At the Stone Trust you can acquire a Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA-GB) Level 2 Certificate (previously known as the DSWA-GB Intermediate Certificate). To earn this certification, you must pass the 3.90 Level 2 Certification test.
The DSWA-GB’s Craft Certification Scheme had its inception in the 1970s and is the oldest certification system for dry stone wallers; the credentials are recognized throughout the world. The second of four levels of certification offered by the DSWA-GB, Level 2 stands as the globally-recognized first true level professional qualification.
As a matter of Stone Trust policy, you must have earned a Level 1 certificate before you apply to take a Level 2 test. In addition, participants must be respectful of other candidates, the assessors, and the test site. You are expected to work safely and to avoid distracting others. Be sure to read the policies for participation in Stone Trust events.
Preparing for Your Test
Depending on the amount of experience you have, you may need more or less preparation for this test. Slightly more than half of Level 2 candidates (55%) pass the first time. Before you apply for Level 2 certification, we recommend that you build at least 10 cheek ends, at least 4 of them attending to the 7.5 hour time constraint.
In addition, most people, even skilled wallers, need at least several days of dedicated practice to pass. Don’t expect to be able to pass this with only workshops for preparation. You will need time and practice building on your own.
Please scroll down for links to resources designed to help you succeed.
Taking the Level 2 Test
The Level 2 test involves stripping down and rebuilding a section of wall that includes a cheekend (also known as a straight wall-end, straight end, wall-head, or square end) with a surface area of 2.5m2 (26.5 square feet), as measured on one face of the wall.
Twenty-seven square feet equates roughly to a wall 4 feet 6 inches tall and 6 feet long. While the square footage is measured on one face, you will strip out and rebuild the cheek end and both adjacent faces. The wall must measure at least 1m (a little over 39 inches) in height to the bottom of the copes. You must complete the rebuild within the seven hours allowed in order to pass the test.
You will take the test in the presence of at least two DSWA-GB assessors. They will observe you as you build to determine whether your test stint meets the minimum Level 2 requirements. The assessors evaluate how well you apply the basic principles of dry stone wall construction, which are the same as those for Level 1 Certification; however, a much higher standard is expected at Level 2 in terms of structural quality and visual fit-and-finish; it is a big jump up from Level 1.
The assessors will look closely at:
- line and batter of both wall faces (batter must be the same on both sides of the wall)
- thorough, well-packed hearting
- appropriate stone selection
- strength and fit/finish of the cheekend, which must be vertical
- secure and even placement (neat top line) of cope stones
This is a pass/fail test. To pass , you must obtain a minimum 50% mark in each section and an overall total score of at least 69 marks out of 115. Fairly often, Level 2 candidates achieve a sufficiently high total score but fail to get the 50% score on one section, thus failing the test. Timing also matters. You must complete your test stint within the 7.5-hour test window.
You are expected to bring your own frames, lines, and other tools, unless otherwise arranged. The assessors will observe your proficiency in setting up batter frames and use of lines. Keep in mind that in order to finish on time, you should keep stone shaping to the minimum possible. Also consider that test walls get dismantled and rebuilt regularly; the stone has already been selected for appropriate shapes and sizes. A test day coordinator will help should you need additional stone.
You will be taking your Level 2 test along with other candidates testing for other levels of certification. Your test stint will be tying into an existing wall. Level 1 test candidates will be stripping out and rebuilding test stints on the same wall. Small sections of standing wall remain untouched between each test stint. Expect other wallers of various levels to be testing nearby.
You will need to bring all the tools for shaping stone that you want to use. Most candidates find that a selection of hammers and chisels is necessary for passing Level II. Power tools (diamond saws, hammer drills, grinders, etc.) are not permitted. Please label your tools with your name!
You will need to build and set up your own batter frames as part of the test. Bring your own material to make a frame(s) (wood, rebar etc.), as well as any tools needed to assemble your frame (drill, screws, nails, etc.). You may also want line pins for tying into the existing wall.
Important to know
- In order to take the test, you must send a completed DSWA-GB Test Application to firstname.lastname@example.org prior to the last day of registration.
- Participants should arrive at about 8:15 a.m.
- The 7.5-hour timed test runs from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a mandatory 30-minute lunch break.
- Assessors tally and review scores at 5:00 p.m.
- Consider staying while assessors review scores with test candidates. You can learn a lot! Plan to stay till about 5:30 or 6.
- Participants must wear steel-toed boots and work clothes. Wear plenty of layers for cool weather. Wear sun protection.
- Photo ID will be checked before the test begins – be sure to have yours with you.
- What to bring: tools, gloves, rain gear, safety glasses, water, and lunch/snacks. Most Stone Trust sites offer nowhere close enough to buy food during the lunch break.
- Bring your own tools, line, and any other items you want to use during the test.
Training and Practice Sessions Designed to Help You Succeed
Workshops designed to prepare you for Level 2 Certification:
- 2.40 Cheek End Rebuild
- 3.30 Walling Skills Intensive
- 3.80 Test Prep Workshop
- Pre-Test (Your chance to practice test with no evaluation. Highly recommended at this level. Many people do several.)
Additional Resources to Support Your Success:
- DSWA-GB Craft Certification Scheme booklet, available at https://www.dswa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/1-CCS-booklet-updated-Jan-2022-FINAL-web.pdf
- Blog post by DSWA Chief Assessor Andrew Loudon: Level 2 Certification Tips for Success
- Blog post by Brian Post: Level 2 Certification Tips for Success
- Building for Success: Leaping the Level 2 Hurdle by Brian Post
Tips for Success:
- Know the requirements: STUDY ALL RESOURCES ABOVE.
- Arrive at 8:15 a.m. to settle in: Here’s your chance to ask questions of the assessors before the test starts.
- Do the best work you can produce in seven hours. You’re not aiming for perfection. You do not have unlimited time.
- Sort the material as you strip out. The assessors are watching your process. Plan to finish stripping out within 30 minutes.
- Strip out the wall so that there are equal amounts of wall stone on both sides.
- Plan to place your throughstones by mid-day, half-way (3.5 hours) through the allotted seven and a half hours.
- Sort face stones by size. Keep copes, hearting, and throughs separated. All copes and throughs should be laid out on one side of the wall.
- Sort out any possible cheekend stones and save for the cheek.
- The end of the wall should be vertical (no batter). Use a plumb bob or spirit level.
- Tie the cheekend properly into the wall: No running joints!
- Pay attention to the area immediately next to the cheekend. Your best building stones should be used here to ensure good tying back into the wall. That said… Don’t be tempted to use stones that are cheekend material in other parts of the wall!
- Assessors expect a high degree of fit and finish, much higher than Level 1.
- Good line, straightness, and even wall faces are very important at this level.
- Heart very solidly under throughstones: no light should be visible around/under the throughs. (Pay proper attention to hearting throughout – minimal light should be visible through any part of the wall.)
- Pin (heart) between and under each face stone.
- Be familiar with setting up batter frames. It takes time to set them up well – practice!
- Running joints in and next to the wall end will almost certainly result in a failed test.
- A large, solid, end cope is important. Ideally it should be the same height as the rest of the copes.
- Where are the greatest number of marks? The cheekend! Understanding the distribution of the marks can help you determine how best to focus your time and attention. Read the DSWA Craft Certification Scheme booklet! https://www.dswa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/1-CCS-booklet-updated-Jan-2022-FINAL-web.pdf
The 7.5-hour test time does NOT include the mandatory half hour lunch break. With the lunch break, your test day time runs 8 hours from start to finish. In addition, after the test is completed, you are expected to help tidy the test site while the assessors verify/compile results and complete the mark sheets (which can take some time). The assessors will also review the work of each test candidate, which may take 1.5 to 2 hours. You are encouraged to remain to listen and ask questions – a lot can be learned from this exercise. Typically, you should expect the full length of your test day to be about 9 or 10 hours; if there is a large number of candidates, things can take longer.