Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Can you imagine the wall?

It's always fun to be working with a good bunch of guys.
Yesterday me and the fellows from Black Rock Landscapes started a forty foot wall .Maybe you cant see it yet but you will.

We are using dolomite limestone from Buckhorn , stratified granite from Minden and local river rock from Haliburton Ontario. I'll post pictures here as we progress. We might even build an arch.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pooling and terracing

Dry stone terrace work around a pool can make it look a bit more attractive.
The fencing that is required in a pool installation can sometimes be nicely blended in or disguised.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Staying centered

A hula hoop proved useful for keeping the circle shape of a dry stone pillar we are building at the front entrance of this property in Port Hope. 

A centre pole with a string would have done the trick too. The problem is as you build, it ends up getting buried in the structure, and also, you can't lay longer building stones over the centre if there is a pole in the way.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Filling out the form

Eight foot 2x4s are screwed at 14 inch intervals spacing the four ribs apart at 31 inches each .

Three full length 2x6s are screwed to the bottom of the form.  These will sit on the supporting beams that straddle the stream temporarily while the bridge is built. A couple of braces are screwed in place diagonally to stop the form leaning sideways with all the weight of the stones. The form is still quite light. The rest of the wood can be added later.

Ready and loaded on the trailer. 

Delivered to the site.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Good Form

The form ( often called the 'centering') used in supporting the stones for a dry stone bridge (or an arch) while it is being built,  often ends up looking a lot like a large lobster trap.

The one we are building for our latest dry stone foot bridge project will be for an eight foot span.
One sheet of plywood will make two of the four equally spaced curved ribs needed to make an eight foot wide bridge form.
The arc that the voussoirs will travel is in the shape of a segmented arch, 24 inches in height. To get the proper curve, a point 60 inches is determined at a right angle from a line running longways through the middle of the plywood and the curve is drawn using that as the radius.

Don't forget to draw radiating lines at this stage while the plywood is flat, so you have guidelines for determining the angle that each of the voissoirs should be oriented when the form is in place. It is better to draw the lines now than try to guess the angles later. Trying to re-establish the the centre point of the arc (usually somewhere in the centre of the stream)  later is pretty difficult.

A jig saw does the trick for cutting each of the four curves. Go slow and keep the line smooth. Pretend you are in a truck painting the white lines along the side of a curve in a road.

Notches are cut into the two inner ribs for seven 93 inch 2x4 spacers to fit in and then the out side ribs are screwed to the ends. 

You can cut the notches of both sheets of plywood at the same time.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bridge building 101.

This week we started work building a dry stone bridge over a small stream on a large country property .
Apart from a slight glitch with a nearly overturned tandem dump truck, it has been a very satisfying project.  
I hope to report on the progress fairly regularly over the next month.

Yesterday, the below ground work was done using huge random blocks of quarried dolomite 'wall-stone' all hearted with a couple of backhoe bucket-loads of smaller local stone. 

Stewart is our heavy machine operator. He has done an amazing job of excavating and helping us place and fit each of the large chunky foundation rocks.

The stone arched footbridge will be wide enough for a 'Gator' to drive over. ( Certainly wide enough for my crocks. )
We will use a lot of the field stone from the many old hedge rows on the property to do the dry stone ramped approaches, leading up to the two abutments of the bridge. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Walling in Haiti

My good friend Akira Inman while visiting Haiti had an opportunity to teach the locals of Fond-de-Blanc how to build a dry stone wall. 
Akira writes..."Many of their land and dirt roads are easily washed away from the typical rainfalls they receive which is equivalent to a down-pour here. Hopefully their new interest and their basic knowledge in DSWs will give them a new option to retaining the soil and roads that would be a lot more structural than dumping stones."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Get your hands on STONEZINE.

Tomas Lipps has very recently put together a marvelous collection of photos and articles dealing with many fascinating areas of stonework in a new online publication called 

It is an offshoot from his prestigious Stonexus publication, an impressive quality magazine dealing with a vast number of amazing stone-related subjects.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fire-fold Completed

We completed the Fire-fold yesterday at 5 pm on a Friday. We were pleased with the final look. The client was quite pleased too, which is always a nice thing.

It was great to collaborate with Danny Woodward on this one. We both put an equal amount of time into the designing and the building of it.

The pitched-edged triangular fire pit area was a real spark of genius.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Johnny Clasper

Johnny Clasper is a artist/waller from Yorkshire who is doing some very innovative things with stone.
Take some time and look at some of his inspiraling work on his website http://www.johnnyclasper.co.uk/index.html 
and on facebook 

Swirly Path at the 2012 Harrogate Spring Flower Show

Thursday, July 19, 2012

'Rocktoberfest' the Movie


Rick Palidwor an independent film maker and associate of Hart House (University of Toronto) filmed the four day walling event we had back in October. I've been asked by a number of people for the link. I decided to post the documentary he made of the 2011 Rocktoberfest weekend here on Thinking With My Hands. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Landscape Ontario Award of Excellence

This week we have been adding more walls to a dry stone project I helped build with Earthscape a few years ago.
I didnt know until Mark Schwarz told me yesterday , that sometime after the first phase of landscaping was completed it won an award and he sent me the coordinates of their blog where the details were posted. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Looking Inside the Box

"Hello, what's this?" you say. "An old cabinet of some sort ?"
Perhaps it's where you keep garden tools. Maybe shelves of utensils or dishes for the outdoor BBQ?
Maybe just a nice antique look to add to the faux dry stone  barn foundation that we built for some clients here in Cambridge Ontario with Earthscape Landscaping' a couple years ago.

But no,  it's a freaking Television!
Grab a rocking chair and let's watch the Flintstones .

Monday, July 16, 2012

Infinity walls

'Infinity pools' - Who ever thought that name up was a genius!

Perhaps the first 'infinity pool' was a mistake?

Some incompetent but quick-witted pool contractor no doubt told his client the pool was 'supposed' to empty off to one side, that it in fact was the latest thing in pool design! 

What about an infinity wall?

How about a wall that you can't see it because it just drops off, out of site? It wouldn't be too different to the dry stone wall Danny and I built two weeks ago. You can't see it, right?

Here's that same wall from the other side.

Actually 'infinity walls' have already been invented. They are called 'ha-has'.

Wikipedia says. "Ha-ha is a term in garden design that refers to a trench, one side of which is concealed from view, designed to allow an unobstructed view from a garden, pleasure ground, or park, while maintaining a physical barrier in one direction, usually to keep livestock out that are kept on an expansive estate or parcel.  It also may be used to mean a ditch, one side of which is vertical and faced with stone, the other face sloped and turfed, making the trench, in effect, a retaining wall, sometimes known as a "deer leap"

The trouble is 'ha-ha' is not a trendy enough name.

We wallers need to put a new spin on what we do. We need to sell clients on concepts like  'infinity walls' , 'eco walls', 'designer walls' and my new favorite, 'cloud walls' ( Now all I have to do is figure out what a 'cloud wall' is )

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trunkated Arch

Back in 2010 stone balancer Peter Riedel and I built a dry stack arch at the Canadian Festival of Stone in Caledon, Ontario. It was his first arch and my first time doing one between two trees. I thought at the time if we had a form it would have been fun to try building it higher up the tree trunks.

Stonemason and Sculptor Johnny Clasper saw the photo of it on Facebook, and it gave him the same idea.

While his  ‎'hanging arch' attempt #1 failed, Johnny wrote on a post. "I'm convinced this will work and still am, it slid down the trees and collapsed, I will learn from these mistakes.."

He went on to explain " These two trees were the only two close enough together, I feel a more robust former is required after looking at the photo, the arch was jammed tight and should've stayed put, maybe it pushed the trees apart."

Yesterday I decided to have a go. 
My first attempt failed and came crashing down dangerously close to my crocks.

The second 'held', thanks a few choice shims deftly placed between the cobble stones as I removed the wooden form.

My daughter Maddy was brave enough to stand under it and pose for this picture.

A breeze came up, and I was wondering if it might fall down within the first few hours, but so far the 'Arc de Treetrunk' still stands proudly in the back acre of the property.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Worried about what the frost will do.

I wrote back to Scott answering his recent inquiry about the preparing the foundation. Wondering if anyone else has some thoughts on this as well. If so please post them in the form of a comment below. Thanks.

Hi John,

I'm a graduate of the Algonquin masonry program and am now an avid follower of your blog posts. Your blog has been one of a handful of sources of traditional masonry inspiration - I'm very grateful that you take the time to share your thoughts and pictures. 
I am currently working on a wall in New Brunswick which is, unfortunately, located on a site with clay soil and poor drainage. I laid the foundation stones excavating 12'', packed 6'' of 5/8'' minus and laid 6'' foundation stones, 2'' extended from the base. We have since had a good downpour and I was discouraged to find water up to the top of the foundation stones 2 days following the rain. That was in mid-June, when the water levels are high. However, I'm worried about what the frost will do in the winter. This photo was taken today. It is of the almost complete first wall. I still have an identical wall to build on the other side. Do you have suggestions for building foundations in low-lying, clay soils... before I get started on the next wall?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New dry stone reading material

Sean Adcock recently published two booklets -one titled "STONEWORK- A technical guide to standards and identification of common faults in dry stone walling " and the other "CLAWDD CONSTRUCTION" giving the specifications and tips to building of the specific stone and dirt walls common to Wales . Both booklets are DSWA North Wales Branch publications.

Sean has written many excellent technical articles in "Stonechat " the branch magazine. http://www.dswales.org.uk/Stonechat.html

Both booklets are thoroughly well written and discuss all the proper methods of construction and give insight into what to look for with each walling style.
STONEWORK is printed in a glossy format with 34 pages many containing excellent colour photos.

CLAWDD CONSTRUCTION is written in two languages, 25 pages in English and 27 pages in Welsh

This is recommended reading for all stone workers, students and homeowners.

Check with www.dswa.org.uk or sean@stonewaller.freeserve.co.uk for details on ordering these booklets.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


When Eric Landman and Ryan Stananought completed this unusual dry stone feature Ryan said they tried hard to come up with a funny title for it, but they were stumped.