Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hand Ball

People often assume they can't build dry stone walls with 'round stones'. But that is not true. When I have to use smaller, chunky, somewhat rounded fieldstones, I definitely have to think more with my hands than my head. Amazingly these stones are not as difficult to fit as they first seem, once I get into the groove. The fact is, in any given pile of stones, there are very few completely round 'ball shaped' ones. Most of them are more like eggs or odd shaped potatoes and will have some length to them, and I have to use this 'elongation' to my advantage. The rule is simple, every stone needs to be laid lengthwise into the wall.

The basic pattern I am going for (as I look at the wall face on) is a kind of layered honeycomb, not a grid or jig saw pattern. As I place stones snugly up to one another in horizontal lines (called “courses”) whenever I can, I not only make sure they fit well on two surfaces, (the bottom and one adjoining side) but I try to actually lean each stone against it's neighbour, working right to left, to create a dynamic force along the length of the wall. Of course the bulky mass of each individual stone must always be set 'leaning back' into the wall too, so then even rounder stones are 'trapped' and won't want to fall out.

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