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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Oien

Below the capstone

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

Dan Snow, a master dry stone waller based in Vermont and one who's philosophical approach and body of work I find greatly inspiring, wrote in one of his fantastic books "Walls are never to be opened boxes of stone. They are carefully crafted containers that are always full and cannot be emptied." Viewing walls while under construction is particularly interesting, as it's a window into the heart of the wall prior to being forever sealed with a capstone. Coursing, hearting, pinnings, through stones; being able to see the structural thought process applied over a days worth of walling provides valuable critique as the wall takes shape. It's an opportunity to learn from and address errors in technique, as well as feel a sense of satisfaction and confidence in a particularly well built section.

This current project is a flagstone terrace, wrapped in a sitting wall. After excavating, prepping the base, and laying out the grades, the first phase of construction is to build the retaining wall surrounding the patio. Batter frames help keep my radius and wall batter on track (Batter being the "lean" of the wall. The more pyramidal in shape, the stronger the wall. In this case, the frames are set to have a 6:1 batter. Up six inches, over one.) Once the wall is built roughly up to the grade of the patio terrace, I'll begin to lay flag stone.


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