The James River Park System - Richmond, VA

7 of 10 • start over

South Geology Tour

Stop 7d: Cutting Stones

Digging Deeper

It took three men to create a single hole -- one to stabilize a drill bit with tongs and two to take turns hitting it with sledgehammers. The drill was an iron rod with a ‘+’ at the end of the tip. It was twisted slightly after each blow to pulverize the rock beneath until a hole 10-15 cm deep (about the length of an iPhone) was cut.

Holes were made in straight lines, often following existing surface cracks in the rocks.

Rock was split along these lines by hammering  an iron wedge into each hole. Look carefully and you can find remnants still in the rock.

The pressure had to be distributed evenly along the line for a straight split. To adjust the pressure, two slender metal strips called FEATHERS were placed in the hole around the WEDGE. They could be wiggled to loosen the wedge and reduce pressure. 

splitting the rock

Splitting the rock


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