The craft of stonemasonry (or stonecraft) involves creating buildings, structures, and sculpture using stone from the earth, and is one of the oldest trades in human history. These materials have been used to constructmany of the long-lasting, ancient monuments, artifacts, cathedrals, and cities in a wide variety of cultures. Famous works of stonemasonry include the Egyptian Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Cusco’s Incan Wall, Easter Island‘s statues, Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Tihuanaco, Tenochtitlan, Persepolis, the Parthenon, Stonehenge, and Chartres Cathedral.
Masonry is the craft of shaping rough pieces of rock into accurate geometrical shapes, at times simple, but some of considerable complexity, and then arranging the resulting stones, often together with mortar, to form structures.
- Quarrymen split sheets of rock, and extract the resulting blocks of stone from the ground.
- Sawyers cut these rough blocks into cuboids, to required size with diamond-tipped saws. The resulting block if ordered for a specific component is known as sawn six sides (SSS).
- Banker masons are workshop-based, and specialize in working the stones into the shapes required by a building’s design, this set out on templets and a bed mould. They can produce anything from stones with simplechamfers 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. Occasionally though some stones need to be orientated correctly for the application; this includes voussoirs, jambs, copings and cornices.
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 designs.
- 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.