovels of sand; actual sand volume will vary greatly with this method.
  • If you take the length of the wall and multiply it by .75, it will give you the number of 16-inch block per course.
  • 10.3-ounce tube of caulking ranges from 8 to 24-linear feet of product per tube, with 24- linear feet being so very thin and useless and 8 feet creating a big gobby mess, and it will be all over your hands and clothes.
  • In the last 15 years, approximate block production on an elevator shaft has dropped by 15 units per man per day.
  • EPDM (tire tube material) flashing will chemically react with PVC end dams and components.
  • Putting a plastic bag over the mixer wheel hubs has always proven to be a good idea.
  • It takes three different colored pencils to estimate a $1,000,000.00 dollar job.
  • Washing shovels in muriatic acid will allow you to purchase new shovels faster than you planned.
  • Never try to “just fix it” while the equipment is running. Just shut it off and then fix it!
  • Estimators once estimated 220 8-inch concrete units per day as a regular production on an overall average.
  • You will typically put the nitrile gloves on after you began to get your hands dirty because you really wanted to get started and not take the time to put them on - prove me wrong on this one.
  • Take the square foot of wall and divide it by 1.33 and you will have the linear foot of wall wire required, divide it again by 1.33, and you will have the number of wall ties required.
  • Write it down. You will not remember it.
  • Sometimes it is easier to say production will yield 8 bags of mortar per 1,000 brick. We once said 7 per 1,000 brick.
  • Oil the rollers on the saw table once a week.
  • Keep a roll of toilet paper in the truck, really, you should know this by now…
  • If you do time on paper, do it daily, this you definitely will not remember.
  • If you have ’em bring ‘em - extra boots and socks… it only takes once to learn this one.
  • Know where the first aid kit is and what is in it.
  • Wipe off your boots before entering a trailer; respect will be noticed.
  • Check the oil…
  • Roll the extension cords the way the foreman says. Everyone does it differently.
  • You will forget to ship your pre-bent wire corners for the job you are about to do.
  • Colored mortar in the exact same amount as gray will yield 25 less brick per bag.
  • Bet you looked at your hands when we talked about the gobby mess caulking makes…
  • Length of wall multiplied by 1.5 will give you the number of 8-inch brick per course.
  • Take the Advil before you start to hurt. You will feel much better.

This was not intended as preaching or factual education for the new estimator, it is just an old guys take on some old sayings that have been around for years.

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