This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
This is a matter of the utmost consequence, and has more effect on the quality of the work than is generally supposed. Blocks made from too dry concrete will always remain soft and weak, no matter how thoroughly sprinkled afterwards. On the other hand, if blocks are to be removed from the machine as soon as made, too much water will cause them to stick to the plates and sag out of shape. It is perfectly possible, however, to give the concrete enough water for maximum density and first-class hardening properties, and still to remove the blocks at once from the mold. A good proportion of coarse material allows the mixture to be made wetter without sticking or sagging. Use of plenty of water vastly improves the strength, hardness, and waterproof qualities of blocks, and makes them decidedly lighter in color. The rule should be:
Use as much water as possible without causing the blocks to stick to the plates or to sag out of shape on removing from the machine.
The amount of water required to produce this result varies with the materials used, but is generally from 8 to 9 per cent of the weight of the dry mixture. A practiced blockmaker can judge closely when the right amount of water has been added, by squeezing some of the mixture in the hand. Very slight variations in proportion of water make such a marked difference in the quality and color of the blocks that the water, when the proper quantity for the materials used has been determined, should always be accurately measured out for each batch. In this way much time is saved and uncertainty avoided.