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Curling 101 – Where do stones come from?

Published: February 13, 2014, 6:49 am, by Dena Rosenberry

Alisa CraigYou hear a lot about curling stones during the Olympics.

It’s clear people are curious what the stones are made of, how much they weigh, how much they cost and where they come from. Some of you have asked me these questions. Most of you are probably pondering the answers.

Read on.

Curling stones are made of a close and evenly grained granite. And nearly every modern curling stone in the world has come from one place: Ailsa Craig (photo above), a small island off the coast of  Scotland.

Got some extra cash on hand? Ailsa Craig is up for sale!

Some stones come from a quarry in Wales.

How are curling stones made?
I could describe the process, but it’s way more fun to watch this episode of the TV show “How It’s Made.”

How much do curling stones weigh?
Curling stones weigh about 42 pounds each. There’s some variation, but not much.

During practice before important games, curlers often will test to see if their stones “match.” They give a gentle push to the two stones they are set to deliver during the game. Then they watch as the stones travel down the sheet of ice. They’re watching to see if, given the same force, the stones travel the same distance.

Sometimes stones are a bit off and the team may decide, for example, that the vice-skip will throw stones 4 and 6 instead of the usual 5 and 6. (Yes, stones are numbered – and sometimes lettered – to designate the natural order of play, 1-8, and to which sheet the stones are assigned.)

If a pair of stones feels “heavy” to a team, they often will be thrown by the lead, or Player 1, who usually is delivering guard stones in front of the house or placing stones shallow in the house (called throwing to the “top” of the house).

Chunky old stoneNot so long ago, stones were not of uniform size and weight. Can imagine trying to find the matching stone to this “Flintstones”-esque rock (left)?

 

 

 

How big are curling sones?
Stones have a maximum circumference of 36 inches and a height of 4.5 inches.

Do you have to provide your own stones?
Nope. Each curling club has its own stones. But that wasn’t always the case. Check out Curling stones and basketsthis photo (right) of stones placed in their very own baskets, made for curlers to carry to their games. I’d call that rocking it old school!

It’s common for curling clubs, especially across the West, to loan their stones to neighboring clubs when they are having tournaments, called bonspiels, or special events, such as when we teach curling in the high country.

How much do curling stones cost?
As you can imagine, quarrying granite from an island off the coast of Scotland and taking time to shape it into stones of uniform size and weight is a time-intensive process.

Hence, curling stones aren’t cheap. Curling clubs expect to pay about $500 per stone. But curling stones last a long time, and can be reconditioned (in essence, they’re polished in a precise way).

Add your questions about curling to the blog or send them to dena.rosenberry@gazette.com. Thanks to everyone for the great questions so far!

Follow me on Twitter: @djrosenberry