Floor Cloth. All the materials used for covering floors are now included under this title, the most important being the old-fashioned oil-cloth and the newly-invented linoleum. Oil-cloth, in the course of its manufacture, goes through the following processes: - Coarse canvas made of jute or flax tow is woven in large pieces; these are then cut into smaller sections, and one of them - perhaps 25 yards long and 8 yards wide - is placed- on an upright frame and stretched by means of screws. It is then "primed" with size, and, when dry, scoured with pumice, after which it is ready for painting, as these operations render it impervious to the injurious acids which escape during the oxidation of the linseed oil of which the paint is composed. The paint - usually yellow ochre - is, first of all, applied to the back with a steel trowel, and when it is dry - which, unless artificial means be used, may not be for a fortnight - another coat is laid on. The front is painted five or six times, and pumiced once or twice before receiving a new coat. A final coat is added with a brush, which gives the ground shade, called the brush colour. The next stage is the printing, which is effected by means of woodblocks, each colour in the pattern being stamped on the canvas by means of a separate block. They are usually made of pear-tree wood, and are about 18 inches square. Steel tools are commonly used to engrave the pattern on the block, but this is now sometimes done with heated iron punches. The floor-cloth is laid beside the printers on a table with a padding of flannel or felt; on another table are placed the colours, on which each printer in turn dabs his block and then forces it down on the floor-cloth by means of a small screw press. The printing is now sometimes done by machinery, the process in this case being an imitation of hand-printing.
Linoleum consists of canvas backed with pigment and size, the wearing surface of which is covered with a mixture of pulverised cork, oxidised linseedoil, common resirj, and kauri resin. The chief element is the pulverised cork, for which waste cork-cuttings are used; these are reduced to fragments about as large as a pea by means of a series of steel discs, furnished with teeth which revolve on a shaft against steel plates with serrated ends; they are then ground into powder by millstones. The oxidised linseed-oil is obtained by setting long pieces of calico, called "scrim," in an upright position, and then "flooding" them with boiled oil, which spreads over their surface in thin films. This is continued for 6 or 8 weeks, at the end of which time the oil has become about half an inch thick. The scrim and the films together form a "skin," but the oxidation of the oil results in the decomposition of the scrim. The oil is now mixed with the resin in the proportion of from 4 to 8 cwt. of oil to 1 cwt. of each of the two kinds. For this purpose a pan is used which has an outer jacket filled with steam; it is covered with an air-tight lid, and within the pan and at a valve at the bottom there are stirrers. The common resin is placed first in the pan; when it has melted, the kauri and oil are added, the steam being shut off as soon as the mixture becomes warm, as the oxidisation of the substances furnishes the requisite amount of heat. When the "cement" has been formed, the valve is opened, and it descends between grinding rollers. It is then allowed to cool, but heated again before being mixed with the cork. The next step is to fuse the ingredients more completely together by passing them into a cylinder, which has a steam jacket, and contains fixed and revolving knives. The mixture is then formed into a sheet through the action of two rollers, one of which is kept cool, while the other is heated with steam. This sheet is broken into small pieces, which are forced into the canvas by means of steam-heated rollers of cast iron. A backing of size and pigment is then given to the canvas, after which it only requires to be printed and cut into separate pieces.