Troll YouTube long enough and chances are you’ll see all sorts of “how to make it” videos. And buried with the manufacturers of frying pans and treadmills and dental floss, there is no doubt that there is a need to dive deeper into how pipes are made. The methods will vary according to the material, but the similarities between copper, PVC, cast iron or even concrete, pipe factories is that they employ high levels of automation. With a product like pipe, it’s hard to differentiate yourself from other manufacturers on features, so the only way to compete is price. This means reducing bone costs, and it means getting rid of as many employees as possible.
As was not always the case, of course, this is how I lookrish Stoneware & Fireclays Ltd. The 1980s show produced clay pipes, drain tiles, and chimney flues. The amount of hand work involved in making a single, simple clay pipe is astonishing, as is the number of hands engaged in various tasks. The factory was located in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Ireland, near the outcroping of a rock that produces the raw materials for its products. The process of excavating the rock and mixing it with the ground was one of the few mechanical steps; Although the extrusion of the pipe itself was mechanized, a team of workers was needed to load and unload the machines.
The amount of handwork that went into the pipes after coming out of the extruder was significant, especially the sewer pipes. The creation of the “Armstrong Junction”, a complex fitting that serves as a sewer line cleaning and inspection port, was interesting to look at, especially since almost no jigs were used and no measurements were taken. With skills and decades of experience it was strictly Mark I Ible staff.
We love these documentaries that now capture some of the long-lost ways of creating stuff. The “Hands” series was created by Ireland’s public service broadcaster RTÉ in the 1980s, and one realizes that even then, long before the current wave of off-shoring and globalization began, they knew they were capturing the last days. Dead art. We’re glad they did.