Friday, May 23, 2014

Flagstones Down, Ready to Tuck

The rough layout is done, just in time because we have company coming this weekend, and I need to dog and pony them.

I used two different approaches to the layout. The upper deck has an exposed front and side, so it has the thickest stones. Very heavy. I put the biggest ones around the perimeter, then filled in with smaller ones.

The lower deck is curved on a steep bank, though I cannot get my camera to show it. (Why is that?) Because of the surface curve, this deck uses the thinner and smaller stones. I have no idea what effect gravity, rain and time will have on these curves. Right now I'm hot and I don't care.

In the past I've always just swept sand into the cracks between the stones, but on this project I will mix up some sand and cement and get down on my hands and knees and grout the entire thing using a process called tucking. I'm sure I'll think of another name for it before I'm through.

More later.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Flagstone Sandwich

Several of the patio stones are fat and layered like peanut butter sandwiches, such that if you strike one of the them just so with a chisel, the stones will split apart perfectly, like two pieces of bread. Or sometimes the smaller ones just split open if you drop them. It's easy to spot the splitters because there's a dark seam (like peanut butter) along the edge.

The biggest stone of all was one of these splitters, and I was torn about whether to split it or leave it alone. Torn, that is, until I tried to pick it up. Much too heavy for the cart. So I wrestled it to the edge of the pallet and just let it drop onto its edge. The I took my axe, placed it on the peanut butter line and gave it a tap (a smack) with my mini sledge hammer (my favorite tool of all time).

The axe blade sank into the peanut butter a few inches, and I could hear the ancient layers begin to strain and groan and separate. Another tap. But the stone is so big that getting it to split without shattering to pieces would be a miracle. Deep breath, another tap and the seam split open, but one side fared better than the other.

In the photo below, the big stone in the circled in red is the brother and the one below, circled in yellow, is his broken twin sister. The breaks in the bottom stone are OK because they make for neat and even grout lines. But I failed the sister, and I am ashamed for it.

Also, I've finished up the fa├žade for the upper deck. This will make more sense when the top layer of stone is down.

My project leader, Jam, was on hand to supervise. Moments after this photo was taken, he rolled in the dust and was covered in black. Knucklehead.

Friday, May 9, 2014

On Not Breaking Stones

This shipment of stone had some unusually large pieces, several of them wider than the pathway I'm making. Many are outrageously heavy and unwieldy. I'm tempted to smack the big ones with my sweet mini sledgehammer and crack them into smaller pieces. But I just don't have the heart.

I know the stones don't have any awareness or feelings. They don't elicit the sort of compassion or sympathy that living things do. They don't have memories, but if they did the memories would be of a long, cold, dark winter at the bottom of an ancient sea bed. The stones are just very old, and I like them. Being old is cool.

It's slow going--a big jig-saw puzzle with no matching pieces. I found a likely spot for one of the big ones, and I wheeled it into place. I had to adjust the crushed limestone and hope for the best because there would be no scooting around after the piece is down.

I let it go and it fell into place with a thud that shook the entire neighborhood, if not all of Clearwater. Lucky for me that it landed in just the right place, nice and snug.

And later I found a spot for an even heavier one. The stones are all different thickness, and this one is a real fatty. I once owned a Fiat that weighed less, maybe.

It's not done, but the dogs have already decided that the path is very good for zoomies.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Almost A Mayan Road

When Cheryl and I were visiting Mayan temples in the Yucatan, we walked along an ancient Mayan road made from crushed limestone, ingenious because the stuff almost glows in the moon light, and this allowed the Mayans to travel and work at night. The Yucatan in summer can be wicked hot. They used huge stone wheels (we saw one) to compress the limestone into a solid road.

Crushed limestone is often used today under stone patios and walkways to keep the stone steady over time. It doesn't tend to wash away like sand. So when I ordered the four tons of stone, I also ordered crushed limestone. "How much limestone?" the guy asked me with a little smile.

To get ready I put down the path borders--these won't be visible after the stone is set. Then, the tedious part, I dug out the trench for the entire 40 feet. There's no turning back now because the sides are sandy and unstable.

I took a heavy hand tamper and pounded the earth back firm--don't ask me why this is so much fun. Then into the trench goes a fabric liner to keep the plants (those insidious cherry laurels) from poking up through the stones in the future.

Then I began to shovel in the crushed limestone. Here's a picture at dusk that shows why the Mayans could travel at night. Too bad I have to cover it up--it's really cute. Unfortunately, the dogs desperately want to defile this area, and I don't have a steam roller in the garage. It would take something really heavy to compress this into a solid surface. But I will give it a good tamping and then cover it with stone.

Anyway, I told the stone guy what I was doing and allowed him to use his discretion on the limestone. The delivery truck arrived with six tons of it, enough (it seems) to build a road to the beach.

It was a long day of work, and like usual I pulled Cheryl outside to show off. She smiled and said, not in an unkind way, "I thought it would be bigger."

I love her.