Stonemasonry is one of the world’s most ancient crafts, having existed from almost the dawn of civilisation, its buildings, sculptures and structures all being created by the hands of skilled stonemasons utilising the stone from the earth. You can see the wonderful work of early stonemasons today, a testament to their skill. The Egyptian Pyramids, Greek temples, Stonehenge and the majestic Roman amphitheatres are all examples of the wonderful work of these skilled men.
In the UK, you can see the work of medieval stonemasons almost everywhere. The 11th and 12th centuries saw hundreds of castles, churches and cathedrals built across the land, the best stonemasons being in high demand. They were able to become members of the Worshipful Company of Masons as either Apprentices, Journeymen or Master Masons, the latter being freemen who could travel where and when they wanted.
But what of the tools that these traditional ancient and medieval stonemasons used? The surprising fact is, very little has changed over the years and you’ll find that the core skills and equipment are almost identical between ancient and modern stonemasons.
Of course, modern stonemasons have access to some modern machinery and some tools and methods may have been refined and improved over time but the fact is that our very best stonesmiths of today could quite easily work with the tools of yesteryear.
This not just shows how the craft has been passed down through generations, it shows that the tools and techniques used are timeless and effective. These include the mallet, chisels and a metal straight edge. WIth these three tools, one can make a flat stone surface, and this is the basis of all stonemasonry and still is to this day.
Chisels for example come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending upon their exact use, with specific chisels for different materials and sizes of the stone being worked. There have been recent innovations such as tungsten tipped chisels but the fact is the basic shape of modern the chisel is almost identical to the ones that would almost certainly have been used by stonemasons working on the Pyramids, Roman amphitheatres of Greek temples.
Other traditional tools that are still used today include the masonry trowel which is used to apply mortar between and around stones and these have changed little over hundreds of years. Mason’s hammers are still in use today as is the traditional way of using a lewis and crane or block and tackle to to hoist building stones into place. There are more modern methods being developed but it doesn’t mean that these tried and tested techniques and tools are going to die out.
Here at Morningside Masonry, we only employ time served and qualified traditional stonemasons who are skilled in both the traditional and modern methods of stonemasonry. Being able to work on traditional stone buildings with the traditional tools and techniques is vital if they are to be restored to their previous finery. This includes only using lime mortars instead of more modern cement which is too inflexible and doesn’t let a stone structure breathe.
Did you know that Morningside Masonry are one of the leading Midlothian stonemasons around? If you need some stone work restoring, get in touch with us today. We also provide Edinburgh lime pointing, Church stone repairs, chimney repairs and wall repairs.