Masoning stone

 


Stage 3 stonemasonry projects

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Published by Tomas Lipps in The Stone Foundation periodical issue #8

Working stone by hand, I use a mason’s steel hammer only with two stone working tools: the pitching tool and the punch. I drive the claw tool and the chisel with a nylon mallet.

Regarding the hammer throw, I like to first steady the workbench and the workpiece so there is no movement cased by the striking. I balance my stance, and straighten my arms loosely before starting work. I like to “cock” the hammer as the point is placed, that is, I develop an easy rhythm with the punch placed accurately and securely on the stone at the same time as the hammer is raised behind my head. Then, the hammer is dropped – “thrown” – and raised ready for next place, strike, place, strike etc.

A chipping hammer requires a different action to a mason’s hammer. A chipping hammer is similar to a mason’s hammer except that the inside edge roughly shapes walling stone similar to a hammer and pitching tool, requiring just one hand to hold the hammer. The other hand is thus free to steady the stone, usually on the ground between the feet. The arm holding the hammer doesn’t follow an arc, as in a throw: instead, a “pushing” action allows the bigger shoulder muscles to stop the hammer ready for the raise. I found out the hard way that using forearm muscles to stop the swing becomes very painful.

Regarding the hammer itself, my preparation includes shaping and wedging the handle tightly into the head, shaping the handle to a flared end with a mid-length swelling to grip, and roughening the handle surface. Tightening the head to the handle goes a long way to preventing mis-hits.

I find that the hammer head turns laterally upon releasing its energy to the striking tool. Selecting a long, narrow hammer head resists this turning and is less tiring to use, although the risk of hammer strike on the hand is increased. Roughening the surface relaxes the hand grip, because the increased friction lessens the need to grip the hammer tightly, thereby energy is conserved. Varnished handles straight from the tool store look good, but create blisters.

So steadying the workbench and the workpiece, steadying the stance, straightening the arms, roughening the handle and using a long, narrow hammer head all contribute to a pleasant day’s work!

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