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SMART STUFF #12 - 2012 | VOLUME 8 | DECEMBER 2012 | < Previous | Next >



Splitting rocks with wedge and shims

Splitting rocks with wedge and shims.
Our latest post was about knives, tools that mankind has used in some form or other for at least two and a half million years. This time we'll highlight another tool, not as old since it emerged during the Iron Age, but one that has been used at least since the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids some time around 2,000 years BC. And, just like the knife, wedges and shims are still used today basically un-changed in spite of some 4,000 years of progress. Here's a Christmas gift for the dad who already "has everything".

During the past few days we've had to handle a bunch of large stones too heavy to lift and carry away using muscle power alone. The stones were also located in such a place that we couldn't use of any kind of heavy machinery. Blasting with explosives was also not an option. The solution was of course to split the stones into smaller bits to make them light enough to carry. We started by drilling holes in a couple of the stones and poured betonamite into the holes. Betonamite is mixed from a powder and looks and pours like loose cement when ready. It expands inside the drill-hole and is supposed to crack the stone as it dries. It takes a couple of days to work and it requires a warm environment, so the results we got were not the best. We also had to drill up to four holes in the stones depending on the size of each stone. The betonamite is not exactly cheap, either, here in Sweden it's around SEK 100,00 a kilo (approx. USD 7,00 per pound).

With modern tech not living up to expectations, we consulted our neighbor across the street who suggested we use wedges and shims. He even had a few of them lying about (picture of one of them above) and let us use them together with a suitable smallish sledge hammer. We drilled into another stone and applied the wedge and shims, greased as instructed. A few blows with the hammer and voilà, the rock split and the resulting bits could be carried away.

Our conclusion is that the wedges and shims, at least in this case, were both easier, more effective, more environmentally friendly and cheaper to use than the betonamite. The wedges needed fewer and narrower holes and which means faster and easier drilling, a fact not to be overlooked when drilling in stone. With the wedges we didn't have to wait for 24-36 hours before we could see a result or a failure. For the SEK 500 that 5 kilos of betonamite cost us, we could have bought three 20 mm wedges that would last a lifetime and then some. What's left is to rent a powerful drill from some rent-a-tool place and you would have needed one of those anyway. Here's a short YouTube clip that shows how the wedges work.

11 december 2012








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