How to build a dry stone wall

Peter Mauss/Esto Photographics

Dry stone walls are built without mortar, using techniques that are almost as old as humankind. Basically, you stack stones together, shimming and packing them to balance their weight and position. Although that sounds simple -- and in many ways it is -- building dry stone walls is not without challenges.

Stone is heavy, and working with it requires patience. You'll probably have to move each stone several times as you gather your materials and then shape the wall. The work may not be complicated, but it can be frustrating.

So why join the legions of "wallers" -- builders of dry stone walls? Your answer may be practical: A dry stone wall can be functional, durable, and naturally beautiful. Depending on the source of the materials, it can be economical, too. Or, your answer may be visionary: Dry stone techniques put the laws of nature -- particularly gravity -- on your side. A well-built stone wall can stand as long as anything made by humans.

Allan Goodman