Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The height of paving excellence

I'm overwhelmed by the response there's been to this project. It's immensely reassuring to hear from other tradesmen, streetmasons and other crafts alike, expressing their admiration for what we're doing with this project in leafy Knutsford.

And so to show how much those supportive messages, and the requests for more piccies are appreciated, we sent Cookie from The Original Stone Paving Company, all umpteen stone of him, up onto the very top of the roof with a Box Brownie to get some photies of the now complete guilloche from on high.

The circular paving is almost complete - in fact, it probably is complete given that I left the site before 2pm - and Cookie reckons he'll start laying the Fan pattern to the main driveway tomorrow.

The other development since the weekend is the panels for trialling the jointing material. Basically, a 1m x 3m panel of the reclaimed setts has been jointed using three different colours of resin bound mortar, allowing the client who wouldn't be overly familiar with this type of product to choose which he prefers. I went for the darkest option, as did Cookie, and most of the lads working with him. The client's sister also preferred the darkest colour, so it was a cast-iron inevitability that the client would choose the lightest of the three! We'll see......!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


You can't beat a bit of guilloche

Latest update from the job in Knutsford (see post below):

Due to Cookie's forthcoming nuptials and the associated revelry that tradition dictates must take place beforehand, himself and Sean turned in this weekend to complete the laying of the intricate guilloche in the centre of the driveway, with me watching on and trying not to hinder them too much.

As mentioned previously, the centre of the feature is a 5m diameter silver-grey granite circle custom-cut and supplied by McMonagle Stone in Ireland (even when haulage is added on, they are considerably cheaper than any of the UK suppliers). The outer bands are dark basalt setts originally from North Wales but salvaged from a disused tram shed in a neighbouring town. The guilloche itself has been formed using the sandstone setts salvaged from the original driveway, and the whole is surrounded by a double course of silvery "Tan Tops", a Cornish granite sourced from a reclamation yard. The infill pieces are a silver Egyptian granite used to give us additional contrast.

The sandstone setts look slightly green because it rained while the paving was being laid and the moisture highlighted the residual algae, which will come off when the whole pavement is cleaned prior to jointing. The sandstone itself is definitely pennine and I was fairly certain it was the Kerridge stone from near Macclesfiled, which is just 10 or so miles down the road, but there are definite blue and grey tones evident when the stone is cut to form those double taper-cut wedge shapes and this makes me wonder whether they might actually hail from further north, possible the Rossendale Valley.

So: the photo above was the scene late on Saturday afternoon with Cookie in the foreground laying the sandstone setts and Sean just behind him fettling some of the Egyptian granite. In a frenetic nine-hour shift, with just an hour for a barbecue lunch kindly provided by the client, just over half of the guilloche was completed.

..and this is how it stood when I had to leave the site at 1:30pm on Sunday (today). All of the sandstone setts are laid and Sean is fitting the Egyptian granite infill pieces. There's perhaps another 90 minutes work to complete the feature but even at this stage, and with the surface still being slightly damp, it's possible to see just what a fabulous feature this has become, thanks to a meticulous design and some excellent laying from The Original Stone Paving Company.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Making a silk purse from a sow's ear

Back in February, I was asked to take a look at a job in Knutsford, a wealthy Cheshire town about 15 miles from Manchester, and probably better known as the real-life "Cranford" of telly fame. One of the residents had been talked into allowing a right bunch of chancers lay sett paving to his home, and he suspected they didn't quite know what they were doing. This is what I found when I went out there....

...not what you might call quality work, and to make matters worse, the paving had been laid to a level that was 150mm ABOVE the damp proof course!

The householder was distraught, to put it mildly. He'd spent tens of thousands of pounds on providing materials and paying these clowns for work that, in his heart, he knew wasn't right, but like so many other homeowners, he believed the "contractor" when they said that it would all look great when it was finished and cleaned up and could he let them have another couple of grand for wages...

My advice was to part company (I didn't use quite those words) with this alleged contractor, and I'd put him in touch with two or three genuinely skilled and experienced sett layers who would be able to salvage something from the disaster that was now despoiling his home. It's no exaggeration to say that he was close to tears at the stress and financial cost he'd borne for over three months while the eejits managed to ruin a little over 150m² of sett paving.

He asked me to design a new driveway, and to get prices from genuine contractors to rip up what had been laid, and re-lay to a professional standard and with a bit of flair. After a long discussion about what he liked, and what he felt suited the property, I came up with a layout that he immediately loved. Based on a stunning circular guilloche feature centred on the front doors of the property, the Mark II driveway would use a circle layout for the frontage and a fan pattern for the driveway.

For those of you not sure about what a guilloche might be, it's the swirly figure-of-eight layout in this drawing taken from the site plan I drew...

Obviously, good sett layers are few and far between, but we put the job out to tender and the job was eventually awarded to Cookie and his crew from The Original Stone Paving Company from Wrexham. They started work just after Easter and the first task was to get rid of the pig's ear that the original gang still believed to be a good job.

Three weeks into the job and all the old crap has gone. The ground level has been reduced so that the paving will be at least 150mm below DPC; the drains have been checked and cleaned of all the muck that had been allowed to fall into uncovered manholes by the previous crew, and sett laying has started in earnest.

The central flagstones for the guilloche feature were custom cut for this job by McMonagle Stone to create the exact diameter required, and they also provided the smaller 'dots' around which the setts will revolve. Now we're beginning to see the project take shape, so here's the first of what will, hopefully, be a series of photies following the job as it progresses.

Jobs like this don't come along very often, and it's a real treat to be involved in a project that will restore a property to its true former glory, using original materials as far as possible, and celebrating the skills of a genuine streetmason.

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