This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
There are three important considerations to be kept in view in adjusting the proportions of materials for block concrete—-strength, permeability, and cost. So far as strength goes, it may easily be shown that concretes very poor in cement, as 1 to 8 or 1 to 10, will have a crushing resistance far beyond any load that they may be called upon to sustain. Such concretes are, however, extremely porous, and absorb water like a sponge. The blocks must bear a certain amount of rough handling at the factory and while being carted to work and set up in the wall. Safety in this respect calls for a much greater degree of hardness than would be needed to bear the weight of the building. Again, strength and hardness, with a given proportion of cement, depend greatly on the character of the other materials used; blocks made of cement and sand, 1 to 3, will not be so strong or so impermeable to water as those made from a good mixed sand and gravel, 1 to 5. On the whole, it is doubtful whether blocks of satisfactory quality can be made, by hand mixing and tamping, under ordinary factory conditions, from a poorer mixture than 1 to 5. Even this proportion requires for good results the use of properly graded sand and gravel or screenings, a liberal amount of water, and thorough mixing and tamping. When suitable gravel is not obtainable, and coarse mixed sand only is used, the proportion should not be less than 1 to 4. Fine sand alone is a very bad material, and good blocks cannot be made from it except by the use of an amount of cement which would make the cost very high.
The mixtures above recommended, 1 to 4 and 1 to 5, will necessarily be somewhat porous, and may be decidedly so if the gravel or screenings used is not properly graded. The water-resisting qualities may be greatly improved, without loss of strength, by replacing a part of the cement by hydrate lime. This is a light, extremely fine material, and a given weight of it goes much further than the same amount of cement in filling the pores of the concrete. It has also the effect of making the wet mixture more plastic and more easily compacted by ramming, and gives the finished blocks a lighter color.
The following mixtures, then, are to be recommended for concrete blocks. By "gravel" is meant a suitable mixture of sand and gravel, or stone screenings, containing grains of all sizes, from fine to 1/2 inch.
1 to 4 Mixtures, by Weight.
Cement, 150 parts; gravel, 600 parts.
Cement, 125 parts; hydrated lime, 25 parts; gravel, 600 parts.
Cement, 100 parts; hydrated lime, 50 parts; gravel, 600 parts.
1 to 5 Mixtures, by Weight. Cement, 120 parts; gravel, 600 parts. Cement, 100 parts; hydrated lime, 20 parts; gravel, 600 parts.