The saga of the rebuilding of my fountain begins and ends with Carter. The man with that short scruff of a white beard, the navy shirt, vest, and cap-that’s Carter. A combination of considerable brains, even more experience, patience and exacting craftsmanship-he and his crew have been my pleasure to observe for the last three days. They tore my leaking fountain apart, and rebuilt its foundation some three weeks ago. The stone for the coping had not been delivered two days when he picked it up; time to finish.
For pools and fountain stone, I specify a stone native to and quarried in Wisconsin. This particular limestone is dense, and has few pores. Indiana limestone is so porous, that pool copings and decks absorb too much water-a perfect medium for moss and algae. Though I would as soon look at moss as anything nature provides, I do not want to walk on it around a pool-too slippery. This stone is as dense and smooth surfaced as marble-and weathers my climate without a problem.
Buck did CAD-computer assisted design-drawings for the quarry-each piece was cut to his exact specification and dimension. Communication is the art of life, a client once told me. I could tell Carter thought it was very cool that he did not need to cut or otherwise modify any piece of stone. I do not think I have ever seen a crew of four measure and remeasure like Carter’s group did; when a piece of stone was laid, it was laid in the right spot.
Each slab needed to be set in precisely the right location. OK, once located, each slab needed to be set exactly level. Watching Carter level a piece of stone is exactly like watching paint dry. Each piece took an incredibly long time. My eyes were crossing, and I thought I might black out-watching him tinker and tap.
He has a tool-a gizmo-that helps him determine if a slab is set level. The laser level-I could tell by looking at its battered casing that he uses it non stop. But make no mistake-I could see him using, and trusting his eye. I am very interested in the history and practice of fine craftsmanship. I have been watching the real deal, in my own back yard, for three solid days.
The Wisconsin limestone is so dense, Carter directed that each piece be buttered with thinset mortar before he placed it in the mortar bed. The mortar bed was levelled and relevelled. Think of the foundation, and finish stone as a cookie-the thinset, and the bulk mortar-the creme filling. Unlike a sandwich cookie, the filling needs to grip both the foundation and the stone, and stay stubbornly stable in spite of stresses from up above, and underneath.
A client remarked recently that small spaces need to be designed just so-there is little margin for error. Any mistake in the layout or execution is all the more obvious in a small space. I did have occasion once to deal with a pool that had been dug, and shot with gunite-out of square. Needless to say, the pool coping stone, and its pattern had to be modified. Luckily, the pool terrace stone could be modified and recut in such a way that makes this mistake almost imperceptible.
Last night at 7 they finished the last of the mortaring of all the stone joints. I will need to wait 5 or 6 days before I can repaint the pool interior; all the work needs time to cure. I should have running water in no time.