Basic Stone Masonry

This past Saturday we enjoyed a wonderful day spent with friends and family. I sheared 4 of our 7 Angora goats and we boiled down the last 45 gallons of maple sap into syrup. (For more reading on this, visit my post Sugar Bush Season.)

Our current set up to boil down the sap consists of a box made of stacked cinder blocks. We make a fire inside and place a tray that Zach welded out of stainless steel on top to hold the boiling sap. While this set up works wonderfully, it lacks character. We’ve often talked about building a permanent outdoor sugar shack that could double as a cooking area. I would love the exterior surface to be covered in rustic cut stone, but stone can be expensive to purchase.

One of our friends who joined us last Saturday for the sap boiling, works in stone masonry. Knowing our interest, he gave us a small demonstration on how to make a basic split in a stone.  

To begin, he selected a stone from our yard that was somewhat rectangular.  

He measured a rough center point and marked the spot by whacking the chisel into the stone with a mallet.

Then he worked his way around the stone using the mark before to line up the chisel. 

The point of this action is to create a clean, straight, weak spot all the way around the stone so when the stone is split, it will favor this line and crack there.

He continued this across the first flat surface, then around the edge and across the next surface. 

Here is where he reached a spot where the stone had some uneven layers that shattered into shards when he struck them.  

He had to break these shards away to get to the base of the stone and continued to create the line. 

Once the line encircled the stone’s surface he gave it one last powerful whack with the mallet and the stone cracked apart.

He explained that stone masonry is an art form that has many factors to deal with. It is a  balance of knowing the type of stone you are working with, understanding how that material behaves, recognizing the grain of the stone, keeping your marks even and a bit of luck.  

Here he is cleaning up some of the uneven sections and shards from the initial crack with the mallet. 

When making walls, a double stone layer would be stacked back to back with the smoother cut sides facing out. The shards left behind would be used to fill in the areas between. 

Here are the two halves stacked on top of one another, creating a nice, smooth surface.

For more about our farming adventures, visit us at Iron Oak Farm

Published on Apr 1, 2013

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