There are several excellent methods for getting stoned; or hitting the bricks.


Applying extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam panels then carving in the desired profiles.

  • If a greater amount of displacement is wanted in certain areas; these can be padded up with additional pieces of foam..
    • You can use these techniques to create the illusion of brickwork as well.
  • XPS comes in 1-1/2” thick sheets which may be attached with a silicone or sub-floor adhesive applied with a caulking gun (or from a can); feathering out the adhesive with a notched trowel.
    • These adhesives will rapidly make your nice expensive trowels useless.
    • Gang cut the notch pattern into stacks of ¼ ply on the band saw. When one becomes too clogged with adhesive; throw it away and get a fresh one.
      • You can skip the feathering and simply lay down multiple beads of the adhesive; but you risk having important parts not actually adhered to the flat.
      • The volatiles from some of these adhesives are quite toxic; and can send you on a very bad trip.
      • Nuisance dust masks are a nuisance and not effective with these chemicals
        • These will include plenty of fan forced ventilation and the use of canister type respirators (with the correct cartridges installed.)
          • If you have a beard or mustache these must be shaved off to allow the respirators to function properly

Vacuform and Compressed Pulp Panels

  • There are several suppliers who have stock panels on offer. Some also have the in-house capacity to create custom panels

  • Thoughtlessly applied these can produce an unfortunate “cookie cutter” look on large expanses; especially when seen from a distance. This, however, can be overcome with a bit of malice aforethought.

    • If you order custom panels these can be individualized by adding or removing extra brick bits between pulls
  • Corners can be a bit tricky. Some suppliers carry “corner panels” that match the profiles of their flat panels

    • Vacuform is made from thermoplastics. With a deft hand and great care they can sometimes be “bent” around a corner with a heat gun. But work carefully; you risk losing the profile.
    • Simple butt joints always look kind of sketchy and require a lot of doping to make them look plausible.

      • A better practice in this situation is to “finger” them together.

The Homasote Brick Gag

  • Brickwork where brick-faces come in single, double and triple thickness.
  • Antique and non-Northern European sizes and patterns.
  • Niche enclosures and other one-off decorative applique.

Work out the number of bricks, and their dimensions, you need (don’t forget to include the mortar line thickness.)

  • You will need slightly more than half this number of blanks.
  • Rip and crosscut the sheet of of Homasote to the desired face size of a full brick.

    • It must be Homasote. Similar materials are too dense and don’t split properly.

      • As per my earlier post Accuracy vs. Precision make these cuts at the same saw, at the same time, from the same saw stop/fence settings. Even the tiny differences that can creep in from un-settng then resetting the stops and fences; can accumulate, over a long course, and really bite you in the brick. Your mortar lines and course patterns will go all cattywampus before you realize what’s going on.

Next. To the Guillotine !Bricks without Straw - Guillotine 1

To build this gag you will need:

  • A hardware store machete
  • 2 pieces of ¾ ply
    1) The length of the entire machete blade (not including the handle), plus an inch; by about 9”+ (the base)
    2) The same length by about +4” (the fence) Or, about 1/2” wider than the maximum width of the blade
  • Two triangular glue blocks cut from a square piece of the ¾ ply that is the fence height on each leg
  • Glue & fasteners
  • 1) 3/8” x 2” hex head bolt
  • 2) 9/16” hex nuts

    • Or – 1) Appropriate Nylock nut
  • 5) 3/8” washers


  • Attach the fence to the base with 1/3 on the off side, 2/3 on the working side.
  • Add the corner blocks on the off side; about 2” in from the ends

    • Strike the corner block stickout from offside/shortside of the base and pre-trim.

Drill a 3/8” fractional oversize hole near the tip of the machete.

  • To locate his hole. Place one of the washers so it touches both the curve of the tip and the spine of the blade. Give it about a 1/4” of air from both references; and mark the hole.

    • If you place the hole to far back; the tip will foul on the base (batter up)

      • Check while it’s still a pilot hole.
    • Keep your tip well lubed during drilling; you don’t want the blade to have a temper tantrum.
  • To locate the matching hole on the fence

    • Place the blade’s flat against the fence with the cutting edge resting its entire length on the base.

      • Make sure the handle protrudes fully beyond the end of the base.
      • Make sure (before you drill) that the tip isn’t fouling

        • If it does; cut a  for a little relief kerf (notch) in the base.
    • You can mark and drill, or better; use the hole in the blade as a drill guide (a true 3/8” bit works best here.)
    • Bricks without Straw - Guillotine Detail
  • Place one washer on the bolt, put the bolt through the hole in the fence and add as many washers as needed (on the other side) so that the blade stands off the fence ½ the thickness of the Homasote blanks. Then through the hole in the blade, add one more washer and start the first nut.
  • When you’ve got the right tension; lock it in position with the second nut.

    • If you’re using a Nylock, snug it up enough to eliminate excessive play; without unduly restricting the movement of the blade.
  • Finish the gag with tung oil and a hand rubbed carnuba wax finish. [Kidding ! – if the foreman catches you doing something like that; he/she’s gonna tell you to “take a picture” before handing you your pink slip]
  • Raise the blade out of the way and hold a blank in the gag with the broad side against the fence and the long narrow side flat against the base.Bricks without Straw - Guillotine 2
  • Start the cut. Before you cut off your thumb, disengage your grip, reach over the back of the blade, re-grab the blank (behind the blade!) and finish the cut with a satisfying thunk.

    • With practice you can process as much as 240 blanks in an hour (with a yield of between 440-480 usable “bricks”.)
  • Set aside the not so goods. You can harvest a lot of the end-on and half bricks, from these, rather than wasting a full brick. There are also situations where a nearly good can be used to make a brick that has had part of its face peeled off.
  • Lay out the brick pattern (including the mortar lines!) on the flat and proof it.
  • Roller some (don’t be cheap with the) wood glue on a section of the layout and set the bricks to cover the glued area. There is no law that requires you to glue up the mortar lines. The less of that you do; the less of it you, and your tools; will wear. The less likely someone else will find sticky glue blisters (skinned but not cured); days later.

    • Encourage their adherence, to the plan, with a few fabric staples or narrow crowns or a hand staple gun.

      • If using narrow crowns back off the pressure to the gun so that the NCs don’t blow through the Homasote. Don’t use a regular pattern or orientation for the staples; you don’t want them to telegraph.

And that’s how to make bricks; without straw.


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