Lessons in Granite


A reader asked if I had considered blasting the site level instead of building on an incline.

“Of course I had considered it!  Hell, that would have been fun!”

But the government wouldn’t sell me explosives so that made it a bit more difficult to plan – though, not impossible.  After all, if terrorists can get explosives, so can I!  But Sal kiboshed that idea, too. “I will not have you negotiating on the black market for explosives, you fool!”

And, truth be told: I am alive today as a testament to her good sense (the fact that she is still here with me, however, is a testament to the limits of her good sense).

Altering the granite terrain in other ways also crossed my mind.  And so I made some inquiries.  I could make my own explosives like the Amish do.  You mix some sort of ammonia and iodine into small BB-sized crystals and place them and then run like Hell….or something………my source in Virginia was not overly precise on the matter.  “That’s how we kill rats!  We soak these chemicals in crystals and then let the crystals dry.  When they are very dry, we pick up each one and place them on paths that we know the rats use.  The crystals act like little land mines.  Blows them suckers to Hell and back!”

And you thought the Amish were nice……..!?

Then there is the ‘expanding goo’ method.  First you buy a bag of powder from China.  I think it is called Golden Expanding Imperial Dragon Goo or something.  Mix the powder with water and make a slurry.  Pour the slurry into pre-drilled holes drilled along a line on the rock you want to crack.  Then leave it.  Come back after a time.  The slurry dries, expands and, like ice, breaks the rock along the desired line.  Brilliant!

So, I got some.  Did it.  And left it for awhile.  Two weeks later, it still hadn’t cracked.  And so I abandoned the idea.  A month or so later I was walking past the ‘experimental crack’ line and, sure enough, it had worked!  But, as marvelous as it is, my attention span is barely long enough to finish dinner (I never have dessert) and waiting two months to crack rock is just too slow.

Plus, there is no big bang.  I mean, really. Where’s the fun part?

Then there is the feather-and-wedges technique.  Again: you drill holes along the desired crack-line and push two special ‘feather’s of metal into the hole.  The feathers are like half-rods.  Then, placing the wedge in between the two feather/rods, you hammer it down about an inch.  Do that equally all along the row of holes (which requires at least ten sets of feathers and wedges) and leave it.  Then the next day, do it again.  Maybe a few times.  After awhile, the force of the wedge drives the feathers apart enough that the rock cracks.  Brilliant.  But slow.  And the holes have to be perfectly placed.

And, well, I didn’t do it right and got frustrated.  So, I put my feathers and wedges in a pouch and left them to rot in the tool box (don’t worry, they were not lonely.  I have a section of the toolbox for unloved tools and they lay amongst many.)

A month or so later, I was mentioning my ineffectual feather-and-wedges idea to the 5-foot-nothing woman who ran the store.  “Oh, gee!  I’ve been looking for a set.  Got some rock work to do.  Can I borrow them?”

“No!  You can have them.  They don’t work.  Drive you nuts, they will!  I’ll bring them up next week.”

Four or so months later, one of my neighbours said, “Have you seen the road that T built?  Amazing!  The woman built a road of granite bricks she carved out of the rock and laid down without mortar to make a roadway about eight feet wide and fifty feet long!  And she is still at it.  Now she is making stone walls!”

I went to see it.  It was flatter, smoother and better founded than the old Roman roads I had seen in Europe!  The woman was like John Henry (a steel-drivin’ man) and she made roads and walls!  All with a small sledge and MY feathers and wedges!!!

I avoided the store after that.  Too humiliating.

No, I do not have a set of feathers and wedges you can borrow!

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