Please note

Because of the lack of published trowel and masonry tool histories, the information here is based on other sources that may be less reliable and certainly are incomplete. These include eBay and tools that I purchase myself that are the starting points for my research. I will write what I know as I learn it. If what you read here interests you, please check back often and look for revisions and corrections. Scanned catalogs are either mine or by Rose Antique Tools and used with permission, and are on Google Docs as pdf files. A few are links to other websites. Your photos and information are welcome. Please click on any picture to enlarge it. Comments are welcome, but any with links will be deleted as possible spam.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Early Twentieth Century Concrete Block Molds and Machines

Simple block mold
This site usually includes hand tools and not machinery. However, early concrete block molds and single-block machines were important in popularizing the use of concrete a century ago, and they were also hand-powered and portable. Advertisements for molds and machines to make building blocks, fence posts, silo staves, and other objects were common in trade publications of the day. Some manufacturers of molds and small machines include:

Anchor Concrete Machinery Co., Columbus, OH and Adrian, MI
Ashland Steel Range & Manufacturing Co., Ashland, OH
Australia Concrete Machinery and Engineering Co., Ltd., London, UK
Hercules by Century Cement Machine Co., Rochester, NY
Diamond Block Machine Co., Bristol, VA, sold by Montgomery Ward
W.E. Dunn Manufacturing Co., Chicago, IL
Panama by J. B. Foote Foundry, Fredericktown, OH
Francis Machinery Co., St. Louis, MO
Knox, Triumph, and Wizard, made in Ohio for Sears, Roebuck & Co.
London Concrete Machinery Co., London, Ontario
Multiplex Concrete Machinery Co., Elmore, OH
Miracle Pressed Stone Co., Minneapolis, MN
United Cement Machinery Co., Plain City and Columbus, OH

The primary source today of information about these molds and machines is from Concrete Machinery, catalogs issued in the early 1900s by Sears, Roebuck & Co. of Chicago. I have scanned one of these, and there are 3 more with a lower resolution on Sears sold the 3 machines listed above, all shipped from an undisclosed location in central Ohio. In addition to the machines, they sold many accessories and additional molds for making decorative and structural blocks. The catalogs are well-illustrated and a fascinating look at building technology over 100 years ago. The back cover shows houses, silos, and commercial buildings built with machines sold by Sears. I have located several of those buildings on Google Street View. A 1920 English trade journal article describes using the Australia Concrete Machine.

Concrete block mold, cast iron, USA 
Sears Concrete Machinery, high resolution
Sears Block Machine Instructions,
Sears Concrete Machinery 1915,
Sears Concrete Machinery 1925,
Sears Concrete Machinery 1928,
Concrete Block Machines in US in 1909
1905 Francis Machinery on YouTube
1906 Sears Roebuck Machine on YouTube

The molds and machines are very rare today. This 2013 article describes how Justin Grow of Portland, Oregon borrowed a block machine from a local museum and made his own rock-faced blocks for a restoration project. As of this date there is a rock-faced block mold for sale on US eBay with a $399.00 starting bid.

For more information about early manufactured concrete block and many pictures of its uses, see Straub Cinder Building Blocks on

Concrete block machines in Britain, 1921

Century Cement Machine Co., 1907

W.E. Dunn Manufacturing Co.
Sears Concrete Machinery 
Sears Concrete Machinery

One of 2 houses built by C.W. Ward, Savona, NY

Concrete block house near Eureka, IL
For more information about larger equipment in the United States, see the Historical Construction Equipment Association, of  Bowling Green, Ohio.


  1. are the cement block molds still available to buy from Sears ?

  2. have several block machines I make these blocks