Stone Masonry Techniques


According to Black & Decker, the four main stone masonry techniques have probably been established since stone age days. As anyone who has seen Stonehenge will appreciate, our ancestors were prodigious builders, despite the fact that they did not have the sophisticated tools we have today. Stone age man had to gather stone, rather than buying it at a garden center. How he moved heavy stone is still the subject of a heated debate.

Choosing the Stone

  • Choose your stone according to the job you want to do. For crazy paving, choose irregular flagstone, up to about 3 inches thick. For a rock garden, choose fieldstone, such as stone gathered from the sides of hills and dry river beds, with a natural look. For a regular stone wall, choose quarried, smooth-cut stones of similar dimensions, such as ashlar. For a cobblestone path or decorative area, choose small, rounded lumps of stone.

Bringing the Stone onto Site

  • Stone is heavy. It weights approximately 165 pounds per cubic foot. Black & Decker recommend that you wear a lifting belt when moving heavy stone. This is a restraint, often padded, made of elasticized Neoprene or similar material, to support vital muscles. Alternatively, use a helper to share the load, or carry the stone in a wheelbarrow. Always keep your back straight when lifting, and bend your knees. If a stone feels too heavy to carry, drop it, though preferably not on your toes.

Dressing the Stone

  • Dressing the stone refers to the use of a hammer and chisel to trim the stone so as to make it fit within your design. Wear goggles to protect your eyes. Place the stone on a soft surface, to absorb some of the energy of the blows. Hold your chisel at a 45 degree angle at the base of a lump or bump to be removed. Tap the end of the chisel lightly so that it engages with the desired breakage line. Then tap more forcefully to chip the piece off.

Sticking the Stones Together

  • Stonehenge was built without mortar. Dry laying is a perfectly acceptable stone masonry technique for many projects. However, there are times when, for cosmetic or safety reasons, it is more advisable to stick the stones together. Apply the mortar with a trowel, bearing in mind that thin joints, of 1/2 inch to an inch, are generally stronger. When you place a stone on the mortar, wiggle it slightly to settle it in place.

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  • "Stonework & Masonry Projects"; Creative Publishing International; 2000
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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