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Cathy - adobe bricks 1

The craft of adobe brickmaking

I’m from Wisconsin, right in the middle of sand country! When we started digging the basement for our new house, we encountered what is known as sugar sand. It’s a very fine sand that’s not even good for building sand castles.

So, fine, we couldn’t dig our basement as low as we wanted to because the sand walls kept collapsing.  That sand is the bane of my existence because it also gets tracked in the house. Needless to say, we have an abundance of the stuff. Because I have access to so much of it, I need to be creative and find a use for the sand.

My host here in New Mexico has an abundance of what he calls dirt, and what he does with it is amazing. I got to be a witness to the art of adobe brick building.

Three ingredients are needed to make adobe bricks: dirt, water and sun. The amounts of which are usually eye-balled after you have had some experience.

Norm and I haven’t had experience, so the first batch of bricks got a bit too much water in them. In this situation two things could occur; the bricks take longer to dry, or they may crumble apart completely.

So, assuming things go as they should, the mud mixture is then shoveled into wooden molds. We were using multiple sizes of molds meaning the bricks would be varying sizes.

Cathy - adobe bricks 2

The molds were left flat on the ground for a few hours to dry in the sun. The bricks start pulling away from the side of the mold as they dry, much like a cake that pulls away from the side of a pan as it bakes. After a couple of hours of drying, the molds can be easily removed.

The bricks are then placed on their sides to continue drying over the next couple of days.

Something else that New Mexico has that Wisconsin does not is extended hours of hot sunshine. The sun bakes the adobe bricks until they literally become rock hard. What do you do with an adobe brick? The same thing you would use a cement brick for; retaining walls, paving stones, you name it and you can use it.

I will not be making adobe bricks in Wisconsin but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the education and experience. I will continue doing research on how best to use the sand I have access to. I hope to come up with something as useful as an adobe brick!

About Cathy Duesterhoeft

Cathy and her husband, Norm, travel throughout the United States in their Brave Winnebago working for Mainly Marathons. When home in Westfield, Wis., their RV is parked on a gravel pad while they finish construction on their new home. Cathy documents their many adventures on her website at

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