Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Internet is Handy for Walling Inquiries

Brian Thom and I have been emailing each other over the last few years. I thought it would be interesting to post some of these correspondences.

Hi John
I just saw the announcement for the Dry Stone Walling Workshops in Vancouver starting April 13. I really want to register!!! I have been monitoring your site for a long time but missed the workshop last year. I go to Northwest Garden and Landscape Supply regularly, sometimes just to hang out and visualize, and I have seen the walls that were built during the last workshops, beautiful. I really want to learn. I have a cabin in the Cariboo district of BC (just east of 100 Mile House) that is the rockiest lot in the subdivision so I have lots of material to work with.

Unfortunately, it is hard stone to work with, some type of blue/green stone that is hard to break, but when it does it breaks into random pyramidal shapes. I am determined to learn how to work with it and make some nice stone walls instead of just large stone perimeter boundaries. Please send the registration info ASAP so I don' t miss out this year. I can send a couple of photos of what i have done so far if you are interested.

I am currently the Faculty Development Coordinator at the BC Institute of Technology and am looking to retire in a couple of years. I love my job, but stonework is my passion.
Hi John

First of all, thank you so much for the workshop earlier this week John. I had some sore muscles (to be expected for an out of shape 62 year old), but I loved every minute of it! I can't wait to tackle my own project, either at home, or at our cabin in the Cariboo. I loved your teaching methods - understand the concepts, but don't sweat the small stuff. I feel confident that I have learned the basic concepts and will be able to create something structurally sound and am eager to try it with it our odd shaped stones.

Hi John, hope you are well.
During the Vancouver workshop you mentioned that "rocks were just unemployed stones". Well, thank goodness for "temporary labour pools" so that even a motley collection of rocks like this can become stones for a while. Some was reclaimed granite from a wall being torn down, and some are just fieldstones from the property.


Hi John, I was in your workshop at Northwest Landscape in Burnaby about a year ago. I am still collecting stone to rebuild my falling down retaining wall in my front yard. I am trying to do it as cheaply as possible because I have very little disposable income after my teenage twins are through. So far I have collected about 4 or 5 tons of salt and pepper granite, all free. Some was from walls and is random block shapes and sizes, some is more of an ashlar/thick veneer, and then I have about 300’ of coping. It is all about 4” thick, 1’ wide and ranges in length from 2’ to 6’. I now have an opportunity to get some reclaimed Arizona Sandstone, not quite free, but at $50 a pallet it is too cheap to pass up.My question is, what will the grey granite and the brown sandstone look like together? Have you ever used stone in combination like that? I don’t want to spend the money and time and energy to haul it by hand if it won’t look good. I just can’t visualize it and can’t find any photos of the two together.

Here is the material I have.


Hi Brian Thanks for your email. Good question.My experience is that in most cases the mixing of stone material in a dry stone wall looks and works very well as long as you build structurally.If you send me pics of both materials I will attempt to do a photoshop mock up of what it might most likely look like for you to decide.

Hello Brian. How does this look?


Thanks a lot for doing that mock-up John. I think it will look great. I’ll try to reuse some of the existing wall stones as well and they have a bluish tone to them. I think they could all blend quite well. The next step is to see if the sandstone is still available because things sometimes go fast on Craig’s list. I’ll be including a large curved end (where the ivy is in the picture) that will go around the corner and up the driveway. I’ll be moving the stairway closer to the road and building the steps out of those 5 or 6’ granite slabs. The existing wall is 4’ high, but I’ll make the new one in two stages to create a terrace. The lower wall will be about 3’ with a couple feet set back for a garden and then the inner wall about a foot or foot and half high. It will still be a while before I actually put it up, but I’ll send more pictures then.

Last week Brian mailed me pictures of the finished project. They will be posted here tomorrow.