Cabarrus man headed to world bricklaying championships

Daniel Furr’s hands are a blur as he practices for the WorldSkills competition. Working quickly has been the focus of Furr’s practice.
Daniel Furr’s hands are a blur as he practices for the WorldSkills competition. Working quickly has been the focus of Furr’s practice. MARCIA MORRIS

If Daniel Furr were to write an essay titled “How I Spent My Summer,” it would be short and dull: I worked, I practiced, I didn’t go anywhere, I got to see my friends a few times.

But all that will change soon: On Aug. 7, Furr will travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he will compete in bricklaying at the WorldSkills International.

A 2013 graduate of Mount Pleasant High School, Furr has won a lot of masonry competitions, including state and national championships. Now he’s preparing for the next level; as a member of the Skills USA World Team, he’ll see how his abilities and training stack up against competitors from around the world.

Furr, 20, a rising junior at N.C. State University, says that when he first received the application for the world team last year, he didn’t think much of it. But when he learned he’d been selected, his commitment began immediately.

“If I’m going to be in something, I’m going to be all in,” he said. He began meeting with Todd Hartsell, USA WorldSkills Masonry Expert and teacher at Central Cabarrus High School, to practice and plan for the world competition.

“It’s leaps and bounds different,” Furr said of advancing to the next level, “and it’s significantly harder.”

Furr initially was worried about making the switch to the metric system, but he’s found that it’s actually a lot easier.

He also has grown “pretty comfy” with a saw. Unlike competitions in the U.S., everything at the world level involves cutting with a saw and measuring to a millimeter. “A millimeter off feels like a mile,” Furr said.

The hardest thing for him, Furr says, is time management. Furr, along with the 27 other masons from around the world, will have to complete three projects in 22 hours over the four days of competition.

“I can build them as well as anybody else,” Furr said, “but not quick enough.” So he’s been spending the last few weeks before the competition practicing with Hartsell and looking over the plans at least once a day.

Those plans are for three practice projects. At the competition, two of them will be modified and one will be completely changed. Furr said he has a bit of an advantage when it comes to mental preparation: A civil engineering student, he says that he thinks through problems pretty well.

The U.S. traditionally has not done well in international bricklaying competition, but Furr said he would love to change that. “It would be insane to win a medal,” he said, adding that as long as he can do well, however, he’ll be pleased. “I’m gonna give it all I’ve got.”

While in Brazil, Furr will have time to do some sightseeing, visit a school and participate in cultural exchange activities. Then it’s right back to Raleigh and school.

By then, his “How I Spent My Summer” essay will be fascinating.

Marcia Morris is a freelance writer: