Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How To - Read Stone Faces

Reading stones has taken me some time to understand. I feel the process is like learning a new language and I'm still learning. I love it!

I'm going to start with what I call gauged stone. I use this term since the stone I'm showing "Butler stone" happens to have similar sizes thickness. Such as 1",  3 inch high....ect...ect

The stone shown has a undercut. The Face ( face-the part of the stone which faces the out side of the wall -IE what you see) of the stone can be placed on the wall 2 ways (for conversation)

the correct (above)
or the incorrect. (below)

(notice how the stone tapers back at the bottom)

Working with your batter creates a structurally and visually correct wall. (batter - is the angle of the wall in which it may lean. My wooden frames leaning from left to right) 

The face of this stone should flow in the same direction as the batter. Not against it (above). A stone may fit great into your space -BUT-The stone above should be shaped by knocking off the undercut. Making the face a bit more flat. As time would have it - best to work with the stones as much as possible not against them. 

Moral of this blog - if your stone looks like this Flip it over to work with your batter not against. 

What do your stone faces look like?
Notes: How to read stone faces is a never endless topic. I will continue to talk about my journey to understand them. These views are only my opinion. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Testing / Tool List- level 1

Preparation: Level 1 testing (DSC)

Lay out rock sorted into function

Keep all hearting/infill within 24” of wall

Lay out rock similar to the way it comes off the old wall – especially near bottom

Copping stones are the furthest away when sorted

Lay coping stones out in the order they came off the wall

Make sure you have good tie stones available and set aside

Look through “new stone” for potential ties and copes or good foundation stones

You can even set these aside before the competition starts!


Leave 18” of clear space between wall foundation and rocks

Tie your own strings to the batter frames provided

Foundation – up and out by 4” (
Any protruding foundation measurements refer to Specification Sheet supplied on the day  of the competition. Normally 2 inch either side but check spec. )

Build a foundation that looks like a PATIO – extra points!

Try to place tie-in stones (to your neighbor) before they do

Place tie-in stones so that you zipper past the  line that is between you and  your neighbor

If you get ahead of you neighbor - keep building up and it is their responsibility to mesh with your zipper

Cover stones below copes at Shaker Village KY - 
always refer to spec on the day. 

When copping – follow the “random” patern of 2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1 – might need 35-40 (15-30 min to do)

General Stuff:

Neil says – for speed and efficiency – work with your shoulders perpendicular to wall

Keep your coarse work level

Don’t work stone too much – points deducted

Bigger stuff lower in the wall

Mossy side out

Work to the line but don’t touch the line (up and out)

Keep building up each side of the wall at the same time

Keep tools on top of wall so when you switch side you close to tools

Keep your hands moving constantly

If you are stuck  - Pack!

Shadows are better than loose fillers


Get to site early and register early - (
Wether or not if you arrive to register for the competition first on site or 5 minutes before the comp starts there is no way to determine what section you might get. It's called the luck of the draw on the day. I have seen the worst section on the field turn out to be the winner of the competition, it all up to the skill  of the individual.)

Tear out should be done in 30 Minutes

Tie stones should be in by lunch break

Tool List:

* Small Cooler and water container

* String

Line Pins

Small Pickaxe garden tool..ect (great for digging out the little stuff on for foundation)

* Pickaxe (one year the fellow next to me had to work throw tree roots to build foundation-ya fun!)

* Rock hammer ( the basic mason / brick hammer will do the job and any other you use often)

* 2 or 6lb sledge – short handle (busting stones if needed)

Chisel (if you use them - time limited during testing suggest avoid chiseling)

* Tape Measure

Gloves – 2 pair

* Safety glasses

Steel toed boots?

Head lamp (if you like to work in the dark)

Knee pads (if used- I find they slow me down for testing)

* Level (s) if used

* Buckets – Tubs


Quickie saw

Large fan



Plastic explosives


Gas grill

Cheer leaders

Motivational CD’s (Dan Snow)

Sherpa guides to carry all my stuff

NOTES: * = Yes  are a should have. Ha ha factor starts at Grinder and below....

This list above has been supplied by: 

Dale Mitchell
Mitchell Landscapes, LLC

Some information has been (added) or modified to help others plan for a great test day! 
DSC offers a on site port-a potti, rebar plus cross bars for top, string lines... but as a up and coming professional - I would advise you bring the needed tools you use on the day to day. If you have any questions ask the organization you are testing with. 

If your doing a special feature on site, make sure you bring your one wood for frames, rebar... go equipped and ask questions. 

DSWA level 2 notes:
I tested in spring this year. What did I some how forget? 3' or 4' level. Hard to build a cheek end (wall head) with out one. Ok maybe you can. I'm not that good. All other tools listed above. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tool - Line Pins

In UK you will know exactly what these are. I hear you can even go to the local hardware store to buy them. In the USA some might think this is a fancy butter knife. But no this is what they call a LINE PIN.

Line pins are used mainly for rebuilding old walls. Great to put into the stones past the area of your build. I don't use these much for new building. When you have nothing to attach your sting to - just put a line pin in between some stones. Tie your string. If you work with historical walls or will be testing in KY or VT. You should at least buy 4 of these to have. Allowing for one string line per side of the wall if you are building a free standing wall. 

The picture with the string wrapped has more string then it should. This could cause knots. A professional waller explained it best  to "hold the line pin at its middle, pinched between your thumb and fingers in your left hand. Then with your right hand in a figure of eight motion wrap the string around the head and then the spike of the pin in a continuos motion." Of-course not like mine!

Footprint Line Pins USA #220027

Affinity Tool Works, LLC
1161 Rankin
Troy, Michigan 48083
(866) 588-0395 Toll-Free(248) 588-0395 Phone
(248) 588-0623 Fax
I believe they cost me about $12-$16 ball park. Great folks. Tell them I sent you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


After years and years it was time to put my graphic design skills back to work. On my commute to work on my motorcycle, I thought about what image would best represent my identity.  I wanted something solid like a rock the symbol of a circle came to mind. I thought about walls having negative space. The areas which no stone sits. The black and white creates the shapes. The letter R would be my symbol. I sat down and started the idea process. One R at a time. The letter was hand drawn. Then scanned then cleaned up and sent over to my buddy to create the digital version. I'm proud to say Rockin Walls now has an identity.