Historic Stone Masonry Tools

Written by billy mccarley
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Historic Stone Masonry Tools
The mason designed and used various tools for shaping stones in the past. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Some of the oldest stone mason tools are basic in their appearance. The hammer, which has changed shape over time, has always been one of the primary tools for a mason. However, the hammer is just the beginning. The chisel, which has been used since the iron age in conjunction with the hammer, is essential for shaping stones and the mason's level and stick, which has been used in the past to level and measure the stone installations, are two additional tools that have forged the stone masons' heritage.

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The hammer began as a stone head that was used to shape other stones. Over time, a handle was attached to the stone to create a tool that was more functional. However, by the Iron Age, the hammer had been refined into a two-pound sledge that could break apart granite, limestone and other hard stones. The hammer had come a long way and was now a common tool found in the mason's tool bag. Its head was more defined to enabled intricate shaping of stones used in masonry walls and its handle was longer, allowing greater force to be placed upon the head as it struck the mason's stone projects.

Historic Stone Masonry Tools
This antique hammer can shape stones with great force. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)


The chisel was formed well into the Iron Age. Historically, it was manufactured in larger sizes to accommodate the stress placed on it by the masons. The iron technology in the beginning was limited. Early in the Iron Age, steel chisels were not made because carbon was not discovered yet. Consequently, smaller chisels could not hold up to the force of an iron or stone hammer head. However, during the last part of the Iron Age, just before the historical period of written documents, the chisel became smaller because of its harder steel content. It could now be placed in the mason's pouch or belt.

Historic Stone Masonry Tools
These old chisels can shape and form the stone into small, detailed work. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Measuring Stick

The ancient Egyptians used a cubit rod or measuring stick to determine wall heights and lengths. These sticks were made in various lengths to enable easy use. Over time, though, the stick transformed masonry into a high production industry. By the beginning of the 16th century in Europe, the measuring rod was now pliable, similar to a cloth tape. It hung from the mason's belt and could be pulled into action very quickly.

Historic Stone Masonry Tools
This measuring rod was developed and used in the 19th century. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)


The first level was a bowl of water or container of water that was placed on a flat surface. By estimating the water angle -- with 90 degrees being level -- the mason could install level work. However, this method was somewhat unreliable because there was no benchmark located on the bowl or container that gave reference to level. Later, rubber hosing was used as a level. Water was placed in hose, and both tips were aligned with the top of the masonry work. If the water reached the same height on each end of the hose, then the structure was considered level. This method is still used today.

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