by Natrieifia Miller

Jolly Rovers: Reading the Rock and More Tips on Hammer Use

In this video from the Jolly Rover’s 2015 stoneworking workshop at Wilderness Skills Institute, they cover tips and tricks for properly using rifting hammers, sledge hammers, stone busters, chisels, and hand points as well as what it means to “read the rock.”

Key Points

Equal or lesser weight: When striking another hammer to divide a rock make sure the one striking is less than or equal to the weight of the one being struck. This protects the bottom hammer from breaking.

Communication: When scoring lines in stone to break them apart the person holding the hammer against the rock controls the pace. They should communicate to the partner when their hammer is “set” and ready for their partner to hit it.

Rotate with Partner: When scoring to break a rock, or any other multi-person activity, be sure to switch with your partner every once in awhile. It prevents heavy fatigue from setting in which can decrease attentiveness and accuracy of hammer swings, leading to accidents.

Wear Gloves: Always wear gloves when handling any tool. But when handling hammers they can have an added benefit of absorbing some of the shock.

Test Tap: Test taps are important because they help better stabilize the tool flush against the stone’s surface, which reduces the chance of it slipping after being struck which can lead to scraped knuckles or worse.

Full Contact: When using a chisel or handpoint always make sure the end with the carbide tip has full contact with the stone. If not the tip could break off and ruin the tool.

Reading the Rock: The technique of looking at a rock to see how it wants to shape. This involves noting what type of rock you’re working with, sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic. Metamorphic and igneous rocks are more versatile to work with when it comes to shaping them in multiple ways. You want to look for flat surfaces, and in the general case of metamorphic rock, you can easily split it parallel or at a right angle to that flat surface. But it’s important to look for abnormal planes of weakness/cleavage lines within the rock you are splitting.

Previous Jolly Rovers Spotlights:
Pick Mattock safety tips
Stone Busters and Hammers
Rock Work Techniques