Sunday, May 5, 2013

Round Hill Road, Frederick VS - Starburst Arch Story 2013

Round Hill Road, Frederick MD April 2013. Western Maryland Stone used for starburst - roman arch (semi circle). Colonial PA Lilac stone used for 3' high wall with flat caps. 
Wall 3' h x 9' 4" l PA Lilac /  Arch 31" w x 19" h Western Maryland

In 2009 I took an advanced workshop were me and 9 others learned to build a starburst arch with field limestone. The frame for the arch was already built. In 2 days we moved around the wall. Each working on one section at a time. 

The wall is just about finished here. Just need to finish off the remaining with a traditional vertical cap stones. 

This is the finished starburst arch. 

Related Video:

When one of my former clients requested a new build he showed me his drawling of an arch. (above) I couldn't have been more excited to take on the project. After learning the method of how to determine the size of the arch from Bill Noble. I felt confident to take on such a great opportunity to put my mind to creating something amazing. 

Related Video:

Video - How To Build A Segmental Arch for Natural Stone by Bill Noble Master Craftsman DSWA 

I started out building my first arch frame. I started with two bottom ends and one top. In order to determine the batter. I just used one of my traditional wall frames for a 3 foot high wall. The only mistakes I made was I forgot to subtract the thickness of the plywood on the outsides. The other was the fact that when you place your frame into place to build your arch. You need to install boards to help in the removal of the frame once completed. As seen this below. Frame is 15" h x 30" w.

The arch frame is sitting on two 2x4's. The arch sits on dry laid stone platform. Do you see the string line attached to the arch frame?

The wall frames in place as I'm building up the wall. The most important part of the arch frame is a string attached in the middle bottom with a screw. This string allows me to move it around the arch to see where I should be placing my stones as I go around. Its not a magic trick. Just like a clock I move the string and place the next stone.

Little by little. As you can see with the photo work in progress. Nothing to hide here. Little stone here a little stone there. Always nice to have some stones sitting right by your feet. Keeps it easy. All you have to do is look down to find the next one for the wall. ha ha

The biggest focus for the client was having the contrast of a red stone with the white. He wanted to enjoy seeing the contrast between the two. But more importantly having the star burst look like a sun beams. The other request was the direction the wall was facing so the sun would shine on it during the later afternoon as it sets over the mountains for bed time.

In front of the arch I built a bench with a local stone from the property. Now the arch is finished time to pack the stones tight. Some other tips to keep in mind as you build your arch you need to follow the same rules. Cover your joints, Pack the middle, Build to your string line (on the arch) As you place a arch stone keep them the same size as you go across from front to back.

The most important part as I build is keeping all the plates between the stone tight. Packing the insides keep the arch tight.

With the wall finished now its time to pull out the 2x4 boards under the arch forum so it can now drop down. Kind of like releasing a casting from a mold. (YouTube to Follow).

The wall without the frame. This is the back of the wall with 1' high wall and bench around the side. I originally didn't plan to used the white western Maryland stone on the back. I figured why not!  It would just give me one more chance to practices. I didn't focus on the design or pattern as much as the front.

Front of 3' high dry laid stone wall.

Side - back view.

Back view.


  1. ROCK! Great job. I know you are proud of this project...and I am proud of you. xxoo Tree

  2. Thanks for sharing this project, I've always wondered how to do a dry laid arch, this looks like it was a fun project, It came out beautiful, very nice work!

    New Hamshire

    1. Garrett,
      Thank you. Yes this was a great project for me. The client really had some great idea's and was open to any suggestions. I love working with those who choose to be apart of the process. Team work! The biggest heart break of this job - I worked up until Dec 2012 before I had to call a time out for winter break. Wait 3 months before I could jump back on the job. I just could not wait it was killing me. I just couldn't wait to get back to building to pull the falsework for the frame.

      Thank you for commenting and checking out my blog.

  3. Good looking arch there Mark! Building the dry stone arch is my favorite job. Fills the clients with joy and they are mesmerized and amazed. I'm guaranteeing them for life, just like rest of my dry stone work, and so far I haven't had to go back and rebuild any of them. Keep up the good work and the excellent time line project photos.