Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 First project of the year

I started this project at the end of last year. Right before winter set. I was happy to have every thing dug. Just waiting for stone. The first phase was to remove the old rail road retaining wall. Before I could do that I had to remove the old plantings on the top. I stated with hand digging. Times like these I was thinking how great a Mini Excavator would be.

Once the cold moved in (frozen ground) I was able to get in with a skid steer to help with the remainder of the old wall. One by one I used the forks to pop them up and off. I then had to dig out the section both with the skid loader and by hand. Prepping for my footer.

Today I had the pleasure after waiting for winter to pass to get back on the job. After about 3 trips with the skid loader it was time to put it way. The rain and snow from the last few weeks. Made it just about imposable to get any thing done. So I pushed on with what stone I had to get my footer built. I'm building a 5ft x 20ft retaining wall. Using Butler stone. The same as the house.  The main goal today was to start my footer (3ft wide) getting it as close to the cement pad as possible. Which was cut in by about 12 inches or so. The wall will come out and curve back in. Then (earth) graded will be tapered down and around to follow the curve. Some of the all on the curve will be buried under the earth.

It was great to get the winter blues out of my head. But working in the mud and the rain. Can be another soggy topic. I'm happy spring is coming!

More of this wall to come later.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tool - Trailer Helper flat tire

Once in a while I loose or miss place my keys. When I find them I think to myself I need to go get a second set made! 

I  feel the same about getting a Flat TIre on my trailer. Not to long go I was coming back from a job with my skid loader in tow.  I hit a pot hole and blow out a tire. With no spare on hand. I limped the trailer to a friends shop. Left it  for a week until I had a spare built. 

At the time I used a tradition jack to put the new tire on. Not until later that year at x-mas my wife asked for a Trailer Helper for her Horse trailer. I had no clue. That's a trailer helper? Ask any horse person with a tandem axle trailer-they'll tell you. So merry x-mas to me too.

The way the Trailer Helper Aid or also called a "Jiffy Jack" works you drive the trailer up on the ramp with the good tire. Which in turn allows you to remove the damaged tire since it is now lifted off the ground. Be sure to loosen your lug nuts - a bit - with the trailer on the ground. Its that easy! 

You can find these all over the web. They run around $40 +/-. The Trailer Helper is designed for tandem axle trailers. With regular torsion bar suspensions up to 14,000 pounds. With  slippery spring suspensions  or leaf spring or up to 8,000 pounds. My Trailer Helper is made out of Steel. Weighs about 12 pounds. Measures to 33" long by 7" side and will lift the tire off the ground up to 5 1/4". When not in use it can double as a tire chalk.

1-Spare tire
1-Tire wrench
1-Jiffy Jack.

Now you're ready for that "what if?"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Consider this when hiring a Dry Stone Mason!

If you plan on hiring a Dry Stone Mason, take the time to see their work. Understand what they do. How they have been trained. Do they hold any qualified certification from DSC or DSWA? Ask for referrals. Understand what good walling looks like. Just because someone is a mason who may work with mortar, they may not understand how to properly build a dry stone wall. 

Most businesses will be happy to take your money and say Yes we can do that. Remember also dry stone doesn't mean dry stone look or mortar should be used. Dry Stone walls are built with out mortar. Only on rare occasions mortar may be needed for a special application.

I've taken the steps to learn correct walling, I follow key rules and build to the level of my training, always pushing to be greater. In 2006 I built one of my first walls. (pictured above) I had never built a wall before of this size. This was recycled Butler stone a friend had given me and my wife. In 8 hours I put this together. I had only read books but never taken a workshop. Running joints in more then a few places. Weed cloth on the bottom- a no no. Simply not needed since your stones should sit right on the earth.

Some of the other things at the time I did not think of was the undercut of the stone. If you look hard at some of the stone you will see more then a few which are not working with the batter of the wall. So instead of tapering back some actually stick out due to the shape. I also did not use any string lines or frames - I had no idea what they were at the time. In 2007 I would learn the basics from the DSC in KY with master craftsman Neil Rippingale. Seen below workshop in Shaker village KY.

Moral of the story- don't let any fast talking "Professional Stone Mason" tell you how qualified he or she is. The internet is a big place - do your homework - check credentials, inspect work. Ask questions. Last but least do they build it or do they have a crew of men who do the work. Sometimes a one man show will be slower but the quality of work will be correct with a skilled craftsman.

For more information about correct dry stone walling check out Dry Stone Principles. The DSWA of Great Britain offers some great leaflets on proper dry stone walling. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Video-Shaping Butler Stone

I worked on a project over in the Whitemarsh Maryland in Nov 2010. This Youtube is just a simple kick back uncut. Just over 5 minutes. In this footage I'm working on the corners. The corners can be some of the hardest areas due to the fact your trying to tie in. If you take your hands and put your fingers into your fingers. They then lock together. You will see some of the challenges one can have when working with stone. I was running out of good corner stones to work with. Forcing me to shape stone to get what I needed. But in the process you always run the risk of loosing a stone. As seen in the video. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tool - Gloves what's your flavor?

Yes one could say what's your flavor? Gloves may be a lot like beer. Everyman and woman have their own taste. Some love beer some don't even drink beer. When it comes to gloves I love them. I know a lot of great stone masons who like to feel every stone. They feel it  is important for them to understand what the stone is saying. For me gloves are a must. I hate when I drop a stone on my fingers. My gloves have saved my fingers way too many times.  I like knowing my fingers are protected.

This is why I've spent so much time looking for the right pair of gloves. Most of the rubber gloves I tried last me 1 or 2 days. Most of these would start blowing out between my fingers. The all leather gloves are way to bulky. The mechanic style gloves are nice but may last 2 weeks and start blowing out on the thumb and right finger. At a price of $25 they are not cost effective to work with.

The search for the BEST pair of gloves has come to an end. I have tried everything from leather gloves to rubber gloves from hardware stores. Prices range from $4 - $25. In second place Wells Lamont rubber gloves found at Walmart for about $4. 

#1 BEST Choice in gloves for working with stone are Atlas Fit 300. I found mine on the internet. You could easily pick up a bulk pack of Atlas Fit 300 (12 pair for $35) that's right around $2.92 per pair. I easily get a hard week of work if not 2 out of each pair. Thats hard to beat! They offer a great fit and great grip. They also hold up well in the washing machine. 

Buy on Amazon: Click below

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cold Weather Blues

The other day I saw the SUN. Wow what a great feeling.  I keep telling myself just a month away before warm weather. I know every one in the US has been thinking that. Ok maybe not my buddy in Texas. But I'm ready to get back to the grind.  Nothing like starting a job and sitting on hold for a few months.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Out House

When working on the job site I carry my handy pop-up out house. I bought this pop up tent with indoor plumbing (walmart port-o-potty) back in 2008 when gas was at a all time high. I only work on my job sites once or twice a week. But may spend over 40 hours per job. Renting a out house can be expensive in my situation. So I put one together to carry from job site to job site. The first time my contractor buddy saw it set up - he laughed. But at the same time realized what a great idea. I know his helper was wishing they had one! I could see the trees in his eyes.

I feel I know each and every one of my customers-my customers treat me like family. But I have to drawl the line. I avoid going into a home unless I'm with them consulting. Other wise out of respect and my own safety. I can never be questioned if some thing goes missing from the home. A family member, friend could easily walk into the home and take something. Only leaving me open to question. I don't want to leave my self open plus it's not professional. Setting up a out house on a job site is the best thing to do if approved by the home owner! In only 5 minutes I'm up and running.

Down sides of not having a out house on site would be: the time it takes to travel to get to the closest fast food joint, fuel cost and the wasted time. Why leave when I have work to do!

One mans laugh is another mans office. It's just a out house.