Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Feathers and Wedges

We all know what feathers are – they cover the skin of birds; as for wedges, those are used to split firewood. OK, but what on earth do they have to do with each other – if anything?

We’re not going to talk about birds’ feathers or splitting a winter fuel supply. Here we’re going to talk about the things also known as plugs and wedges, wedges and shims and pins and feathers. Confused now?

Feathers and wedges are ancient tools (still available from a number of dealers) used to split stone.

Ancient they may be, but they’re still one of the easiest and simplest way to shape stone. They were used to shape the stone used in Europe’s cathedrals, to cut the flagstone for American city sidewalks and in the production of millions of gravestones in cemeteries.

To cut stone using feathers and wedges the first step is to drill a series of holes about six inches apart in a straight line. In olden times a star drill and hammer were used to drill the holes, now a powered drill is used. Following that, two feathers and a wedge are inserted in each hole.

Once all the feathers and wedges are in place they are gently struck with a hammer, one after another and the process repeated until the stone splits (the beginning of the split can be seen in the photo above).

Stones cut by feathers and wedges often show the telltale holes drilled in the process as seen in some of the stones in this bridge abutment –

In the Big Woods there’s a large boulder which someone tried to split with feathers and wedges, someone who apparently had heard about the technique but didn’t know enough. The drilled holes were too far apart to produce a straight cut.

And, because the holes are too far apart to effectively split the stone or even split it at all, several sets of feathers and wedges are stuck in the holes and have been there for many decades.

These tools and their use have been handed down through the ages and are still very effective – when they’re used correctly.


Rajani Rehana said...

Beautiful blog

Marcia said...

I learned something. Now I understand the half holes I see in dressed stones.

Sharon Wagner said...

I don't see any critters, but I do see hard work! Happy Holidays from Sharon's Souvenirs.

The Furry Gnome said...

Fascinating! I learned something new.