Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Creating Cement Tile Molds and Pigments for Handmade Tiles: Part 2 of Our Look at ARTO Brick

Handmade products have always intrigued me. I appreciate the time, the effort and the passion that goes into creating something with little or no need for machinery. Our hands have always been our best tools, but when things need to be made in massive amounts, then machinery can play an important role in helping to meet the demands of impeding deadlines. 

ARTO's Normandy Cream cement tile combination
ARTO's Normandy Cream cement tile board is getting ready for shipment. There are four textures in this combination: Travertine, Luna, Limestone and Standard (smooth).

Thus, when I recently toured the ARTO Brick and California Pavers factory complex in Gardena, CA, along with several architects and designers, I knew I would be in for a treat. Over the years, I have been on several tile manufacturing tours, but let me stress how excited I am for each and every tour. I’m literally on edge wondering what we’re going to see next. Let me put it to you this way – I’m the main character of the movie “Groundhog Day.” Yes friends, any previous tour I may have participated in gets wiped clean out of my memory! You may be wondering why that happens. “It’s just tile,” I’ve been told. Well, good point. With that theory, you can also say that a Pacer and Ferrari are “just cars,” right? And that’s when the highly animated arguments over engineering and craftsmanship start, and then, it happens. They get what I’m saying. And with that, let’s continue our look at how ARTO delivers on its promise of handmade quality and longevity. 

Custom Tile Molds

With the vast majority of raw materials sourced locally, each ARTO product is manufactured with concrete. Concrete’s lifespan can not only be measured in decades, but it can also be measured in centuries. You only need to refer to ancient European ruins to see how the properties of cement tile remain time-tested elements of any structure. 

Before the process of tile-making commences, molds must be made. There are several types of molds used at ARTO, including rubber, plastic and metal. Each mold has a specific purpose for the type of tile it will help produces.

For example, rubber molds are first created using carved wooden pieces where the rubber is vacuum-formed over the wood. These rubber molds offer a higher level of detail, flexibility, and they can be used repeatedly. 

A humble piece of wood will soon contribute to the tile-making process.
These humble pieces of wood will soon contribute to the handmade tile-making process.


Wooden forms are carved out to the exact specification of the plastic mold that will form the tile.
Wooden forms are carved out to the exact specification of the plastic mold that will form the tile.

These shapely tiles are the product of the wooden blocks and the rubber molds they helped create.
These shapely tiles are the product of the wooden blocks and the rubber molds they helped create. 

The Chemistry Behind the Color

Our next stop on the tour included a peek into the science behind the coloring process of concrete tile. ARTO used the Davis Color Chameleon Liquid Color System for mixing the wide assortment of pigments needed for their concrete tiles. With this system's dded flexibility, they are able to offer dozens of color options for to their clients, including customization services for specific shades. Honestly, the possibilities seem nearly endless! 

These massive tanks hold the colors that will be mixed and used for creating the various shades of colors available in ARTO’s cement tile product line.
These massive tanks hold the colors that will be mixed and used for creating the various shades of colors available in ARTO’s cement tile product line. 

Lastly, it should be noted that ARTO not only believes in sustainable practices, but they practice what they preach in an energy-efficient facility. For example, the vast majority of raw materials needed to produce their tiles are sourced locally. Also remember that each ARTO product is manufactured with concrete. Concrete’s lifespan can not only be measured in decades, but it can also be measured in centuries. 

In my next post, I’ll take you through the handmade tile-making process where you’ll see a dedicated team of well-trained professionals producing ARTO’s masterpieces, one piece at a time.

I know I gain a better appreciation of what goes into producing a handmade piece of tile, including those carried by Avente Tile and their extensive line of Cuban Heritage cement tiles. I'd love to hear your experience with handmade tile! Did you require custom colors, sizes or shapes? Were you pleased with the outcome?   


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