My Masonry Life Story
By Bud Elkin
“My Masonry Life Story” is a new department in Masonry magazine that will serve as a venue for passionate, talented masons to tell their stories of how they chose their careers.
A little hard work wasn’t going to discourage Jim Doane from choosing a lifelong career as a mason.
Florida native Jim Doane first met the Pinard brothers when the three shared a high school drafting class. Like so many trade families, the Pinard brothers were taking classes that would help them further their education in construction. When Doane helped the Pinard brothers move some extra masonry materials one day, he became hooked.
The heavy sweating, sore muscles and dust involved with the work convinced Doane that he was in the right place at the right time. Something about hard work makes a man feel accomplished. He continued working with the Pinard family masonry business after school and on weekends. Some say it is the masonry dust, or maybe it’s the outdoors. Some say it is simply the hard work, but whatever it is that gets into a mason’s blood seems to never leave.
Even as a laborer, Doane felt pride in constructing projects that would be around long after his career had ended. “When you stand back and look at a job that is finished, a feeling of accomplishment and pride fills your soul,” says Doane.
A masonry tradesman who is properly trained will be schooled in every phase of the trade. Many masons may settle into one or two areas of masonry, such as block laying or brick laying. These masons may be happy only specializing in one or two areas, but Doane was fortunate enough to be taught all of the masonry skills by the Pinard family.
“I would recommend anyone getting into the masonry field, and to work for a company that can teach you all of the masonry skills,” he says. “Not only is it more rewarding, but it gives you more versatility. To become a good mason, you need to grasp the whole process that makes up the trade.”
Doane worked hard for two years learning how to properly make mud, build scaffolding, maneuver a wheelbarrow and handle a shovel. Simple as it may seem, real talent is involved in handling these tools. A good laborer is a tremendous asset to a crew. Without that skill, the entire project can be in jeopardy. If a laborer is firmly acquainted with the project, a mason will never need to call for mud or stir the mud on his board. Good laborers think ahead to stock materials, set scaffolding and keep the masons busy.
Once this is mastered, a laborer is ready to start learning to handle a trowel. Doane began working in the residential market as a laborer for the Pinard family. Although it is common for most masons to select either residential or commercial masonry, many, like Doane, expose themselves to both. He gradually progressed through the various specialties in the masonry trade. He covered brick, block, stonework, concrete finishing, and tile before he began specializing in custom creative masonry.
Custom creative masonry is not for the faint-of-heart or the common mason. This form of masonry demands patience, perseverance and an eye for art. Doane’s reason for specializing in the art of custom creative masonry was that he “lost interest in just building a straight wall.” Doane says his most rewarding moment was having the honor of being invited as the only masonry contractor to rebuild Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum in Winter Park, Fla. The home, built in 1933, was partially demolished before the demo permit was revoked by the city. An outcry of concerned citizens kept the beautiful building from being torn down.
“It took me four years to rebuild this masterpiece, brick by brick and tile by tile,” says Doane. “That was my proudest moment as a masonry craftsman.”
Doane’s advice for anyone interested in entering the masonry trade? “What are you waiting for? Sure, its hard work, but the rewards are worth it! Listen, ask questions and become eager to learn. Take pride in your work, and do the very best job you can every day. In return, you will be rewarded with a fulfilling career that will always be in demand, and has proven to stand the test of time.”