The Dry Stone Conservancy (DSC) is a publicly supported nonprofit 501(c)3 organization whose purpose is preserving drystone structures and promoting the craft of drystone masonry—the technique of building rock fences and stone walls without mortar.
The Conservancy’s Certification Program, federally registered in 2001, is designed to promote public confidence in dry-laid stone as a desirable building technique and in the skills of certified drystone craftsmen. As a part of this purpose, the DSC conducts training courses to teach generally accepted international drystone construction standards, and maintains a register of independent professional masons.
The DSC program is the only national certification program for dry stone craftsmen in the United States. The program was modeled after the highly successful professional registry of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA), and was tailored to the needs of preservationists and professional designers in the United States, including the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the National Park Service.
Basic training in drystone fence building is regularly offered in Kentucky for aspiring craftsmen and the general public. Special courses are taught on request in other states for aspiring drystone masons, and at various national and state parks for park maintenance personnel. Advanced training is offered periodically in partnership with sponsoring agencies at restoration sites throughout the country. It is not mandatory, however, to attend a DSC training course to become certified.
DSC-certified drystone masons may be included on the Conservancy’s Referral List of Certified Dry Stone Craftsmen, which is supplied upon request to government agencies and the general public. This list is posted on the DSC web site: www.DryStoneUSA.org. DSC-certified craftsmen may incorporate the federally copyrighted DSC Registration Mark on their promotional materials.
The Dry Stone Conservancy has multiple certification levels – for drystone masons, journeymen, master craftsmen, drystone authorities, examiners, instructors, and garden masons. All levels in the certification program are for professional drystone masons
Although participation in the DSC training program is not required for certification, it will be of great assistance in acquiring needed skills. As part of the training, the Instructors show slides and a how-to video, and carefully explain the theories of internationally accepted standards. Courses are hands-on and provide the trainees with instruction in every part of building a double-faced drystone fence, while providing continuous monitoring in the field.
QUALIFIED DRYSTONE MASON (Level 1):
Qualified Drystone Mason is the first, beginning, level in the Dry Stone Conservancy’s certification program. Candidates who pass the test for correctly building a wallhead, a low retaining wall, and a (timed) drystone fence section, achieve the initial level of Qualified Drystone Mason.
JOURNEYMAN MASON (Level 2):
Journeyman Mason is the second level in advancement in the Dry Stone Conservancy’s certification program. It is earned by drystone masons with skills above the beginning (basic) level. Journeyman masons are skilled in building and repairing strong field fences, retaining walls, roadside fences, and stream bank walls, as well as common drystone features such as curved fences, corners, culverts, and stepped foundations. Their abilities include sound techniques, durable construction, and a good production rate.
It will greatly assist a drystone mason who aspires to journeyman certification to participate in the DSC’s training projects or to work with Journeymen or Master Craftsmen. These projects give the masons experience in more advanced construction and production techniques, ensure that they understand the theories of internationally accepted standards, and provide continuous monitoring in the field.
MASTER CRAFTSMAN (Level 3):
Master Craftsman certifies masons who are fully proficient in all aspects of building freestanding fences, retaining walls up to 5 feet in height, special features commonly incorporated in drystone fences, and use of a variety of rock types. In addition to excellence in building drystone fences and retaining walls, the Master Craftsman builds pillars, arches, and stiles. Master Craftsmen must conduct their work in a fully professional manner. Essential requirements are construction techniques that provide structural strength combined with a superior production rate.