Stonemasonry is the craft of shaping rough pieces of rock into accurate geometrical shapes, mostly simple, but some of considerable complexity, and then arranging the resulting stones, often together with mortar, to form structures.
Quarrymen split veins, or sheets of rock, and extract the resulting blocks of stone from the ground.
Sawyers cut these rough blocks into cubes, to required size with diamond-tipped saws.
Banker masons are workshop based, and specialize in carving stones into intricate geometrical shapes required by a building’s design. They can produce anything from stones with simple chamfers to tracery windows, detailed mouldings and the more classical architectural building masonry. When working a stone from a sawn block, the mason ensures that the stone is bedded in the right way, so the finished work sits in the building in the same orientation as it was formed on the ground. The basic tools, methods and skills of the banker mason have existed as a trade for thousands of years.
Carvers cross the line from craft to art, and use their artistic ability to carve stone into foliage, figures, animals or abstract designs.
Fixer masons specialize in the fixing of stones onto buildings, using lifting tackle, and traditional lime mortars and grouts. Sometimes modern cements, mastics and epoxy resins are used, usually on specialist applications such as stone cladding. Metal fixings, from simple dowels and cramps to specialised single application fixings, are also used. The precise tolerances necessary make this a highly skilled job.
Memorial masons or monumental masons carve gravestones and inscriptions.
The modern stonemason undergoes comprehensive training, both in the classroom and in the working environment. Hands-on skill is complemented by intimate knowledge of each stone type, its application and best uses, and how to work and fix each stone in place. The mason may be skilled and competent to carry out one or all of the various branches of stonemasonry. In some areas the trend is towards specialization, in other areas towards adaptability.