In the Labyrinth

The Asheville Labyrinth under construction at the Hammerhead Stoneworks shop.

The Asheville Labyrinth under construction at the Hammerhead Stoneworks shop.


Hammerhead Stoneworks is proud to be building a full-sized rendition of the Chartres eleven circuit labyrinth for the First Baptist Church of Asheville. I call it a rendition because it’s not a replica- we are using different stones and spacing. I can’t says ours is “inspired by” either, since it is our goal to very accurately approximate the 800 year old design and dimensions; we are borrowing too much of the original to just be “inspired by.” I like rendition because it suggests to me a musical performance. This is our adaptation of one of the great works, written and performed centuries ago by gifted artists. Our rendition is our earnest attempt to honor their amazing artwork. And like any good musical performance, our rendition should have its own flavor. It will be informed by our talents, our tools and techniques, and the times we live in. I hope that someday our rendition will be considered worthy of its lineage.
The labyrinth will be all natural stone, laid dry in a bed of gravel. We are aiming for a 1/8″ tolerance on the joinery. When completed it will be forty-four feet across.

Stone Path on a Gradual Grade

In the mountains of western North Carolina, where Hammerhead Stoneworks is located, we often deal with awkward slopes. Gradual grades, like the one pictured here, are common. The best solution usually involves striking a balance of steps and landings. This walkway features several small stacks of slab steps with flagstone landings spaced throughout. It’s important to take the rhythm of walking into account. The rise and run of steps are an agreement between the builder and everyone who uses their steps. It should be predictable and within a ratio that we are familiar with. Stuttering steps- those awkward ones that are too short or too close together or weirdly spaced- drive my crazy. (A common thing here is the two inch step at the top of a run of stairs. WHY?!)
Of course, there are other variables as well. You want to steps to fall naturally into place along the slope. If your steps are too far ahead, then you have to do a lot building up with retaining walls to support the steps. Likewise, if you get too far into the slope, there’s a lot of digging needed and you may have to install some sort of edging to keep the soil and mulch off the path. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but often, by taking the time to pay attention to those details in the design phase, you can have a stone path that has a natural rhythm, is safe and easy to walk and is strong and durable. Like this one in the pictures!

Stone path and steps

Drystone pathway with steps. Balancing bench in the background.

stone pathway and steps

A view of the stone path and the mountains

stone pathway

Tennessee sandstone pathway with steps slabs and site boulders

Sunflower Mosaic for Frankie

Frankie on her sunflower mosaic patio

Frankie on her sunflower mosaic patio

This mosaic patio was created for my friend Carmen. She needed something to cover the muddy space just outside the doggy door that leads off her porch. Frankie, the puppy in the picture, is an enthusiastic digger and was tracking in altogether too much mud. I had wanted to try a sunflower design in stone and this seemed like a good opportunity.
Sunflower mosaic made of natural stone

Sunflower mosaic made of natural stone

The seeds are Mexican beach pebbles anchored in concrete. I cast that piece in an retired plastic flower pot. The rest of the stone is laid dry on a bed of crushed stone and sand. The background is Pennsylvania stone and the flower petals are sandstone from Tennessee. I might simplify the design if I were to revisit it. There’s a slight “S” curve on the petals that required more time for cutting and shaping than a straighter line might have, though if it were bigger, that curve would be easier to cut.

Stone Columns for an Automatic Driveway Gate

Stone driveway columns with automatic gate

Stone driveway columns with automatic gate

Hammerhead Stoneworks recently completed these stone columns to anchor an automatic driveway gate for an Asheville homeowner. The two columns are set on a single slab of concrete that extends across the driveway. Called a grade beam, this slab ensures that there’s no differential settling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen driveway columns settling away from each other, veering off in strange directions.
Driveway gate stone column

Driveway gate stone column

Each column has a steel armature inside it that is bolted to the slab/grade beam. Affectionately called ‘aliens’ for their many appendages, the armature is an awkward looking thing, until it is hidden by the stonework. The armature to the left is more involved as it has arms that extend to the outside of the column to support the gate as well as the gate operator. The armature allows us to center the gate on the column; in many cases a gate is set at the back of or behind the column as a convenience to the builder. We just thought it looked better in the center of the column. The stonework is structural, with only the steel armature- and some conduit- inside it. I think it gives a stronger, more integral look than a standy-up veneer. Almost all the material is sandstone from Tennessee, which is colorful and easy enough to square off for a clean edge.
Stone column for an automatic driveway gate

Stone column for an automatic driveway gate


Conduit runs through the center of each column for future lamps. Since it wasn’t in the homeowners plans as we built, we set a secondary cap on top, to cover the conduit and protect the opening from the weather. Should lamps be desired, the topmost capstones will be removed and the wiring can be installed with minimal fuss.

Moon Gate Entry Sign

A moon gate by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.

A moon gate by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.

The Town of Weaverville brought Hammerhead Stoneworks on to design and install an striking entry sign to welcome visitors as they enter town along Merrimon Avenue. The design features a moon-gate- a full circle arch. Originally meant to evoke the fresh growth and unlimited potential of a newly sprouted fiddlehead fern, it also looks an awful lot like the water wheel that’s just below the lake in the background. That’s a happy accident of the design process.

This project is still in progress. Tomorrow we will pick a beautiful slab of sandstone that will be engraved with the town greeting message and then installed to the left of the moon gate.

A moon gate by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.

A moon gate by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.

Balancing Stone Benches

A balancing stone bench.

A balancing stone bench. It’s sturdy!


We recently completed these two balancing benches for a regular client of ours. Both slabs are of Tennessee sandstone, though they have very different color profiles. River rocks of varying sizes comprise the bench supports. I know the concept works because every time I walk by them I think, “Those shouldn’t be standing!” They are very sturdy though, reinforced and supported by a hidden steel armature.

A balancing stone bench by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.

A stone bench by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.

Stone bench by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.

A balancing stone bench by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.