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Stone Masons

What is Stonemasonry?

Stonemasonry is one of the earliest known trades. The skilled hand of stonemasons can be seen in everything from impressive places of worship (e.g. mosques and cathedrals) to spectacular commercial buildings. Architectural stonemasons skillfully work with natural stone, from sandstone and limestone to marble and granite, creating components, and carving letters on-site, passing on their skills to the next generation. Stone masons possess a high level of skill and patience that allows them to create lasting aesthetically-pleasing stonework that will endure for generations. A master stonemason uses creativity, originality and precision to solve problems, creating spectacular designs that endure.

Types of Stonemason

Fixer Masons

Working primarily on site, these stonemasons specialise in fixing prepared stones onto buildings. Laying and bedding the stones, fixer masons fix stones together using grouts, mortars or a lifting tackle before attaching stones to the necessary surface.

Banker masons

Shaping and carving stones into intricate geometrical shapes, banker masons are mostly based in workshops, preparing the stone for use in or on buildings. Once the stone arrives from the quarry, these masons use plans and sketches to cut and carve the stone to the desired size and shape, carving unique patterns into the stone to create a truly bespoke design. Once complete, these masons apply a rough, polished or smooth finish, depending on the client’s requirements.

Memorial Masons

After training in general masonry, memorial masons specialise in headstones, carving inscriptions onto stones. A memorial mason is highly-skilled at utilising the skills of a carver, fixer, banker and letter sculptor to ensure that work is safely erected and designed.

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Types of Natural Stone

Stone masons mainly use the following natural stones:

Sedimentary stone

An extremely popular natural stone that has been used to build many of the world’s most famous buildings from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy to York Minster in the UK. Sandstone and limestone are mainly used by stonemasons thanks to the minimal care required to maintain it, its fire resistance and enduring colour that does not fade, standing the test of time.

Igneous Stone

Ranging from Scoria and Pumace to Granite, Igneous Stone comes in various densities. Scoria and Pumace are very soft rocks, whilst granite is a stronger, more durable, harder rock. This makes granite perfect for flooring, headstones and kitchen worksurfaces.

Metamorphic Stone

Traditionally, marble has been used to carve sculptures, statues and other finely detailed creations thanks to its elegant look, which has made it especially popular in Italy. Despite a wide choice of colours, white marble from Carrara, Italy is the most popular metamorphic stone. Slate is another popular metamorphic stone, particularly for gravestones and inscriptions due to its hard nature and fine grain, allowing stone masons to apply a sharp, detailed finish. In the UK, Welsh and Lakeland slates are the most commonly used.

Stonemasonry Tools

Stonemasons are adept at using many tools in various shapes and sizes to create their design from stone. Despite modern advances, the main tools of the stonemason have not changed significantly. Today, power tools are commonly used to speed up the process, reducing time and financial costs.

Mallet: Stonemasons use a mallet to reduce the force driving the chisel’s cutting edge, allowing the mason greater control over shaping the stone.

Chisel: A chisel allows stonemasons to remove large amounts of stone, using different tools to achieve the finish they desire. A wide range of chisels cater for each type of masonry undertaken, from bolster, punch and claw chisels for fast removal and shaping to carving and lettering chisels for the more fine detailed intricate masonry. Today, many modern stonemasons use angle grinders, polishers and compressed air chisels to assist them in their work.