If you’re getting into some bricks and mortar, here are some tips on using the latter ingredient.
To make sure your mix is even, thoroughly dry mix any premix using cement before you add the water.
You can color the mortar for a more pleasing effect with iron oxides. When you’re mixing these in with the dry cement, do it in large batches for consistency. If you do it in small batches as you actually mix the mortar, it’s tough to get the same color match each time.
To make sure you have a good consistency, put some mortar on a trowel, and hold it upside down. It should stick.
When you’re mixing the mortar by hand, add your water this way. Make a small heap of the dry mix, make a crater, add water and push the walls in to the water, so it doesn’t escape. Continue as you mix.
Clean off excess mortar as you go, and wipe with a damp cloth. Try and avoid wetting the joints. To point (or form the mortar in the joints), wait till the mortar has set a bit so it’s slightly firm to the touch. If you need to clean things further, wait for a week till the mortar’s fully set, and use a brush or pressure washer.
For safety’s sake, protect your skin by wearing protective clothing and gloves. And use respiratory equipment when working with dry materials.
Protect the environment, too. Don’t wash spills down storm drains. Use an absorbent material such as cat litter to collect it, then sweep it up and dispose of it.