A stonemason uses a range of stone, including sandstone, limestone, granite and marble, to construct new buildings and monuments and to restore old ones.
There are two types of specialist stonemasons – banker masons (who cut, shape and carve blocks of stone in a workshop) and fixer masons (who use the blocks of stone to construct and repair buildings).
As a banker mason you could be:
measuring and marking outlines on a block of stone from the quarry, ready for cutting to shape using hand and power tools
using traditional hand tools (chisels, mallets, levels, trowels) and modern power tools to shape (dress) the stone
checking angles are correct
using templates and drawings as a guide
shaping complex mouldings and patterns by machine or carving columns and decorative cornices by hand
giving the stones a variety of surface finishes
specialising in work such as headstones for graves, garden ornaments or fireplaces.
As a fixer mason you could be:
reading the architect’s plans while on site
understanding the load-bearing aspects of structures such as arches and bridges
laying the stones and using mortar or cement to fix them in place
fixing new cladding to the outside of a structure, using wire or metal bolts
using mechanical hoists or block and tackle to lift the heavier stones.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
There is a minimum hourly rate for apprentices in Scotland. The agreed rates for apprentices registered with Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC) on an SVQ Level 3 craft apprenticeship are as follows:
Year 1 – £5.28 an hour (all ages)
Year 2 – £6.53 an hour (18 years or below) to £10.42 (23 years or over)
Year 3 – £8.67 an hour (18 years or below) to £10.42 (23 years or over)
Year 4 – £10.53 an hour (all ages).
(Rates effective from April 2023).
With experience your salary would rise to around £19,000 to £35,000 a year. Self-employed professionals earn more than those in full time employment.
Banker masons work mainly in a yard or workshop, fixer masons work mostly out on site.
You will be outside in all weathers, more so as a fixer mason.
You work at heights on scaffolding and ladders, especially as a fixer mason, and there is lots of standing and heavy lifting.
There could be lots of noise and dust.
You wear protective gear: goggles, ear protectors, hard hat and sometimes a face mask.
You often work overtime in summer, but have shorter hours and lay-offs in winter.
You might have to travel to different sites and sometimes live away from home.
The normal entry route is through a Modern Apprenticeship with an employer.
You do not always need formal qualifications, but some subjects at National 4 or 5 including English, Maths and a science or technological subject are helpful.
You could study the Foundation Apprenticeship in Construction (SCQF Level 4 or 5) in S3-S6, which can help to get into a relevant Modern Apprenticeship.
You could also enter this profession after gaining practical experience on site as a labourer.
A driving licence is useful and sometimes essential.
You should be fit, strong and agile.
You must hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent to work on a building site. You must pass a health and safety test to qualify for this scheme.
Look for work with contractors, stonemasonry firms, monumental masons and with firms or organisations involved in restoring old, sometimes historic, buildings. Agencies such as Historic Environment Scotland or the National Trust for Scotland recruit apprentice stonemasons for various locations across Scotland. Apprenticeships last between 3 and 4 years. Check their websites for details.