News

Maine’s Masonry School needs your help

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 12.57.33 PM

AVON – Driving on the road to Rangeley some passengers may wonder what The Maine Masonry School is as they zip past the building with an iconic sign. If they took the time to stop they’d discover the country’s only private, non-profit masonry school. That’s right, the only one.

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 12.57.17 PMSince 2005 hundreds of students have learned the fundamentals of laying brick and stonework from instructors who bring out the talents of individuals as they build different projects in the workshop or on location.

“They bring out a students creativity, giving us the freedom to express ourselves. Going there paves the way for a multitude of career opportunities,” said Chandler Ellis, who graduated in 2017.

Every year the school has been fighting an ongoing battle, as masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill, while the demand for masons is ironically incredibly high. But the school is making a difference as students become skilled craftspeople after a nine-month 1,200-hour certificate program and are placed in jobs every year or start their own business.

“The school gave me the knowledge and skill I needed to go into business. I learned so much about masonry and with each project my confidence grew. It’s a great school,” said Tyler Kachnovich, class of 2016 whose business is T&T Landscape and Masonry.

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 12.57.03 PM

When there is a need to add new material to the curriculum they have always been on the cutting edge. Just last year the school answered the need for Historic Preservation and Renovation with new program.

All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation because there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

This unique Renovation and Preservation program has been extremely well received and the demand for space in the classes is high.

“Historic buildings surround us in New England but most people don’t realize there is a shortage in skilled craftspeople that can renovate and preserve these majestic monuments. Each building represents an important time in our history and needs to be preserved for future generations,” said Stephen Mitchell, Maine School of Masonry founder.

“Our classes give a new generation the skills needed to keep our history alive, as well as high paying jobs. Richard Irons, of Irons Masonry, has been an advisor for our program and on site specialist. With 38 years of experience under his belt working along side him gives our students instruction they can’t get anywhere else.”

Irons was awarded the Maine Historic Preservation Award in 1998 for “his excellence in historic restoration, his craftsmanship and dedication to the preservation of Maine’s irreplaceable architectural history.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 12.56.49 PM

In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, these classes have already begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, Fort Knox, The Old Wiscasset Jail and Rangeley’s Historical Society.

But there is an obstacle to overcome to successfully continue the program.

After 12 years, the school is in need of its own renovations to accommodate these new classes with upgrades to its facilities. In addition, last winter was brutal on the school’s buildings and vital repairs are needed.

With the new classes set to start this fall work needs to begin refitting the school immediately.

The school needs immediate help with donations to help with the school’s renovations for our new classes.
Materials can also be donated and are tax deductible.

Materials needed to upgrade the facilities for renovation/preservation classes include:

  • Insulation
  • Sheet rock
  • White paint
  • Wooden flooring
  • A new furnace or a new heating source (they really want to use a more clean energy source)
  • A mobile home (As students will be working on site at the locations listed above some historic locations are far from Avon and having a mobile home will save the classes the commute.)

Donated materials can be dropped off at the school any time.

Some students have already signed up for the fall classes, including Ellis, knowing once they’re trained in historic renovation and preservation they could earn over $75,000 per year.

“And they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren they took part in saving a piece of American’s history,” said Mitchell.

Key supporters of the school’s Historic Renovation and Preservation coursers include Richard Irons, Maine Preservation, Greater Portland Landmarks , Main Street 1 and Niemann Capital. The school can be reached at masonryschool@tds.net

mbanner-pitch-600x364

Go to their GofundMe campaign Here.

Help Students Continue to Learn Masonry Skills

Posted July 27, 2017, at 12:47 p.m.

After twelve years of successful operation, the Maine Masonry School is in need of its own renovations so they can educate new students in the art of renovation and historic preservation.

To accommodate these new classes the school’s facilities need upgrades. In addition, last winter was brutal on the school’s buildings and vital repairs are necessary.

With the new classes set to start this fall work needs to begin refitting the school immediately.

More about the courses that need to be saved— 

All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation because there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

In 2016, the Maine School of Masonry started Renovation and Historic Preservation courses giving students specialized skills sets that command high earnings. This unique Renovation and Preservation program has been extremely well received and the demand for space in the classes is high.

“Historic buildings surround us in New England but most people don’t realize there is a shortage in skilled craftspeople that can renovate and preserve these majestic monuments. Each building represents an important time in our history and needs to be preserved for future generations,” said Stephen Mitchell, Maine School of Masonry founder.

“Our classes give a new generation the skills needed to keep our history alive, as well as high paying jobs. Richard Irons, of Irons Masonry, has been an advisor for our program and on site specialist. With 38 years of experience under his belt working along side him gives our students instruction they can’t get anywhere else.”

Richard was awarded the Maine Historic Preservation Award in 1998 for “his excellence in historic restoration, his craftsmanship and dedication to the preservation of Maine’s irreplaceable architectural history.”

In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, these classes have already begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, and Fort Knox.

More about the school—

The art of masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill in a time when the demand for masons is incredibly high. Since 2005 the country’s only private non-profit masonry school has been trying to change that by teaching new generations in the craftsmanship of masonry.

For over a decade, students have learned the fundamentals of laying brick and stonework with instructors who bring out the talents of individuals as they build different projects in the workshop or on location. Students become skilled craftspeople in just nine months, in a 1,200-hour certificate program and are placed in jobs every year.

Key supporters of our Historic Renovation and Preservation coursers are Richard Irons, Maine Preservation, Greater Portland Landmarks , Main Street 1 and Niemann Capital. The Maine School of Masonry is a non-profit 501(c)3 private school and helps Veterans attend the school through government programs.

The school needs immediate help with:

• Donations to help with the school’s renovations for our new classes. Their goal is $8,000.

• Materials can also be donated and are tax deductible.

Materials needed to upgrade their facilities for renovation/preservation classes:

• Insulation

• Sheet rock

• White paint

• Wooden flooring

• A new furnace or a new heating source (we’d like to use a more clean energy source)

• A mobile home to use on location. (Instructors and students will be working on site at the locations listed above. A mobile home would help the school tremendously, saving them from commuting back and forth from Avon.)

Donated materials can be dropped off at the school any time.

As the instructors and students are currently on location working on historic renovations please contact Dori at the school and arrange a time to visit them on location, so you can see first hand how important continuing these classes are for all our futures.

Maine School of Masonry, 637 Rangeley Road, Avon, ME 04966, masonryschool.org

Please send a check to the school or contribute at the school’s GoFundMe campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/help-masonry-school-continue-course

Thank YOU!

Four Reasons The World Needs More Brick, Stone & Concrete

by Steve Maxwell

If you ever go to Europe, be sure to knock on some interior walls. Every one that I’ve checked out has been solid masonry – no hollow sounding, noise transmitting frame walls. They use so much more masonry across the Atlantic than we do here in North America, even in regions that get colder and hotter than we do. Masonry makes for substantial, sound-resistant and long-lasting results, and I must admit that I feel jealous.

While there certainly are situations where non-masonry building materials make the most sense, here are four reasons I keep thinking we should be using more masonry in homes and renovations here in North America.

Reason#1: Strength Over Time
I built my first masonry exterior walls, and they still look brand new today. You can see some of my work here to the left.

I love masonry – especially working with stone – and one reason is long life. Five, ten or even fifteen decades is nothing compared with the working life of properly built masonry. Not many other exterior wall materials can compete with good brick, decorative block or stone. A poured concrete foundation is still the industry standard for strength and durability. Natural stone is the king of building materials and always will be.

One thing I often wonder about is this: Why is there such a difference in “masonry consciousness” between North America and other parts of the world?

One reason is our building heritage. A hundred years ago the place where my homestead and workshop sits was virgin wilderness. A pioneer family named Taylor spent their entire lives dealing with a vast over-abundance of wood on their land. This is the same story across much of this continent, and our once-upon-a-time abundance of wood is why we have a heavily wood-based building culture today. But times change and the building business is following. That’s why masonry is slowly getting more common. I’m glad to see it. Continue reading “Four Reasons The World Needs More Brick, Stone & Concrete”

Masonry career in 9 months with training from Maine School of Masonry

Featured article in Maine Insights: Stone/Brick masonry career in 9 months with training from Maine School of Masonry
52f76a3238ef9eb6-b

Chandler Ellis takes a look assessing his brickwork at the Maine School of Masonry in Avon. After nine months Chandler will be trained in a profession for life. 

Article by Ramona du Houx

Nestled in the hills along the rolling river Avon just outside of Farmington is a hidden gem of a school, Maine School of Masonry.

The country’s only private non-profit masonry school continues to be a dream come true for its founder, Stephen D. Mitchell, who opened its doors in 2005. Since then, Mitch has taught hundreds of students the fundamentals of laying brick and stone work empowering every one who graduates with the skills to start their own masonry business — just after 9 months of intensive hands-on instruction.

“It’s hands-on from the beginning,” said Mitch. Students must complete 1,350 hours of coursework, including 35 or more assigned projects.

The art of masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill in a time when the demand for masons is incredibly high. The school has begun to change that by teaching new generations in the craftsmanship of stone masonry.

“The demand for masons is far greater than how many of us are out there,” Mitch said. “This is a trade that has been handed down from generation to generation. But within the last 30 years, kids have turned away from the profession. We’re losing 2,000 masons a year throughout the United States and only training 200 a year. We’re doing our part but really want to do more.”

In Maine mill closures have become all too regular. Big retail chains are also leaving the state at alarming rates. Automation is throwing good workers out of jobs. Masonry is a skilled trade, a traditional honored trade — one that could lead to a life long profession. Students who want them have jobs lined up through the school before graduation.

Andrew Ryba worked as a professional landscaper in Mass., after graduation from the Maine School of Masonry Andy will be able to offer landscape clients stone and brick work options for their properties. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Ancient pyramids, the Washington Mt., Maine’s State Capitol or any other stone or brick building that marvel visitors never could have been built without experienced masons. The level of complexity involved in masonry work varies from laying a simple wall to installing an ornate exterior, patios, brick ovens, garden walls, the perfect chimney, ornamental stonework or a high-rise building, and always will require the skill and precision of a mason. No automation here.

“We’ve got so many talented workers out there looking for a good life long job. Masonry gives them that opportunity. They can take that skill anywhere and set up shop,” said Mitch.

Being able to offer new generations a future in an age-old profession is a passion with Mitch who travels to schools throughout the state.

“We give a four-day course on masonry,” Mitch said. “There is always a demand for skilled masons, anywhere in the world. Plus, the higher the level of craftsmanship the higher the pay checks.”

Not long ago the school received an inquiry from Long Island, New York asking for graduates to come work and earn $65 an hour.

Becoming a quality mason is more than ensuring a plumb-line is exact when leveling out a brick or stone walls, although every student has to learn these basics. It’s a craft that requires sensitivity to the materials and that only comes from good training and experience.

Like any other art, the mason has to have an instinctive feel for the craft. Mitch has a talent of bringing out those innate abilities in his students as they build different projects in the workshop.

“The more artistic the work is, the more money there is to be made,” said Mitch. “It’s a physically demanding job as well as being very creative. It’s a rush when students realize they are creating something that can last through history.”

William Ellis, an instructor with a professional engineering background, stands in front of a fireplace he designed and built at the Maine School of Masonry. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The future masons come from right down the road or as far away as Texas, Wyoming and Montana. Mitchell accepts up to 12 students every year from various backgrounds and all ages.

Most days, inside the 4,000-square-foot building students are eagerly building different projects in the workshop. Their fireplaces, chimneys, walls and archways will be taken down in the fall brick-by-brick to be used by the next class. Class work mortar lacks an element that cements it, making it easy to take apart.

Recently the school expanded its programs and out reach to offer historic stone/brick renovation and preservation classes.

Restoring historic buildings is a specialized skill that demands good wages.

All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation. But while the materials for historic renovations are readily available, there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople, masons, to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

The new courses take students through materials and processes of proven methods to conserve, repair, and preserve stone and brick buildings, statuary, and monuments.

“It’s hands-on from the beginning,” said Mitch, founder and instructor at the school. Students must complete 1,350 hours of coursework, including 35 or more assigned projects. Photo by Ramona du Houx

“It’s hands-on from the beginning,” said Mitch, founder and instructor at the school. Students must complete 1,350 hours of coursework, including 35 or more assigned projects.

In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, Mitch and his students have begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, Fort Knox, The Old Wiscasset Jail and Rangeley’s Historical Society this spring.

Students at Maine School of Masonry also learn the value of volunteer work and have given their talents and time to community projects in Phillips, Farmington, New Sharon, Madrid and Wilton. They’ve left their mark on churches, community buildings and town halls.

“This trade is not just to make money, but also to help people,” Mitch said. “Buildings help create the foundations of communities.”

The school and dormitory are located at 637 Rangeley Road. For more information call 639-2392, or visit masonryschool.org or their Facebook page. Enrollment for the fall is now open.

8ec715bea3307f7a-ScreenShot2017-05-06at102500AM

The North Burleigh building at the Kennebec Arsenal where instructors and students from the Maine School of Masonry have started renovations. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Community work at the Maine School of Masonry

This shows our school team work, focused on helping our community. Here’s the article in the Daily Bulldog about it:

MASONRY STUDENTS BUILD BRICK PLANTER FOR CHURCH
STUDENTS HELPED DESIGN AND BUILD A BRICK SIGN PLANTER

Maine School of Masonry students completed a community project at Living Waters Assembly of God on the Wilton Road.

The students helped design and build a beautiful brick sign planter. Six students from the school spent 3 days building the sign and the fourth day cleaning the bricks. The school’s instructor; Steve “Mitch” Mitchell; added the three cross design. Morin Bricks of Auburn donated the bricks that were used for the sign.

These types of projects allow the students to work in the community and use materials that they are learning about using in school.

There are currently six students enrolled in the Masonry School this year, there are three efficiency apartments that house students from Maine to Texas. The program is designed for the students to develop skills and knowledge in the brick, block and stone masonry fields: trades that provide employment. The students develop skills through lab projects, classroom instruction and community involvement projects.