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How to Become a Stonemason

How to Become a Stonemason
A stonemason cuts and fixes stones and bricks for buildings. The CareerStint article below will tell you how to become a stonemason.
CareerStint Staff
"Old houses were built with one solid wall, whereas modern houses have cavity walls so moisture can never come through. With the old, the moisture goes in and out, so the wall breathes. You nearly have to treat these as living structures, so that when they become derelict they fall apart very quickly because the life has been taken out of them."
― Shane Nolan, Conservation stonemason, Dublin

As the name implies, a stonemason works with stones. He is responsible for cutting, fixing, repairing, and maintaining stone blocks, which are used for the construction of different types of buildings, maintaining historical monuments, and renovating various architectural wonders. They are also required to construct and use architectural entities (frames, pillars, headstones). Stonemasons also work with different materials, and are an asset to the construction firms. The paragraphs below will tell you all about the skills needed to be a stonemason.
Job Description

  • Stonemasonry can be broadly classified into banker, memorial, and fixed masonry.
  • As a stonemason, you have to know all the technical know-how of stonework and brickwork.
  • You will cut stones in different sizes and shape them according to the requirement, using different tools.
  • You will work with materials like granite, sandstone, marble, etc.
  • You will fix the prepared stone structure with mortar according to the pre-decided design.
  • You will fix bricks together to make walls (called wallrock).
  • You will mix the right amount of cement depending on the structure - whether it is a pillar or a chimney.
  • You will read the architects' blueprints and order materials accordingly.
  • You will ensure a thorough cleaning process - clean excess mortar, cement, grout, or any other filling.
  • You will ensure the finesse of the structures.
  • You will lay out the stone blocks and create foundations.
  • You will know the basics of every kind of structure - chimneys, pyramids, window frames, archways, garden pieces, headstones, tombstones, domes, memorials, etc.

Essential Skills

  • To be physically fit and a team player.
  • To work methodically, paying special attention to detail.
  • To know how to take accurate measurements.
  • To be able to work in different shifts, onsite.
  • To have good coordination and drawing skills.
  • To be able to understand the building design accurately and suggest changes.

Education and Training

  • Ideally, this is one of those jobs that needs less education and more experience.
  • Speaking of the basic levels, you would need to complete your high school diploma, with related subjects (preferably mechanics, design, or mathematics).
  • There are many technical schools that offer certificate and diploma courses in stonemasonry.
  • The duration will vary according to your training program. You may have a year to 3 years of education.
  • Some of the training modules encompass an apprenticeship as well; completing this program will fetch you better placements. Your apprenticeship programs may last between 3 and 4 years.
  • According to the BLS, you must complete 144 hours of education and 2000 hours of on-the-job training.
  • During training, you will learn everything - right from cutting, lettering, blueprint reading, measurement reading, to volume, mixing, laying, carving, and patterning.
  • After your apprenticeship program, you will get qualified for jobs in construction companies.
  • Some people begin early; they do not have formal education, they start at the lowest available jobs in the industry, and learn skills as time passes. Eventually, without any degree or diploma, they will have gained all the knowledge possible.
  • However, it is safer to go via a regular route.
Required Tools

You will need to know in depth, the working of the following tools:
  • Chisel
  • Hammers
  • Mallet
  • Saw
  • Metal straight edge
  • Rotating paddle
  • Trowels
  • Tuck pointer
  • Splitter
  • Lewis
  • Spinners
  • Grinders

Work Environment

  • Stone mason jobs are among the toughest ones, since they are very physically demanding.
  • You will be working onsite, in tough weather conditions and a dusty atmosphere.
  • You will be climbing, standing, bending, lifting, carrying, etc. In short, your job is going to involve every kind of physical strain possible.
  • If your construction site is far away from home, considerable amount of traveling will be required as well.
  • Job opportunities, however, seem decent enough in this field.
  • In small firms, stonemasons are expected to perform the banking and fixing duties.
  • You can even be a part of subsidiaries that rent out masons. In this case, you will have to wait for jobs.
  • According to experts, it is preferable to be a part of a construction company rather than a freelancing agency, since the former is known to provide steady employment.

Salary

  • Initial salaries are not very high for a stonemason; they start with USD 10,000, annually.
  • Like every other field, however, the pay packet increases with experience.
  • The average annual salary for an experienced stonemason may be more than USD 40,000.
  • Freelance agencies may earn more, on a per-contract basis. However, they have to wait for projects to come their way.
  • The BLS predicts that apprentices earn about 50% of what trained masons earn.

As redundant as it may sound, you need to get this into your head - more than formal education, you require building experience and the hard core skills to become a successful stonemason. And begin small - that is how you will learn the intricacies of the trade, which will help you as you rise up the ranks.