by Joel Davis

Photos by Skip Ford

Mouse over photos for captions

Skip Ford of Stonecraftsman Services brings 52 years of experience and old-world artistry to the job. Skip has been a loyal Braxton-Bragg customer for several years. “When I build a business relationship, I like to stick with people I trust. It may be an old-fashioned way of doing business, but for me it is about mutual respect and trust.”

Ford hand-cut and installed this fieldstone flag floor in a mortar bed, the old-school way. The special project was for his friend Dave Croteau, owner of ( See Slippery Rock Online story on StoneYard, Sept. 2012)

Ford hand-cut and installed this fieldstone flag floor in a mortar bed, the old-school way. The special project was for his friend Dave Croteau, owner of ( See Slippery Rock Online story on StoneYard, Sept. 2012)Based in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, Ford started his career as an 18-year-old apprentice tile and marble setter’s helper in Boston, Mass. What he learned in those days was invaluable, he said. “Today you couldn’t learn the things we learned then. We did Olympic swimming pools, we did skyscrapers in Boston. Everything was different in those days. Everything was mud work. It was really not like today at all. It was quite amazing.”

About one nearly four-year-long project at Squam Lake in NH, Ford said, “Everything was custom made for that job, even the tiles. We started with four blocks of Tapistry Granite taken from the same section of the quarry to insure the range of colors would stay the same throughout the project. It was an intensive and lengthy training period working with men who really new their trade. “In those days, there were only 200 tile and marble and terrazzo workers in New England on union books. They were real craftsmen. It was different than it is today. It took a long time to become a tile man.”

But the long training period has paid off, Ford said. “That is why I’ve been so successful. I have a lot of skills that the younger guys today don’t even know about.”

By mud work, Ford means the techniques of setting tile in the days before sheetrock when craftsmen would have to lay down an inch of plaster over wire frames before placing the tile. “We put them on while the mud was wet,” he said. “That was the standard for the industry in those days. I remember when they invented cement board. We couldn’t believe how it simplified installation.”

Occasionally, Ford will still turn back to the old ways. He’ll sometimes lay tile for floors with the mud method.

If a ceiling requires curves or arches, he’ll go back to mud work. “I use the old method to float the ceilings, float the curves, make the curve out of wire and scratch board and mud.” 

Ford works with stone, tile, and terra cotta and also performs restoration work.  He relies on Braxton-Bragg for purchasing supplies and regularly uses diamond profile wheels, polishing pads and blades, and wood and stone epoxy.

He has not found a reason to shop anywhere else than Braxton-Bragg. “I don’t jump from one person to another,” he said. “They are courteous, they are kind, and they are fast. I get it wherever I am in a few days. I really enjoy doing business with people like that. I don’t have time to fool around. They are perfect. It is a pleasure to work with them.”

In addition, Ford’s normal toolkit includes Flex hand machines and saws and Metabo grinders. “I have a portable bridge saw, which I can take apart, bring it to a job, and set it up. I use regular tile saws, German polishing equipment, and I have a machine for polishing floors that I use quite a bit.”

Most of Ford’s work is intensive custom hands-on projects. “A lot of this stuff is all handmade, granite and marble. I make a lot of custom pieces.”

A One of a Kind Floor

Dave Croteau, owner of, contacted Ford in fall 2014 with a new idea for his personal residence.

“Dave makes veneer stone from New England field stone,” Ford said. “He cuts one inch of the face of the stone to use on masonry projects. This leaves a saw cut on the remaining stone. He wanted to cut the next slice one half inch thick to create the floor. Each piece in the floor had to be cut by hand. It was like a puzzle except we had to make each piece as we went along.”

For eight weeks, Ford carefully worked, laying a piece at a time, paying attention to every detail. “This floor, all the joints are an eight inch thick. Every piece was intricately cut and fit together in a design so there wouldn’t be any blotchy places in the floor.”

The stone is found in the surface layer of soil throughout New England and was left from the movement of Glaciers during the Karoo Ice Age which lasted from 360 to 260 million years ago. The stone was not exotic but became something special during the process. “They used to pick it up on the farms and just pile it up for walls. You’d be amazed to see the colors in the stone that look like absolutely nothing when we started. When we finished, we realized this is one-of-a-kind job.”

After cutting the pieces and installing them, Ford had to pick the right color joint filler to go with the stone. “I tried to blend the stone as I went along, not knowing exactly what the final colors would be,” he said. “We had never polished this stone before so no one knew what it would look like. What a surprise when we saw the beautiful colors hidden in the stone.”

This kind of intricacy is a hallmark of Ford’s craftsmanship. During one nearly four-year-long project at Squam Lake in NH he said, “Everything was custom made for that job even the tiles. We started with four blocks of Tapistry Granite taken from the same section of the Quarry to insure the range of colors would stay the same throughout the project. We put whole walls up in one slab. We used the natural images in the Tapistry Granite to paint pictures on the walls.”

Ford pays attention to the details. For instance, when putting in a Rosa Alicanti Marble ceiling in a home,  Ford said, “We may secure it with 15 pins to ensure its stability. If the house moves, the marble slab will never crack or break. It can absorb the movement of the house as it expands and contracts without affecting the stone.”

A photographer by hobby, Ford will often document his projects. At times, he’s gone back to visit a site where he worked decades ago to compare his craftsmanship then and now. “They look exactly the way they did when I left them 20 years ago.”

Ford does his own work and prefers it that way. “I’ve had helpers through the years, but right now I usually really prefer to work alone. …Artists will come and work with me on a project if I need help. I have a lot of people who are builders, and they’ll drop what they are doing and work with me on a project just because they like to do this kind of work.”

It has been a wonderful career, Ford said, and it is not stopping any time soon. “I’ve been very lucky,” he said. “I’ve met the most interesting people. I’ve done the most unbelievable jobs. I should be retired. I’m 70 years old, but I’m still working every day. I enjoy it. I can’t imagine what I would do if I stopped working.”

Standard advertising and marketing are not components of Ford’s business plan. “All the people I’ve worked for through the years, I’m still friends with them. My whole approach is built on good relationships with customers. I only do one job at a time, and I give them 100 percent of my attention and the best work I can do. When I walk away I never have to think about it again. I’d call myself more a craftsman who relies on word of mouth and reputation.”

And his craftsmanship keeps the customers coming back, Ford said. “My body is worn out from work, but it’s not like work to me. If I was putting tile in at McDonald’s, 300 feet a day, I wouldn’t like it, either, but I’m working with people who are building custom jobs. The people are interesting. They can afford to do nice work. They find me from word of mouth. They call me from all over the place. I never have to advertise. I don’t have to go looking for work, and I’m grateful for that.

For more information and photos on Skip Ford’s custom projects please visit and
or contact Skip at 603-464-5230 or email