Sunday, June 28, 2020

June 27th 2020 Flatwork/Patio Workshop


Rockin Walls Training Center hosted the second Sold Out - reschedule spring workshop June 27th. This workshop was the Flatwork Patio. Great group with the owner Robert Lehnhoff's and 4 of his lead team members along with the Pearson Brothers, Tyler and Luke. Who for the last 2 days were busy moving Luke out of NY to PA. On a Hot high 80's everyone really put in some hard work. Many thanks to all. A big thanks goes out to certified waller Adam Fisher from Baltimore helping with instructing. Adam does a great deal with Bluestone sheet stock making some amazing patios, walls, steps... check him out. https://www.pescatorestone.com/

I'd also like to thank all our sponsors, Balducci Stone Yard, PaveTech, Swanson Level, PAW Wheelbarrow, Spartan Tools, Trow & Holden Tools VT just to name those tools we used this past weekend. Rockin Walls Training Center is the only training center with "Try Before You Buy" tools. See our full line up of sponsors: http://rwtrainingcenter.blogspot.com/p/sponsors.html

We started the day off with edging options and setting patterned blue stone called squares and recs. The Lehnhoff's team jumped right in on the 3/8th angular washed stone bed.

While the Pearson brothers started out on the concrete sand bedding. No time was wasting looking for all the right sizes. After making some great progress we took a slideshow break at the request of Robert Lehnhoff's to see how Adam and I work with large sheets of bluestone to make our patios. We also had the opportunity to show off other edge examples

Later in the day Nick Balducci owner of 2 bluestone quarries in New York. Stopped by to give some great wisdom about Bluestone quarries. Everyone had the chance to ask some very good questions. Nick offered any one who would like to see more to contact Greg at Balducci Stone Yard located at Maryland Line. 

Many thanks Nick for taking the time to swing over to the training site. 

After lunch we jumped right into demonstrating and teaching feather and wedging. This is another great way at a low investment on tools to be able to custom split large stones for caps, curves, tie stones... Robert Lehnhoff wasted no time eagure to see just how this would stack up compared to traditional methods used such as a 14" Concrete Saw. The first straight cut was just to easy for him. 


He wasted no time making a curve to see just how well it would split on a 3"thick bluestone. 

SUCCESS! Next the question came up would you and or how could you dress out the drill marks? Adam and I grabbed our go to chisels and showed the quick and easy way to clean things up. Normally this is not always necessary since this is a traditional method for splitting stone. 

It wasn't long before Robert was up to just one more thing! Making the R for Rockin Walls Logo. This is truly one owner who is hands on all the way! Just like they say lead by example. Now the "R" was to small and did not work out as hoped. A for effort - Robert, can't say you didn't try to push the envelope on that one. 

Once finished we moved right into stand up or also called flag, irregular. Now the biggest thing about this workshop was to cover all the basics. 1 day is not enough time to cover grades, base, compacting, so many other key topics when building a patio. While we touch base we really wanted to have the hands on with all the stone. Show off all the tools we use and last but least the tricks that have worked well for me and Adam creating for our clients. 

Adam showing the over top cutting and scoring method of two stones

Next he demonstrated my method of angle cutting the side for 4 reasons. 1) giving the look that it is tight to the next stone. 2) hiding the saw cut sides 3) minimizing gravel snow plowing in the joints when setting, lifting...moving 3) the ease of chiseling the edge if the stone was cut to tight that it doesn't quite fit correctly.

Then once again Robert took all the stones we had just cut and give a spin in the PAW Battery assisted wheelbarrow. No joke this thing is a game changer for moving things around a jobsite any day! These stone would have taken 3 guys/gals to move. 


The end of the day everything was cleaned up except for the remains of the irregular flagstone. Everyone did a great job keeping safe distance. JC from Lehnhoff's did an amazing job following up with sanitizing all the tools all day - many thanks. We had 2 wash/sanitize stations along with 2 tool sanitize stations, and 1 spray station by the ice cold water served all day. It was a hot one but we rocked it out. 

Next workshop SOLD OUT July 11-12 2020 Freestanding wall workshop with visiting instructor from UK/TN Martin Beevers.

If you like to be on the mailing list for fall workshops please contact Mark@RockinWalls.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Day - 32 Mon/Tue 23 - Westminster - "Tracing CAPS w/Sharpie"!

If your wondering why I have day 32 with 2 days... I got rained out halfway thru Monday. I started my day out Monday bring in 2 pallets of the large "Steppers" for my cap stones. Along with a half pallet of thin blue stone. Great for shimming up the back of the caps.  Next I unloaded them all from the dump trailer with the Ditch Witch. Next it was off to setting caps. Then rain : (  So Tuesday jumped right back into it with only half to go. This week with be another short week since I have a Flat Work Workshop this Saturday at Rockin Walls Training Center. 

In this image you can see in the forefront the 3 large steppers right below the Ditch Witch. So nice to have the left wall done. Caps next on the right. I started building the caps at the steps using this as my target height. Then started building/setting caps towards the house. 

Tuesday being a full tool day I gathered just about everything I needed to get started. The vacuum is for collecting the dust. The generator helps run the 7" grinder (on top), the Zip Level keeps me in check, the green bucket has all my walling tools, white bucket is all the electrical piping tools, the milk crate is the water system for the gas saw on the other side, 1 1/2 pvc pipe for electrical low voltage a metal square, 14" gas saw and of course the handy PAW Battery Assisted Wheelbarrow. Great for helping bring everything back up the hill to the job trailer at the end of the day. 

Monday this was where I had left off. 

I started the day finding my first cap stone. The splitter looked like the best cutting option for this stone. Much quicker with less mess and noise then the 14' cut off saw with water. So far I've had about 75% success with snapping the caps. When they have a bedding plane down the middle I choose to cut them with the gas saw. This avoids breaking into several unexpected pieces.  You never can predict the true outcome of shaping a stone. This stone looked very solid so I felt I was safe. It snapped in the splitter just as I had hoped. SUCCESS to start the day. 

Once I placed it I realized I needed to get good side to side contact. I ran the gas saw between the last to caps on the joint in order to get a tighter fit. 

Now time for my TRACING CAPS WITH A SHARPIE... I like to use plastic drop cloth to make templates. I started with was a large sheet which I cut down. Then I place it on the stone and trace the with a sharpie. Next I cut the plastic to product my template. My plan was to make this stone the corner cap at the end by house. Having the template will allow me to place it on the wall and see just how it will fit. With out every moving the stone to the wall before hand. 

I set the template on the wall at corner. I then marked on the plastic where I would need to cut the stone in order to make it fit in the corner of the house. Seen above

All cut - placed on the wall with plastic pvc rollers to slide it around for inspection for proper fit. 

I then placed a few of my wooden wedges under to help level up the cap stone. Then checked everything with a 6ft level to the existing set cap to left. Once again building lever from the steps to the house.  I choose to set this corner wall cap next because I find it easier to fill the gap between the caps. Then save it for last. If I didn't have a house in the way I would have built in one direction. Setting the last cap as as seen in the corner. 

Next it was time for 2 low voltage pipes one which runs under cap by the wall next to the brick. The other will be set in the corner incase I choose to do a uplight in the corner. Lighting up the brick wall. 

Next I cut another piece of plastic for a template of this stone. The main reason was to see if this would overhang on each existing cap. The reason for this is so I can saw cut it on the wall.  With the plan to drop it straight down once cut. Little easier said than done ofcourse. 

I then set boards on the inside of the existing caps. This helped me to keep the middle to be cap above the existing caps set. 
I was thinking the mini would be the best way to place it on top of the boards. It worked just fine. 

After clearing a bath I found it was easier to come in with the Ditch Witch. Lift it up and out to make any changes as needed.

The only thing remaining is building up underneath front and back of last set cap. Along with dropping one more pvc pipe in the middle of the joint. The wall will have the ability for three under cap lighting if necessary. This will be Wednesday's first task. All the little stuff takes time. Just like all the low voltage pipes for sleeve when it comes to running the wire it will be a breeze to fish everything right into place. Hard to add it later once your done the project. Even if you never plan to put lighting in. Someone might later so why not just add them?!

Next up the right side. This will make a total of over 20 ft of wall. I'll have to check total coverage of caps. What I did fail to mention is this wall is a seating wall around the lower 500 sq ft bluestone patio. The overall height is 28"h off the patio. Little by little Rockin' It Out - One stone at a time. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Day 31 - Friday - Westminster, "Gearing up for Caps"


My day started out running to the quarry to pick up some 3/8" washed gravel for the patio base. Just wanted to get a load to stockpile at our farm. When I'm ready to start the upper patio being (under 200 sq ft ) I can bring the #8 stone in the oil tanks. 
On the way to the jobsite I stopped at Home Depot to pick up some more PVC plumbing pipe fittings. Once on site, I went ahead and swapped one of the gutter elbows out with a better elbow. Along with added another to the end.  So I could get everything away from the steps in preparation for middle/upper walls.

One thing that really helps save time and money with shaping stone is the stone splitter. This really allows me to take a stone and trim it the way I need in order to properly place it. For example the curves are a great way to explain what I need when shaping... Pizza Slices all day long. When making these custom shaped curves which start at the bottom of the steps. I can truly find the stone I like then snap it to get the angles necessary for a visual and tight fit. The stone below I just squared up on the sides having started with what you see in top image.  


In this image you can really see the angles of the curves of all the walls. You are also able to really see just how much stone should be used in a properly built dry laid stone wall. The style I'm using for my retaining walls is a double sided. This style is referred to Yorkshire (GB). This is made up with a front wall - a back wall and hearting/packing in the middle. click on any of these images to go bigger. 

The far wall by the 4th step has the first 2 caps placed. Making the wall  28" height in the lower sections. 

Dry Laid Stone Steps
This image is just to show how the wall curves back over to the house. Also you can see all the 1/2" pvc sleeves to each step. For the low voltage lighting to come at the end. 

Now to work with this design I'll be including 2 more walls. Second wall in the middle built from the 4 step to 7th step (that's the plan) Third wall will be to help hold and retain the bedding stone for the upper patio. This will extend about 15' out from house headed toward mini excavator in this image. One thing enjoy when I'm build my projects I like to let the stone help dictate the design as I go. I always go into each project with a over all plan. Not like segmental blocks which are square I can create just about endless shapes. Natural stone never goes out of style, nor will it show fade color, your not confided to material shape restrictions. Withstand the natural elements over 100's of years not break down. 

Make your next outdoor space natural stone for generations and generations to enjoy. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Day 28 etc... Tuesday - Westminster- 9th Step ~ DONE!!!!



Feels like weeks getting to the top of the patio step #9 today I made it! Over 36 stones make of these double stack stairs. I spent a lot of time since my last post on the 23-24th day of plumbing. I've added 3 more steps. Lots of low voltage sleeves on each step. Built up the sides at the top and by the porch. Brought in more back wall stone and gravel. Removed a great deal of empty pallets and oil tanks. Removed and replaced my stone splitter blades to newly HARDEN BLADES.  Hosted first Rescheduled Spring workshop. Over the weekend 8 interest homeowners and tradesman attended the Fundamental Workshop. 

Feels good to have the steps completed. Everything from the lower - upper patio and the walls, all revolve around the steps. They set the pace for the remainder of the build. The benefits of a double stack stone step are: 1) Overhang can act as a drip edge, add design and depth, gives a great place to down light. 2) Unlimited design choices as to how to place them giving more or less tread, changing the direction. Some of these steps have up to 20" under overhang (with the upper thread hanging over by 2 3/4"). 3) Low voltage lighting can be sleeved to run threw the joints on the bottom of each tread. 4) The size stones ranging from 3-4" give the ability to use several cutting methods as seen below. Feather and wedge, snapping, or gas saw (most saws are 14" which give you a cutting depth of less than 5".) 4) Great deal more permeable than a solid tread. 5) Have far more character the a solid tread would. Just to name a few that come to mind. 

9 steps @ 7" rise with a pitch on each to keep the water off of them. 9x7"= 63" pretty amazing for natural stone +5/8" (above). Ya buddy ~ That's what I'm talking about ~ BOOYAH!!!!

Loving the sweeping curved wall coming into the steps. Now time to get back to wrapping these lower walls up. 


Danananana Ditch Witch! Always there when I need it! 

I sure love my Zip Level Pro 2000 for saying on track. 


The one day it was all feather and wedging. I could use the gas saw but I'd have to clean up each of the sawn faces. Ya no I'll go with the old school method works just as good if not better sometimes. Plus a much more traditional method. 


One of the earlier days I was having a bunch of fun snapping the blue stone. So hit or miss if it works. This day I'd say I had a 65% success rate. The splitter can handle up to 36" wide  x 11" high stones. 





Time to replace the blades on the stone splitter. Since this was a custom splitter the my fabricatore didn't send the blades off to be Hardened. Thankfully they had made me a spare set. So I took them to my local machine shop Maple Grove Machining. Who took got them to the right folks who heated the metal up to the correct temps. So far everything is holding up well!

Rachel the client's daughter had come to give me my daily snacks. When I tasked her with holding the socket driver on the opposite side of the lower blades. What a big help-thanks Rachel. 

The heated blades in the box.

The removed blades not so happy. If the heat treated blades hold up I'll have the shop up the street get them back to sharp and send them off to be heated also.