Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Definition: Tracing, Stone - no, no

A tracing is a stone which may look like a rectangle not a square as shown above. When building a dry laid stone construction one should avoid this when possible. You may use a tracing stone if it happens to run half of the wall width making good contact with the stone behind it. But repeated practice of tracing stones may weaken the structure of the wall. In some areas of United Kingdom this is a common building practice. Some stone maybe to large to make smaller. 

The above shows the best solution for a stone such as a rectangle. Placing the length into the wall will make a dry laid stone construction more likely a sound structure. In addition with the other basic walling principles.

This Dry Stone Mason - new to the craft wanted to gain a quick length of wall per day. By picking and placing tracing stones he gained length fast. Building in 6' sections. Can you spot his section with the longest larges stones? Look at all the sections - notice what looks to be the average size of stones on the job.

I have seen a great deal of dry stack stone walls with tracing in my area built by wet masons. They are using the same practice if they were building with mortar in order to get the most face out of the stone. This maybe be ok when using mortar.  This is not correct for a dry laid stone construction!

Moral of the story if you live in the USA and someone is building this way (a full wall or more then a handful of stones/unless this is the best use for the stone)- question them? Maybe fire them and hire someone who knows a little more about Dry Laid Stone Masonry. In this day and age with the internet, workshops, Ebooks, books, blogs, websites, YouTubes - I'm still shocked at those in the industry such as Masons and Landscape - who still have no clue. There is no excuse! Do what you do and do it good. Don't make excuses for crappy work. Build it right the first time so someone else doesn't have to come back and repair it a second time.

Notes: Rules are always meant to be broken. Just not all the time. You be the judge of when a tracer is ok.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DSWA North America Members Newsletter Feb 2012

NAMG Newsletter - Feb 2012

Congrats to all those how have worked so hard to make walling in North America what it is today. With out your hard work I would not have ever started a blog about Dry Laid Stone. Thank you for sharing the love of stone.

Please support the cause.  Take some time out of your hectic life and take a workshop this year!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Project Finished - Wyman Park Dell - Baltimore 2010

Before patched together wall
The Dry Stone Conservancy from KY working with Allied Construction took on this massive undertaking in the Summer of 2010. The wall was a total of 1400 linear feet on average 3 ft high Butler stone retaining wall. Twelve Certified Dry Laid Masons from, MD, NY, MI, NC, KY working for 2 months to finish this amazing Dry Stone Project. 

We worked on 6 ft sections at a time. Once we finished our section we would moved down to the last waller. Starting the process all over again. 

These are a few of the sections I'm proud to say I built!. 

The darker stones are from the old wall section

Cap stones are a min of 8 inch thick weighing in at a min of 200 pounds per stone. 

Finished wall section

Come Visit Wyman Park Dell Located across from the BMA in Charles Village by Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore City, Maryland

Google Map Wyman Park Dell


Rockin Walls specializes in the Craft of Dry Laid Stone with an expertise on local quarried Butler Stone. Why would you hire a wet mason to build a dry stack stone wall?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tools - Carbide Hammer & Chisel's

When I first started into stone a mason friend helped directed me to purchase the following carbide chisels- Tracer, Pointer and a Set. When I started into my journey with stone I began to use my handy carbide chisels. They worked great. The benefit of carbide is the strength of the metal helping to keep the edges sharper longer. I purchased my first ones from Bon Tools. This was a great place for me to start with. Later I learned about Trow and Holden who actually make the tools. 

One of the first workshops I went to by Dan Snow w/ Andrew Pighills, in 2008 at the Mohonk Preserve NY. I had noticed both Dan and Andrew when they picked up any tool this was the hammer of choice for this workshop. Andrew seemed to like the Fiberglass. Dan had the wood. Dan's hammer was a little different. ( 3) Trimming $182 - 2.5 lb ) 

I decided if both guys used this type of tool maybe I should try one on for size. I liked it. I found once I started using this hammer I rarely pulled out the chisel's. What I liked about the Trimming Hammer  was it saving me one step. I didn't have to stop what I as doing to pick up a chisel. I was able to trim on the go. Keep in mind most of the stone I use in my area is very hard to shape. Butler stone really cuts down on the life spanned of the blades forcing me to sharpen them more often than other stones.

The key with purchasing the right tools. You have to first come to realize:

1) Not like A Superman Costume you will not become the best stone shaping master by buying a tool! Taking a workshop along with practice will help guide you to success. 
2) One can easily become obsessed with tools, like I did when I first started learning a new craft. With the help of a good instructor - I was asked to focus on the natural beauty of the stone unbeaten. Moral of the story. Shape what you need to but don't waste time doing it. PUT THE HAMMER DOWN! Step away from the wall. (ok sorry I was thinking about cops and robbers) 
3) Know your stone! Different hammers/chisels/tools will fit your needs based on style, stone harness.... Yes let's not forget your budget - just be sure to make a choice based on long term use. A Carbide tool is 2x + then a non carbide. Is it worth it? Depends on how invested you are? For me YES. 
4) If you make the investment YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO SHARPEN AND MAINTAIN your tools.  See my YouTube video listed below or others.

These are my Carbide tools back in 2012. I still own and use all of them and have added only a few more. The Pink duck tape helps me find them faster. I spray paint all of them to keep them from rusting. (Update 2017- Rust is no problem! A great New safe product called Metal Rescue can do magic on anything that has rust.) 

Left to Right

1) Rock Pick  $121 - 1.5 lb Carbide blade and 16 tooth bushing head. I use this a lot on some of my softer stone such as sand stone ( PA Blue stone ) great for taking off edges without running the risk of the stone splitting into layers. Down side it does leave its mark.
2) Trimming $192 3 lb w/Concave carbide double edge's both sides. Great when you need a little more weight behind your swing. 
3) Trimming $182 - 2.5 lb w/Concave carbide double edge's front and single back. My Favorite for a little of everything. This with a brick hammer and I'm good to go.

4) Hand Tracer $76 - 1" Stock 1" 1/2 Blade. Great for splitting stones. Tracer Video
5)  Rocko $82 - 1" Stock 1" 1/2 Blade $82 Great for shaping stone edges. Keeping the energy of your hits direct and kicking out.  ( Rockin Walls Blog review ) Rocko Video
6) Hand Point $47 -  5/8" stock. Used for taking of high points Point Video
7) Hand Set $109 - 1" 1/8 Stock with 3" Blade. Used for trimming large stone edges. Works best with flatter stones. ( I have yet to use this chisel) Set Video

My favorites in order
3, 4, 5, 2, 

Trow and Holden - Vermont USA

Starter Tool Set

Video How to Sharpen Carbide tools.

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