In the early years of the 20th Century, cement was all the rage. And the idea of making your own cinder blocks (for fun and profit) apparently also became quite popular. The back pages of the 1905 issues of American Carpenter and Builder (a building magazine from that era) were filled with advertisements for block-making machines and cement-stirring machines.
Sears offered the Wizard Block Making machine which retailed for $57.50 (a bargain at twice the price!). And Sears suggested that a man could save a lot of money on building a new home if he made his own blocks. Now if a man devoted himself to making nothing but blocks and if a man had someone else preparing the cement for pouring, he could make about one every two minutes. To do this, the poured cement was loaded into a form, pressed down in this contraption and then removed. The form was not removed until the concrete had hardened a bit. That meant if you were serious about making blocks, you had to have several forms on hand.
The ad below suggests that the
block could be removed immediately from the form.
Sears estimated that 1,300 blocks were needed for the basement of The Chelsea (one of their kit homes). The Chelsea was a modest foursquare on a short cellar. It’d be safe to assume that a Chelsea made of nothing but block would require more than 4,000 blocks. If you devoted yourself to the creation of those blocks and really hustled, you’d need about 17 eight-hour days to do nothing but work like a dog making blocks and setting forms in the sun and breaking open the forms and placing the forms back into the machine. And that’s if he had someone else preparing the cement. That’s a lot of work.
When I give talks on Sears Homes, I get a surprising number of questions about the Wizard Block Making Machine. Apparently this labor-intensive, cinder-block maker was quite a popular item for Sears.