Weekend Linkages: The Birds Have Eyes

Spotted in East Hollywood: security cameras in a bird house.

Antique Pattern Library

Make a Spin Dryer From a Discarded Washing Machine Drum, an Abandoned Bicycle and a Pallet

Synergizing the Beauty of Mathematics and Art

A giant pumpkin timelapse

Benibeca, Menorca is one fine looking town

Census: No great migration occurred during COVID-19 pandemic

The truth about bitocoin

Dear Joe: The Electric Hummer is Not the Future

Why Sharrows Are Bullshit

The a podcast about the downfall of LA city coucilman Jose Huizar

Archbishop lets down flock

The internet is magic sometimes


We had this crow statue sitting around for years with no place to go and a big pile of unused bricks, the remains of a failed parkway path project. Last week I finally got around to putting the two problems together by building a plinth out of brick.

To do this I had to review the ancient and challenging art of brickwork. Lacking an actual living person to learn brickwork from, always the best option, I resorted to YouTube.

Most of the brick how-to videos I found were far too short, leaving more questions than answers about a task that seems simple at first but is actually quite difficult. After much searching I discovered the work of a British stonemason who goes by the name Rodian Builds. Rodian’s videos are much more detailed than the other bricktubers out there.

What I like about Rodian is that he goes through every gesture in the process of laying a brick: how to get the mortar on the trowel, how to dump it off, how to hold the bricks etc. For a beginner these details are the difference between a far from perfect but acceptable project (my plinth) and a complete disaster (my past attempts at brickwork).

Some basics I learned from Rodian and from building my slightly wonky plinth:

  • Getting the first two rows as perfectly square and plumb is crucial. Mistakes accumulate as the rows of bricks go up.
  • I made a square out of scrap wood to the exact dimensions of the plinth so that I wouldn’t have to keep pulling out a tape measure. I could just hold my square up to the bricks to know that the plinth was square and exactly one foot on each side. This is a form of a storey pole, something that I’m familiar with from woodworking.
  • You can practice brick laying with wet sand. I’d recommend doing this before tackling a project.
  • Get all your bricks as close as possible to what you are building.

In terms of tools, all you really need is a level, a trowel and a ruler. I also have a pair of brick tongs for carrying bricks (we live on a hill so this tool is almost essential), a tub for mixing mortar and a chisel and mallet for cutting bricks.

Bricklayer, August Sander, 1929.

I like the idea of making small garden follies with bricks and can imagine other uses for brick structures in gardens. Could I build a wall or something structural? No way–not without a lot more practice. Brick work is intellectually challenging and hard physical labor. I have much respect for the people who do this for a living. I mean, just think about the man in that Sander photo above and ask yourself if you could do this while balancing on scaffolding many feet up in the air.

If you’d like to try your hand at a simple brick project I highly recommend two introductory videos by Rodian: one in which he makes a small brick pyramid, which he said is the first thing he was taught as an apprentice. If you’d like to make a plinth he has a video on that too. He also has videos on how to mix mortar and just about any brick project you can think of.

Weekend Linkages: Fall Fig Leaf

Homemade Harissa Sauce

Fascine Mattresses: Basketry Gone Wild

A timeline of Food (via Recomendo newsletter)

Saturday afternoon Ikea trip simulator

Just in case you need a centaur costume

Art, Hoax, and Provocation

The quiet, monochromatic urban landscapes of Russian painter Vladimir Shinkarev

In dystopia news . . .

Against artsploitation

That strange 1990s swing revival thing

An interactive world music map (via Recomendo newsletter)

Saturday Linkages: Soon There’ll Be Thunder

Our late dog Spike on the Bonneville Salt Flats October 2001.

The hidden climate costs of America’s free parking spaces

Biden’s $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Hastens Beacons For Bicyclists And Pedestrians Enabling Detection By Connected Cars [editor’s note: I’m not happy about this idea]

The Real Reason Facebook Changed Its Name

‘Wondrous and amazing’: female California condors can reproduce without males

Edith Wharton’s Hauntology

Want to build some brick projects for your garden? This is a great YouTube channel on brick laying

Music break: some trippy music from 1969