Tuesday, December 28


stonemason's tools by Martha Cooper

To be able to control fully every tool on every piece of stone is, I think, tantamount to impossible. Each stone is formed a little differently. One's softer, one's harder. You have to be able to understand and read each stone. So if you've got that sort of whiteness, when the matrix tightens, you know your stroke has to be a little firmer, to cut that. And as you go to the softer part, you have to lighten your stroke. There's always a nice flow to the work. You're always reading the color and the difference in the makeup of the stone that you're cutting: that's all going through your mind. It's sort of eye-hand coordination with the mind. It's a three-way triangulation here that you're talking about. Reading stone is very important, and also listening to stone. The ring of that chisel, as it comes off.

-- Alan Bird

Iron hammer. Lead dummy. Wooden mallet. Hard and soft striking tools have been used on stone since Neolithic man cracked flints with a stone hammer. I, myself, use the same arc-shaped hammer as I have seen depicted in the mason's stained glass window at Chartres dating from the 13th century.

Our applewood mallets are carefully chosen with a truncated branch to withstand the endless beating on the steel tools. To strike on the wrong 'beat' of the mallet will destroy it, so a favorite will never be lent.

I once showed Sebastian, who worked here [Cathedral of St. John the Divine] a few seasons ago, how effective a stiff brush was for indicating with paint where shadows were needed. "Oh, but for fine lines you paint with a feather," he said.

-- Simon Verity