I suppose that, to many people, the word limestone is more apt to conjure images of highway roadbed than hand carved fireplace. In my mind however, the word summons a myriad of memories – the direct consequence of carving so many many many blocks of the stuff.
Upon attaining my NVQ Level 2 at the City of Bath College, I was soon at work within the local masonry industry carving pallet after pallet of limestone. It was indeed our stock in trade. However, the speed and urgency with which we worked, combined with the demands of systemic repetition, taught me to carve boldly and with confidence; both accurate and fast.
Upon my return to the United States in 2003, I set about creating my own banker shop in the far, far away land of Woody Creek, where I could carve stone in an almost mythical peace and quiet, to my heart’s content.
Aside from being the quite most pliable stone imaginable (in a way that I am sure facilitated the carving of many a flamboyant gargoyle down through the centuries), when it comes to masonry embellishment, well, its sublime carving credentials simply cannot be matched. Which is why you see predominantly limestone sculpture adorning magnificent buildings and humble abodes alike: mighty castles, magnificent town halls, parish churches and cathedrals, temples and pagodas, the world around. Marble of course is all well and good for statuary and the like, but as we all know, rather pricey. Also, marble takes a great deal more effort to persuade than good old friendly limestone. And often, as is the case of England’s famous Portland Limestone, this dense, durable white stone is actually white enough to oft times pass as marble. Sadly, I see no equivalent over this side of the pond, and so my two limestones of choice over here are; the mocha tinted Kansas Creme, and the rather loud, flashy suited Winterset; the limestone that thinks its a sandstone. But as for sand stone, I’ve worked it, and to be quite frank, I’m just thoroughly done with the stuff. Don’t get me wrong; sandstone is most definitely beautiful, sometimes extraordinarily so, but a more unpleasant, unwilling, temperamental, dangerous and brutal idiot stone to work with, I have never met.
Through the early years of our new century, I set about carving any and everything I could lay my hands upon. Commercially I was commissioned to carve pallets of residential ” t r i m ” ( as they called it ) for the booming Colorado home construction industry. I also carved fountains and entrance signs, great room fireplaces, and some pretty grand garden features. Personally, I took every opportunity to turn pallets of virtual scrap stone from the stone yards into whatever fanciful notion that would enter my mind.
Quite aside from limestone’s impressive carving credentials however, I am equally impressed by the subtle ‘weathering process’, whereby the still raw and freshly scarred ancient stone is gradually imbued with a rustic rusty patina that time only seems to improve.
I’ve heard all sorts of rubbish spoken of limestone, and practically all of it is uninformed hearsay. For with so very many limestones freely available for purchase upon the open market, and with so many limestones reflecting so very many varied attributes, the question should be: not why did it fail? But who was responsible for choosing the wrong limestone for the job?
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And now, here’s a little slideshow, below.
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Thanks for scrolling my Ode to Limestone
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