The carving of Mount Rushmore’s faces started with a bang. Initially, dynamite charges that had been cut down to reduce their power were planted in holes drilled in the mountain at pre-planned positions. This produced a rough outline of the presidents’ faces. The finer details were then carved by first drilling a series of shallow holes close together. This so-called ‘honeycomb’ approach allowed the carvers to more easily chip away the rock.
After that, finishing touches were applied using handheld pneumatic hammers and a bumper tool that smoothed out the surface. 700 steps and a tramway got workers and equipment to the top of the mountain, where they were lowered down in leather harnesses suspended on thick steel cables.
The carvers were assisted by pointers, who marked where the dynamite charges had to be planted, and ‘call boys’, who relayed instructions between workers on the rock face and winch operators above.
Answered by Michael Simpson