By Peter Mynard Stonemasonry Diploma Level 2 Student
On our first day at Exeter, after our site induction, we were taken up the scaffolding by Joe the apprentice in order to show us the work they were currently working on the cathedral. Joe pointed out various sections of stone work needing to be replaced or repaired whilst explaining how they were going to do the restorations. Following the scaffolding tour we then went inside the roof of the cathedral on top of all the vaulting, which was really awesome to see parts of the cathedral the public won’t normally get to see, getting a proper close up view of the structure of the Cathedral.
After lunch we joined a tour group inside the cathedral where we learned a bit about the buildings exiting history, whilst admiring the impressive stonework and vaulted ceiling which is the longest uninterrupted medieval vaulted ceiling in the world!
Following the tour we were shown the stones we would be working on for the rest of the week, James was put to work on an ashlar out of Solcum stone, and I (Peter) was to rough out a finial from a piece of Dolton stone. We were both incredibly excited and nervous at the same time as these stones would be used on the cathedral. First I had to cut the stone down with a saw, I was rather worried about this as I had only used a stone saw once to date but the stonemasons were more than happy to give us advice and guidance and it went without a hitch.
We then started working the faces flat, finding the stones very different to the bath and Portland we use in college, the Solcum was particularly interesting as it varied between hard and soft, which made cutting the stone more challenging than a more consistent stone.
One I had all my faces flat I got to start working the curved moulding on one of the faces, it was suggested I work the bottom first as it would be more stable than if I worked the other way round.
Before we knew it the week was over and we had to head home, feeling we had both grown as masons in such a short time and are now taking to our College work with renewed enthusiasm!