Monday, November 7, 2011

Thinking outside the Pallet...

Huckleberry Basalt on a pallet
Most stone sold today in stone yards comes palletized, or is brought in bulk from local quarries. Either way the material is delivered in a consistent size. It may be '1 man rock', or a 'ledge stone', or 'stepping stones', or any other name that specifies a consistently sorted material that is offered. All these stones are sorted by the hand of man in the back yard of nature standing on the ground, or sitting in a machine. This is done primarily for shipping purposes, but also to meet demand of the end user. It also makes it more expensive because man and machine must eat.

What you do not get is variety. Someone who is doing something very specific for X amount of square feet would love, and needs, palletized material. Suppliers have made that very easy for the masons. It is a double edged sword for us...

Build a dry stone retaining wall or a dry stone fence with palletized material and you end up with walls that look like this. This is Borrowed Grounds work...
Huckleberry Basalt Dry Stone Retaining Wall
Montana Slate Dry Stone Fence

But the dry stone waller needs variety. Like nature itself, it is a healthier and stronger wall with a full range of variety. We need stones for our corners, called Quoin stones, wall stones, through stones, cap stones, coping stones, smaller stones for the heart of our structures called 'hearting' material, and the funky stones that have no great faces for our foundations.
Stones on Rialto Beach-WA

Every stone is useful. Every stone wants to be honored. The variety that is available to the builder is what he/she needs. Consistently coursed walls of a specific dimension look beautiful, are strong, are how the Romans built, how wallers are taught, but I personally prefer a wall that has a wide range of sizes that are laid level and relieve visual tension from the surrounding architecture.

I was lucky enough to encourage my local stone supplier 120 miles from here, Marenakos, to bring me material in bulk to meet the needs of local wallers, and myself. Washington state is not blessed with much flat stone West of the Cascades. We are blessed with a smorgasborg of geological diversity that comes mostly in the shape of 'popcorn'. We went to Montana and brought this in bulk for a reasonable price.

Montana Slate in bulk
Every time I go to Marenakos I hand select stone for where I am in the wall. I bring in 15 tons at a time of the right material. Here is a load selected for my base courses and wall end. You also end up with a very high quality end product.

Outside the pallet is where I find most wallers working. They like to choose their materials by hand. It is usually less expensive than palletized, trucking/delivery being a wild card, but worth every minute. I find I have a lot less wasted material than what I get on a pallet for building dry stone structures.

1 comment:

  1. Watching Russ create a wall is like watching an artist. It has been such a thrill watching my walls evolve. They have brought this home and project to life. Each stone has found the place it was meant to be. What a treat that I will be able to look at them every day. Nothing compares with dry stacked stone (if done properly the way Russ does) for beauty and strength and character.