Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rinus Roelofs

Rinus Roelofs is a mathematician and an artist. He has created many intriguing sculptures models and animations.

His web site is

Or you can find him on Facebook

Monday, May 29, 2017

The University of Guelph Arboretum Walling Workshop

Trees and walls go well together.


Dry Stone Walling Across Canada was invited to do a workshop at the Arboretum last weekend.

Tons of local limestone 'chunks' were acquired for the workshop project and we eagerly set about making something beautiful with them.

Apparently I didn't work them hard enough because they all said they had a really good time.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

More Solutions

The examples above are some of the ways I solved the problem of having random oval shapes all touching in three places.

When I explained the challenge to my very clever grandson Andy yesterday , he set about trying to do it with even fewer stones and came up with the drawing below.

As few as four stones can touch in three places each! 

Way more simple a solution than the ones I was finding.

But now the question is can it be done in five or six or seven stones?

Saturday, May 27, 2017


Here is one arrangement of irregular oval shapes where every one is touching three, and only three, others. See if you can find a combination that uses less pieces.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Walling Game Ideas.

A stone in a dry stone wall will fit more snugly, and hence will be more stable, as the number of points of contact with other stones increases. If, for the purpose of a game, we simplify the area we are considering to just the face of the stone, as it is positioned in the outer two-dimensional plane of a wall (there would be many more places the stone touches other stones inside the wall) we can come up with some parameters ( or rules ) for a good fit on the faces at least. 

Certainly the face of a particular stone needs to touch its neighbouring stones in more than one or even two places if it is to be stable. Three places would be the minimum for it not to 'wiggle'. 

After three starter stones are placed randomly on the board, the first player plays one of his or her stones so that it is touching the others in certain way. Our first rule might be that any stone piece that is placed on the flat playing board  (perhaps they are made of cardboard or plastic or even small flat stone pieces, as in the photo above) scores three points if it touches in three places. If it touches in two there is no score. If it touches in only one a point is taken off the players score.

( For the purpose of simplifying the rules for the time being, a stone touching more than three places will not be allowed.)

The pattern that is created can ramble off in any direction. It doesn't have to have a height or length as in a vertical wall, for this part of the challenge.


To understand how a one player game might be developed, here is a different challenge – Using a random selection of polygonal convex pieces (no inside corners) to represent basically the oval shaped faces of stones showing in a wall, add them one at a time to the board and see how few you need to use to have every one touching three and only three other stones.

Obviously you will need to use more than three stone pieces, but what is the minimum number that would fulfill the requirement of every stone touching three and only three others, and how would this configuration look?

In the photo above I have started with five stones, so far three are touching in three places, one is only touching in one, and one is only touching in two.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cellular Networks

Even the rocks themselves have cellular structure. 

So if we are talking about cellular structure, it's not just living cells of plants and animals, it seems everything comes in a cellular pattern. 

Not just the ordered circular, triangular, hexagonal arrangements, but irregular shape cells too, all form and mesh together in endless cellular patterns.   From natural structures of honeycombs to the man made mapping of microwave networks across the globe, there is this ubiquitous pattern of cellular structure. (Incidentally that's why they are called cell phones)

Image result for turing patterns

From complex tiling patterns, to Turing algorithms, from 'wallpaper groups' to natural coral patterns, it seems everything arranges itself into cells.
And if we look at the patterns of dry stone walls, whether they are vertical or coursed or diagonal or even random, what we see, and what I think we enjoy seeing, is this same propensity for cellular patterning.

But what makes for a good pattern? What kind of formula could one use to best arrange a selection of irregular shaped stones . What are some rules to follow that make a cellular pattern structural? 

A few years ago, late one night, after a few pints at a pub on Inisheer, John Scott, Patrick McAfee and I, marvelling at the counter-intuitiveness of the myriad of patterns of Irish walls we'd seen that day on the island, got excited about inventing a 'walling' game where flat stone shaped pieces were dealt to players and then one at a time laid out consecutively on a blank board to create a two dimensional wall pattern, each player trying to score the highest points (according to a preset formula of aesthetic bonding rules) in a battle of structural cellular strategy. 

Now and then we still talk about someday actually coming up with the rules for such a game, and making our fortune.

Can you suggest some of the elements that might make a game like that work?

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Right Half of a Waller's Brain

There are connections. There are patterns. It is perhaps not surprising that, among other amazing facts about a waller's brain, it seems to possess a powerful and very creative affinity both to enjoy and reproduce, in stone, the same kinds of patterns of cellular structure, which are intrinsic to its very make up and are biologically evident under the microscope.

Is this a kind of game the brain plays with itself? If so, let's look at the some of the rules of cellular structure and figure out how to play the game better.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Look Out For Turtles

They often look like rocks, but don't be fooled. 

Image result for turtle signs

This is turtle season. You're very likely to see one crossing the road looking for a place to lay its eggs.

Last week, this turtle came crawling over to see what we were building.

Is it possible our wall looked like a crowd of turtles all lined up to see something special?

It was pretty clear she couldn't wait to get in line as well.

Turtles do often look like small rocks and vice versa. In this case even the cows were fooled.

Turtle Rock

                                                    Turtle Rock in Mongolia

And then of course there are some big big rocks that really do look like huge turtles.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

August Walling Workshop on the West Coast

A special course is being offered this August 19-20 in California, at the private property of John Fisher, the internationally famous sculptor and painter
This is a terrace/retaining wall workshop using local stone.
The two day course will involve all aspects of walling including copes and through stones and batter.
Lunches and printed material will be provided. Cost $225 for the weekend.
If you can't be there you'll be missing out not just on a fantastic workshop event but also an opportunity to see first hand many of John's amazing marble and wood sculptures dotted throughout the property
Please tell your friends about this walling event to be held at the artist's sculpture studio property. 
To register, email the contact address below
For accommodation ideas and more info about John Fisher or the Fort Bragg area contact John at
Spaces are limited. Payment is by predated cheque. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

A bridge is the answer, of course!

This is a stone bridge we saw in a prestigious golf course in Dornoch Scotland on our tour of walls that Margot Miller organized in June of 2015.  While it, nor the famous one at he course at St Andrews is not dry laid, it still looks very attractive.

It always surprises me why so few golf courses here in Canada and the States have stone bridges, of any kind. 

Considering the obvious Scottish link, I would think a well built stone bridge at one or two holes, especially dry stone ones, would provide that perfect combination of picturesque aesthetic and authenticity to any club.

Any ideas why this is not the case?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

From Above

A drone is like a heavenly being, allowing us to see things we've created from different angels

Monday, May 15, 2017

Course Language

It's not even f *ing straight !

There isn't one row of stones that doesn't look shitty !

It's too bad he didn't use a bloody level !

I've seen random stonework that looks less crappy. 

What did he use, a slinky for a string line?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cope Aesthetic

Both walls are made from the same limestone material. They are on different parts of the same property. Which cope style do you prefer and why?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Stone Crazy Quotes

Documentary On Newstalk: Stone Mad

We take a journey around Ireland, to discover what drives people mad… for dry stone walls.
"Stone Mad" brings us from Donegal to Dingle where dry stone wall enthusiasts share their passion about this craft.
Presenter Tristan Rosenstock journeys from Donegal to Dingle learning skills from stone wall makers young and old to get an insight into this rich aspect of our built, vernacular heritage. Walls are usually seen as divisive obstacles, things that separate people. Here in Ireland, however, building a dry stone wall was an activity that brought a community together. It was a unifying occasion where a meitheal was summoned to lend a hand ensuring the land could be farmed. Stone Mad brings us down the western seaboard where we encounter people who are passionate about making dry stone walls, as well as artists who draw inspiration from them.
Stone Mad celebrates a unique aspect of our rural and vernacular built heritage and introduces listeners to master stone wall builders who are passing on aspects of this traditional craft.  We also meet with artists who have been inspired by dry stone walls, from an encounter with Leo Moran of The Saw Doctors on the side of the N17, to mosaic artist Barbara Derrane on the Aran islands. Along his journey, Tristan ultimately finds a cultural activity that leads to a healthy mind, body, and spirit in the company of people who are self-proclaimed stone mad.
Quotes from Stone Mad:
"It’s so good for me. It makes me feel so refreshed in the evening"- Pádraig Póil (70), master dry stone wall builder on InisOírr, Aran Islands.
"When we play N17 around the world you can see how dry stone walls can mean something different to the Irish people in the audience – they’re an image of home, or maybe you had your first kiss behind a dry stone wall."-Leo Moran, The Saw Doctors
"More and more women are getting into it because there are always plenty of eligible bachelors at a dry stone wall festival ” Louise Price, The TírChonaill  Stone Festival
‘Stone Mad ’ will air on Newstalk 106-108fm on Saturday May 13th at 7am, Repeated Sunday May 14th at 6pm.
 About Stone Mad:
  • The programme was recorded on location in Donegal town, Tuam, The Aran islands – InisOírr&InisMór, Dingle.
  • Dry stone wall building is experiencing a huge resurgence and festivals devoted to this aspect of our heritage draw enormous crowds in the Aran islands and in Donegal Town (TírChonaill Stone Festival)
  • Dry stone walls have been a feature of the Irish landscape for over 5,000 years and today a new generation is eager to maintain the thousands of kilometres of dry stone walls that can be found here.
LISTEN LIVE: ‘Stone Mad’ can be listened to online at:
PODCAST: Podcast available at: after the broadcast.
CREDITS: The programme is presented by Tristan Rosenstock. Producer – Donal Donovan
Stone Mad is funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's Sound & Vision II Scheme 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Finishing On Stile

Yesterday, our two-day DSWAC weekend walling workshop, in Canton Ontario, finished in style, and on stiles. 

Well done, to all the students. In the world of walling, when stones and people work together and lift each other up, nothing is impossible .

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Happy Faces


Sometimes it's too easy, almost glib to merely tell someone as they're going,'have a nice day'. How does one actually implement that suggestion if your day doesn't go that well? 

Im not sure. But I do know that if you spend the day learning how to build with stone (no mortar) almost always, something nice happens to your day.

So it is that, despite lots of mud, slippery to handle tools, cold weather and a constant drizzly downpour, the students taking the two day walling workshop in Canton Ontario yesterday all ended up having, just that, a very 'nice day'. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tears of Joy?

If we are building a wall where a new house is being built, sometimes we finish the project before the clients actually see it competed. On occasions like that, when they do come to the job site as we're cleaning up, it's great to see their expression and get all their enthusiastic feedback. 

I'm glad to say that usually they're over the moon about what we've built for them. 

But clients do tend to show their excitement in many different ways. On one or two jobs I've actually seen something that looked very much like tears of joy.

But they weren't. 

It seems wives particularly can get pretty emotional about vertical coping, and not in a good way. They may even start crying. They'll say something like, " all those pointy upright rocks on the top make them look like prison walls. "

In these rather unfortunate situations, we usually end up removing all the vertical copes, and just leave the top flat.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ancient moss civilization.

The stones in the hedgerow on the 200 year old farm property we are working on have been sitting in the wall for such a long time that there are sections where the moss has started to grow over the joints. The rocks appear to be merging into one another. 

Down through the centuries many stone cultures have attempted to create that same look — trying to fit the stones in their masonry structures so tight that the spaces disappear.

The Inca nearly accomplished it.

Perhaps moss is just another kind of civilization — a microscopic culture of tiny green masons striving, like the rest of us wallers, to make rocks look like they've melted into each other.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Finding and Keeping Good Form

Sometimes, if you don't have any wood or tools to make a 'proper' form, or anything else like a bucket or a barrel, to hold your dry stone moongate arch up, you might just have to use a big rock. Here in Vancouver we used a huge slice of basalt column which was conveniently lying around available at Northwestern Landscape and Stone Supply during the workshop I taught there a while back. 

I had been planning to take the chunk of basalt out, after the arch stones were built around it, but the garden feature looked so spectacular when it was done, with the form protruding both sides, we decided to keep it in the wall.