Sunday, July 31, 2016

Revisiting our Wing Wall

The Wing Wall uses vertically laid mica quartzite arranged in a scalloped configuration and bookended at each V with decorative boulders. Up until this trip to California I've only seen it in winter light. The detail and rhythm of corrugated surfaces lit by the afternoon late July sun is unexpectedly satisfying.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Evening Activities

When we're working away from home there's often new evening time activities that come into play. Playing bocce ball, chess, drawing designs, poetry readings and of course playing with stones.

Were trying to figure out how high we can still build up around this thin basalt obelisk with luscious green pebbles before everything tumbles. Stay tuned this evening.

Friday, July 29, 2016


Yes, Mark Ricard is strong, however this load of stone were working with from Featherrock is a third of the weight of granite. Perfect for kids of all ages.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rock Slide

Here in this part of California, driving along the coast there are numerous places where the road goes through rock-cuts and runs along side high cliffs. It can be kind of dangerous because cars may run into any rocks that have slid down the side of these steep hills. They do quite a bit of damage. Thankfully there are now special activity parks and new recreational apparatus being put up near many of these hazardous spots so that the rocks can still have fun but not get hurt.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Men standing up for stone and old ways of building.

John Scott, who was the visionary for the dry stone bridge we built in Perth Ontario last week, stands beside an amazing man, John Silburn, the structural engineer who has all the modern know how and yet the confidence to trust the old ways of building permanently with stone. 

He okayed the design that John Bland and John Scott came up with for Dry Stone Canada's festival bridge. 

We need more men and women like him, who are capable of not just assessing that dry stone walls and bridges are structural, but also standing up for them, in a world where, unlike natural stone, manufactured steel, industrial oil based products like plastic and fibreglass, and fabricated toxic laminates are still very much choking the planet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Walls without dehydration

It was crazy hot last week. Here are some of the ways people tried to stay cool and hydrated while building with stone during the Perth Dry Stone Festival which was put on by the City of Perth and Dry Stone Canada.

Alex taking a break sitting in the water, in the shade. 

On really hot days it's really important not to to try to build walls without popsicles.

Some of us working on site decided it was impossible just to get our feet wet.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Put on a happy face.

Phil Smith carved this lively 'happy face' in the keystone used for the down river side of the dry stone bridge being built during the Dry Stone Canada Festival in Perth Ontario on July 23rd and 24th weekend 2016. Come see the form being taken out on Sunday afternoon.

It eventually DID go !

Friday, July 22, 2016

Stones without tolerance.

This year's masonry students at Algonquin College prepared the voussoirs for the bridge in class from big slabs of Indiana Limestone. The dimensions have to be absolutely precise. The job of cutting and shaping the springers, then dressing them and giving them an interesting texture is time consuming, but the final look is worth it.

On the bridge we are building at the Perth Legacy Project during the festival, the other interior springers, the ones that won't be seen, are made on site out of the Madoc limestone material provided by Upper Canada Minerals. The angle of the springers (the first voussoirs that create the angle for the rest of the angled voussoirs to spring off of ) have to match the ones the students made. They are much rougher, but still will work to provide the right angle of support for rest of the stones we will be fitting over the arch  

Menno Braam is sighting down the springers that we made. They have been laid between the dressed Indiana Limestone blocks that have already been carefully set in place. He is checking to see that ours line up with the student voussoirs that have already been lowered into place by machine onto the concrete abutments.

Once all the springers are set in place, beams are set on blocks sitting in the water to form a support 'crib' in preparation for the 12 foot wide wooden form to be set on. This form will temporarily support the huge dressed voussoir stones which are essentially laid vertical over the entire opening. 

The heavy former was carried and lifted into place by six of the volunteer wallers at the festival yesterday afternoon. There is a good deal of adjusting to make sure it fits exactly at the right height and at the right orientation so that the Indiana Limestone voussoirs will all rest absolutely snug on the arch shape.. 
The tolerances that John Bland is working with here on the design he did in Sketchup, need to be within less than the width of an eighth of an inch, if all the voussoirs are to fit correctly. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The thinking stone

Stone mason and waller Karl Kaufmann from Connecticut arrived yesterday at the Perth Festival put on by Dry Stone Canada. He presented John Scott with a spare brain. John has been the mastermind of this amazing dry stone event put in by Dry Stone Canada and so it was fitting that have a second brain as backup 

As people who work with stones everyday, we do tend to think like stones after a while.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

All kinds of drawing.

The upcoming Perth Dry Stone Festival is ‘drawing' more and more people. We are pleased to have Ireland's own, Paul Phaid Cunningham with us this week, from Donegal, who was one of the key masons involved in the recently completed, one-of-a-kind, 15 foot high, stone map of Ireland.
One-of-a-kind monument to Ireland’s culture, mythology, craft, history and social identity unveiled in Donegal

In the photo above this one of the stone map, Phaid has a ‘drawing' in his hands of what we will be building this week, trying to get an idea of the overall plan.

One of the cool things about this year's festival is the food. The marvellous meals are being provided by Carol Ann McNeil and Andrea Cross. 

And speaking of ‘drawing’ another cool thing about the meal time gatherings are the pens and drawing paper tablecloths available at each table, where wallers can freely draw and exchange ideas and designs while they are eating.

Here we are playing a drawing game where each of us select a secret stone on the table without pointing at it and then try to sketch it until someone guesses the one we’ve chosen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Former Students

We are gearing up this week for the big Perth Dry Stone Wall Festival in Perth Ontario next weekend. John Bland and John Scott have designed a sweet 12 foot span dry stone bridge to go over part of the Tay River as well as an enclosed dry stone swimming area to shore up the banks of the river directly upstream from the bridge. 

Lots of skilled volunteers are already gathering for this event. 

There will be a great deal of dry stone excitement as the bridge enters its final building stage on the weekend, as well the finishing of the river bank walls and the running of the two day beginner’s walling workshop taught by Nick Aitken and Norman Haddowfrom Scotland. Plan to be here.

Here is where the bridge will go.

John is holding one of the half plywood ribs of the former (also called 'centering') for size. I will be building the wood form today with some help from former Algonquin College students. It will hold up the bridge until the stone arch is completed and the wood is removed.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Teaching Us To Listen

Those of us who work with stone have probably said at one time or another - ''it's like the stone is talking to me''. What we are referring to is that feeling we get when we intuitively perceive which stone to use next, or where each one should be placed. It is as though for a brief moment we are in tune with the stones. We sense in some mysterious way, what it is that the stone requires of us. We have a better feel for the way individual stones should be fitted, or shaped perhaps, as we almost accidentally discover how a selection of random stones will go together in some pleasing yet undefinable pattern.

Such a satisfying experience is tempting to try to 'replicate'. If only the stones could communicate to us like this all the time, we say. If only they could speak to us. 

Indeed, teaching stones to talk might be the answer? Obviously, there are even books on the subject. Is anything too hard for a stone?

And yet I suspect it is much harder, for us to learn how to listen.

Maybe they know how to talk already?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Why stones try to stick together.

You guys all okay?

Yup, but I wish I knew where we were going.

Me too.I'm scared. 

It's going to be alright, really!  

But it's so bumpy and noisy. 
And everything is flying by so fast.

I'm feeling sick. I think I'm gonna heave if we don't slow down soon.

Just hold on tight to one of us, little stone.

Where do you think they're gonna dump us?

I don't know.
But I'm guessing, there's no way we are gonna be able to find our way back to the others.

We should have tried harder to get away from that horrible rock catching machine.

It would have been no use. 
Playing dead is the only defence we have.
If they ever found out we were alive, that we had feelings, that we were not just a bunch of stupid inanimate objects, they'd hunt us down like wild animals for sure. 
We'd be extinct. No, it's best to stay low and take the line of least resistance.

Our weight and hardness is our only defence.
This way we get left alone most of the time.

Look at the stars.
They know.
They've learned to stay quiet.
To keep their distance.

Let's huddle closer guys.
What ever they do to us let's try to stick together, no matter what happens.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Stones Like to Hang On

Back when we had a farm we had an old barn that we did a few renovations to. We decided to break through the solid 3 foot thick stone foundation wall on the north side in order to create a much needed opening into the barn. 

I rented a jack hammer and worked for nearly a week trying to bust away enough stones and mortar just to make a modest size opening for a small horse to walk through. I realized then how much stones like to hang on. Even after the hole was drilled and chiseled large enough to reach in and pry on chunks of the loosened masonry, it was still a battle to actually remove any stone from the wall.
It seems to me this tenacity for stones to bind and stay together is what makes even a non mortared wall grip to itself so well. It's like the walls have tiny hands. The stones just don't want to let go.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Tidy New Wall Is Made From A Stoney Gravelly Mound.

The first section of wall completed now for a client who was unhappy with the way her landscapers built the garden walls originally.

I can see why.

The client said the original walls were falling apart, even as the landscapers were building them, so they covered them over with even more stones.

And when we took apart the original walls we saw evidence of gravel having been poured into the middle, by the wheelbarrow full . Shocking.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Farley Mowat's Boat Roofed House - The Upcoming Celebration discussed on Radio CKUT

Ryan Young

John Abbott College Media Arts Professor. 
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue City Councillor. 
Host of Ecolibrium on CKUT 90.3 FM.
 Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Sunken Schooner

A few years ago Don Woudstra of Black Rock Landscapes near Haliburton Ontario, came up with this design for a dry stone schooner . It is nearly completed now . This week he sent me pics of the project . He writes that he still needs to flame some of the sawed edges…"add a railing on back with ropes...sails and a mermaid or canon to the front… a skull in the porthole with lights which is mounted to a plastic culvert…we started it last year and finished it up last week so we could host a mini concert in the boat over the weekend with a local rock artist….it will seat about 100 people"

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Flora Flattery.

We enjoyed creating this curving dry stone planter wall last summer. It was designed to morph into a boxwood hedge and then back into a low stone wall again. Plants and dry stone walls often compliment each other but rarely do they try to imitate each another.