Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hand Signals

Junji Awata an expert in the traditional style of Japanese dry stone walling is gesturing to Frank Kane of Kane Brothers Construction. He is telling Frank to wait till the heavy stone is positioned better before adding an all important shim stone. Hand signals are essential. Frank doesn't know any Japanese, Jyungi knows very little English. Together with other Americans, Canadians and Japanese wallers we are building two huge dry stone ramparts in Ventura California. The hands are doing a lot of the talking.

There is a hand language for Peter Mullins the crane operator. Thumbs pointing away from each other means "extend the boom". Thumbs pointing in, means "retract the boom". Thumb and baby finger of one hand outstretched , three middle knuckles closed, and a rocking motion of the hand, means "tip the grader bucket slowly". Palms of fists together quickly means "Stop right there"

And there are the other hand gestures, one to one between the wallers. Many of the gestures are universal. A pointing motion here from Jyungi's son, Suminori, who is in charge of this workshop/project means 'get on that'. A gesture of waving means 'come over here'. A flat hand shot sideways away from the body means 'good enough' And of course the sign we are all looking for is the encouraging thumbs up to say "good job".

Intelligent hands know how to give these positive signs to each other. They are not just skilled at what they do but precise in how they communicate approval and express other important information amongst the other hands on the job.

Hand gestures are extremely important for safety and accuracy. Words can sometimes not be heard or understood. There is not just the language barrier. The job site is too noisy. The crane operator can't see the huge stone he is lowering into position. Conditions like these require the hands to move into action to take a leading role in accomplishing the double task of providing the communication and doing the actual construction.

I would like to give a big thumbs up to everyone who has worked on this project, skilled or unskilled, professional or student, those who are here for the practice and those who are here to teach, those who are certified through testing and those who have proven themselves through experience. A specific hand signal of approval can be so much more constructive than the mincing of words.

In Japan and on this project too we often stop to honour each other, bowing towards one another with our hands together.

Knowing how to honour a fellow waller is a handy skill to have.

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