Wulf's Webden

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Working With Stone

Stone with hole cut in centre

I will be glad to be back at my desk today for a bout of mental exercise rather than the physical work I was doing yesterday. I am working on laying a patio for my mother-in-law and, euphemistically, took a day off work to make final preparations for laying the concrete slab that will form the main foundation.

The patio will be laid with slabs of stone that form a circular pattern, bounded within a square. Part of the “client specification” is to incorporate a washing line holder in the middle, which can be used both for hanging washing and also to hold a sun-shade. Unfortunately, the kit did not come with a hole so I needed to supply one.

I had thought that sawing off the end of an old scaffolding pole with a junior hacksaw, providing a solid tube to bury in the ground, was hard enough. As it turned out, that was light work compared to the labour of making a hole in the centre of the stone while endeavouring not to get carried away and split the whole thing in two.

I started marking up the circle I wanted to cut out and drilling a series of holes to honeycomb the area. However, the combination of the drill, the drill bit and my skill were not enough to do this quickly. I knew there was a narrow brick bolster in the shed and I had brought a club hammer with me so I began to supplement bouts of drilling with chipping away at the stone.

The real breakthrough came after another search of the shed, when I came up with a cold chisel – the right tool for the job. Progress was quicker, with the narrow chisel much better for removing stone between the short bouts of drilling. However, it still took over three hours from start to end as I worked to open the hole just enough for the pole. The result is not a perfect circle but is a snug fit, which was a satisfying result.

If you are interested, you can see the full set of pictures on my Flickr account. Meanwhile, next time I look at something made from hand-shaped stone, I will have a new respect for the labour and skill involved.

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