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Women wallers recommend some tools and books

Kim Coggin tells us:

If you are just getting started in the craft, there are a range of basics tools that you will need. First, I highly recommend a book what we wallers call “the Bible”.  It’s Dry Stone Walling: A Practical Handbook by Alan Brooks & Sean Adcock. Outstanding source of information for DIY, wallers, trail builders, landscapers and others.

Next, the Basic Item List: Safety glasses, Gloves, Mason String, Measuring Tape, Line level or string level (sometimes called a spirit level), Line Pins, Batter Boards,

And, Chisels & Hammers: To get started you will need a Pointer, Tracer and hammer suitable for striking steel. Make sure your chisels are Carbide Tipped, they are tougher and will last longer. A bit more expensive but worth every penny. I recommend any of the carbide chisels that are sold in TST store. They are all good quality.

As time goes you may want to extend your inventory, with items like a hammer drill and a Professional Walling Set from Trow & Holden. Trow & Holden gives you a massive tool set with all the hammers and chisels frequently used by professional wallers. Or mix and match brands. I have Rebit Chisels and Trow & Holden hammers. Love them all.

Kim enjoys the status of North America’s first female DSWA Level 3 Advanced Waller. With her husband Jerry she has founded the Stone Trust Pennsylvania at Laurel Stoneworks in South Fork. Please see the schedule of workshops remaining in 2022. You will surely learn a lot and have a good time!

Judy Rand adds:

If working with schist, like the quarried stone from Goshen, I recommend the 4-lb. carbide Stone Buster set from Trow and Holden.

I’m 5’ 3” and weigh 115. I first purchased the 3-lb Stone Buster set, thinking, at my size, it would be less wear and tear for me to use the 3-lb set, but after I tried the 4-lb set at a stone shaping workshop, I found the 4-pounders easy to hold and swing and got the job done in less time. I recommend the 4-lb Stone Busters from Trow and Holden for trimming and shaping schist.

Judy has generously contributed her knowledge and skills as a Stone Trust board member. She teaches regularly at Stone Trust training sites throughout the Northeast and provides help and inspiration in countless ways.

Victoria Merriman gives a few more tips:

I second the 4 lb stone busters suggestion! I use them on almost every job, with everything from sandstone to granite. And yes, really nice for separating the layers in schist and other layered stones.

I also just got a 2.5 lb bell hammer and love it. I struggle with carpal tunnel and tendinitis and this hammer feels easier on my hands somehow. Maybe it’s the grip, or maybe it delivers force more efficiently due to the shape? Anyway, it’s wonderful. The bell hammer is used to strike a chisel so it has a different purpose than the stone busters. It’s such a great striking hammer because anywhere the hammer lands on the chisel delivers a good impact, unlike regular hammers which have a smaller striking surface.

Here are a few other items that aren’t in the Stone Trust store, but were top of mind as I got into the field and/or I’ve found helpful along the way:
* A good rugged hand truck – I have a Milwaukee one. I definitely find myself using the hand truck more often than my male teammates. Everyone has a stone they can’t lift, but mine are smaller than theirs! It also was a lifesaver on the last job I did where we were dealing with snow and ice on an uneven surface.
* Safety gear – glasses, earmuffs, gloves, masks, respirators, kneepads, etc.
* Steel toe boots. This was probably my #1 struggle. Most stores carry zero women’s sizes, or whatever women’s boots they do have suffer from the “They’re for women, let’s make them pink and purple” phenomenon. I finally found decent selections at Farmway in Vermont and the Bootleggers chain in New Hampshire.
Victoria Merriman

You can read about Victoria’s path to becoming a professional dry stone waller in her article “From Pixels to Stone or How to Strengthen Your Back.”

For another tale of how an American woman became a professional waller, read Whitney Brown’s memoir Between Stone and Sky.

Between Stone and Sky by Whitney Brown