As a traditionally trained stone mason I get to carve some beautiful and interesting things. For the last couple of weeks I have been working on a pair of Ball Finials with corresponding coping stones.
These are to be built onto the pillars of a low garden wall. Obviously there were scale issues-they couldn’t be too large as they would look out of place but too small and they would look wrong on the coping stone.
Once the size was determined I drew a design for my customers approval and went ahead with ordering the stone. The stone was ordered with the natural bed running vertically (up and down) this is to give the strength to the neck, if the bed is horizontal then there will be a weakness in the neck.
In this case the stone comes from Veizeys Quarry near Tetbury in South Gloucestershire, a very good carving stone when treated properly will last a lifetime. by treated I don’t mean sealing-that is not a good idea but stone like wood seasons if you build with it when it is fresh out of the ground it will suffer with frost damage as it has what is termed quarry sap in the stone. It takes a good couple of years to mature and so I have recommended to my customer not to put them outside until the frosts have finished and to keep them protected for the next couple of winters.
This applies to all stone some season quicker than others.
Once I had the stone, I used the template that I had made and applied it to all surfaces with a simple circle to the diameter of the ball on the top, from here I could determine where to put my saw cuts and start to mason the stone.
There are many ways to carve a Ball Finial and this is not actually the method I was taught at college but with the extensive skill and knowledge I have gleaned from one source or another and just sheer practice I have developed the method I think works the best for me.
As a stonemason becomes more competent we are able to trust our eyes more, a ruler becomes something to mark with at the beginning and check with at the end rather than something to be relied upon, and in this instance I am able to trust my eyes to carve a sphere, the reverse template is something I use to check that the surface of the sphere before I join all the lines up. As an apprentice you will rely on these templates a lot more and don’t worry it will take some time but your eye will come in!
The coping stones were carved with a corresponding cavetto around the edge rather than just a plain chamfer to echo the cavetto in the neck of the Ball Finials. They also have a drip on the underside to help prevent the water from running down the surface of the wall.