Can you help me learn more about the purpose of these stone slabs?
March 1, 2020 12:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to learn more about how these stone slabs were made and what their purpose may have been. Location: New England. Estimated date of creation: Unknown but guessing 1800-1900. Any ideas?

In the photos these slabs of stone are being used as part of a stone wall, however these particular ones have been re-purposed (this is a relatively new wall) and therefore I'm not sure that was their original use.

I have seen similar slabs elsewhere in my neck of the woods (outside of Boston, Mass), often in the ruins of old farms without much context. My guess would be stone steps or as "building blocks" for stone houses/foundation?

But in particular I'm curious about the grooves in the stone and whether that was an artifact of the manufacturing process or if there was a purpose to having them.
posted by jeremias to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The grooves are where they drilled in to the stone to split it. Granite tends to shear. They were used for foundations. The ones you show are typical of the granite curbing used in Portland, ME, where concrete is uncommon and granite lasts through lots of winters.
posted by theora55 at 12:33 PM on March 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

I agree with the above, and suggest that the repurposing in this way was to deter skateboarders.

If you find yourself driving through a mountain pass that was cut and blasted through by the builders of the road, it's not uncommon to see long straight grooves on the rockface above you where stone protrusions above the road were sheared away using this method of splitting.

The same sort of holes are also drilled for the blasting method, but of course the explosives don't leave such clean lines behind.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:58 PM on March 1, 2020

Best answer: "Plug and feather" is the rock-splitting technique. You can see a video of it being done small-scale on This Old House. They'd definitely be used for foundations of older New England homes and then sometimes as walls or other stuff if a barn burned down or was rebuilt another way.
posted by jessamyn at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

We call that technique of stone cutting "feathers and wedges" around here. It is just as everyone said. I've done it myself a few times.
posted by Hobgoblin at 9:54 AM on March 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is possibly a real derail, but I visited the quarry in Aswan in Upper Egypt and they used to drill holes like perforations and then insert rods of wood and get the wood wet, so it'd expand and pop the rock apart the same way. This is cool.
posted by lauranesson at 2:48 PM on March 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

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