Stonemasonry in 30 objects
Week 13/30: Ball finials – an iconic shape in stonemasonry
Learning to cut this shape represents a rite of passage for any stonemason apprentice in their final year and at AF Jones we ensure that this skill remains available in our workshop alongside the precision cutting option.
A skilled, trained stonemasonry team can improve efficiency as well as create the higher quality finishes typical of a motivated and committed craftsman and across the industry it remains vital to continue to take on apprentices alongside experienced masons. At any one time, AF Jones has between 1-3 apprentices, with all our masons becoming fully trained to NVQ 2 and NVQ 3 standards.
Cutting a ball finial by hand is a skill to aspire to, takes time to master and has long been considered the domain of a skilled stonemason. Even today, when CNC saws can cut a sphere in a fraction of the time, the results still need finishing by a mason who will smooth out the saw marks and remove edges where the saw can’t reach with the same precision as a mason.
There are two well-known techniques for cutting spheres and ball finials:
The first is to cut facets from the blank block, gradually drawing the shape out and cutting smaller and smaller facets until a sphere is achieved.
The second is with a reverse template. One of our banker mason apprentices, Tiger, is pictured here using a zinc reverse to cut curved drafts into the blank, gradually forming the spherical ball of the finial: the latest in a long line of apprentices at AF Jones to successfully complete this challenging job.
This is week 13/30 posts in this series. The full series can be found on our LinkedIn profile – or use #stonemasonry30