new Stone Age
Tom Schrauth turns marble and limestone into
enduring works of art
Tom Schrauth stands
before a huge jumble of limestone blocks and picks out the next one
to cut. Slight in height and weight, Tom doesn’t
look like someone who spends his days hefting huge slabs of marble and
limestone, by himself. But the stonemason has spent 27 years of his life
creating works of beauty from cold, hard rock. And business has never
Tom Schrauth of Cape Fair sorts through limestone blocks while
working on a large fountain in a housing development near Springfield.
Tom has worked with stone for more than 27 years in Colorado,
Kansas and now Missouri. The use of stone in landscaping and
home decor is on the increase and so is Tom’s business.
Drive into nearly
any new, “executive” housing
development in Kansas City, Springfield or even Columbia and you will
likely find lots of stone — walls,
fountains, arches, walkways, sculptures. Many developers of high-end commercial
and residential properties have gone native. They’re using native stone
to enhance their developments and much of it is being done by artists like
Tom picks out a limestone
slab from his pile and measures and cuts it with a saw. He’s
working on a large fountain just inside the entrance of a new housing
development south of Springfield called Lion’s Gate, which
will feature homes priced at $300,000 and up. Tom designed and is building
the fountain, which will circulate 2,000 gallons of water a minute.
also building the Lion’s Gate itself, a large stone and brick
entrance to the development that will feature an archway containing a metal
sculpture of a lion’s face. Tom isn’t making the metal sculpture,
making the rest of the complicated stone arch which will contain hidden
lighting fixtures to illuminate the lion.
|Tom Schrauth and Julie Hand with their stone mailbox.
The work is slow
and meticulous and it’s what Tom does best.
“I do the work
that machines can’t do, or can’t do affordably,” says
Tom, a native of upstate New York who’s worked out of his Cape
Fair shop for a little over a year. “You can bring in a machine
to cast something in concrete and make a lot of it cheaper than I can
do it. But if you want just a few of something and if you need something
special, like carved stone, then I can do it cheaper.”
everything from small items like carved stone bookends to marble
countertops weighing 350 pounds or more to entire carved limestone
fireplaces. And, unbelievably, Tom does most of the work alone. He’s
had partners in the past, but he prefers to work by himself. There’s
less chance of getting hurt, he says, when you don’t have to
worry about someone dropping 100-pound slabs of stone on your fingers.
began working with his brother building “dry laid” stone
walls, or walls built without mortar, in Colorado during summers
off while going to college at the University of Oregon. When he
graduated he considered going on to law school, but the thought
of several more years of college didn’t
appeal to him. And besides, he was making a good living as a stonemason
in the summers and working in ski resort bars and restaurants in
the winter. “I
was your typical young ski bum,” he says, laughing.
Tom chips away pieces of stone while making a decorative set of
book ends in his shop.
years ago Tom moved to the growing city of Wichita where tons
of stone work could be done. With each job his reputation grew and
he began doing larger and larger jobs. He built huge stone walls
and cap stones for the Wichita Botanical Gardens. The gardens needed
a carved stone fountain and he designed and built it.
He built the stone
bases supporting bronze figures for the 12 Stations of the Cross
at the Catholic Diocese of Wichita’s Spiritual Life Center. Tom
also built the cobblestone walkways connecting each of the stations,
which meant laying 32,000 cobbles covering 8,000 square feet of walkway. “I
know how many there were because I cut each and every one of them,” he
One of Tom’s
specialties is designing and building fountains and water gardens featuring
thermostats that turn off water flow when the temperature drops and
fill sensors that warn when water levels in underground storage tanks
get too low.
like my fountains because I design them so they don’t
have to be winterized. The tanks, plumbing and pumps are
all hidden underground where they’re insulated,” Tom
A fountain he designed
in Wichita features water pouring from a stone sculpture and disappearing
into cobblestones beneath the sculpture’s base and collects
in a hidden tank. The water is then recirculated up through
|Julie Hand takes Tom’s castoff pieces of stone he can’t
use in larger projects and makes home décor items like bowls
and small signs.
What Tom loves to
build the most are carved stone fireplaces, usually massive and ornately
worked limestone that he buys from a quarry in Windfield, Kan., just
across the border from Missouri. It was his fireplace work that brought
him to Missouri when prominent Wichita landscape architect Bill Young
moved his business to Branson and invited Tom to build four stone fireplaces
in his new home.
that brought Tom to Missouri was the Phoenix marble quarry north of
Springfield. The old quarry had been shut down when Tom and several
partners bought stone quarry machinery, including a 6-foot radial saw,
and began cutting and selling marble slabs. Much of the stone went
into Tom’s projects
including one job he did in Wichita that required
450 tons of marble, all cut, hauled and installed by Tom. He lived
in a trailer in the quarry for a time while working constantly. Tom
no longer is involved in the quarry, though all of the marble for his
many projects is still cut there.
Though Tom likes
to work his projects alone, he does have a new partner of sorts. Tom
has taught his fiancé,
Julie Hand, to make bowls, cutting boards, bird baths and other home
décor items all made from marble, slate and
limestone. She uses much of Tom’s cast off
material not large enough for his major projects.
Julie and her daughter also make small stone signs
by carving and chiseling names and addresses into
flat marble or limestone tablets, which are used
as decorative address markers for homes and businesses
and even larger signs for developments.
carved a stone flower fountain for a friend’s garden.
never thought I could make things like this out
of stone until Tom showed me,” Julie says. “Tom
makes it look so easy. He’s such an artist
and his work is so beautiful.”
by a friend’s house near Cape Fair and
asks how a landscaping project is going. The
centerpiece of the project is a large stone
flower fountain Tom painstakingly carved from
a single piece of limestone. Each individual
flower petal was crafted by hand and a hole
coming up through the center will direct water
out onto the flower petals.
believe you can make something like this out
of stone,” says
Tom. “It’s really not hard. You
just have to have an eye for it, and patience.”
about Tom’s business, Medusa Stone Co., call (417) 849-3154.
home décor business,
It’s Nature’s Way, can be reached by calling (417)