Making the Benches with the Marble Inlay

In a recent post I mentioned a couple of benches we installed at King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffle that had marbles inlaid into the bluestone bases. Here’s a few pictures from the process.

onyx spheres

Banded onyx spheres for a stone bench


These spheres are made of banded onyx and are slightly larger than the regular glass marbles that made up the majority of the bench inlay. I used them in the corners to help secure all of the other marbles- so they wouldn’t roll away as the epoxy was setting.

glass marbles

Glass marbles


I went to the toy store and bought so many marbles. It was awesome. I decided to avoid grouping them or trying to control the color pattern. During the inlay process, my rule of thumb was generally to not put the same color/style of marble next to each other.

helpers at the shop

My boys helped me lay marbles into the bench bases


My boys came to the shop with me one day and helped me put marbles in. The marbles are set in a groove that was cut into the base stone- a large chunk of bluestone. I used a very heavy duty epoxy as the setting agent. Each marble has a couple of small cut on their backsides to ensure that the epoxy has something to bond to. The boys also helped me figure out how many marbles I needed to buy. It was a practical math problem we solved over dinner one night.

Lifting a big stone

Lifting a bench base with a cherrypicker engine hoist


My friend Wally loaned me his cherrypicker engine hoist. We used it to get the big pieces off the truck. From here we dropped them onto our cart and brought them to the installation site. We used the cherrypicker again to set them onto the mortar bed. Because the bluestone bases were precision cut and had fine corners- and because they were full of marbles- we didn’t want to risk our typical approach of flipping things around and muscling them into place. Sometimes we are capable of finesse! We used Lewis pins to lift the stones. Holes are drilled into the top of the stone and the pins slide in. When you lift it up, the pins ‘grab’ the stone and lock in place. The holes are under the slab and out of sight in the finished installation. The three small pieces on the top are spacers that give the seating slab a lift and help imply a floating feeling. They are epoxied and pinned in place. The holes you can see on the top of those pieces were for pins that slotted into the bottom of the seating slab. These will not be easily undone.

Marbles laid into stone

Marbles inlaid into stone for bench base


A look down one side of one bench during fabrication. I could only do one side at a time and I ended up redoing a lot of parts because my starting point with the epoxy was nervous hopefulness. It was a messy process and it took me a while to figure out how to make it work and look good. And since I was practicing on the finished pieces- not the smartest thing to do I admit- I had to undo a bunch of things. I expect that for the next few years I’ll be finding marbles at the shop that have been flattened top and bottom as I cut them out of these benches. But now I got epoxy swagger!

Boulder Bench

Big stone bench

Twenty inches tall and 60 inches tall, this is one of our biggest boulder stone bench builds

We built this boulder bench in Flat Rock, North Carolina. It’s longer (60″ instead of 48″) and taller (20″ instead of 18″) than most of our stone benches. This was at our client’s request. Having recently undergone surgery on her knee, she wanted something stable and a bit taller, so sitting down and getting back up didn’t require as much effort.
A thick slab of Tennessee sandstone is supported by two fieldstone boulders- also from TN. Both boulders are anchored into a single slab of concrete that is about the same size as the slab. This prevents differential settling- having one leg start moving away from the rest of the bench.

Stone Benches With Glass Marbles

stone bench with glass marbles

Glass marbles inlaid into a groove in the base of this natural stone bench provide a splash of color.


We recently installed two natural stone benches at King Daddy’s, an excellent little chicken and waffles restaurant in West Asheville. The two benches rest on the edge of their covered patio/outdoor seating area. Two large bluestone bases support slabs of Tennessee sandstone. The bases have glass marbles (mostly glass anyway- the ones on the corners are banded onyx!) laid into them. It’s partly inspired by my fascination with benches that are super sturdy but look like they might fall right over (see the Harmony Benches we’ve built or the Floating Bench to see the start of this obsession. It’s also inspired by a tale I’ve heard, but never confirmed, that old school masons would put glass marbles or lead balls between large stones when constructing a building. The marbles acted as spacers and prevented the heavy stones from squeezing out all the mortar between them. And I’ve always had a fascination with marbles in general; we find them all the time digging in people’s yards to install a patio or wall. I had a great deal of fun buying all these marbles. It’s a good time when you can go buy toys with the company credit card! Shout out to Dancing Bear Toys!
stone bench with glass marbles

Glass marbles are inlaid into the base of this stone bench to suggest a delicate balancing act.

Memorial Benches

Memorial Benches

We recently designed and installed 2 memorial benches. Similar to some of Hammerhead’s previous memorial projects, these benches were created to commemorate the lives of loved ones.

This first bench was commissioned in memory of a Labradoodle named Ginger. We had the sandblasting engraved by our good friends at Martin Monuments.

The second of the memorial benches was installed beside a lovely stream at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary in Mills River, NC, just outside of Asheville. Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is a cemetery that is centered around conservation and sustainability. The Sanctuary offers natural burials for humans, pets, and cremated remains for a fraction of the cost of today’s typical burials.

memorial benches

“Cold Bench Makers” Photo Credit: Anthony of Carolina Memorial Sanctuary

Memorial Benches

Finished Bench in the Memorial Sanctuary Photo Credit: Jonathan Frederick

Modern stack bench – First Baptist Church of Asheville

At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics, and we like our benches to be whimsical. The labyrinth project we competed for First Baptist Church of Asheville is comprised of four of our bench designs, including our modern stack bench.

The columbarium area of the Memorial Garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville contains four modern stack benches. The benches have a very clean, modern aesthetic. The design committee requested something more formal while not overtly like a highly polished memorial bench found in a graveyard.

Materials Used for the Modern Stack Bench

A rough hewn granite block anchors the bench to the concrete. Pennsylvania Bluestone comprises the seats, topped with reclaimed black granite. The granite serves as a spacer, which creates a shadow that suggests that the big blue slab is floating over the granite.

All of the materials used for the benches figure heavily in the overall design of the garden. We wanted the benches to help unite the various elements of the design. The black granite used in the benches resembles the granite used for the columbarium vaults as the place where names will be engraved. This provides a unifying element with other areas of the Memorial Garden.

Modern Stack Bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville

Modern Stack Bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville

Floating Stone Bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville

The Floating Stone Bench

At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics. And we like them to be whimsical. The floating stone bench is one of four designs we created for the memorial garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville for, as we call it, the labyrinth project.

One of our favorite designs, the floating bench is truly one of a kind as we created specifically for the church. A steel armature levitates a slab of bluestone above a block of Tennessee sandstone.

floating stone bench

A slab of bluestone appears to hover over a large chunk of sandstone in this floating bench.

Read More About Benches by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Boulder Bench – First Baptist Church of Asheville

The Boulder Bench

At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics, and we like them to be whimsical. We created four bench designs for the memorial garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville for the labyrinth project. The boulder bench is one of these designs.

There are four boulder benches spaced around the labyrinth at First Baptist Church of Asheville. The benches are drawn from Hammerhead’s traditional design of a boulder bench, which is a large slab of sandstone seated on top of a pair of funky sandstone boulders. At First Baptist Church of Asheville, we cut the tops of the benches to have the precise radius of the outside edge of the labyrinth in order to provide visual continuity with the radiating circles of the labyrinth.

One boulder bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville

One of four boulder benches at First Baptist Church of Asheville

Read More About Benches by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Stone Bench: The Harmony Design

Hammerhead Stoneworks designs and installs innovative natural stone benches.

Harmony Stone Bench

Stone benches are wonderful addition to outdoor spaces and a unique design opportunity. At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics. And we like them to be whimsical. The harmony stone bench is one of four designs we created for the memorial garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville for, as we call it, the labyrinth project. This is a favorite design of mine, because of how delicate they appear and how strong they truly are. There’s something a bit magical about that to me!

We created two of these harmony stone benches for the memorial garden, and both are made of river rock and a blue stone slab with a hidden steel armature supporting the overall structure. The waterworn pebbles and crisply cut top add an eclectic juxtaposition. These benches are adjacent to the water feature Hammerhead is currently constructing in the labyrinth. River pebbles echo the flowing water and river path that leads to the feature. The blue slab of the bench ties to the stream path that leads to the feature. One feels connected to the water and its movement in the space. The delicate balancing act is deceptive; these benches are super sturdy!

Harmony stone bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Harmony stone bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Harmony stone bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville by Hammerhead Stoneworks

 

Read More About Benches by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Balancing Stone Benches

A balancing stone bench

A balancing stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks in Asheville North Carolina.


River pebbles support large sandstone slabs to create sturdy stone benches. A hidden steel armature supports the slab, making it as solid as our other stone benches. These two benches adorn the frontyard of one of our favorite Asheville clients.

Balancing stone bench

A balancing stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks in Asheville North Carolina.