Charleston Masonry create the structures that make up some of history’s most enduring and revered buildings, artifacts, and monuments. These amazing works include the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, and the Taj Mahal.
Modern stone masons undergo extensive training, both in the workplace and in the classroom. This comprehensive approach to the trade compliments hands-on skill with intimate knowledge of each stone type, its best uses, and how to work it.
Most stonemasons start their career through an apprenticeship, but some attend a trade school or community college program offering a basic masonry certificate or associate’s degree. These programs can teach you how to use specific tools and equipment and give you classroom instruction in subjects like algebra, reading blueprints, and construction methods. Local union offices and other construction associations can help you find an apprenticeship or trade school program.
In addition to being good with your hands, being a stonemason requires a deft eye, strength and agility, excellent coordination, and a creative mind. It is also important to be able to draw complex designs to scale and read and understand technical blueprints and instructions from builders and architects.
Many stonemasons learn their trade through an apprenticeship sponsored by a union or individual contractor. These programs usually last three years and combine on-the-job training with classroom education. Masonry apprentices are paid a scaled wage and may get additional benefits, like health insurance and vacation time.
While most stonemasons work on construction sites, some work in a workshop or studio to create more intricate carvings or sculptures. These environments are typically quieter, less hazardous, and offer the opportunity to concentrate on more delicate or creative work. They can also be very hot, noisy, and dusty, with heavy machinery, drills, and power tools used constantly.
Those who wish to specialize in heritage and conservation stonework should consider doing a level 3 apprenticeship, which incorporates the following qualifications:
Stonemasons have been involved in the construction of buildings and statues since civilization began. The statues of Easter Island, the Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge are just a few examples of the art and architecture created by skilled stonemasons. These professionals fabricate structural elements, including walls, floors, and facades. They also built hearths, piers, arches, sills, and stairways. They are often called upon to create decorative elements and carvings as well.
A high school diploma is usually required to enter the profession. Some stonemasons complete apprenticeship training, consisting of three years of on-the-job work experience and classroom instruction. Others pursue postsecondary education at technical schools that offer masonry programs.
Masonry workers are strong and physically fit. They must be able to lift heavy blocks of stone and maneuver them around the job site. They are also often required to work in high places for extended periods. Familiarity with construction equipment and tools is helpful. Masonry courses often include training on safety procedures, blueprint reading, and basic physics.
Many stonemasons specialize in a particular area of the field. A quarry mason, for example, works by separating sheets of stone along a vein. A sawyer mason uses diamond-tipped cutting tools to cut rocks to a precise size and shape. A banker mason installs and affixes the shaped stone in a structure. A carver mason has an artistic eye and uses chisels, hammers, and other carving tools to create detailed designs and ornamental features in stone structures.
Other stone masons may focus on restoring and conserving historic or otherwise damaged stone structures. These masons use specialized repair techniques and materials to restore the historical integrity of these structures without compromising their structural integrity. These masons often work on a contractual basis with museums, universities, and other institutions.
Because of the job’s physical demands, some stonemasons must wear protective gear such as gloves, face masks, and eyewear. In addition, they must be able to endure the heat of the sun and the cold of night when working outside. The job also carries risks, such as cuts and bruises from using (or misusing) tools and falling from heights while performing above ground level.
Stonemasons usually work outdoors and must be prepared to face all weather conditions. They frequently use heavy machinery, drills, and water-cutting machines, which can cause noise and dust. They must also wear protective equipment such as masks, ear protectors, and goggles when working in quarries or rock areas. Those who specialize as sawyer masons are involved in splitting huge slabs of stone, which they then refine. They may work in rough chunks or with a diamond-tipped saw to create a more refined product.
Carver masons, on the other hand, have a higher level of artistic skill. They can sculpt ornamental elements and reliefs with chisels, carving tools, and other specialized instruments to enhance buildings. They can also produce inscriptions or designs in stone for monuments, statues, and other structures. Restoration and conservation masons are tasked with repairing, preserving, and restoring historic or damaged stone structures and assessing their condition to determine what repairs need to be carried out.
A typical day for a stone mason begins with checking and preparing their tools, followed by a brief discussion of the plans for the day’s work with other team members. Then, they head to the job site, usually near a construction site or quarry. A stonemason might spend most of his time at the construction site laying stone or installing it on-site. However, he may also work in a workshop to create decorative and architectural elements for a building.
While stone mason is busy with their construction duties, they must continually check and adjust the dimensions of the stones to fit together correctly and to be aesthetically pleasing. They also need to ensure that the mortar that holds the stones together is high quality and looks good on the finished surface. They might also use a hammer to knock down any loose or protruding parts of the structure and smooth rough edges.
Masons use various tools, including hammers, chisels, saws, and mortar mixers. They may also use a trowel, a tuck pointer, or a pointing trowel to fill in the gaps between stones as they are set into place and a masonry float to level the surface of the mortar once it has been applied.
As the construction industry recovers from a recent slowdown, more masons are expected to be needed. New building projects should increase demand for masonry workers, especially those specializing in brick and concrete. Restoring aging churches and other historic structures will likely generate more jobs for masons. Masonry is a hands-on trade that provides a satisfying and stable career for those with the right qualifications and skills.
The median annual wage for masonry workers is $48,040. The highest-paid masons earn more than $78,810. Masonry is a physically demanding job, and many masons work full-time. Masons must lift heavy materials and often work outdoors in inclement weather. Masonry workers can advance in their careers by becoming supervisors for masonry contractors or transitioning into closely related fields such as construction management or building inspection.
Most masons get training through apprenticeship programs. These programs provide on-the-job training and allow aspiring masons to learn the skills they need to become stone mason. The minimum education requirement is a high school diploma. Some masons earn an associate’s degree in a relevant field or complete a certificate program at a community college.
Apprenticeships can last up to four years. During this time, apprentices will learn how to read blueprints and use power tools while working on real-world projects. They will also understand the different types of masonry and how to build with them. In addition to learning the technical side of the profession, apprentices will be exposed to the social aspects of being a mason, including interacting with other contractors and clients. Apprentices are encouraged to ask questions and participate in class discussions. They will also receive instructor feedback about their progress throughout the program. Apprentices who do well in the program may be offered a position with an employer. Masonry is a great choice for those interested in a career that allows them to combine technical knowledge with creativity and a sense of pride in their work.