Thursday, June 30, 2016

Name suggestions for new fake stone products.

Alternative rock

Phony stone

Sham rock

Foe stone

Cultish stone 




Stoney Baloney

NOT Gneiss Stone



Shim Sham

Rubbish Rubble


Flintstone flimflam

Simulate Slate

Aggregated basalt (to the eyes)

Quasi quartz

Fallacious fieldstone

Fraudulant fragments 

Shifty shards 



Doctored Fakinstone


Facial erratic

Lying Con-Cretan

Fecking fauxlithic


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Celebrity Interview

"Tell the viewers a bit about yourself."

My nime is Shown Adcowk. O'im from Whiles. An Oi'm a droy stoawn whoaler.   But oi down av any use for an 'ammer an chissew. 

An'  oi reeelly  down loyk to av myewsic woil Oi'm whoaling

An' I reeelly down loyk aving moy foh-oh tiken !

Monday, June 27, 2016

Tower Power

Sean took this photo of me yesterday building a small tower on the beach.

It gives the suggestion that I have  powers of levitation, as the stone I need to fit into place, below the one I am holding, seems to be magically rising into the air. 

I will not give away my secret.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Visit to Amherst Island.

Sean and I spent the day at Amherst Island the site of last year's dry stone festival. We took photos of the stonework there. He commented that it was 'far from a complete disaster'. On the Adcock scale, this is praise indeed! 

We met up later with Jacob Murray and a lot of his friends and fellow islanders having a late solstice celebration at the western end of the island. Not that the solstice was late, but that it was a celebration one week later

Sean and I built five small stone arches on the flat multi-layered, rock shelved beach and one in the water. 

The stones magically snapped into place. It seemed like all the stones enjoyed having a chance to take on arch shapes, however briefly. 

There was great food and lots of happy excited  talk about the past festival and the one coming up in Perth Ontario this July. Sean has been invited to attend that festival.

Sean who is often quite dismal at most social events even admitted to having a good time yesterday .

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A simple question.

Sean Adcock is with me this week and we're building dry stone entrance walls with 4 foot square pillars that have a subtle Japanese rampart-type curved batter to them. 

Because its a more interesting project than just straight pillars it's turning out to be a lot of fun. There are plenty of things to consider and we stop every now and then and ponder the best way of building it.

So here's one question...Do we build the pillars separately or lock the corner stones in with the walls as we build up 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Reading between the stones.

When I used to do mortar masonry, I had a helper who mixed all my mortar. When we finished a fireplace and took away all the scaffolding we used to stand back and admire the chimney. I'd say something like "Look at all that beautiful stonework". He'd stand there and then say "Look at all that beautiful mortar"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Arch at Goodwood

Andy always knocks the Wall out of the Park !

A piece by Andy Goldsworthy built in 2002 at Goodwood Sussex England, - a sculpture organisation and outdoor park devoted to the promotion of 21st century British sculpture through public commissions and exhibitions.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Opus 40 Restoration Report - Last Instalment

Here’s Sean Adcock's final instalment and a whole raft of photos of his and many others exploits  at Opus 40

"Capping it all

Finished at last...

I don’t have any really good before shots.  There’s one I took from 2013 and a now shot, too much rigging yet to be removed to show it properly.  There’s another of me repairing the path at the base to give a bit of scale.  I should imagine Tomas will post more on the Stone Foundation Facebook page in due course.

The last major job was resetting the ‘flatwork’ a bit of a euphemism at Opus 40 where the settlement means hardly anything is flat.  Here TJ Mora is hard at it... the temperatures over the last few days have been unbearable... high 80sFahrenheit in the shade on a reflective stone surface it was silly... hot stone, burning chisels.  The fits at Opus 40 are not very tight, so whilst we use stones of generally the right shape we did not go for snug, cut joins.  Again we were restoring not renovating.  We did however fill all the gaps with small stones and debris to avoid the potential of anyone breaking their ankles on ‘our’ bit.

So to the caps... The wall had to be built specifically for each stone, measuring from a string to build the required height at either end and usually in the middle.  The stones were generally too irregular to build the whole length (shelving, tapering or quarter inch differences here and there which mess everything up if you try to build the whole length unless you are very lucky).  The key to getting a good consistent line it to measure everything as accurately as possible then allow an extra 1/16 -1/8 inch as stones always seem to sit ‘proud’ of your measurements, how inaccurate you can be and still get it right is I think down to ‘feel’, it is however worth being painstaking as a nice crisp line to the top of the blocks always sets the work off and catches the eye (distracting from the less than perfect wall below). 

 The Stone was then rigged and hoisted into place using a gin pole, similar to the way Harvey Fite wthe creator of Opus 40 worked.  Us old guys manned the ropes or shouted instructions, whilst young intern Alex Banfield did the boom hoisting.  Harvey did it by himself, we needed a small army.  Originally we hoped that this would be motor driven, but a succession of motors could not cope, once we gave up with modern technology, found one of Harvey’s old handles and adjusted it to fit, it ran like clockwork, and Alex is now well toned into the bargain.  There’s a video of the whole torturous hoisting process taken by Benjamin Maron a local waller, frequent and invaluable member of the team at 

Once roughly in place the stone had to be ‘teased’ into position... in this instance using our “battering ram” a tool originally devised to knock in stones in the remains of the original face we were trying to join into (hearting behind them first removed) back to something approaching the ‘correct’ “batter”/slope hence its name... nothing to do with castle doors after all.(Photo courtesy of Gerry Pallor).  It pays to have a Karl Kaufmann to hand for this kind of work.

Once in place the stone is tweaked front back and the ends for level, not always easy when some are slightly dished.  Voids under the stone are filled carefully from all sides including the front (leaving space for the final face stones).  “Spaghetti arms” help, failing that thin metal bars, hammer handles, other stones to nudge them until they are tight.  Finally any gaps in the face are filled with carefully selected tight fitting stone not always easy when the stone tapers down into the wall.  

All in all, fiddly and time consuming, but well worth the effort, as indeed I’d like to think the whole job was.  Hopefully there will be a full report of the project in “Stonechat” and “Stonexus” in the not too dim distant future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Upcoming Perth Dry Stone Wall Festival

Wallers seek a roof over their head for Dry Stone Walling Festival

Perth Courier
The Canadian Dry Stone Walling Festival, being held in Perth from July 22-24 is seeking help to put up wallers from around the world. 
Billet families are being sought for people coming from around the world to take part in the festival, which will be part of the 200th anniversary Homecoming Weekend. While homes have been found for 20 wallers, another 20 spaces are needed, though Algonquin College stone-working teacher John Scott said that “there might be more than we had planned for. I’m setting up tents in the back yard,” he said, half-jokingly. 
The wallers are coming from Canada, the United States, Scotland, England, and Ireland. If you are interested in billeting wallers, please contact Gerry Welsh or John and Carol Ann McNeil at 613-285-6625 or email 
One of the more well-known wallers in attendance will be Norman Haddow, master craftsman at Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s holiday residence in Scotland. 

I see the world through stone. They really contribute to the landscape. John Scott

Following a series of lively discussions earlier at the June 7 committee of the whole meeting, including a proposal for Perth to seek to become a United Nations World Heritage site, noted Scott, that many world heritage sites “have dry stone walls in it,” thus making his presentation to council “very timely.” 
“I see the world through stone,” said Scott. “They really contribute to the landscape.” 
There used to be many dry stone walls throughout Perth, part of the town’s Scottish architectural legacy, but with the invention of cement, “we’ve lost a lot of them,” he said. 
“I’m very excited to have them here,” he said of the wallers from the world over, as they converge on the old swimming hole off of Mill Street to build a dry stone bridge parallel to the Mill Street bridge on the other side of the swimming area. According to a press release presented at council, “the bridge will be constructed of tightly laid rubble limestone and will feature granite abutments and limestone copings. The Indiana limestone arch stones are being cut by students of the Algonquin College heritage masonry program under the supervision of Daly Drevniok, a UK-trained banker-mason currently working in the restoration of the parliament buildings in Ottawa.” 
The bridge will also incorporate rubble limestone from Madoc, Ont., as well as Gananoque granite. 
Another way in which the college will contribute to the festival is by utilizing Early Childhood Education (ECE) students who will be volunteering to monitor the kids rock area, making for an “interesting cross-pollination.” 
Community services director Shannon Bailllon said that the abutment on the east side of the property will be removed and replaced at the swimming hole to facilitate the bridge building. 
“Talk about a legacy project! That will stand the test of time – 800 years,” marvelled Mayor John Fenik of the proposed bridge. “It’ll outlast the rocky ramp debate,” he joked. 
No swimming
At a follow-up committee of the whole meeting on June 14, Baillon alerted council that while the bridge will be built next month, “there is nothing changing the swimming area,” she said. “We are not doing anything to prevent people from entering the water. (But) we are not encouraging swimming. The infrastructure will still be there.” 
“People will be jumping off of the Rogers Road bridge on hot summer days (still),” said Fenik, of the difficulty in policing swimming along the waterway. He added that it would take “a lot of time, money, and energy to open that up to public swimming.” 
“I can appreciate the complexity of doing this,” said Coun. Jim Graff. 
Baillon said that they are looking at options for fencing for the area. 
“We are considering the idea,” said Baillon, possibly bringing in a landscape architect to consider options for the area. 
Deputy Mayor John Gemmell said that even if new fencing is added to the area after the new bridge is built, “kids will still be jumping off of it (into the swimming hole) anyway."

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Putting our heart into it

Michael Clasen and Stephen Mattera from Vermont busy at the hearting; completed layer of hearting;

Sean reflects on the last week of work up at Opus 40, and vegetarian cuisine.

"The caps are finally going on, I’ll talk more about them in the final update in a couple of days when we’ve finished.   Progress in last few days has been slow, preparing for the caps is fiddly and not least because of the amount of hearting required.  Early on we were effectively “cladding” or “veneering”  the waste heap and albeit with a 3-4 feet thick veneer.  As we near the top we have 5 feet depth (into wall)  of hearting in places.  In any structure the hearting is crucial, in a wide tool retaining wall especially so.  It not only locks the back of the building stones in place, it provides the base for pinning/wedging the tails of longer building stones, and ultimately supports the tails of these stones.  It is as important as the building of the face, and where becomes the bulk of the build it takes longer than the face work, but it cannot be seen and there is a tendency for workers to concentrate on the face-work and then rush the hearting.  People forget that all the principles that apply to face stones also apply to the hearting for example most should be placed length in, there should be good fits, do not use two stones where one will do, keep the stones level, and cross joints- not just as an afterthought, do not liberally sprinkle smaller stones through the ‘build’, and never use gravel and keep small chips to a minimum.  

The hearting is critical in preventing movement in the short term and helping to control it in the long term, you want it to settle as little and evenly as possible.  Gravel and small stones might help you lock it all together now, but in the long run ‘gravel travels’.  As stones settle the smaller stones can fall between gaps, ad get under stones, acting as ball bearings and effectively lubricating movemet, speeding it rather than slowing it.  Most of this ought to be obvious in a 15 feet high retaining wall but it also applies to a 4 feet high free standing wall.  Okay so if there is only an inch or two between the opposite face stones you will run your hearting along rather than in, but where the gaps get bigger apply as many of the principles that apply to the rest of your build as you can.

Meanwhile on the rock face ‘old’ faces Karl Kaufmann and TJ Mora arrived last night for the final push.  TJ insisted that he would only return if he was allowed to prepare a pescatarian paella for me.  When the original Vermont crew were here he cooked a meat paella which I could not share in.  Who was I to refuse...   If you ever get the opportunity do not pass up on a TJ paella, it is a thing of great taste and beauty"

Photo-  TJ’s Paella

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Invitation to the Walls

There is a delicate dance that begins the moment someone contacts you to say they are interested in having you build a wall for them. You and the potential client enter into a pas de deux where the choreography can quickly become very complex. There are techniques and rules that govern the success of these kind of creative encounters and yet every dance ends up being different. The best performances involve couples understanding what it is like to be in the other's ballet slipper, and/or what it's like to be on the other side of the wall. 

The stone stepping professional must not try to take the lead too soon, or expect the customer to be merely swept off their feet, presumably unconcerned about any financial extravagance completely knocking them off balance near the end of the production. 

The client, on the other hand, should not try to hold on so tight to the budget as to completely cramp the waller's creative momentum. Neither dancer should discuss cost before they have come together and leapt gracefully through the design and bounded around the stage where their flowing 'rock ballet' is to take place. 

There should be this wonderful in-and-out motion, a syncopation of ideas and restraints, where the final project reflects the beauty of the client's initial vision, the skill of the waller, and the rhythm of all the carefully placed (and paced) stones in the wall.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Down By The Riverside.

This was a fun project. The stones had a great time at the river. Some of them got really wet. Others preferred to just lie around in the sun. We had to watch that the fairer ones stayed in the shade.

After we spaced the lazy patio stones out nicely and bedded them, they never moved and couldn't be disturbed.

The step stones loved going in and out of the water. They kept inviting us in to the river to get our feet wet at least.

I don't think these stones are ever gonna want to get back in the truck and go back home to the quarry.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The third helix.

We completed the new 'rubble helix' in Garden Hill Ontario September 2011. The twisting columns (all dry laid) were constructed using a very nice Upper Canada Stone 'chocolate limestone' material ( proper name is Highland Dry Wall Stone). It stands over twelve feet high and winds up rotating around a central axis. The large 'wrung stones' were brought in from a quarry near Buckhorn Ontario This helix is built on a floating concrete pad. It is amazingly sturdy.

If you haven't already, check out  The three helixes.  for more details about the original design ideas and Working our way up the rubble helix to read about the building process.

It seems since building this structure, thinking with my hands just got a whole lot more twisted!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Handy Pry Bar

Bronze plaque by Victor Demanet

The big 5 foot pry bar, sometimes called the 'monster bar', or as we used to call it, 'the Grisley Bar', is one of the most useful boulder-moving tools I know, bar none.
The bars are a much larger straighter form of the common crowbar or pinch bar or as the Brits call it, the Jimmy bar.  Scott and Brian are using two of these amazing bars here to move a huge stone at our workshop that we ran last year in Brockport, N. Y.  

These bars can be used in conjunction with a fulcrum stone and then pushed down on, in order to lift a heavy stone, or alternatively, just jammed under a large stone and pushed up on to lift it. Sometimes  when you're wrestling with one that's buried in the dirt, it's hard to say which way will work best.  A combination of both moves alternating between , pivoting pushing down while pivoting, and then, lifting up with the bar, works well.

The bar is basically a lever. The principle by which huge objects can be moved simply by positioning a lever in the right place is so simple and yet unbelievably effective.    I am reminded of the famous saying by Archimedes  "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, (somewhere in space, presumably) and I shall move the world." 

Big stones mean the world to me simply because they are so large and take up a lot of space. By working boulders into the wall wherever we can with bars we can make a lot of progress along the wall. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

More on the Opus 40 Restoration Build

Here is Sean Adcock's latest news from Opus 40. "The end is in sight" he says

" Well the Canadians arrived and the scaffolding went up and so did the wall.  A fair few beers went down and Doug Bell talked a lot.  It was memorable, a fun time.  Menno, Andre, Rich Mino (a waller local to the project) and Doug can be seen on the shiny new scaffold.  Even more tie stones went in and then they left and Evan Oxland on ‘sabbatical’ in Philadelphia joined us ...and the rain came down but even so more wall went up. 


Evan left and more ties went in, or in one case almost went in as my tape measure malfunctioned (it could not possibly have been my fault) and the monster needed stone surgeon Tomas Lipps to perform an emergency end-ectomy before it would fit into the hole in the back.  Local waller Charlie Groeters bravely holding his half of the ‘bull-set’... chisel like sledge hammers used for accurate breaking off of lumps of rock.  The end is literally in sight as we can now see the wall top level from one end of the scaffold.  At the other end we still have around 5 feet to go as the terrace behind the wall has a couple of levels. 

This wall is so high and our stone so similarly sized (normally 2-4 inch beds) we haven’t bothered with grading (reduction of stone size with height).   It makes little structural difference here except for using thinner (1 inch stone) and/or thinner shims (very thin stones used to get over steps) and plates (similar to shims but thicker and a bit mire structural).  Harvey Fite the original builder used many, but in a tall wall there is a great danger that these thin stones will crack or even disintegrate with the pressure of wall above them, weakening or even destabilising the structure, so their use has been almost entirely eliminated whilst the overall use of stone of an inch thickness has been greatly reduced.  Such stones tend to crack where there are joints below them as pressure points can easily develop there, and so even if they cross the joint a ‘running joint’ can develop.  It all adds up to potential movement and everything is geared to reducing that even if we cannot prevent it.  We certainly do not want to encourage it.  One problem at times has been getting people to remember when trying to sneak a shim or plate past me, that even though the wall might be at chest height for them there is still perhaps six feet or more wall to go and so compared to their normal walls they might as well be putting that thin stone right in the foundation, something (I trust) they would never do.  As we near the top the plate monitoring will relax a little, and stone size will decrease, however there will still be little tolerance of the shim"


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Worthy of Description

How much value do we actually put on the photos we post? While it's true 'a photo is worth a thousand words', don't the 'pics' we post at least deserve a word or two of explanation? 

In order for our ideas to thrive in this pixel dominated universe we need to express ourselves with words as well.

To that end I would like to add a few words about the photo above...

Due to in part to excessive branding by Macdonalds, the familiar image of 'Golden Arches' inspires us to think very little else about its shape except the prospect of fast food.

I wonder if, by contrast, the dry stone structure we built out on Vancouver Island with the students from what was then called Glendale Gardens, over 6 years ago, could be a kind of whimsical rescuing of that iconic double arched shape from some of its associated commerciality ?

Hopefully it instills fresh meaning into the shape and offers an alternative to the visual disconnect caused by its lack of having any other interpretation than that of knowing there are Big Macs somewhere up ahead. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Finding Love On The Beach

While walking along a rugged ocean swept beach south of Gualala I happened across an unusual 'L- shaped' stone.
The stone was looking very much like it 'needed' to be in a word. It wanted me to help it find the other letters. But what was the word?

'Love' - was the obvious answer. 
" Lucky of me to find the L " I thought, "Love comes like that." 

The O was easy too.
"O for an open heart," I mused. " For originality meeting opportunity. Yes, this would be an outstanding ocean offering. There was no turning back now."

The V was not as easy. Vainly I looked. Nothing looked valid enough. All the stone shapes, like vague vestiges of virtue could not now vindicate my silly search along the beach

Vision comes with time. Mistakingly expecting what I wanted to virtually appear, just like that, in view of the variety of stones surrounding me, was vanity. I needed to learn the value of every part of the word .

And the E ?
Well it took a lot of looking too, maybe an eternity of examining every part of my rocky existence, and making every effort to enfold rather than cast off my elemental existence. 

The E was a kind of emptying of myself. I almost envisioned ending the exercise empty of LOVE entirely.

But then ... Elation !!! 
I found it ! And I eagerly embraced it. 

And so this completed all the letters the 'L' and  I 'needed' along that lonely stretch of beach that day - stoney letters to visually  (and experientially) represent the seeking, the finding, and the fulfillment of being, and wanting to be - needed.      LOVE

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rolin', rolin', rolin' down the river.

We don't work at jobs in the city any more,
and were thankful we don't work for the Man.
After an exhilarating day moving stone 'up and down the river' we sleep pretty well at night too.
Nor do we worry about 'the way things might have been'.

If you come down to the river next week, you'll find us working hard building dry stone steps and terraces in the water. We're happy just doing our job, cause 'that's the way we roll'.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Onwards and Upwards

I am pleased to be able to bring more news in the from of a second update from Sean Adcock on the progress being made at this year's restoration project going on presently at Opus 40 in Saugeries New York.

"We have hiccupped along logisitically but we are going up, anything  electrically powered is still cursed but we have the hoist working manually a godsend for the tie stones.  These are going in at around 3 feet centres and every 20 inches or so up the wall.  Some (up to 6 feet long) are inserted into holes in-between  the slabs we are building against... there is a worry that these cannot settle in the same way as adjacent stones and might tip if/when the wall settles, they might however help to literally tie the wall back, there is no way of knowing so we mix in other shorter (4 feet long, everything is relative) ties which just but against the slabs in the back. " 

"However tying is not the only function of these stones, there is another often overlooked aspect of their role, of particular importance in a structure of this height...they also serve as impenetrable barriers to the hearting we place  above, reducing the potential for this to settle and any back pinning of subsequent stones to move.  We are keeping this pinning to a minimum- mostly only between one building stone and a subsequent one, again so the pin cannot settle.  The whole process is about reducing the potential for movement and trying to control any that will occur in the long run."
"We are managing to to tie into the remains of the original wall which overhangs its base by 4 inches or so in 17 feet, in places we have removed hearting and achieved the correct batter by hitting the stones with a length of oak tree... I wonder, is this where the term battering ram comes from?"
"Over the weekend Lydia Noble from the UK, along with Matt Carter and Chuck Eblacker helped get the wall up to staging/trestle/scaffold height.  They were followed by a group from the (Vermont) Stone Trust.  Brian Post, Seth Harris, Torvin Larson, TJ Mora and Michael Murphy who helped clear and sort the rest of the stone from the collapse which had been acting as a work platform, and rigged up the staging... it then rained, the pond refilled and they spent an inordinate amount of time in the water, moving stone.  Their unstinting and uncomplaining effort over two days has helped resolve many of the logistical problems and the site is now set fair for Andre Lemieux, Doug Bell and Menno Bramm who have just arrived from the northern wilds."

"Onwards and upwards."     SEan