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 wage for apprentices in Scotland. As of June 2022, the Building and Allied Trades Joint Industrial Council (BATJIC) rates for a 4-year apprenticeship based on a 39-hour week are:
Year 1 – £219.87 (£5.64 an hour)
Year 2 – £292.61 (£7.50 an hour)
Year 3 – £367.02 (£9.41 an hour)
Year 4 – £367.02 (£9.41 an hour) (without SVQ Level 2)
Year 4 – £388.21 (£9.95 an hour) (with SVQ Level 2).
Please note these rates may vary if the Apprentice is 21 years old or over and has completed the first year of their apprenticeship. National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) will apply.
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 usually have to sit an aptitude test as part of the application process.
Alternatively you could study for a PDA in Repair and Maintenance of Traditional Masonry Structures at SCQF Level 6.
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.
What Does it Take?
You need to have:
practical and creative skills
an awareness of safety issues
good maths skills for measuring
a sense of responsibility
stamina for heavy lifting
a head for heights if working on site
patience and an eye for detail.
You need to be able to:
read building plans and drawings
work on your own or as part of a team.
Training during an apprenticeship is mainly on the job with off the job training at college.
You would work towards SVQ in Stonemasonry (Construction) at SCQF Level 6.
With experience you can apply for a supervisory job.
You might specialise in a particular type of work – perhaps carving headstones, or restoring ancient monuments.
You might move into self-employment.
For more information please see the list of organisations below: