Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Handset

The pitching tool or 'handset' as it is sometimes called, is a great tool for taking off ledges of stone along the face of a rock, even deep into the meat of a stone. It can be very useful in taking off a lot of stone and squaring it up. These are chisels that have a very flat blunt edge to them whereas tracers are chisels that look similar but come to a sharper edge. You can be more precise with a tracer but it is generally not used to take off a lot of stone or used like a point. I however tend to use it that way all the time. But thats not the point. Next to the point, (a pointed chisel) the handset is a the hand tool of choice amongst the stone masons here in Ventura at the Japanese dry stone wall workshop being run by the Stonefoundation. The other hand tool some people like to use on big stones is the 'bull set'. This baby is used for roughing out or shaping large blocks of stone. Using the bull set is a 2-person operation - one person holds the special bull-nosed hammer angled on its edge, set in place along the edge of the area of stone to be removed, angling the blade slightly toward the outside of the stone. The other person then hits it with the heavy striking hammer. The bull set hammer is not meant to be swung at all. But I've seen people do just that. So people break the rules and the stones all the time.
Anyway, like the handset which specifically refers to the hands, all these tools are hand tools. They are for changing the shape of stones by applying some sort of grip and swing action which is what the hands can do very well. Hands can eventually become comfortable even continuously using tools like these.
Power tools by comparison often wear the hands and arms out much faster, with the constant machine-gun impact and the violent vibrations. The hands are continuously subject to jarring torquing motions with various power stone tools and must also watch out for dangerous whirling blades, screaming twirling drills, and gas and electric tools that produce fumes and on-site dust storms which make it hard to see and breath. It is no wonder that 'thinking hands', ( belonging to someone who is a dry stone walling enthusiast ) try to stay away from these not-so-hand-friendly tools as much as possible.

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