Natural stone is a highly sought-after material for aesthetic design features within the home. In fact, the stone market here in the UK is growing. Although the stone market generally relies on the success of the housing market – which, at the moment, is notoriously volatile – these details indicate that natural stone is as popular as ever for homeowners looking to freshen up the design of their property. Stone products have been crafted by expert stonemasons for thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest trades known to man and, as such, there are plenty of old techniques. Many of these techniques are still in use today!
Since the early stonemasons of the world, our technology has advances exponentially which means that we can create stone products quicker than we used to be able to. However, high-quality stone products are often crafted by experts by hand and using many of the older techniques which take longer but involve more care and attention. To give you a bit of insight into our work, we’re diving into a brief history of stonemasons as well as the techniques and tools used in the trade.
The First Stonemasons
Stonemasonry is one of the earliest trades in the history of humanity. Just like the stone that is crafted by stonemasons, the profession dates back for thousands of years. Many of the very first buildings, statues, temples and roads created by man were constructed using stone. From the Great Pyramids of Giza to the Parthenon and even Stone Henge, stonemasons have been at the heart of many of our most iconic structures.
Historians consider the trade of stonemasonry to be around 6,000 years old. After humankind’s discovery of fire, as well as learning to cook, we also learnt to create plaster, mortar and other materials needed to construct shelters. Before construction, early stonemasons were moulding stone as a way to communicate in the form of stone tablets which were carved from slabs of natural stone.
During the ancient period, stonemasons would craft structures and other stone products over a long period of time. Stone was extracted in societies like Ancient Egypt over several years and the construction of their temples and statues took a similarly long period of time. Speeds and processes have changed over time with the introduction of better technology. However, a surprising number of the techniques used by ancient stonemasons and modern stonemasons have remained.
Types of Stonemasonry
There are many types of stonemasonry, all of which use slightly different disciplines and create different products. Stonemasons from across the ages would have to learn these different types and techniques to ensure they could complete the job at hand. Here is a more detailed look at six different types of stonemasonry.
Ashlar masonry is the discipline within the stonemasonry profession of cutting, dressing and working stone to create a consistent shape, size and texture to be used in a building or structure. Ashlar stonemasons take raw stone from a quarry and refine the slabs into recognisable blocks for buildings. Even the huge blocks of stone seen in the pyramids have had to be shaped and cut precisely to ensure structural integrity. Examples of ancient ashlar masonry can be found at Crete’s Knossos Palace from around four thousand years ago.
Fixer masons utilise mortars and grout in order to secure stones to buildings. After ‘banker’ masons have prepared the stone, fixer masons will fix the stones together to create a structure.
Memorial masons are specialist masons who create memorial stone products like headstones and carve inscriptions into them. Memorial – or monumental – masons have developed their techniques from a rudimentary art to today where huge and intricate memorial stones can be crafted. This discipline is focused on intricacy and detail rather than ensuring structural integrity.
As opposed to ashlar masonry – which uses precise cutting and shaping techniques to create uniformity – rubble masonry is a rough and uneven way of creating structures. Rubble masons use undressed and unworked stone to construct walls and buildings. This masonry technique encompasses structures like dry-stone rubble walls which are common across the British countryside and do not use mortar. Walls and buildings made using rubble masonry also use cement or lime mortar to secure the stones.
Slipform stonemasonry is a tactic for creating reinforced stone structures by combining stone and concrete. Stones are fitted into forms which are used as a guide for the construction. Once stones have been placed in this frame, concrete is then poured in to fill out the crevices which create a more sturdy structure. Walls are built up by allowing the first section to set and then ‘slipping’ the frame – or form – upwards and starting the process again.
The Evolution of Stonemason Tools and Techniques
As mentioned already, many of the techniques employed by the stonemasons of today stretch back for hundreds or thousands of years. These techniques and processes have been passed down the generations, showing that they remain relevant and, although many processes have been sped up with the use of high-tech tools – much of the stonemasonry industry remains the same. A stonemason from Medieval Britain could probably still find a job in a modern stonemasonry workshop today!
The main tools used in stonemasonry are the chisel, the hammer and the trowel. All three of these tools would be been used extensively by the stonemasons who created wonders such as the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal many years ago.
Chisels come in all different shapes and sizes, with each being used for a different purpose. Tungsten tips have been added to chisels to make them more robust and reliable. However, all of the different shapes used have remained the same for centuries.
Masonry hammers are another tool which has remained the same for centuries and millennia. Again, masonry hammers and mallets come in different shapes and sizes to provide a different effect on the stone the tool is being used on.
When huge medieval cathedrals, churches and other structures of historical significance require restorative work to ensure they remain upright for future generations, a team of stonemasons will arrive who will attempt to recreate the structure in the same way that it was originally built. This means that they will draw on all of the original techniques and tools used. Luckily, the evolution of stonemasonry hasn’t gone too far so that we have a window into the way that former civilisations created their buildings and monuments.
Are You Looking For Professional Stonemasons in Gloucestershire and Beyond? Contact Wrights of Campden
Wrights of Campden are a team of professional stonemasons based in the Cotswolds. We craft bespoke limestone products for the home and the garden which are certain to give your property elegance and rustic charm. From fireplaces to stairways and garden ornaments, we create a wide range of products.
We have been operating since 1974, creating beautiful stoneworks for our clients and using traditional methods which ensure quality. We pay very close attention to detail in every piece we complete, with our stonemasons pouring their heart and soul into every job.
For projects, we welcome our customers to come and visit our workshop where they can discover some of the exciting designs we are currently working on. We are also able to craft stoneworks for you on a bespoke basis. We know that one size doesn’t always fit all which is why we tailor our work to your needs.
To find out more about our services, please feel free to contact us today. You can find us at Units 104-106, Northwick Business Centre, Blockley, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, GL56 9RF. Alternatively, call us on 01386 700 497 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.