The craft of stonemasonry has existed
since the dawn of civilization - creating buildings,
structures, and sculpture using stone from the earth.
These materials have been used to construct many
of the long-lasting, ancient monuments, artifacts,
cathedrals, and cities in a wide variety of cultures.
Famous products of stonemasonry include the Taj
Mahal, Cusco's Incan Wall, Easter Island's statues,
the Egyptian Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Tihuanaco,
Tenochtitlan, Persepolis, the Parthenon, Stonehenge,
and Chartres Cathedral.
Stonemasonry is the craft of shaping rough pieces
of rock into accurate geometrical shapes, mostly
simple, but some of considerable complexity, and
then arranging the resulting stones, often together
with mortar, to form structures.
A stonemason at Eglinton Tournament bridge with
a selection of tools of the trade
- Quarrymen split veins, or sheets
of rock, and extract the resulting blocks of stone
from the ground.
- Sawyers cut these rough blocks
into cubes, to required size with diamond-tipped
- Banker masons are workshop based,
and specialize in carving stones into intricate
geometrical shapes required by a building's design.
They can produce anything from stones with simple
chamfers to tracery windows, detailed mouldings
and the more classical architectural building
masonry. When working a stone from a sawn block,
the mason ensures that the stone is bedded in
the right way, so the finished work sits in the
building in the same orientation as it was formed
on the ground. The basic tools, methods and skills
of the banker mason have existed as a trade for
thousands of years.
- Carvers cross the line from craft
to art, and use their artistic ability to carve
stone into foliage, figures, animals or abstract
- Fixer masons specialize in the
fixing of stones onto buildings, using lifting
tackle, and traditional lime mortars and grouts.
Sometimes modern cements, mastics and epoxy resins
are used, usually on specialist applications such
as stone cladding. Metal fixings, from simple
dowels and cramps to specialised single application
fixings, are also used. The precise tolerances
necessary make this a highly skilled job.
- Memorial masons or monumental masons
carve gravestones and inscriptions.
The modern stonemason undergoes comprehensive
training, both in the classroom and in the working
environment. Hands-on skill is complemented by intimate
knowledge of each stone type, its application and
best uses, and how to work and fix each stone in
place. The mason may be skilled and competent to
carry out one or all of the various branches of
stonemasonry. In some areas the trend is towards
specialization, in other areas towards adaptability.