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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.
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:
Stonemasons need to possess the following:
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.
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.