Mr Pittham, who has been with York Handmade since it was founded 30 years ago, created the state-of-the-art dryer from scratch. The dryer is capable of handling more than 33,000 bricks at a time, significantly speeding up the production process.
York Handmade chairman David Armitage said: “He is the most loyal and dedicated employee one could wish for. Even since we formed York Handmade, Steve has been the bedrock of the company.
“He is also extremely talented. A new dryer would have cost us about £300,000, but Steve’s ability to design and build our machine has saved us about £200,000. This has been a labour of love for him and it is a fantastic achievement.”
Mr Pittham added: “Our previous dryer had run its course and just wasn’t capable of handling the pressure of our increasing order book. We had the choice of buying a new one or building one ourselves. I liked the challenge of the second option and I am delighted it has worked out so well.
“It took about four months to build the dyer and it has already made a huge difference to our production process, doubling the amount of bricks which can be dried at the same time during a 48-hour cycle.”
He said that a fast and efficient dryer is a crucial part of creating handmade bricks. All clay bricks contain water, which makes the clay flexible enough to shape. This water must be removed before the bricks can be fired.
The process must be carefully controlled so as not to stress the product, which could lead to distortion and cracking. York Handmade’s new dryer can now remove 4,000 gallons of water at a time.
The introduction of the new dryer comes at a busy time for York Handmade. New projects include a £300,000 contract to build a new library at Magdalene
College in Cambridge and a restoration project at St Albans Cathedral.
Mr Armitage added: “Looking ahead, it is encouraging to report that brick remains the building material of choice for many architects and specifiers across the UK. Providing the economy doesn’t implode, we anticipate a very successful and enjoyable 2019.”