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Tile Factory 1959

(photo courtesy of Jens Rost) In 1959, Les Hendy, ABV2’s Senior Cameraman, came to me one day with a proposition.  He had been approached to make a short film for a company down the Nepean Highway.  He had spoken to John Cameron to get permission.  Cameron could not see any reason why it should not be done.  He was not going to advertise that it was going on, but he thought that it might add something to the prestige of the Commission of it were done.

Les had been approached by a small tile company.  They had, for years, made tiles in a conventional way which is as follows:

They had a sort of assembly line on which the tiles were formed.  They had hoppers which contained sand, cement and coloured dyes.  The cement mix was made and through a funnel a measured dollop of cement was deposited on the pallette mould on the assembly line.  The mould was the shape of the bottom of the final tile and so, the mix settled into that shape.  Next , a measured dollop of dye was squirted onto the forming tile.  As the assembly line moved forward, the palettes which held the material for each tile passed through a shaped mould which wiped the top of the mix to give the other, top, profile of the tile.

Then came the major problem.  Now, it was necessary to unload the palettes with the wet, formed, tiles on and hold them for twenty four hours to dry.  This required considerable manpower and was a nuisance, since the dry tiles now had to be taken to a hard standing to harden.

This small company had made a brilliant discovery that was so simple, they wondered why no one else had thought of it.

They made adjustments to the assembly line so that as the tiles reached the end of the wet process, they were automatically pushed on to the frame four at a time.  After four tiles had been loaded on to the frame, the frame itself rose to accommodate another set of four on a rail underneath the first four.  In the end, the frame would hold five rows of four tiles.  When complete, the frame would be removed from the assembly line and taken in to dry off.  In the meanwhile, a frame completed the day before and thus carrying twenty dried tiles was put in the place of the first frame.  As the wet tiles came along they would push the dry tiles off the frame on to the conveyor belt for the dry tiles to continue their journey to the end of the assembly line.  Because of this there was no delay. Wet tiles arrives at a point and then dry tiles moved on from that point.  Brilliant !  At the end of the assembly line, one man could handle the dry tiles and stack them in the yard to mature.


Image by Amaury Henderick via Flickr

The whole system was run by three men. One to oversee the automatic mixing of the cement and the application of the dye, one to change the frames from wet to dry and the third to unload the finished article at the end of the assembly line.
This concept was a revolution in the art of mass tile making.

Les and I made a film of the whole process.  It lasted about ten minutes and, very clearly, showed how the system worked.  Les was the cameraman, I directed and edited the film.  We even recorded the commentary with an A.B.C. newsreader in the A.B.C. Recording Suite.

The reason the company wanted a film was so that their representative could take it overseas to show tile companies so that they might be encouraged to buy the whole concept, and assembly line, for £750,000 to operate under licence.
I think the film cost about £450.  Some time later, we had a call from the tile company to say that their rep had shown the film to two groups in the United States who had bought in.  Not a bad return – One and a half million pounds against an outlay of £450.

Les and I did not make much money out of it, but it was good fun to do and we were proud of our contribution to someone getting quite rich.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2011.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about the ABC click here.

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