What is a Stonemason?
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A stonemason is someone who takes rough pieces of rock or stone, and shapes them into geometric shapes in order to create a structure and/or a work of art. These structures can include monuments, buildings, cathedrals, tombstones, etc. Stonemasons take great pride in being able to produce beautiful yet functional work that is uniquely suited for each individual client.
Stonemasons have been responsible for the construction of buildings, statues and structures since the beginning of civilization. Some of the greatest pieces of art and most notable structures were created by stonemasonry workers; the Easter Island statues, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Egyptian Pyramids, and the Chartres Cathedral, just to name a few.
How to Become a Stonemason
What does a Stonemason do?
Stonemasonry can be defined as shaping irregular pieces of rock into accurate shapes for building and/or decoration, and assembling the resulting rock to build structures. They set the horizontal and vertical alignment of the structures they are working on using gauge lines, levels, and a plumb bob. With the help of staked lines, rules, and a straight edge, they lay out the foundation and wall patterns. Smoothing out defective or rough spots by using a hammer, chisel, and power grinder, and repairing chipped or cracked stone using a blowtorch, are also the job of a stonemason. When working on monuments, a stonemason will sometimes have to see to the removal of parts of the monument from the bed of trucks carrying them, and then guide it to the foundation using cranes, hoists, or even skids. Stonemasons will also make parts of the structure by filling molds with a stone composition mixture.
There are several types of stonemasons:
- A quarryman works in a quarry splitting sheets of rock down the vein of the rock in order to extract rough chunks of stone
- A sawyer mason is someone who takes these rough chunks of stone, and shapes them to meet the required shape and size using saws that are diamond-tipped
- A banker mason takes these stones into their workshop and further hones the stones into the shape and size required by the building designs. A banker mason’s goal is to make sure that the shaped stone is oriented in the building in as natural a position as it was oriented in the ground.
- A carver mason uses their artistic ability to create patterns and designs in or from the stone like animals, figures, or other types of designs
- A fixer mason specializes in fixing stone permanently onto building structures using various forms of epoxy resins and/or cement. This is a highly dangerous and skilled position requiring precise tolerances and work at high altitudes, all while manipulating very heavy pieces of stone using tackle lift systems.
- A memorial mason carves gravestones, statues and memorials
Stonemasons need to possess the following:
- Team working skills
- Understanding and following instructions carefully
- Being able to follow a design accurately
- Good physical health
- A creative mind
- The ability to use initiative
- Practical skills
- Drawing skills
- The ability to carry out basic calculations
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How to become a Stonemason
Experience is not necessary but often preferred by employers, even if this is through on-site training. Any experience in construction or design, especially hands on practice with a mallet and chisel can be beneficial and can help to get ahead quickly. Also, a basic knowledge of architectural and building history helps to show interest and understanding to the potential employer.
The preferred stonemason will have had a four-year apprenticeship with an experienced tradesman. Apprenticeship includes on-site hands-on training, and college work where the overall experience of hewing, theoretical, and building work involved in becoming a mason is given to the apprentices. Some colleges offer courses in drafting and reading blueprints, which can be a nice plus for a would-be stonemason.
What is the workplace of a Stonemason like?
A stonemason’s workplace is generally outdoors and relatively hazardous, making hard hats and caution extremely important. The work is physically demanding and contracts are often less frequent in times of bad weather as stonemasons typically work outside. However, various advancements in masonry technology allow modern-day masons to work outside in varying weather conditions.
The work can be considered hard physical labour, as stonemasons are required to climb scaffolding, use chisels and hammers, and spend all day bending, kneeling and lifting heavy materials over rough terrain. Stonemasons will often be contracted privately and therefore have a time schedule to keep, meaning overtime and weekend work is often necessary to meet deadlines.