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86 year old stone mason and the art of Portuguese cobble stones  RSS feed

 
Mother Tree
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Burra Maluca
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Burra Maluca
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Here are some photos taken locally.









 
gardener
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This thread is very cool Burra, thank you so much. I love the works, so wish I had the time to give some cobbling work a try.

Redhawk
 
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Burra, The works you have shown are beautiful! Just a funny story, my last home was in Boston, MA and it came with a very narrow paved driveway. The house well over 100 years old and like everything in the house, the driveway paving was quite warn and crumbling.  I had been keeping an eye on one area where there was a rather large hole in the pavement, because it looked like there were granite cobblestones under the asphalt.  So I grabbed a crowbar and tore more up, and yep there were cobblestones! I ended up tearing up all the asphalt and then had a small but beautiful old Boston granite cobblestone driveway! Can you imagine someone paving over something like that? The whole front yard was paved as well, but I tore that up and made a garden.
 
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Burra:   Thank you for sharing ! I love all forms of stone work, but I'm just fascinated with this style of stone laying ... WOW ! As Redhawk stated , I wish I had the time to try my hand at this.
 
pollinator
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I love this.  It's amazing for a couple of great Permaculture reasons.

First, other than running a compactor or roller over the top of the finished cobblestone surface, it's virtually carbon neutral.  Unlike concrete, which takes a massive amount of fossil fuel to make the portland cement, this is just stones, sand and muscle.  

Second, it's water permeable.  When it rains, water soaks through and hydrates the soil below.  Imagine that you plant trees along those streets and sidewalks.  All that water will hydrate the roots below.  What a great permaculture solution.

Third, there is such beauty in this.  People will walk on those cobbles for decades to come.  Eventually, they may need to be re-leveled, at which time you just pull them up and set them anew in a clean bed of sand.  Not only does it function well, but it adds such beauty and long-term value to the land.

Finally, unlike asphalt which must be paved and repaved again and again, because it is so low maintainance, this is "capturing and storing energy" -- a prime permaculture principle.

Cool thread -- thank you for starting it!
 
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Indeed, very beautiful work. But it requires large rock quarries to be excavated, usually at the high cost of using heavy equipment and devastating acres and acres of natural habitat.

As someone who has put in many years as a trails worker, I can attest to the extremely high human cost of this work as well. You can believe that many or most of those men suffer from severe arthritis by the time they are in their thirties, walking stooped, with bad knees and bad hands. Would they choose to do that work if they had some other way to feed their families? I don't know. But it is not an easy permaculture fix for other forms of pavement...
 
Marco Banks
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carla beemer wrote:Indeed, very beautiful work. But it requires large rock quarries to be excavated, usually at the high cost of using heavy equipment and devastating acres and acres of natural habitat.



I've always found stone quarries to be very special places.  Rather than devastation, I see profound beauty in the excavated hillsides and rock faces that have been cut into.  I've visited them in Vermont, in Turkey, in Canada, and in places in between.  

I've seen old abandoned quarries turned into amazing gardens.  The most famous one I ever visited was Butchart Gardens in Victoria British Columbia, Canada.  The limestone quarry was a perfect blank canvas for Jennie Butchart to transform into one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.  The problem was the solution, as we say in permaculture.  She took those stone walls and the microclimate that was found in that old quarry and turned it into a home for hundreds and hundreds of rare plants.

Where I grew up in the midwest, there was an old quarry that flooded and filled with water in the years after it was abandoned. It was an amazing swimming hole— one of our favorite places to go in the summer.  We'd sneak through a hole in the fence and jump off the stone cliffs that were left after they abandoned the quarry.  Years later, the city got tired of chasing teenagers out of that spot, so they bought the land and turned it into a park.  People had already stocked it with fish so it was filled with aquatic life.  Now that abandoned quarry is an amazing community asset.

I suppose that its all in the eye of the beholder.

If an 86 year old mason is still breaking up those stones and making cobbles, he must be doing something right.
 
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Great stuff !!

I love the way the Portugese use the black cobbles as a decorative element. THis is also done i Brazil.

I am a stonemason specializing in granite. We split granite in a similar way but we use loose boulders which gives a wide range of colours. Its great work. People assume its gruelling physical work but if you have your wits about you its just a good way to get paid for staying in shape and at the end of the day you get to see the fruits of your labour and (hopefully) feel good about it. Believe me, its unique to take stone, which is everywhere, and turn it into something of lasting value.

I learned the trade from old guys like that and have a great deal of respect for them.

Heres some mixed granite from glacial moraines, split and chiselled into something nice to look at.
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Raw material , rough split
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steps
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retaining wall
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Foundation detail
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bridge piers and arch
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Almost done
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showing back side, Finished !
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Ready for use !
 
Marco Banks
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Absolutely stunning, Mark.  I wish I could hire you to do some walls and such at my house.  In fact, I wish I had a little river, over which you could build me a little bridge!  Your work is absolutely beautiful.
 
Mark Deichmann
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Thanks Marco !

Hey, I ll work for anyone , but charge extra for rivers !


Here's a less blurry pic of the arch just set. Hand fitted details for the entusiast.
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Hewn granite arch just set. From the bridge
 
Josephine Howland
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Mark, what wonderful work! I'm sure you have had years of training; your talent is amazing!
 
Mark Deichmann
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Thanks Josephine !

I'm not 84 but pushing 60. I have be fortunate to learn from some old masters and after 30 years or so its like a natural extension, but still getting better . It really is true that one learns as long as one lives.

Also like to say to those that think all quarrying has to be a big hole in the ground, we source all our stone from glacial till so it is boulders of varying sizes and mixed colours. One of the great  pleasures of the stone splitting is seeing that inside of the stone that hasn't seen the light of day for maybe 300 million years., kind of puts a person in his place ! I split alot of it just using a stonehammer( sledgehammer with a blunt blade). Bigger ones with wedges like in Portugal. The idea to make a hole and put a wedge in is attributed to the ancient Egyptians - "the quarry hole".

In the video showing the old quarryman at the start of this thread , you see that look of satisfaction when the block splits , and note the bright colour inside the stone relative to the outside. I can relate to that !

Here is photo of one of the surprises when splitting an otherwise ordinary boulder.

Cheers
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Vibrant inside of split granite boulder 32" wide
 
Josephine Howland
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Mark,
My husband I live in Northern New Hampshire and my husband is a rock hound. You are so right about seeing the inside of a stone that has not seen the light of day. Of course we are mostly looking for gem stones. We are the Granite State though so there are several quarries nearby. Oh and I just hit the 60 mark last November, so don't worry, you'll make it through just fine!
 
Mark Deichmann
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THanks Josephine !

Sounds like fun in NH, not too far from us. I'm in New Brunswick just an hour north of the Maine border . I don't find too many gemstones other than quartz , although there is amethyst and agate along the Bay of Fundy coast that erodes out of the red Devonian sandstone.

Scot's Bay and Blomidan on the Nova Scotia side of the Bay of Fundy are really good areas for gemstone and fossil picking if you make summer excursions. Just keep an eye on the 50 foot tides when exploring along the cliffs !
 
Mark Deichmann
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Thought I would add some more stonework.

Burra started this thread on cobblestone.

This shows the irregular mixed  source cobblestone that is my trademark . I refer to the cubes as industrial cobblestone, this would be pre industrial style that was commonly used many european countries prior to being "systematized" into orderly squares, which of course increases productivity .

I often use the square industrial type cobblestone as a border, that should be visible in the photos.

What is "not" pre industrial about the way I lay these, is that I lay them in concrete( cement mortar) and point them with the same(fill the cracks between)  . This to make them frost proof in harsh climate.

What "is" the same as the pre-industrial cobblestone , is the fact that all the stone is hand split or natural and hand fitted( shapes are chisseled to fit) and hand installed. All the cement mortar is also hand mixed.  A full barrow of mix lasts about 2-3 hours work depending on depth. FInal thickness is about 5-6 inches (15cm)
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overview with curving seat wall
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showing border of grey cubes
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border detail
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detail random shaped mixed granites
 
Josephine Howland
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Mark, your work continues to amaze me! So by laying the stones in concrete they don't freeze and get frost heaves? If it works for you in Canada, then it would probably work here in NH? I would love a nice walkway to our house, and a patio some day. I love to design things in my mind, but I can't always do the physical work, and my husband is on oxygen, and can't always do what needs to be done, let alone my fancy dreams. We also have to bring in any rocks we need, because being over a huge aquifer, all the rocks on this property have sunk to the bottom of the underground lake. Very strange to live in the Granite state and have no stones here.
 
Mark Deichmann
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Thanks Josephine,

Right you are, the steel and concrete reinforcement makes the whole thing frost safe and also durable enough for driving on and great for walking on.

Any stonework sett in sand /gravel will need maitenance no matter the climate because there is washing out and little plants will get rooted.

I have re-laid alot of stone that the owners were tired of moving around on them and the constant weeding etc. Most people are familiar with these issues.

The granite is just one option. I did a nice one last year in front of a little sailors house from 1830 . Fits right in there. They had laid random stone back in the day but only in sand so most of it had sunken and got grown over.

Base preperation is key in a site like yours. I compact "hard pack" ( 3/4 minus) gravel after digging out the area. Then its steel mesh (6 inch  squares) at the bottom and whatever stone to be laid in cement mortar ( fine concrete) over that.

The cost installed ranges from $25 /sq ft for flagstone to $32/sq ft for the granite as shown above.  Only additional is for digging /prep as that can vary abit but usuall only 2-3 $/ sq.ft.  

I ll post a photo of the grey sandstone we use. Very durable and nice variations in colour.

I wouldn't feel too bad about not being able to build stone pathways and patios yourself as not too many people can , even if they have the physique for it. It has taken me years to get to where I am with it and I more or less live for it and homesteading.
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quartzite slate
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carboniferous sandstone
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Granite and slate combination. Slates make great caps
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slate walkway/patio/curving /sloping
 
Josephine Howland
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Mark, once again your work is amazing. I like that grey sandstone you used in that walkway. I know a lot of people use bluestone as well as slate. There are people and business all around here that sell it by the pallet. The flatter stone would be nicer for older folks to manage as well.  
 
Mark Deichmann
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Thanks Josephine,

Yes I too use more of the flat "bluestone"  as well. The granite is a bit wobbly to walk on although with the joins filled up its as good as it gets. Depends on the setting/customer.

The grey sandstone you see around is the same as we use as that formation runs the whole length of the appalachians and we are at the northern end of it. Its formally known as pennylvanian sandstone (tradename bluestone) as it was first identified in that state.

What I have described as "slate" is actually imported from Scandinavia and is a much older stone. Its  more durable as its a quartzite shist. More expensive but has the advantage of being alot thinner than the sandstone so it is better for interior work or covering existing concrete steps where there are height restrictions.
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quartzite slate mudroom floor. Treated with tung oil
 
Mark Deichmann
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Here is the pallet of 3/4 inch slate.
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Mark Deichmann
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The local sandstone raw material .

Flat on one side only as a rule, you see back side of one in forground. Note also the remnants of clay which will be washed ahead of installation.

This type of stone is one of the best known and readily available in Eastern North America. Huge formation.

Check out your local sources,  It does vary quite a bit in quality /thickness/colour/hardess   , even within a given quarry site so check it over carefully before investing.
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freshly picked flagstones
 
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