Thursday, November 29, 2012

Machinery - Big Stone Mover

Now many of you know how to move stones the old fashion way. As Dan P say's with out the smell of diesal fuel. I'm hooked on my little Komatsu mini excavator pc 27. I think Dan hasn't had the chance to enjoy the quality smell from the tail pipe of Komatsu Mini. Using a Geith hydraulic thumb with a 20" Geith bucket - I couldn't be happier! Any chance I have to jump in any of my machines I feel are an extension of my ability to create. Things I can't do by myself. Like any tool - they all have a place and a time. 

Not like these young spunks that can push anything around. Us old timers need something a little more to help keep our backs and knees from giving out on us. Normally 3 ibuprofen at the end of a hard day helps me. 

The pro's: Allows me to move stone quickly - put them in place, make adjustments and pick them back up if needed. Time is everything to me. Doing stone work part time - I need every moment of time to make things happen quickly. In addition the mini X helps me do all my digging and heavy lifting of materials on site. This machine is so quitet I have to idle up the machine just to shut out my brain.

The con's: the thumb can easily drop a stone (total bummer when this happens) Thumb can leave marks on stones. Takes a trailer to move to the job site. Cost money to insure. Cost money to repair and maintain. 

I love my mini and my back. I don't care how much it cost's.

Image shown above on Beechdale Road, Dry Stone Project

Related Blogs:

Tool - BIG Stone Rollers

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tool - BIG Stone Rollers

How does he move large stones with out fancy machinery? TJ Mora from Vermont moves all his large stones the old fashion way. His tools are  his grandfathers 8 foot pinch bar, some wood - then some more wood, 4 inch PVC pipes and 5 gallon bucket filled with stone. 

TJ starts by building up his wood planks (skid) along with 6x6 blocks (cribbing) for his roller path. Next uses the pinch bar to move each step little by little into a place. He can then lift the stone by pivoting off 6x6 with the pinch bar then placing the 4" PVC pipes under the step. How can he take his hands off the pinch bar? MAGIC.......

The picture above has his extra helping hand called the 5 gallon bucket filled with stone. With the bucket hanging at the end of the bar this lets him step away and place each PVC pipe under as needed. 

Each one of these fabricated step stones weigh in at around 1000 pounds.
Showen in the photo TJ is building up his cribbing up under the planks as he moves the step stones up hill. "Slow and easy"... he tells me.

TJ finds the larger 4" PVC pipe makes it easier for him to roll the stone opposed to smaller size PVC pipes. So far he has a 0% failure rate of collapsed pipes. One other benefit he finds the large pipes rolls over uneven surfaces much better then some of the smaller pipes. 

To keep from having a run away stone he places objects like sticks  or stones (ha ha I added the stone part couldn't help it!) to keep the rollers from getting to carried away with their payload. Man can you imagine if TJ had a run away stone. Then he'd have to hire one of those other VT masons with big machines to come put the stone back into the right place. Or find a genie and rub a bottle to grant him that wish. I do know with the Vermont crew a 6 pack of bottles and a simple can you help me only brings you the best genies to the rescue. (This only works in Vermont - so don't try this at home! You won't get the out come you were hoping for - but you may think you did.)

TJ had these steps delivered to his job site and placed in a spot which helps him be smarter with his build. Job-site to job-site may vary forcing other choices to be made to move stone of this size. In the picture above you can see pallets used as a platform to help moves each stone from its home across the cribbed planks (skid) to were it will rest. 

He finishes off with each stone the same way he started. One 6x6 with his pinch bar under the stone and the 5 gallon bucket to now remove his PVC pipes. Look no hands!! 

TJ has made this building practice common to him. He has mastered this method which in turn helps him move stone just as fast as a team of men with less hassle and more $$$ in his pocket. No smoke breaks, late to work, call in sick or mechanical failures. 

We can all learn a trick or two from one another. MY favorite was the 5 gallon bucket trick and the stick under the PVC pipe. I was wondering how he did it. So I asked. For some reason TJ seems to take on jobs others consider to be a logistical nightmare. To him its just another day at the office under the Vermont sky. We can all learn a lesson or two from this smart stone mason. Like my wife says work smarter not harder. She  keeps telling me this because she says she's lazy! YA RIGHT! I'm not stupid, I just don't lesson as well as I should. Or maybe I'd be wealthy by now.

Special thanks again to TJ Mora for all his photos and time sharing this with me to share with you. 

TJ Mora
4427 Route 100
South Londonderry
Vermont   05155

Other suggested reading by TJ:
FM 5-125Rigging Techniques, Procedures, and Applications. By the Department of the Army

If you liked what TJ had to share please take a moment to check out his website and drop him a Thank you at

Side notes: No Ibuprofen was taken to write this blog.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tool - small Stone Rollers

When I have large stones such as cap or step stones I use 3/4" concrete form steel stakes.  The stakes allow me to move stones into the right place. Saving a great deal of extra labor. The only down side is some times they role so well the stones can get away from you.

Normally these steel stakes are used to help build forms for concrete. You can find them at any home improvement store. They have several holes for nails to go through.

Shown in this picture are some large stones for steps. Once I get the stone into the desired location. I'll use a 4x4 board with a pry bar to lift the stone on one corner in order to pull the stake out from underneath. When you work alone this can be a little challenging to get the right angle to lift of the stone then find a way to pull the stake. 

When I was in Canada working on the stone stable they said the roof would be set on the structure with ice blocks. The ice blocks would be placed on the top of the structure between the roof and the building. This way the straps could be removed and the roof would slowly settle on its own. This makes good sense to me. I'm sure a line item for ice blocks on a customer's invoice might raise a couple questions. Can't wait to try that on one of my builds. 

Related Blogs: I Like Big Steps (And I Cannot Lie...) Clark Kent Creations