Barry Wrafter

Added: 23 June 2017

The Wrafters were monumental stone carvers of considerable repute in Tullamore in the 1800’s. Barry Wrafter is now the only descendant still practicing stone carving. From an old master he learnt the traditional way of carving with a chisel and mallet, squaring rough stone and carving letters, a process that is still the same since the time of the Egyptians. However, with the coming of age of modern methods for cutting stone, Barry became intrigued with the very latest diamond cutting and drilling methods and how these methods would work for him.

When Barry won a national competition to produce a prestigious statue made to honour the Kilkenny Hurling Team, the most famous and successful hurling team in Irish history, this was his chance to try something never been done before. The statue, to be a prominent feature of Kilkenny itself, was to be the subject of a television program with worldwide media attention.

Kilkenny Limestone Quarries in Paulstown took over a year to find a suitable stone without any cracks in it. The stone was 4 meters high by 1.7 meters wide with a depth of 1.5 meters and weighed a massive 20 tons. A specialist heavy lifting company in Scotland was required to extract it, with the use of a 20 tone forklift and a 120 tone crane, the stone was moved from the quarry to Barry’s workshop in Dublin and with great difficulty was positioned upright.

Barry wanted to carve the statue using conventional diamond drilling and cutting equipment, a technique never been done before. With only very limited experience of diamond drilling, Barry needed the support of a diamond tool supplier with the best equipment and technical know how and on recommendation he decided to contact JKS UK Ltd.

Barry and Darren Aaron, Managing Director of JKS UK Ltd, discussed at length, the best method to carve the statue and what equipment was needed. Supplied was a Weka DK17, a Diacom Profi Mini Drilling Rig, a Vacuum Pump, a Vacuum Plate, a Diacom Profi Maxi Drilling Rig, a Weka DK32, a Hydraulic Solid Saw, a Hydraulic Ringsaw and a range of extension bars complete with JKS Granite ZW Spec. diamond cores ranging from small diameter crowns 22mm and 32mm to 150mm diameter cores – various lengths upto 750mm effective.

Barry built a water trap to collect all the slurry and erected a scaffolding around the stone. He then drew a grid on the stone and the outline of his figures. Using the drilling rigs and motors, fixed only by the vacuum plate, Barry stitch drilled around the outline of his figures. Due to all the different angles involved, Barry had to modify his forklift to mount the drilling rigs where the vacuum system could not be positioned and use the longer cores and extensions.

The drilling took months and months, the depth of each cut had to be precisely measured, one wrong hole and Barry could drill into a leg or head in the figure. There was absolutely no room for error. The slurry would run down the stone into the water trap and then pumped away.

After the outline of the figures had been stich drilled, Barry used the Hydraulic solid saw, using JKS ZLS and Multicut blades and the Ringsaw. With lots of advice from JKS UK Ltd he perfected his technique and made great progress. The biggest problem was the slurry spraying all over his workshop. So Barry enclosed the whole of the scaffolding in plastic sheeting to keep the slurry in. Once Barry had cut the figures out completely using the diamond tools he then went back to more traditional methods to add detail and texture to the stone.

The statue took 3 years to sculpt and is now ready to be positioned in Kilkenny City Centre for all to admire. For more information on Diamond Cutting Tools for specialist applications please contact Darren Aaron of JKS UK Ltd on the numbers below.

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