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A stone cutter is someone who processes or shapes crude and rough pieces of rocks into desirable shapes, sizes and patterns for the purpose of building and creating structures. An occupation that existed since the dawn of civilization, stone masonry was born when people began fashioning homes for themselves built with mud, straw or stone. During the Neolithic Age, people learned how to use fire and subsequently created quicklime, mortars and plasters. By using these to cement stones together, they went on to create buildings, structures and sculptures. Some of these structures are still wholly or partly standing today.
It is a fact that stone masonry is as ancient as civilization itself. Throughout the ages, these impressive works of architecture and engineering of the ancient world were heavily dependent upon the work of stone masons. From the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, to the Persian palaces and Greek temples and down to the Roman Colosseum, the significant contribution of stone masonry to these engineering marvels is plainly evident.
Stone cutters, or stone masons, build stone walls, floors, interiors and exteriors of private homes, buildings and other structures, such as stone piers, arches, sills, steps and hearths. They work with both natural and artificial stones. The natural stones are marble, granite, sandstone and limestone while the artificial stones are made of cement and cement mixed with marble chips and other masonry materials. Masons are highly skilled workers who meticulously follow the blueprint of an architectural or engineering design of a building or other structures in construction.
A stone cutter is a broad term that includes any or all of the following: stone masons, brick mason, block mason or simply mason. Stone masonry workers are further subdivided into several specialized areas of expertise, including:
Quarrymen - split masses of rocks underground and haul it to the surface
Stone sawyers - cut rough blocks of rocks into cubes for further processing
Banker masons - carve stones into intricate geometrical patterns for use in a building's architectural design
Stone carvers - sculpt stones into artistic forms such as figurines or abstract designs
Fixer masons - are specialists who fix stone into buildings using a lifting tackle, and cement it in place using mortar, grout, cement, etc.
Memorial masons - carve tombstones and inscriptions
Stone cutters usually work in and around construction sites. Being outdoors most of the time, they are often prey to poor weather and climate conditions. Generally, they work forty hours a week and earn extra pay for overtime, holidays and weekend work. Their tasks are physically taxing and demanding as they often lift heavy materials, and stand, bend or kneel for long periods of time. The workplace is also hazardous as they usually work from an elevated position, and falling from heights or scaffolding is not uncommon. Even lifting and moving heavy objects could cause back injury and other musculoskeletal problems.
Available training for aspiring stone cutters include college-level diploma programs, associate degree programs, formal apprenticeship, and informal training on the job. Informal learning however, cannot be awarded with a diploma or certification since it usually takes place outside educational institutions and does not follow any specified curriculum.
Diploma Programs - These programs are offered by technical colleges and last for approximately one year. Students are awarded with a diploma upon completion. Courses include college work where students learn building, hewing and theory involved in masonry with on-site learning experience and hands-on workshops, and may also include estimating, applied communication and specialized masonry.
Associate Degree Programs - Masonry is either offered as an associate of applied science degree or as an associate in occupational studies. The former requires the student to take general education courses while the latter only includes courses in masonry and construction. May also emphasize managerial skills to prepare students for advanced positions in the field. Diploma and associate degree programs are intended for unemployed masons as well as professionals seeking additional training and experience.
Formal Apprenticeship - Formal apprenticeship is sponsored by labor unions or industry groups, and consists of three years of on-the-job training with four hundred hours of classroom instruction, after which the apprentice will be awarded a certification. This requires working full-time at a contract company, where apprentices work in the field during the day and take courses at night in a classroom setting. Applicants for this program should be at least seventeen years of age and in good physical condition.
Masons with informal training learn their skills on the job. They start out by working as helpers for experienced stone masons. These employers are mostly self-employed and own their own business. The aspiring stone cutter will need to further their education on their own in order to become certified.