This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
Some blockmakers put on a facing of richer and finer mixture, making the body of the block of poorer and coarser material. As will be explained later, the advantage of the practice is, in most cases, questionable, but facings may serve a good purpose in case a colored or specially waterproof surface is required. Facings are generally made of cement and sand, or fine screenings, passing a 1/8-inch sieve. To get the same hardness and strength as a 1 to 5 gravel mixture, at least as rich a facing as 1 to 3 will be found necessary. Probably 1 to 2 will be found better, and if one-third the cement be replaced by hydrate lime the waterproof qualities and appearance of the blocks will be improved. A richer facing than 1 to 2 is liable to show greater shrinkage than the body of the block, and to adhere imperfectly or develop hair-cracks in consequence.
The above suggestions on the question of proportions of cement, sand, and gravel for tamped blocks apply equally to concrete made very wet, poured into the mold, and allowed to harden a day or longer before removing. Castings in a sand mold are made by the use of very liquid concrete; sand and gravel settle out too rapidly from such thin mixtures, and rather fine limestone screenings are generally used.
To get the full benefit of the cement used it is necessary that all the materials shall be very thoroughly mixed together. The strength of the block as a whole will be only as great as that of its weakest part, and it is the height of folly, after putting a liberal measure of cement, to so slight the mixing as to get no better result than half as much cement, properly mixed, would have given. The poor, shoddy, and crumbly blocks turned out by many small-scale makers owe their faults chiefly to careless mixing and use of too little water, rather than to too small proportion of cement.
The materials should be mixed dry, until the cement is uniformly distributed and perfectly mingled with the sand and gravel or screenings; then the water is to be added and the mixing continued until all parts of the mass are equally moist and every particle is coated with the cement paste.