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At The Factory: How We Make Tile

Posted by: Kali • Oct 23

At The Factory: How We Make Tile

All of us here at Fireclay are fascinated by our manufacturing process.  Those of us based at our San Francisco Headquarters are always anxiously awaiting our next trip to the factory–We love any chance to get our hands a little dirty!  We think seeing our tile made from start to finish is such a cool experience that we wanted to share it with all of you.  So over the next few weeks we'll be giving you a behind the scenes look at how our different products are made. First up– Our Ceramic Tile!

There are three crucial elements in the business of making a tile; clay, water, and fire. Of course the magic happens between the lines, but first you need clay. For this we source high-grade Fire clay from one of the three clay mining areas of California, the Lincoln district in Placer County.

Once we have our main ingredient, its time to mix in the extras that make our clay strong, give it some plasticity, and help it keep it's shape while it becomes a tile. We have been on a mission to incorporate as much recycled material as possible into our products while improving quality and durability at the same time. Today our Recycled clay body boasts of over 70% recycled materials, which include locally sourced post-consumer glass, granite dust, and porcelain from toilets collected to back water conservation efforts in the bay area.

Our materials are crushed and mixed until we have the perfect blend.

All components are then added to our giant mixer, with just the right amount of water.  Once mixed, the clay heads towards one of our favorite pieces of equipment,  the extruder.  

We are scavengers and waste consumers, through our manufacturing practices we are able to consume more waste than we produce by re-using our own waste water and manufacturing scrap.

Smooth as silk our compressed clay is transformed into an even, workable slab. Our extruder has celebrity status around here, built by a company that specialized in locomotives, this 31 thousand pound beast compresses all our different particle sized ingredients into a considerably stronger, hardier, product than the much more commonly dry pressed bisque method of today, including European porcelain!

Here, the tile has been cut into the specified size. Each one is carefully transferred to a drying board and sent to cure in our drying kilns.

Our white clay body tile is made with a smaller extruder, but undergoes a similar process.

Here our white clay body is being cut to its specified size.

 We make everything to order, if it is shapes we are making they are cut, cookie cutter style from the long continuous slab, then carefully transferred to drying boards.

Once cut, raw tiles are stacked, racked, and prepared to become hardy bisque blanks.

After air drying we move the bisque tiles to our dryer where they are prepped for the next step in the tile making process, glazing.

Stay tuned, next week we'll giving you a peek at our glazing process.

Want to learn more about our sustainable manufacturing processes?  Check out our Sustainable Manufacturing page.

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