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2.90 Level 1 Certification Test

2.90 Level 1 Certification Test Overview:

Our 2.90 Level 1 course is the DSWA-GB Level I (Initial) Certification.  This is the 1st of 4 levels of certification offered by the DSWA-GB.  DSWA-GB certification is the oldest and best administered certification for dry stone wallers.  It is recognized throughout the world.

Each test candidate will dismantal and rebuild 27 sq. ft. of free standing wall, within a seven hour period.  27 sq ft is roughly equal to a wall 4 feet 6 inches tall and 6 feet long.  (The square footage is measured on one face.)  The test is done in the presence of the Examiners and must meet minimum Level I requirements to pass.

The emphasis of the test is placed on basic demonstration of the correct structural techniques of dry stone walling.  In order to pass the wall must be completed within the 7 hour time requirement.  A candidate must obtain the minimum mark in each section and an overall mark of at least 50 out of 100 to receive certification.

Preparing for your test: Depending on the amount of experience you have, you may need more or less preparation for this test. The Level 1 test has an average 85% pass rate. If you have questions please contact us.

 

This Certification is done taught at:

This Certification Test Course is administered at the same time as tests at the other levels. Courses 3.90, 4.90, & 5.90.

Tips for Success:

  • Know the requirements
  • Arrive at least ½ hour early to settle in (examiners can answer questions before test starts)
  • This is not to be your highest quality work, it is the work you can produce in 7 hours
  • Sort the material as you strip out (generally not more than 30 min)
  • Strip out the wall so there are equal amounts of stone on both sides
  • Though stones should be on by ½ the allowed time (3.5 hours)
  • Sort face stones by size, keep copes, hearting, and throughs separated.

Additional Info:

The stone trust provides batter frames that are set up for Level I tests.  You must provide your own string lines and other tools.  During the test there is minimal time for shaping stone.  The stone is fairly hard and has already been selected for appropriate shapes and sizes.  There is also additional stone available if needed.  Most candidates find that having one hammer is sufficient, and do relatively little hammering.

Critical Information:

  • Participants should arrive at about 8:15am
  • The 7 hour timed test runs 9am to 4:30pm, with a manditory 30 min lunch break
  • Scores are than tallied and reviewed
  • The review is an incredible learning process
  • Participants should wear boots and work clothes (have plenty of layers for cool weather)
  • What to bring:  gloves, rain gear, safety glasses, water, and lunch.  (There is no where close enough to buy lunch with in the lunch break)
  • Test candidates must bring their own tools, string line and anything else they want to use during the test.

Detailed info will be emailed to you once you register including what to bring and directions.

Procedure:

Outlined below is the general process of taking the test, from beginning to end:

  • Stripping out
    • Relatively quick process (roughly 20-30 min) of taking apart the existing test wall and sorting the stone.  NO THROWING STONES!  (examiners are looking for safe practices). The better the stone is sorted the easier rebuilding will be.
    • Spread out stone as much as possible.
    • Leave a safe walk way, clear of lose stone, on both sides of the wall for examiners access.
    • Building stone (face stones) and hearting should be laid out on both sides of the wall.
  • Preparing and laying foundations
    • Use the biggest available stones
    • Set the foundation stones length wise into the wall, or so that they are at least 2/3 the width of the wall.
    • The foundation stones should fit tightly together
    • The foundation stones should be well-hearted (packed)
    • The foundation stones should not move when walked on
    • The marks for foundation stones are higher than any other part of the test.
  • Building and packing the first lift
    • Continued use of largest remaining stones set lengthwise into the wall
    • Span all joints in the previous course (no running joints)
    • Keep stones level and in courses if possible.
    • Wall must be thoroughly hearted
  • Throughstones
    • Placed mid height in the wall
    • Spaced 3 feet apart on center
    • May stick out 2-3” on each side of the wall
    • Throughstones must be hearted under tightly: no light should shine through
    • Place throughstones carefully to avoid creating running joints.
  • Building and Packing second lift
    • Built the same as the first lift but with smaller stones
    • Gradual reduction in size of stone
    • Definite level finish at cover-band/cope height.
  • Coverband and cope
    • Coverband is optional
    • A coverband is a course of flat stones that span the width of the wall set on top of the second lift and below the copes.  (It is like a second course of throughstones)
    • Heart tightly under coverbands so they sit firmly and light is not visible underneath
    • Copes stones (set vertically) should sit solidly (not propped up on pins)
    • Copes should be tight together and should not move when pushed.
  • Batter, line, and straightness for entire wall
    • Overall wall should maintain an even face free of bulges and hollows
    • String lines should be used correctly (keep strings level)
    • Top should be even
  • General approach and safety
    • Safe handling of heavy stones
    • Safe use of hammer/tools
    • Keeping a clear work space along both sides of wall
    • Appropriate work gear (boots, safety glasses)
    • Observance of The Stone Trust policies
    • If unsafe practices are used, especially if others are endangered, the test candidate will fail and may be stopped part way through the test.
    • Under most conditions you will be working immediately next to another test candidate
    • Examiners will take note if one candidate is affecting the other’s work (if you are being held up by another’s work pace, the examiners may provide additional instructions or time)

Certification quick guide:

  • DSWA-GB Level I (Initial) Test
  • Take down and rebuild 27 sq ft
  • Must meet minimum standards
  • 1-day: 8:15am-6:00pm
  • Offered twice per year, spring and fall
  • Typical Cost $350

Time lapse video of a 2.90 Level 1 Certification Test:

Photos from 2.90 Level 1 Certification Test

Sample Test Stint and Mark Sheet

Passing Level I completed test wall.  The mark sheet for this test is shown below

Passing Level I completed test wall. Click here to view the mark sheet for this test.

Before you sign up for this Test, read this booklet!

Upcoming 2.90 Level 1 Certification Tests:


  • Spring Certification Test: Friday, 5/3/2019
    May 3, 2019
    8:15 am - 6:30 pm
    - 1 Day attendance

Testing Levels Initial, Intermediate and Advanced (Part B). Friday, May 3, 2019. NOTE: You must hold the previous level certification to sign up for any test above level 1. THE REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS WEDNESDAY, March 20th! NO LATE REGISTRATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

All Upcoming Fundamental (2.00) Level Courses


  • 2.13 Contractors Workshop
    March 29, 2019
    9:00 am - 5:00 pm

This workshop is perfect for the landscape contractor interested in starting to build dry stone walls, or expand that line of work. In addition to the hands on building of a wall, there will be discussions of good work practices, pricing walls, proper foundations, etc.


  • Spring Certification Test: Friday, 5/3/2019
    May 3, 2019
    8:15 am - 6:30 pm
    - 1 Day attendance

Testing Levels Initial, Intermediate and Advanced (Part B). Friday, May 3, 2019. NOTE: You must hold the previous level certification to sign up for any test above level 1. THE REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS WEDNESDAY, March 20th! NO LATE REGISTRATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.


  • 2.40 Cheek End Workshop (Outdoor) - May. 4 & 5, 2019 (Dummerston, VT)
    May 4, 2019 - May 5, 2019
    9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Whenever your building a wall, sooner or later it must come to an end. A cheek end is the typical way to end a wall. It is also called a wall end, wall head, or square end. Cheek ends are a particular challenge to build well and structurally are the most vulnerable part of a wall, so it is important to get it right.


  • 2.50 Intro to Stone Shaping 6/2/19
    June 2, 2019
    9:00 am - 5:00 pm
    - 1-Day workshop

This workshop will spend the day learning about how to shape stones for use in dry stone walls. Participants will be introduced to a variety of stone types, and how to work with them. Both hand and power tools will be demonstrated and used. The stone shaping portion will focus on efficient practices, learning how to look at a stone and judge how to shape it, as well as proper use and care of tools.


  • 2.20 Retaining wall workshop 6/2/19
    June 2, 2019
    9:00 am - 5:00 pm
    - 1-day workshop attendance

Participants will learn how to maximize strength for a retaining wall while following the basic rules. Foundations, drainage, perforated pipe, filter fabric, geo-textiles and more are all discussed or demonstrated. This workshop is intended to give you the information to make wise decisions on your own projects. It is well suited for both homeowners and contractors.