Creating Junk


The Failure

In 1962 Rio Clay Products built a glazing plant, to glaze brick. The kiln had two cars, one on each end. Each kiln car was about twelve feet long and about four feet wide and held about 2,500 eight-inch brick. A pair of tracks ran through the kiln and extended out about twenty feet. The tracks consisted of heavy gauge 4-inch angle iron.

After a kiln car was loaded, it was pushed into the kiln, doors were lowered and sealed and the kiln was fired. After the kiln had cooled for about 24 hours, the doors were opened; the kiln car was removed and unloaded.

While the kiln was being fired, the other kiln car was loaded with green ware.

Stacking the kiln car was an interesting process, since there were sight holes in the kiln so the operator could look through the stack of brick to ensure that all of them were coming up to temperature at the same time. Two different glaze bases were used; and by the time pigment was added, it modified the firing temperature of the base glaze. As a result, each color had a specific firing temperature.

When we started using the kiln, black spots showed up on the glazed brick, especially when a red glaze was used. In the process, about 10,000 glazed brick had to be discarded because they were not saleable. The price for glazed brick at that time was about $1.00 each. Based on the rate of inflation, that was a loss of nearly $80,000. That was not acceptable.

Herb studied the problem and determined that the cause was related to a mortar which was used when the kiln was lined with insulating brick. Knowing the cause, it was easy to devise a solution, and he implemented it. For a few weeks, he was ecstatic that he had finally had a success.

An architect saw some of the discarded red-glazed brick with black spots, and decided that he needed them on a large project he was designing. Recreating the effect was much harder than eliminating the original problem. While he produced acceptable brick for the job, they were never as good as the original junk he had produced.

The Lesson

Herb learned that what he thought was junk was valuable and could have been sold at the brother-in-law price (50% above retail).

The Success

With future problems, Herb learned to pay attention and fully identify the causes of the problem in the event someone wanted him to recreate the failure. Over the years he had this request numerous times.


Author: Herb

In January, 2010, I left corporate America, and now I have my own business. Since I have never been able to focus on one item (Does that make me a scatter brain?), I divided my company into three divisions: Kayak guiding and instructing - specializing in nature kayaking, Building materials consultant - specializing in cements and forensics, and Writing - Stories w/ life lessons and construction books that are fun to read. Published books: The Stucco Book - The Basics, Animals I Have Hated, Grandpa, Help! Answers to Questions a Young Lady Would Never Ask Her Parents, Grandpa Helps Grandparents, Living with Cancer – That Intense Houseguest, Homes for Jubilee (June, 2016), and Kay pou Jubilee (in Haitian Creole) (August, 2016). Forthcoming Books: The Adhered Concrete Masonry Veneer Book, The Stucco Book - Forensics and Repairs, and Failing My Way to Success.

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