What is a Stonemason?
Stonemasons are highly skilled craftsmen who specialise in working with natural stone, such as granite and marble. Stonemasonry is a career that was traditionally handed down through generations from father to son, requiring the mastering of a unique skill set.
Before there was machinery and modern technology, stonemasonry was an essential vocation relied upon for the construction of many valuable and famous buildings and monuments.
If we consider some of the worlds most important structures – bridges, castles, churches and cathedrals – stonemasons were likely responsible for constructing them. Intricate and ornate details were painstakingly carved by hand, and the heavy components manually lifted into place.
Although stonemasonry has evolved somewhat and now utilises some high tech machinery to complete tasks more efficiently, precision, attention to detail, and passion for the craft see stonemasons respected worldwide.
Stonemasonry in Australia
In Australia, stonemasons generally work under two umbrellas – construction stonemason and monumental stonemason. Both types of stonemason have a physically challenging role that creates outstanding buildings and monuments that stand the test of time.
A stonemason who works in the construction industry is involved in creating foundations, walls, bridges and other structures for which natural mediums such as granite and marble are used. Their work can include planning the builds and installation, using mortar to seal foundations and combine components, cutting, shaping and polishing stones and bricks and more.
Today, this work is usually completed using machinery to assist with the positioning and cutting the heavy blocks of stone. Working at heights is another aspect of construction masonry and working with a crane is quite common too.
A construction stonemason can often be engaged in renovations such as kitchen and bathroom features made from marble and stone. They also fix stone facades to buildings and work with floor tiles and stone pavings too.
What is a monumental stonemason? Although monumental stonemasons do frequently complete larger works such as artworks, sculptures and restoration of culturally important structures, most of their work is focused on monuments.
Monumental masons have close relationships with cemeteries and crematoriums as they work to create beautifully finished memorials.
A day in the life of a Brisbane monumental stonemason may involve working in the factory to cut, polish, and shape raw materials and precision work engraving inscriptions (such as raised natural inscriptions). They may also be required onsite at cemeteries and venues where they facilitate the installation of finished works and maintenance and restoration of existing works.
Much of a monumental stonemason’s work involves using time-honoured techniques that haven’t changed for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. Today, they are assisted by machinery such as cranes to lift heavy pieces (like this Celtic Cross) into place and electric grinders and saws in the factory.
Monumental stonemasons are entrusted with creating pieces that will stand the test of time for families to remember loved ones for many generations to come. A skilled monumental stonemason can assist you in planning the perfect memorial that is not only personalised and appropriate but an outstanding and meticulously finished piece of art too.
Several different techniques are utilised for engraving inscriptions, creating plaques, and finalising the details for vaults, double monument graves, single monument graves, and chapels. It is only with many years of experience that a skilled stonemason can advise on the best techniques to use appropriate to the material choice (such as granite, marble, or sandstone).
How Do I Become a Stonemason?
Some stonemasons are fortunate to be employed in Australia without any formal qualifications. Usually, this happens when the skills are passed down through family members and learned “on the job”.
Alternatively, some stonemasons can secure a position as an apprentice and complete a Certificate III in Stonemasonry.
If you’d like to learn more about the career prospects and pathways to becoming a stonemason, visit the Australian Government Job Outlook website.
T. Wrafter & Sons Monumental Stonemasons
Asking the question, “what is a stonemason?” can result in several different answers depending on where you are employed.
At T. Wrafter & Sons, many tasks are still completed by hand in the traditional way, and unlike many others in Brisbane, we work on raw materials that have not been cut, polished or shaped before importing.
Today it is common practice to import components that have been pre-cut and polished, and sometimes even pre-assembled. T. Wrafter & Sons has two purpose-built factories where we do all of this work ourselves. This is almost unheard of in the industry today and something we are very proud of!
Our preference is to work with Australian raw materials such as Australian Imperial Granite. You won’t find imported Chinese composites or replica stones amongst our offerings.
Although we have modern processes and technologies in our factories – including an in house water reticulation system to protect our staff from the perils of silicosis – we still use hand tools and traditional techniques wherever possible.
The legacy built by the founders of T. Wrafter & Sons in the late 1800s has ensured that the proud tradition of stonemasonry continues to live today.