Known as ‘staddle’ stones, the granite foundation stones will raise the drop slab hut clear of the ground, enable air circulation and termite resistance, while offering the clearance that allows the hut to be moved around the ImLal plantation. Flecked grey-white, the staddle stones will have a solidity and natural beauty.
Lachie sourced the granite from a small quarry on the flank of Mt Alexander owned by father and son team, Vin and Brent Oliver. Harcourt granite, as it’s named from the local area, formed the base of many of Melbourne’s grandest buildings in the 19th century. Famously, the structural slabs on which the Sydney Harbour Bridge sits are Harcourt granite.
Structural bases are these days made of concrete, the most widely used building material in the world., estimated at an average of two tonnes for every man, woman and child on Earth. A processed product, concrete not only consumes energy, but as Vin, a third generation stonemason, remarks, it’s not made for the ages like the polished tombstones he creates, rather “concrete crumbles.”
Most granite these days is blown to smithereens for road construction or as a filler, Vin said. In the old days, five tonnes was the limit a horse-drawn wagon could carry. Now, the smallest slabs of granite start around nine tonnes.
Vin demonstrated the traditional way of cutting a slab of rock. He drilled a line of holes, seeded each with two metal ‘feathers,’ hammered in wedges between the feathers, then prised the rock apart with a crow bar along the fault line that sprang up between the wedge-holes. Physical labour is the major energy input when deploying the slow, old way to split stone. Not only does it respect the rock, but the end product is a natural thing of beauty.
And, unlike a concrete base, the staddle stones will rise out of the earth, not smother it.