True Arches part I



time after time when I visit the beach, I build corbel arches – arches where the stones simply edge out from one another slowly towards the center; I’ve always been envious of the people out there building true arches.

on the right, a true arch. on the left, a corbel arch. without mortar, the corbel arch (when built without support) cannot sustain stability beyond slightly less than a 45 degree angle, assuming perfectly interlocking elements.

I decided to bite the bullet and try to make a true compression arch last time I went to the beach. the results were alright. I used two large elements as an interior scaffolding just to be sure that it wouldn’t fall as I built it, and so that I could have a uniform shape.

I made sure to get a small set of photos before I removed the interior blocks, as I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to hold up. removing the supports was harrowing. because I work with rounded elements, someone loosely stacked in comparison to a true mason’s work, there is a fair amount of shifting that can take place whenever an element is re-positioned or excised. the little grating, popping, and tapping sounds as stones move across one another to find a new equilibrium strikes fear into my heart every time. sometimes the sounds just get louder and louder, and the whole stack comes crashing down. this time, I got lucky and the whole thing stayed right where it was.

as I recently noted, I am having trouble with the fact that every time I do a quick stack, I can take decent photos after because my arms aren’t tired, but after great work, my hands are shaky as hell and I can’t take a decent shot to save my life. I don’t have money for a tripod right now, but I will be looking out for one at second hand stores and the like. someone recently mentioned they’d like to see time-lapse imagery or sped-up video of my construction process – this could be a lot of fun, too, but once again, my income isn’t flexible enough to buy a video camera. maybe later.

part two of this stack coming soon!

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