Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tool - Drill, Wedge & Shims

Tool - Drill, Wedge & Shims

I've wanted to learn something new. The time came to ask some serious questions. My stone buddy Russ B from Washington helped with a lot of my questions.  The question was - what to buy if I wanted to learn how to split stones with wedge and shims.

First question - what would be a good hammer drill to buy? He had suggested a Hilti (such as aTE 50/ or TE 60) or Bosch. I did some homework looked at the specs checked out craigslist. Looked on ebay found used Hilti's running around $200 plus. I did some more homework and found a great buy from Harbor Freight Tools. After reading all the reviews I made a minimum purchase of $80. How could I go wrong. I'll post more later when I have  put this drill to the full test. So Far So Good!

( 08/2012 update: Harbor Freight Drill still Rockin' it out. Best money ever spent!! Lightweight and fast! A must buy on the list of tools to own. )

Image Notes: the wedge and shims are only placed in the stone for the photo. In order to split this stone these would have been turned the other way. Helping to split the stone apart. The black rod on the drill is used as a gauge depth in order to help gauge consistent hole depths.

The next thing I learned was drill bits. Hammer drills use different style bits. All the above use a style called a SDS Plus system.  I'm still learning the terms. I'll report more on this topic in the future. SDS Plus bits can be picked up at most large hardware stores such as Home Depot. I looked on ebay and found 25 - 8 inch 5/8" drill bits which I won for $40. Most bits run on average $15 for a carbide mason bit. Yes I was very pleased with my 25 bits on ebay for $40.

Now it was time to understand sizes for wedges and shims. I picked up 2 sets from Trow & Holden in Vermont. This is a list of what they offer.

Now this was the confusing part for me. SIZE what size to order. Russ and others suggested I consider picking up 3 inch. What is that???

Yes the wedge is 3 inches. This is also the depth you would drill your hole. So when you buy a drill bit such as the one I use 5/8". Recap I bought the wedge and shims that are 5/8" (the drill bit size) Hole size 3" Hole depth. Why a bright color. I've been told it's not fun when you lose them. Bright paint can help locate your tools quickly.

I have already learned what stones work better to drill and split with wedge and shims. Soft porous stone don't break well. But a harder stone or sandstone normally break where you want them to. Just play with anything you can get your hands on.  I'm glad I was able to make  all my purchases at a price I could afford. Buying a $800 drill was out of the question at this point.

Special Thanks to - Russ
& Matt, Jared, Chuck, and Brian.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tool - MUD Mats / Stall Mats

Noting says MUD like brown wet earth. Every season has pro's and con's. Spring rains keep me from driving my skid loader (tire machine). I slip - I slide - I sink - I make a mess - I get stuck!

After thinking about this problem I came up with a solution. Some will use plywood. The problem with plywood - it breaks, it soaks up water and can be a one time use product?! A 4x8 3/4 Fir CDX treated plywood sheet runs about $40. The next sure thing many big trucks us are the DuraDeck. A 4x8 holds up to 2000 pounds only cost $235 each mat - OUCH! At this price I decided to make the purchase of Stall Mats 4x6 3/4 rubber weigh about 100 pounds. Cost around $35-40 bucks. They do flex when you drive on them and can some times spin out. The Stall mats offer a simple fix. Clearly the DuraDeck or a skid loader with tracks @ $50,000. Are the BEST solutions for mud. I'm ok with my $500 investment.

The best part you can use them over and over. Just hosing them off when your done.  Pile them on a pallet to move from job to job. I found they also work great for protecting area's I'm dumping stone matteral. I can place them on top of concrete or asphalt to protect surfaces from handling stones. I also found just keeping them close to the job keeps me from having to trample in mud all day. Or just keeping me safe from slipping and hurting myself.  I also love using them to put my stones down on to trim. Easy clean up with the stone chips and durable enough to handle any hammer blows.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away.

Woke up today to thunderstorms. I was so heart broken I decided to sleep in another hour. Mondays are always stone days but after finding out it was going to rain all day, I was not ready to put my best foot forward. I figured today would be a good day to just move my new stone to the job site. 

Rain? I was dressed to the hill. Nothing like not being ready. You have to stop what your doing just to go get dressed for the weather. I moved my stone the first part of the morning...back and forth driving two trucks to get everything over and off with the skid loader. Then I saw a ray of SUN. Mean while the same weather system was hammering New England with more snow. I was fighting off the first mosquitoes of the year and the sun rays. What a great day after all!

Mother nature pulled a fast one. The lesson I learned - Just when you think the day is going to be a total wash...put your best foot forward and move on with your day. It may turn out different then you could have ever imagined. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Building a proper foundation is the first start to a solid wall. Just like your home. A house can't stand without the foundation. Everything above depends on it! When you set out to build your foundation take these steps:

1) Start by digging off the top layer of sod. Dig till you reach good solid earth. Eye up your stones to determine the average size. Such as the wall above I had stones ranging from 4-6 inches. I dug out to 6 inches - allowing for the ease to dig more as needed per stone.

2) Use a string line on stakes or you're A-Frames to mark out your footer. Be sure to make sure this is level- Unless you're doing a stepped foundation. (stones will still be level but stepped)

As shown above this foundation is for a standard 4 ft high KY wall. The foundation is 34 inch allowing for a 4 inch protruding. A foundation should match our grade level seen below.

3) The A-Frames are built out of a 1x4. Why you ask? Well the best part of this A-Frame you just set up your strings on the outside for your foundation. Then when you're ready to start building your wall. You then move your string lines to the inside of the frames. You can also build your A-Frames out of 2x4's they will hold up longer.

4) You want to find the largest flattest stones to help lay out your foundation. No wobbly stones. Remember length in, Also pack the inside with the biggest stones to smallest. Your stones should go into the wall min of 8". A 12"-15" stone is a much better choice.

5) Keep your stones as close to the string line without touching as you build.If your foundation is not solid, level, packed properly- your wall could be a structural failure! Take the extra time to make it right.

If your foundation is not solid, level, packed properly- your wall could be a structural failure! Take the extra time to make it right.

Notes: Not all foundations will protrude from your standard wall. Styles, techniques, stone etc will vary from site and or region ......etc

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tool - Neil's Sod Tool

Neil Rippingale one of the most amazing stone masons I have ever had the opportunity to work with. But when he's not laying stone he's creating some very practical tools. This one was spotted in the back of his truck. The tool is a Sod Removal- how does this work? The device bolts to the bottom of his skid loader bucket. As the machine is moving backwards the tool skims the top layer of Sod. Depth believed to be 6 inch's below grade. Making a very clean cut, allowing for sod removal and relocating if needed. Why would one need to do this? When building a wall you most build your footer for your wall. This should be 6-8 inchs below grade. This Sod Removal tool makes for a clean cut without having to hand dig. Quick, easy and great for large jobs which a skid loader can get too.

You can see in the back round just how well this tool worked at the Shaker Village KY site. Small stone aggregate was filled for the safety of the public. The other benefit as this wall grows in the future less work will be required for site prep. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video-HIGH GA$$S ? In the News

I'm a busy guy. Are you seeing high gas prices? Me too. But guess what I can drive a scooter I own a scooter shop. Check out the latest in the news from one of Baltimore's top television shows WBAL.


Scooter Sales Increase Along With Gas Prices

2008 Clip