Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hammered Hands

Working with stone one always get a few bumps and bruises along the way.
The hands usually take the worst of it. Three of us took a break from building the double arched bridge in Montreal last Thanksgiving to compare collateral damages. Mere flesh wounds really.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Building on a big scale.

It helps to have an excavator when your building a dry boulder wall.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Building to scale.

From above everything looks the same.

Big retaining walls using big stones are basically made the same way normal size walls are.
The scale is different but the principles of gravity mass and friction are the same.

The overhead photo ( below) shows the scale of rocks we were working with last week.

Tomorrow I'll post some photos of how the wall looks from the front.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bull Set

For roughing out or shaping large blocks of stone on the 8 foot tall 'big boulder wall' we are working on presently Gavin Rose suggested I purchase two special hammers for the job.  Using this Bull Set is a 2-person operation - one person holds the 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 striking hammer. Gavin uses this method for shaping big stones back in Australia when he's building trails.
It's amazing how much meat you can take off a awkwardly round glacial rock using these hammers . With some precision angling and some fairly heavy swinging we have managed to get a lot of these large stones 'squarish' enough to fit much better next to each other in our jumbo wall.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Basking in the sun

This archway and wall was built by students at an indoor workshop at Ground Covers Unlimited, northeast of Toronto, about five years ago. I taught several classes there that blustery winter with students from all over Canada. It was a lovely warm cozy environment for working. We had music playing, lots of working space, and tons of mossy field stones (gathered the previous fall from the property) to work with. Each weekend the new class took the previous student wall apart and rebuilt it.  The wall in this photo was the last one we built there. Sandy and Ted, the owners of the property like it so much they have never taken it down, even though I'm sure they could use the space. I happened to be visiting there recently and was pleased to see it still basking contently in the sunlight. It was like visiting an old friend.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


A well known spa in our area has four kinds of stonework going on. The original squared granite house (in background) looks magnificent. The later additions? - not so much. The high wall around all the buildings would have looked spectacular too (and lasted longer) if only it were done 'dry laid' rather than mortared . It is already looking patchy and developing big cracks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A week before Thanksgiving and our Canadian Dry Stone Wall Festival, I made the 4 and a half hour drive to Hanover Ontario to attend an interesting event put on by Tim and Donna Kraemer of Ground Effects Landscaping. 

Dean Mclellan was able to arrange to have several celebrity wallers from Britain fly in for this event (appropriately called 'Stoneworx') and to be involved in the completion of a very sturdy looking dry stone stable that he was building, as well as to teach a few walling courses, test a number of students, and give presentations.   

I was pleased to meet up with Andrew Loudon again as well as Bill Noble and his very skilled daughter Lydia and also to meet Bill's son Cuthbert for the first time.

I also was able to finally meet Stephen Harrison a fine gentleman by all accounts,  a master craftsman with the DSWA of UK who was teaching a training course at the time.

There were others there too who I recognized including our very own Willa Wick and Menno Braam and Raine. I wasn't able to stay and see the roof lowered on to the stable structure with a huge crane. I understand it went on without a hitch. Well maybe there was one hook-shaped one. Congrats to everyone who was involved in the walling projects at Stonewurx and those who came from far and near to raise awareness of the kind of cool things that can be done in Canada shaping and fitting stone upon stone.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wallers and Bridgers

On our way back from the 'Festival of Stone' held in Montreal, we stopped in at an earlier festival site at Landon Bay Park to see the bridge our international crew of wallers (bridgers?) built there during what has now become a regular annual walling celebration in Canada. Christopher and Norman are seen here pausing on Kay's bridge, a structure built in 2010 just off the 1000 Islands Parkway . I thought, as I took the picture, of what Isaac Newton is quoted as saying. "We build too many walls and not enough bridges."
I'm thankful for all the people who take part in our Canadian festivals, from all over North America and further abroad, who devote their time and skill not just to building walls, but to building bridges as well.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bridge visits

While travelling from the Canadian Dry Stone Wall Festival in Montreal two weeks ago (where wallers from all over built a 35 foot double-arched bridge) Gavin, Norman, Christopher and I dropped in on two other dry stone bridges on the way back to Port Hope. I was delighted to see that this one, Monarch Bridge, in Alderville, Ontario, which Danny Woodward and I built, last August, had very recently been landscaped. The grass was starting to grow and water now collects in a pool directly under the arch and gives the whole bridge setting a very tranquil appearance.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Food provides the nutrients that become the very building blocks of the body. And even though we take care to make healthy meals with these building blocks, sometimes the vegetables (and the meat) end up being completely 'over cooked' ,

Is it possible that an overworked dry stone wall can be 'overcooked' too?  Is that why certain walls look completely unappetizing? Maybe it's because these types of walls aren't always "better" for you, or any more structural, than many well-built very common, 'raw vegetable' walls.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Carter's first dry stone wall project.

We were called in yesterday to Carter Gooch's dry stone wall project to help him get the opening done before the snow flies.
There was a huge lintel in the dump load of random stone from the quarry that Carter had earmarked earlier in the project for going over the gate opening to the trail behind his parent's property. Carter cut it to size (taking off about 50 pounds) while Gavin and I added height to the sides of the opening. It was a battle getting the awkward 600 lb. stone up using only scaffolding, but we did it.

Carter is phoning his mom to tell her the news.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Barge Rock

My walling friends Gavin Rose (from Australia) and Christopher Barclay (from Victoria British Columbia) have stayed on to work with me on a few other projects here in Ontario after having completed the double arched bridge (along with about fifteen other Canadian and American dry stone wallers) at our Thanksgiving Festival of Stone held in Montreal.
Neither of them had been involved in a dry stone wall project that involved moving all the stone in a barge. Gavin admitted that it was quite a novelty. He has moved stone by sky line and motorized wheel barrows and by helicopter but never by barge.

I was pleased to be able to have them experience the fun of taking a stone boat cruise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


What creates a sense of place 
A glade, some shade, a quiet space 
Enclosed protected but not confined
Nonthreatening walls yet well defined
A gateway there through which we pass
To contemplate the things that last.
Surrounding walls affirming love
Separate from and yet part of
The nameless regions of our wide expanse
These walls define our circumstanse

We reminisce  We soar  We sigh 
Between the womb and where we die
A tranquil haven lined with life
Edged with meaning
Free from strife
The landmark milestone resting spot
Where space embraces time until it's not
And we have paused to know we're 'there'
A place unique from everywhere
A resting spot flanked by stone
A space within a sheltered zone
A memory held within of spacial song
Where we can feel that we belong

What creates a space like this
Where old men rest
And lovers kiss
Where wasteland ends
And purpose thrives
Where silence sings 
And peace survives
Such tracts of land, such sacred ground
Are very rarely ever found
And rarer still can they be made
Except by stone on stone securely laid
A wall whose stones are made to fit
As if they were always part of it 
Lend strength and certainty to such
As we who are sensitive to spacial touch
We wait and grasp  our new belonging
For sense of space is what we're longing

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sara's Garden

We accomplished quite a lot with our hands at Sara's Garden this weekend .

Norman's class added the east wall to the folly we started building there last year

My class constructed the base to the 'Bridehenge' turret.

Christopher with Dan and Scott's help built one of the Gothic arch openings

And our class also built the cantilevered steps that the bride will walk up in order to stand on the raised platform  in order to look out the Gothic window to peer at the groom.

Here is a rough sketchup drawing to help visualize how it will look after we have finished the project next year.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bulge is fixed

A neighbour must have bumped into my dry stone wall a few weeks ago when he was backing his trailer at the end of the cul de sac where our property line begins.
It left a big bulge in the back side of wall. It was something that would have been a huge problem had the wall been mortared. But in the case of a dry stone wall,  was quite fixable. However it was  something that I hadn't had time to get round to fixing yet

Norman Haddow who was staying with us for a few days after the festival noticed the bulge and kindly took it upon himself to repair the wall. Thank you so much Norman it looks great.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Both sides now

The Welsh equivilent to the Cornish hedge is the Clawdd (the plural is cloddiau -litterally "walls", though colloquially taken to be stone faced banks). These differ from the Cornish hedge largely in their batter and in the fact that the foundations are laid level. All the joints are covered or in the case of vertically laid stonework the next course of stones is set so that they drive down into the wedge left between the stones of the layer below. The core of subsoil or rubble and subsoil mix of the clawdd is topped with turf. 

The base work uses the largest stones laid just below ground level.

This demonstration feature built near Montreal during our recent Festival of Stone was organized by Sean Adcock.  When it was completed the clawdd was visited by a crowd of people led by a loud Scottish piper. 

I've looked at cloddiau from both sides now.

Here the stones are being laid perpendicular and infilled with with soil. 

The stones are laid touching stone on stone but 'shimmed' with soil. The structure allows vegetation to grow between all the upright stones in rows, so that stones bind tighter along the horizontal plane. Like the Irish Fedin wall built by students under the direction of Pat McAfee ( 2009 Rocktoberfest ), at our festival this year we were looking to demonstrate a very different structural type of vernacular stone construction. We shall be very interested to see how well this attractive style of rural building stands up to our cold winters.


Here Akira Inman is hiding behind the Clawdd pretending to be working.

Actually Akira Inman, Andre Lemieux, Danny Woodward, Matt Jones, Dan Pearl and Danny Woodward all helped in the creating of this beautiful clawdd. 

Here is Sean Adcock with his head on the clawdd. Come on Sean, get Cirrus!

Hey you, get off of...

The end.