Rough and Perfect Ashlar

Rough and perfect ashlar are stones that serve to symbolize a man’s spiritual and moral life.

It isn’t easy to cut stones to perfect sizes and shapes. It requires a lot of experience that only true craftsmen have.

In history, only large buildings were made of ashlars. Other buildings were built with brick and wood. It was difficult to assemble skilled craftsmen that knew how to lay foundation stones, lay stones the right way on top of one another for tall buildings, and build stone archways. It was also difficult to find artisans that could sculpt the stones into nice ornamental shapes.

Rough ashlars were cut and raised by apprentice masons. They did that under the supervision of Fellowcrafts who were experienced craftsmen.

The Master Masons were the general supervisors. The Master Masons had proved themselves as those that could make ashlars for the Master to the satisfaction of their superiors.

There are two forms of ashlars in Freemasonry.

Rough Ashlar

The rough ashlar represents an unprepared, undressed stone in Operative Freemasonry. In Speculative Freemasonry, a rough ashlar represents an uninitiated Freemason before he becomes enlightened.

Perfect Ashlar

The perfect ashlar is the dressed stone that has been shaped, smoothed and made uniform with the mallet, chisel, tools and other working tools. The chisel is used in English Freemasonry, but it isn’t used as a Freemason symbol in the United States.

The perfect ashlar is the perfect stone that has been dressed by experienced stonemasons and fitted into architectural buildings and structures.

A perfect ashlar is a symbol of a Freemason that works to achieve a purposeful, principled, righteous life and does all he can to be enlightened.    

Rough and Perfect Ashlars

The Rough and Perfect Ashlars are symbolically used in the Fellowcraft Degree. A man can improve his moral and spiritual being by education and acquisition of knowledge.

A Rough Ashlar begins as an imperfect stone. A man is also imperfect initially. But, the man can be shaped into a better being through brotherly love, cultivation and education. He becomes someone that has become shaped into a being that has been tried by the square of virtue, and he has become encircled by the compasses of his boundaries given to him by the Creator.

Rough and Perfect Ashlars That Have Been Fitted For Use by The Builder

In the days of old, quarried stones that could easily be shaped into the required configurations were called ‘freestone.’ Examples of freestone are sandstone and limestone. These rough stones must be refined and smoothed before they could be used.

In the Fellowcraft degree, the Rough Ashlar represents the unrefined state of a man and the need for the man to be improved. The unrefined man learns that he could become a better man through better conduct and better spirituality of thought. He is charged to become a better person through obligations, expectations and duties.

A Freemason continually smoothens his external and internal rough edges to become a better man and a better Freemason.

Once a man has smoothed his ashlar to his best, he starts to help his Brothers to become better people and better Freemasons.

Rough and Perfect Ashlars and Man’s Capability for Change

All rough ashlars have the potential to become perfect ashlars. But first, the rough ashlar must be made of solid materials and their character flaws must be minimal. They must be receptive to change, and they must be capable of being worked into a perfect stone. In line with this, candidates for each Masonic degree are asked a lot of questions to know more about their characters and their qualifications.   

Candidates must have the capability to serve and support the Brotherhood. They must be carefully inspected to certify that they can fit into Masonic goals and tenets and remain compatible with God’s laws.

An imperfect ashlar can be made perfect, but some major flaws are difficult to change, and these flaws can weaken a structure when the ashlar is fitted into the structure. This applies to both men and stones.

Rough and Perfect Ashlars and States of Metamorphose

Freemason is a noble and ancient Brotherhood with a long history. A flawed ashlar can bring in negative thoughts, reproach and embarrassment to the Brotherhood from non-Freemasons outside the Brotherhood. So, flawed ashlars can’t be allowed to join the Brotherhood.

We must also understand that perfect ashlars can’t just be found in the stone quarries. They must be hammered, chiseled and polished before they attain their perfect state.  

It’s hard to find ‘perfect men’ that exist without Brotherly light, guidance and love. It’s hard to find Freemasons that have not been in the state of rough and perfect ashlars at some point in their lives.

How Freemasons Can Contribute to the Making of Other Perfect Ashlars  

  1. Freemasons must seriously consider their personal responsibility to educate other Brothers towards their improvement. We get enlightened when we assist others and donate to those in need. Master Masons uphold the tenets of the craft and teach other Brothers what they have learned.
  2. All Lodges must take time in judging the potential of a candidate. They must weigh their characters and evaluate their potential for change.
  3. All Freemasons must extend a friendly hand of affection and love, to help new Freemasons become better people. We must help them stand upright with the plumb, live on the square and become true Freemasons who will make the Creator proud of them.

All men who are worthy must take the lesson of the Rough and Perfect Ashlar seriously. We must take these lessons seriously so that we can become more knowledgeable and less ignorant, go from death to life and go from darkness to light.


  • P. G. Pete Normand

    This is informative up to a point. But, it reinforces the incorrect notion that stonemasons only made perfect ashlars, set row upon row. But, that is not true.

    In the middle ages, the word “mason” was used to describe the rank and file craftsmen with limited skill, who made perfect ashlars, and lay and set the stones in place.

    However, the highly skilled craftsmen, who could carve soft freestone into statuary, and other elaborate and decorative elements like window tracery and fan vaulting, were called “freestone masons,” and later “free-masons” or “freemasons.” They were paid a lot more than the rank and file masons.

    In many cases, these skilled freemasons were sent to Paris and Rome to learn more about architecture, engineering, design, aesthetics, proportions and stresses.

    Master Masons were contractors who hired and fired other masons to work for them. The Master Mason on a particular job site was not elected by his employees. He selected them, paid them, and supervised them with the help of one or two wardens. The notion that English masons on a particular job met together in a “lodge,” governed by the Master and Wardens, duly elected, is a fantasy created by the grand lodge Freemasons of the 18th century and later.

    Medieval stonemasons did not have a local organization called a “lodge” until the 16th century in Scotland. And even then, Scottish lodges were created for the purpose of taking care of the fraternal aspects of the craft (banquets, initiations, disputes, financial assistance, etc.). The operative craft was governed by the local Incorporation (the Scottish equivalent of a guild).

    But, in England, stonemasons never had lodges, and they didn’t have guilds, either, with the sole exception of London, where a masons’ guild was created in the late 14th century, and continues to this day.

    In England, the term “lodge” was used by speculative Freemasons during the 17th century to describe their meetings. They would say that they “held a lodge.” They would never say that “the lodge held a meeting,” because a lodge WAS a meeting. A lodge was not a local organization in the way we think of it today. The lodge as a local organization, to which a member belonged, is an invention of the grand lodge era.

  • Michael Thomason

    I found this piece very informative! All Brethren should read, learn, mark & inwardly digest that which is presented here!!

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