Saturday, January 16, 2010

Handling Bars




There are all kinds of 'bars' that wallers find useful in the world of dry stone walling. No we are not talking brew pubs and drinking taverns . Here in Ventura California at the Japanese Dry Stone Walling Workshop we are using several variations of the five foot wrecking bar to move huge boulders into different positions so that we can split and shape them. Some are rounded rods with a pry part at either end, some are square stock steel with a flattened wedge on one end curving gently to about 10 inches for different applications of moving and tipping stones.
It is possible to "walk" a large boulder by resting the pivot point further ahead in the direction you wish to go and push down and then rotate the bar backwards so the stone moves forwards. The fulcrum is then repositioned and the rock is slid again in direction you want it to go. A little bit at a time. Often you have to move to the other side of the stone and alternate postitions or you just go in circles. Two people using these long pry bars are really useful in moving stones forward towards their final destination in the wall.
The hands are the prime movers. Their strength is augmented by the simple yet profound physics of the lever. This way of moving heavy objects seems to be a very natural and intuitive extension of the hand's capabilities. Many other tools don't really work with the kinetic potential of the hands, but only reduce them to trigger-pulling automatons, or keyboard punching adjuncts of our brains. My hands like to be more useful than that.
If my hands could speak they would say they really enjoy moving big stones, some far heavier than the weight of three men, with just a bar.They would take great pleasure in not being relegated to switching on and off some mechanized contraption that was in fact making them redundant by doing the actual work. If my hands thought a lot about it, they would probably make sure I threw in a couple of bars in the truck at the beginning of the day. They would think of ways to use these bars to put big stones in the wall rather than have me get lazy in my thinking and avoid having to use any huge stones in the wall.

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