Level IV – Master Craftsman DSWA Certification

Our 5.90 Master Craftsman (Level 4) Certification is the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA-GB) Master Craftsman Certificate.  This is the highest level of certification offered by the DSWA-GB, whose 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.

If you are thinking of taking this test call us at (802) 952-8600 to discuss options.

Note that this certification process involves two stages: Part A (pre-built features) and Part B (timed feature), which must be applied and paid for separately. Part A must be passed before proceeding to Part B.

Part A:

The wall(s) submitted for assessment must be entirely the unaided work of the candidate, and must include examples of at least two different geologic types of stone (level bedded and either rounded or angular and irregular) and demonstrate at least two different styles of building (i.e., coursed and random).

The Master Craftsman Part A features can be built as part of a paid project for a client or in your own time at a site that is convenient for you.  You may also build them at a Stone Trust training site, which will require coordination with The Stone Trust.  Please contact workshops@thestonetrust.org for more information.

It is unlikely  that all of the features required will be contained within a continuous section of wall.  Multiple sections of wall can be submitted for assessment as long as they add up to the required amount of wall.  You should ensure that these are within reasonable traveling distance of each other so that the assessors can see them all in one day.

The craftsmanship displayed throughout must be to the highest standards.

Each feature (and the associated wall) is marked out of 24.  The minimum passing mark for each feature is 18.  Since three features are required, the maximum possible marks for Part A is 72;  the minimum score required to pass Part A is 54 marks.


Understanding the Features:

A total of four features must be built for the Master Craftsman certificate, three of them for Part A and one for Part B.

One of these is a section of wall built up (perpendicular to)  a 30˚ or steeper slope (typically this done for Part A and not recommended as the timed test!). All candidates for Master Craftsman certification must build this feature.

For the remaining three features, you must choose ONE feature from EACH of three groups (see below).  Two of these will be presented along with the wall on the 30˚ slope for Part A.  The fourth feature will be built as the Part B timed test.

List of features for Master Craftsman certification

Group 1:    (choose ONE feature out of this group)

  • A set of at least 4 steps with a minimum width of 0.6m (24”)
  • A step-stile
  • A squeeze stile

Group 2:     (choose ONE feature out of this group)

  • An arch at least 0.6m (24”) high, measured from ground level to base of keystone, with walling above the arch
  • A square pillar (at least 1.3m/4ft 3in high and with a total face area of at least 3.6m2/38 sq ft)
  • A round pillar (minimum height and face area same as for square pillar)

Group 3:    (choose ONE feature out of this group)

  • A square/right-angled corner
  • A round end
  • A round corner

Compulsory Feature – this feature MUST be built by all candidates

  • Wall going up (perpendicular to) a 30˚ or steeper slope (minimum 5m2/54 sq ft)

The features most commonly selected out of groups 1, 2, and 3 are the right angle corner, the step stile, or one of the pillar options.  However, any of the features can be done successfully for Part A.  Play to your strengths when making a decision.  Pillars involve less stone but are comparatively fussy (especially the square pillar).  The right-angled corner involves dealing with two intersecting sets of batter frames and lines.

You should start by determining which feature would be your best choice for the timed test (Part B) and then make selections for two of the Part A features from the remaining two groups.

Click Here for Upcoming Test Dates and Registration

Part B:

To pass part B, you must build 5m2 (54 sq ft) of wall including one of the listed features in a seven-hour period.  NOTE WELL: Stripping out is not marked at this level and is not included in the timed portion of the test; in other words, you should strip out before the day of the test. You may also build your Part B feature from scratch.

The wall and feature must be built to a very high standard within the time limit.  The feature itself and the quality of the walling are given the highest marks.  The maximum possible score is 100 marks.  The minimum passing mark is 75 and a minimum mark must also be met for each of the test criteria.  You should be very familiar with the Craft Certification Scheme booklet produced by the DSWA, available here.



Key Points for the Master Craftsman/Level 4 Part A Test:

  • Candidates must hold the DSWA-GB Level 3 certificate before applying to be tested for Part A of the Master Craftsman Certificate.
  • Part A must be passed before applying for Part B. 
  • The features can be part of a paid project that you build for a client or you may build them in your own time at a location convenient for you.
  • Each feature is to be built within at least 5m2 (54 sq. ft.) of wall, except for the pillar, which must have a total face area of at least 3.6m2 (38 sq. ft.)
  • The work, including one of the features, must demonstrate different building styles, i.e. both coursed and random walling.  Plan to build at least 5m2 each of coursed and random walling patterns.
  • The work must make use of at least two different geological stone types.
  • Master Craftsman certification is not just about the quality of the walling, it is also about organization and timing.
  • If you fail Part A, you must reapply to be tested for this section and pass it (submitting the relevant fee each time) before you can take the Part B test.


Additional Resources:
Andy Loudon’s blog posts:




General Guidelines for each feature:

Note:  The DSWA-GB Craft Certification Scheme booklet has additional information: https://www.dswa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/1-CCS-booklet-updated-Jan-2022-FINAL-web.pdf  In the event that the information here conflicts with the current booklet, the CCS booklet shall be considered accurate.

Round End

  •  Both sides of wall parallel (i.e., wall maintains same width along its length into the end)
  •  As with a cheekend, the end itself should be vertical
    •  Tight, even, smooth curve
    •  No vertical joints or loose stones
    •  Excellent finish for wall, tight joints throughout

Round corner

  •  Very smooth, tight, even curve to both sides, no change in radius
    •  Smooth, even batter to the wall on both sides and through the corner
    •  Very tightly-built wall with very few wide joints
    •  Cope stones correctly chosen and placed to fit tightly around curve

Right-angled corner

  •  Long stones used in alternating directions to tie both the outside and inside corners
    •  Even batter both inside and outside
    •  Cope stones well-fitted and tight; large, blocky cope at the corner.
    •  Neat and tight placement of stones with few open joints and no running joints.


  •  At least 4 steps, built into wall
    •  Excellent selection of stone
  •  Tread stones well secured at side and back of tread (i.e., the walls on each side of the set of steps must rest securely on the edges of the treads where they meet the wall, and each tread must rest securely on the one beneath it)
  •  Treads should be pitched slightly forward to shed water
    •  All risers should be the same height; maximum height 8 7/8” (22.5cm)
  • Minimum tread depth 12” (30cm)
  • Minimum tread width 24” (60cm)
    •  Neat finish to sides, no open or running joints

Squeeze Style

  •  Cheekends must be excellent
    •  Base step level, firm, and tied into both sides
    •  Upright flag (if used) tied well into wall
    •  Upright flag (if used) not too high to step over
    •  Just enough space for boot to pass through
    •  Large, blocky end copes, firmly set

Step Stile

  •  At least 3 steps; the number must be appropriate for the height of the wall
    •  Steps evenly spaced, maximum rise 9 7/8” (25cm)
    •  Steps protrude 10” to 12” (25cm – 30cm) on each side of the wall
    •  Steps align so that a foot cannot slip through between them
    •  Flat surface on top of each step
    •  All stones secure


  •  Arch needs to be at least 24” (60cm) tall to the bottom of the keystone
    •  There must be regular walling above the arch
    •  The stones must be very well selected and very well fit together
    •  There should be no vertical (running) joints on the inside or side faces of the arch.

Square Pillar

  •  A total height of at least 52 inches (1.3m)
    •  A total face area of at least 38 square feet (3.6m2)
    •  The stones must be very well selected and very well fit together
    •  The corners must be very tightly fit and tied back well
    •  The faces must be smooth and even (can be battered or vertical)

Round Pillar

  •  A total height of at least 52 inches (1.3m)
    •  A total face area of at least 38 square feet (3.6m2)
    •  The stones must be very well selected and very well fit together
    •  Neatly dressed stones that fit tight to keep an even smooth curve
    •  The faces must be smooth and even (can be battered or vertical)

Wall going up a 30 degree or steeper slope

  •  At least 54 square feet (5m2), measured on one side
    •  Foundations must be set stepped to follow ground
    •  The correct number of steps in the foundation for the slope of the ground
    •  Coursing and stones must be level
    •  Neatly dressed stones that fit tightly together
    • Typically, two courses of throughs will be needed
    •  The faces must be smooth and even (can be battered or vertical)
  •  The length of the wall must run perpendicular to the slope