Sunday, July 22, 2012

How To - PA Blue Stone Steps - Beechdale Rd, Roland Park MD

Beechdale Project includes 8 PA Blue Stone Steps. The bottom steps measures in at 3 ft long with the top step being 4'. The interesting thing with PA Blue stone slabs each stone ranges in sizes these are from 3"-5" as seen with the 4th step up is 5" thick. This build incorporates tying the steps into a freestanding wall on right and retaining wall on left (as seen below) . The steps have a 6" rise with a 14" tread. Making walking up and down them very easy for any one. 

I start with slabs of stones. Then I use feather and wedges to make the slabs into the sizes I need. My goal is to create a min of a 16" tread. 

Related blogs:

How To - Wedge and Feathers Voodoo Magic

Next I measure out my stone step to determine what I need to build under each one to get me to my goal of 6" rise. Some of the biggest issues with natural stone - one side might be 3" the other 4" and the back side some thing totally different. Making it very challenging some times to get the stone to be level. Most of the time I shoot to have each step drop a little at the front in order for water to run off quicker. Then again your working with natural stone you do the best you can. 

The steps I'm building with I've kept the drill marks since the home has a great deal of stones with them over the window frames. So it gives the look that the steps had been built at the same time period. Visually tying the two together. 

Next I set up my square to make my marks for the next steps. Using a crayon I mark a cross two lines one for 14" and the other for 16". ( placement of the step above)

The 16" mark is where I start to build up my stone under the step to get me to the 6" rise I need. The 14" mark is my over hang of 2" to give a little contrast and negative space under the step. 

Next I'll use a string line or my 8' level to get me to the needed height for my under step build. I find the size stones and build to the string line or level. Taking into consideration of any size differences of the step I'm setting ie. one side being  3" and to other 4".

As seen in this photo I set my first stone at 3" since I'm using a 3" step in order to get my 6" rise. 

Then I build back just like a wall. Compensating as needed in order to make my step level or pitch a little down at the front for water to run off. Building steps for me are like setting tie stones. Once you set the stone you have to make sure all voids under the stone step/tie are filled. ( no wobbles )

Related Blogs:

How To - Tie Rocks / Through - Stones

Looking down 6 steps. Only 2 to go and I'm at the top of the wall. The top wall is the board that goes across the top by the driveway. ( level )

Whats missing? How do I set each step that weighs 600 pounds...... my brand new/used Komatsu PC 27 Mini Excavator with the Geith Thumb/bucket. Yup this is why I bought this machine just for this kind of work. Four guys = $$$$ or one skid loader with straps = Pain in my butt.  Both could do the same task but not with agility, speed and skill as this machine. 

The biggest challenge with the job has been working over a bank. I was at my furthest reach setting my first step 112" out. I have really had a great time on this project. My only heart break to date was breaking one of my steps when it fell out of the thumb. Sh--t happens! Just had to go get another one to keep me on track. Just stone. Then I was able to pull out the drill, feather and wedges to make that 4th step up. Good times...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tool - Rubber Hammer - Power Nailer

Recently my rubber hammer gave its two week notice. I was on a quest to find a beloved replacement. The hunt was on. I put ads on craigs list, on the internet, I called all my stone buddies.... ok not really. But funny enough my stone buddy Adam called a week before asking if I had any idea where he could find a heavy rubber hammer I said - no.... not really.

I started a new stone job and was ready to start getting my foundation stones set in place with a little help from my beloved rubber mallet. I realized I was asking to much from this old timer. So I called my stone buddy Adam and ask if he had found a place to get one. He said.... yes he did. He had contacted a local rental place called Sun Belt and said they would have some Power Nailer hammers coming in any day. So I stopped by on my way to my scooter shop and found they just got the shipment in while I was standing asking about them. I checking out the new smaller hammer used for hitting power nailers when installed wood floors.

Old red hammer on left - with head falling off. New Power Nailer Mallet on right.
The Sun Belt sales man said they sell allot of these hammers to hardscape fellows for installing paver blocks. Sad that no other stone supplier had any thing as nice as this. I figured for $47 it was worth a shot. Better then what I had to work with plus I had a job to do. Time is money right?!

Once I got the Power nailer hammer in my hands my #1 concerned was the lack of weight.  As you can see with my last hammer it's a real big boy. Not enough weight behind a hit was quickly put to rest. What I loved was: how easy it was to handly swing in my hand, great grip with the punched out holes in the handle, the bounce back with the rubber (also available with a white rubber head), Made In USA, easy size to carry around in my bucket of tools and the kicker the back side sledge. I had a bunch of stones with mortar on them. I was able to pick this up and use the back side to really do some damage. The angled point directs the energy when busting up stones. I was in love with this new found employee. I offered free room and board in the trailer and free tanning seasons in the sun while basking on the rocks during breaks. What more can a hammer ask for? So if your looking for something to swing around in your hands to help place a few flat stone or walling rocks this is hammer gets 5 stars on the list of great job site tools.  Power Nailer - keep them Rockin'
Who needs wood when you got rocks to hit...

Power Nailers Hammer 5MI Mallets 3.64 lbs (06-99110 designed for Manual Nailers)

Not to long after I bought this hammer Bon Tools sent a email out showing off a new hammer they had just come out with. I requested a little more info with a sample to test. But got no response. Guess my email ended up in spam?! 

To see more of this hammer check out Bon Tool $43.55 retail with a nice large white head. Weight unknown - I did ask. Guess I'll call to get more info. Part # 21-404-B8 paver hammer.

Other favorite tools from readers:
Pave Tech's Pounder (Neil White)
Lixie Hammers (Matt Sevigny Blog- Stone Soup)