Tuck pointers get their name from their original purpose: “tuckpointing”. Unlike repointing, which is essential to maintaining the structure of walls and regulating the flow of air and moisture through brickwork, tuck pointing is a purely aesthetic procedure intended to disguise irregular bricks and make brick joints look neater.
Tuck pointing works by using two different colours of mortar to create the illusion of a fine, regular brick joint. The actual brick joint is filled with brick-coloured mortar, and then a thinner ribbon of lime mortar or some other type of differently coloured mortar is laid into a groove in the brick-coloured mortar.
This creates the impression of a joint that is much thinner and neater than the actual joint.
A brief history of tuckpointing
Tuckpointing has been a fashionable way of cheaply improving the aesthetic appearance of brickwork for several centuries. It originated in the Netherlands, but by the late eighteenth century it was well-known as a distinctly English way of repointing bricks. The name comes from literally tucking brick-coloured mortar into the brick joint to make room for the lighter-coloured mortar.
Expert “tuckpointers” were in high demand in Georgian and Victorian London. Having a house built from neatly square-cut bricks was a sign of status, so wealthy Londoners living in older houses with irregular stone walls would hire tuckpointers to create the illusion that their houses were made out of square bricks.
Over time, special tuck pointing tools were developed that were especially suited to tuckpointing. These eventually developed into the modern tuck pointer.
The wide availability of good-quality square bricks means that tuckpointing is now fairly rare, but the art is kept alive by a small number of specialist tuckpointers. Proper tuckpointing is very important in the conservation of period buildings.