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Finding the perfect mix!
The first phase of the scaffolding is now complete and the stonemasons are now making great progress in the repointing and re-setting of the weathering layers and coping stones at the triforium level. A wonderful insight into the workings of heritage stonemasonry was seen when the team produced five different mortar mixes prior to starting the works. Each mix is like a slightly different recipe with one of the key differences being the proportions of different gauge sand particles. Each mortar mix is prepared to suit the type of stone, age of stone and location of the mortar…so this mortar mix is created specifically for the nave of Hexham Abbey! The stonemasons prepared five mixes and let them dry before inspecting them on site at high level. They then selected the three best matches and filled some of the open joints to see how the mortar mix applied and how it looked in place. This was then reviewed by the architect and the lead stonemason. Now selected and approved this is the recipe the stonemasons will use through the repoint and re-setting works.
One of the lovely things we discovered when we started to assess the stonework and actually began to move some of the stones, was a mason mark on the side of the stone from the original stonemason. (One of the images at the top of this page) This is a tradition that goes back through the ages. All stonemasons have their own mark which they inscribe (normally on an unseen side) of the stones on which they work, a bit like a signature. The Hexham Abbey conservation team are plotting the mason marks on the loose stones they have discovered in and around the Abbey to piece together elements of the tracery from the former Easter Chapels. This tradition continues to this day, and our stonemasons, Matthias Garn + Partner, bear their 'marks' on their work clothes as well as on the stones they work.