After waiting all summer, the columns finally got their hats. Last Thursday, after a full summer of research, phone calls and waiting, I ventured back down to Rock Hill, South Carolina and put the big cap stones on the columns and walls. We eventually ended up ordering stone directly from the quarry in Hackett, Arkansas. The column caps are single pieces, approximately 33 inches square and four inches thick. We strapped them by the corners and lifted them onto their mortar beds with a skid steer loader. It all went very smoothly, though we did discover that the flatter the stone lay in the rigging, the easier it went into place. Seems obvious as I write it, but in application, it didn’t seem like a couple of degrees would make such an impact on how they skooshed the mortar underneath them. Based on volume, I guess that the stones weighed between 400 and 450 pounds each.
The columns are structural, meaning the stone supports itself; there’s no block, besides the footing. There is a steel armature inside each column. The armature pokes out of each column over the wall. It’s job is to support timbers that complete the design. You can see the ‘fins’ on the left side of this column, with bolt holes already drilled. The armature has no role in the stone structure, but it was incredibly helpful because it gave me a way to suspend strings to keep my corners on target.
The mailbox is my favorite part of the project, mostly because of the challenges it embodies. When we agreed to terms on the project there was an aside about a mailbox. I imagined something small, mounted on the face in some easy way. I certainly didn’t imagine this affront to the internet age. I built a vault around it using quoins or cornerstones, an old school structural approach. I love the immensity, the real stone, real structure feeling it has. There’s no steel or block hiding in there- just stone on stone.
The image below shows the back of the columns on the opposite side of the driveway. Note the other vault, a massive control panel for the automatic gate mechanism. The stone door is held in place by friction. In the spirit of full disclosure, there is a piece of plate steel behind the lintel, supporting the column above.