Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

I had to dust off my restoration skills to repair this beautiful antique marble Baptismal font.

I had to dust off my restoration skills to repair this beautiful antique marble Baptismal font.

I had to dust off my restoration skills to repair this beautiful antique marble Baptismal font.

Fall temperatures are finally here, and I can’t wait to get outside in the morning cool and enjoy the weather. This was a hot summer in Florida, and not only hot, but humid, too. You could cut the air with a diamond blade, it was so humid (LOL)! 

Anyway, I was off for a morning walk before I headed over to my favorite greasy spoon for a quick cup of joe. I had just stepped out of the door and my phone rang. The call was from a soft-spoken gentleman. I could hardly hear what he was saying, so I asked him to speak up. Or maybe it was me, and I’m starting to lose my hearing in my old age. Hey, this could be a good excuse not to hear my wife when she yells at me –NOT! I’ve already tried that, and it didn’t work!

Anyway, the caller was saying something about some marble columns in his church that had some chips and needed repair. I asked him what type of marble it was, etcetera, etcetera and then asked if he could send me some pics. He told me the church is in BFE. Hopefully, you know what I mean by that acronym. If not, it simply means it’s in the middle of nowhere. 

He told me the town and I Googled it. He was correct, BFE. It would take me three hours from the nearest airport to drive there.  

He asked if I could give him a price to repair the chips and polish the columns. I told him I didn’t do that type of work anymore, and I thought I was going to hear a grown man cry! He went on and on that he couldn’t find anyone to do the repairs, and the columns were badly in need of repair. Well, being the good-hearted man that I am, I thought, What the heck… I could dig out my tools and do the work. After all, things were a little slow right now.  I gave him my email, asked him to send me the pics, and told him and I would get back to him. I finished my walk and headed back to the diner for that cup of joe.

I then headed back to my office and opened my email. The church guy had emailed one photo. It showed a close-up of what appeared to be two tall white marble columns (see photo). I noted several chips, and it appeared dull and in need of a good polish.

I thought I would price this high since it was kind of sight-unseen. I called the church guy back and asked him how many columns there were. He told me there were only three or four columns. 

This project seemed simple enough. I figured it would take me a day or two to fill all the chips and polish the columns. Luckily, I had a student who wanted to learn about repairs in the field, so I would turn this project into a teaching opportunity. I gave him a price and a date when I could be there.

The day arrived to head to the church and to what was going to be quite a surprise. We packed our toolbox and headed to the airport. We arrived at this little church, and yes, it was in the middle of nowhere. 

We met the church guy at the door, and he walked us inside the church. It was a beautiful little church; it looked quite old. It had intricate stained glass windows and an elaborate white marble alter.

I looked around, admiring the architecture, but didn’t see any columns.  I’m sure I looked a little puzzled, and asked where the columns were. 

Expecting to see these tall columns, he led me to the front of the church and pointed downward. I almost fainted when I saw them. I also felt embarrassed that I gave him such a high price for such a small job. 

These weren’t tall columns at all, but small, decorative columns supporting a baptismal font. That’s what I get for assuming and not asking the right questions. That was the real learning experience, here, and my student got to see that even the “experts” shouldn’t make assumptions without having all the facts.

I won’t make that mistake again (NOT)!  I also reduced the price and had the columns repaired and polished in a few hours. Not a huge job, but one I could feel good about.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Fred has also been writing for the
Slippery Rock Gazette  for over 20 years. 

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