Monday, November 15, 2010

Angle of repose

My first contact with John Henry was over the phone. He called out of the blue and was looking for perfectly rounded stones. He was calling me from Washington DC because he'd found the DSWAC on Google and figured being a Canadian organization we would know where there were big round glacial dinosaur egg stones for his wall he was building behind his house. I had actually that day come across a whole quarry pile of them, and had thought to myself ''well, I dont think I'll be using those in a wall any day soon." I told him about them.

To make a long story short, we we met up about two months later when he flew in to Toronto for a visit. We hand picked a truckload of the smoothest roundest ones we could find and he sent them back to the states. He told me he wasn't into flat stones or traditional battered walls. He focused on fitting these more rounded stones into pyramid shaped walls stacking them at the 'angle of repose'. ( The 'batter' or 'grade' that piled stones or dirt or sand settle at naturally. I had to admit his walls looked beautiful.

Most of his round stones came from rivers and oceans and later ( with my assistance) from glaciers ( the glaciers themselves, he pointed out seem to have favoured Canada and were too stingy to drag them all the way down to Washington where he needed them).

His garden in Washington DC (seen in the top picture) uses these bigger round stones, mostly glacier boulders from the Canadian Shield. The boulders weigh between quarter of a ton to more than a ton. John explains that "Frozen rivers (glaciers) can make much bigger stones round than rivers or oceans " which were all he had to work with in his area.

By contrast most of the stones in this beautiful semi-circle wall in Rappahannock County (above) which I photographed when I went there to do some stonework, he had built later on his newly purchased property. They were all under 50 lbs.

John has since 'got religion' as he explained it, and moved on to doing some magnificent steeper battered, more traditional dry laid work, using gritty random shaped local Blue Mountain stone. Apparently after having worked alone, and then with me for a while, he then got the bug to push the envelope even more and has gone on to some amazing stuff. I hope to have an opportunity to tell you about that, later this week.