Stone in Love: The Story of Harrison Poured
by David Harrison
Atlas stone casting has been a cornerstone of Harrison Made from the start. It’s well-known that I love atlas stones. I love to lift them. I love to make them. I love elevating stones in competition, and elevating my craft as I make them for those willing to work with me.
I find making stones to be a ritual. The process involves planning and focused presence to execute a successful pour. Concrete is relatively cheap and plentiful, but the time and energy you need to craft it are not. For example, you can’t stop halfway through a poor and come back when you feel like it. It’s a commitment--like catching a big wave, or merging onto the interstate. Once started you intentionally see it through...or give it up entirely.
I built up my current collection of specialized tools over several years. This is what enables my current production level. But in the beginning, in my Peace Corps days in Paraguay, I had very limited cash resources. What I did have was time. So, I spent days making molds over rubber balls and balloons made out of paper maché. I added layers over the course of days to make the mold strong enough to contain wet concrete. Then I filled a big container with sand to support the paper once it got wet.
Over the years, I learned from each stone. I learned how to adapt the mix of aggregate (sand, rocks, and metal) to the ratio of cement and water. I learned how to handle the molds to eliminate bubbles. And I’m still learning, with a few more ideas planned later this year.
The first three stones I made taught many great lessons. My very first stone was too small and light to truly be an atlas stone, so it became a kettlebell. I made it to test the process before I committed my very limited Peace Corps stipend to concrete instead of food. The second stone was named “Jasy Ñaña,” which means “bad moon” in Guaraní (the local language). Quite unlike the first one, this behemoth of a stone was so heavy I couldn’t pick it up--with good or bad form. Several hours and dozens of one gallon buckets of concrete mix went into it, with only short breaks from the work. How I learned the hard way not to “forklift” this stone is a story for another day. Maybe ask me sometime.
So the first stone was too light, the second was too heavy, and the third...was dubbed “the Goldie Locks stone.” It was just right for my then-novice skills. I had an assistant for this pour. To this day, I am still unable to properly prepare the uninitiated for how much energy a pour takes. As my assistant found out, I hate compromising on quality.
My first three stones.
I count all three stones as successes. The first became a great kettlebell for warm-ups and conditioning. The second birthed what I called “Sisyphus Training.” Unable to pick it up, I instead rolled it around the yard to flatten weeds which eluded the taming of my machete. And the third, of course, was great for conventional stone training, especially after watching some videos by Starting Strongman founder Kalle Beck.
Now let’s return to last spring, in 2020. I was about to take a trip to Paraguay and hopefully find my three original stones, when a global pandemic closed the door on my plans. Instead, I discovered I had connections in the Bay Area such that I could borrow or rent two sets of stone molds. Driven by gym closures, athletes were eager to acquire equipment for their home gyms. They went to Tommy for advice, and Tommy sent them my way. Each time, I offered them the challenging but rewarding experience of stone making, inviting them to join in the process. Or they could just pay a flat rate for the finished product.
Of course I wish that more people would join me in making stones (an offer now extended to you, reader!). But either way, the support of so many has grown my passion and sparked some amazing projects in my shop--projects that might be the subject of future editions of this segment. All of this is just part of the legacy I hope to leave as the “Prince of the Stones.”
I lift them. I coach others to lift them. I can pour them well--certainly better than average. Harrison Poured will continue to be a pillar of Harrison Made, and of the strength community as well I hope. So keep an eye out for my next build day and come see what it’s all about.