|Steve Manuel demonstrating the inscribing of a line on stone.|
Stone masonry is a skill that I was keen to learn, so when Heather Newton agreed to allow me into the workshop for some instruction, I was thrilled. Today the conversion of rough quarry stone into wrought stonework is done by machinery, but that was not true when the cathedrals were erected. As such it is important to understand the "ontology of stone cutting" if a thorough understanding of the cathedrals is to be articulated.
I met Steve Manuel the first day in the work room, and it was mostly under his instruction that the skills were demonstrated and practised. Even though I learned only the very basic techniques, it would seem that the foundation is set for further technique development. Working with the stone directly gives an intimate knowledge of the material than would otherwise be possible. Chisel and mallet on stone cannot be replaced.
While I did not learn how to split stone at the quarry, it seems reasonable that I will be able to do so in the future given my skill level thus far. I was able to cut stone using a tungsten saw blade, so I am not a complete novice of splitting stone. While the stone I was using was "soft", I would not want to saw it by hand for long periods. The work was not the easiest, and I would soon tire of sawing stone.
|The technique of stone cutting with a chisel requires working away from the corners.|
|The marginal draft created by the drafting chisel.|
|The marginal draft being checked for straightness.|
After the initial marginal draft is completed, another corner should be cut. Following the corner cut another marginal draft joins the two corners, and the entire procedure is repeated until the entire surface of operation is enclosed by a marginal draft. All marginal drafts should be checked with a straight edge.
|A marginal draft encloses the entire surface of operation.|
|Sighting through the marginal drafts with straight edges held in place by a chisel.|
To remove the superfluous stone enclosed by the marginal drafts, a series of furrows are worked through using a "punch". The extra stone is knocked off, and careful attention is required so as to not drift below the final required surface. Each punched furrow should be checked with a straight edge, and should be level before continuing.
|The furrows created by the punch.|
The surface is then "clawed" in parallel drafts using a mallet and claw chisel. These drafts should be worked in the same direction as the furrows, and tested by applying the straight edge. A series of drafts is now worked with a mallet and boaster. These should be worked parallel to the initial marginal draft, and each one tested and worked until it is correct before the next draft is boasted. Each draft is a guide for the working of the next, and so on across the surface. The straight edge should be applied diagonally across the surface. If the stone is round in one direction and hollow in another direction, it is proof the the surface is twisting. It is then necessary to rework the marginal drafts, and repeat the processes.
|A draft begun using the claw chisel.|
|A draft using the bolster.|
After the surface of operation has been worked true, the templates or moulds should be applied to the stone, the outline of the mould being scribed or marked on the surface by means of a scriber, after which pencil may be used to define the lines clearly. The various surfaces may be worked square from the surface of operation, in stages.
|A scribe and acrylic template sit atop the tone with profile inscribed.|
|A corner cut into the stone before a draft was cut to reveal the moulding lip.|
|The pitching tool which easily removes large quantities of stone.|
|The drafting chisel was used to cut along the curved moulding profile.|
|The curved moulding profile with marginal drafts defining the edge of the moulding curve.|
|A claw chisel removing excess tone after the punch tool was used.|
|A tungsten saw blade used to cut the stone.|
|The finished stone.|
Apart from the meditative and enjoyable nature of the work, the importance of progression from one step to the next is readily apparent. Each step should be completed with full attention before continuing onto the next. If the mind drifts, then mistakes are made. The skill and method of working emphasises a series of steps, and each step depends greatly upon the step prior. Stone masonry is an unfolding of sequences as determined by the stone itself.