stacking in the snow – counterbalance


I was fairly busy and without a car over much of winter break, so I didn’t make it to the beach often. however, one day when it was snowing, a car was at my disposal, and I figured I had to get at least ONE trip into my january relaxation period.

stacking in the snow is a matter of some difficulty.

problem 1: everything was covered in snow. stacking is like putting together a 3d puzzle – as I place each stone, I become aware of new gaps that must be filled in order to do three things: create balance, interweave structure, and form space for the next layer. without the snow, I can take in my surroundings nearly unthinkingly and pick stones that will perform effortlessly; I actually let my eyes unfocus when looking for new stones and let my unconscious do the work. however, with a layer of snow, I have no idea where usable materials lie.

problem two: there was packed snow stuck to each piece I picked up, as a result of me grabbing them. I was able to scrape most of it off with a wipe of the glove, but there was often a thin layer of ice resulting from the snow melting as I touched it, then freezing as I put it down. as I continually moved the stones to position them, heat was transferred through the column, melting these little layers. an eighth of an inch of extra room is enough to make a snugly fitted, well placed element into a loose stone that no longer supports the lines of force coming from above. I suspect this problem led to four of the collapses I suffered while working.

problem three: the ground beneath my feet was slippery, and caused me to fall against the pile a few times while placing larger elements and the wood beam. this was especially an issue when trying to slide the beam forward after adding counterweights in the back. the live load applied while moving elements laterally is terrible for a drystack column, and when you add me fumbling around and skidding across the very stones that are supporting the base, collapses are bound to happen. this problem accounted for five failures.

surprisingly, none of the stones were frozen together, so that wasn’t an issue at all. the cold was somewhat annoying to me ears, but nothing else. my photos didn’t come out great because I forgot that there would be condensation on the lens, but hey – it’s not a huge deal to me.

mostly a satisfying day. I loved feeling the snow fall onto me as I worked, and the rumble of the waves over the churning stones was as beautiful as ever. I can’t wait to get back to the ocean; more and more, I understand that I feel torn living without it.

2 thoughts on “stacking in the snow – counterbalance

  1. How did you chose the direction of the timber? Was it found at the site? Why the difference of smaller stones at the top? Could we call this a diagram? Lol. It’s great to see your work in the snow and the comfort it brings you. Thank you for sharing.
    Few should get you out here for build input. When does school start for you?

    • everything is site-found, otherwise for me, there is no purpose.
      the timber points towards the water to increase the drama of the cantilever – because the ground drops off along the longer side of the beam, it looks more precarious.
      the counterweight pile is shaped the way it is merely because of the process of placing them, moving the timber forward, then placing more, is far less dangerous when the rocks are stacked conically – less chance of slippage at the edges. if I had had more time, strength, and warmer hands, I probably would have designed it differently.
      most of my stuff is diagrammatic of gravity and friction, I rarely “decorate.”
      I’m going into my second week of my last semester, and let me tell you, I’m scared witless. we’ll see what happens. how’re things on your end?

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