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

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

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.

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.

Boulder Bench Installation

Stone bench on boulders

Stone bench on boulders

This bench was installed in Biltmore Forest. The supports are ‘finger’ boulders that I cut down to a suitable length. The seat itself is a step slab, precut by the quarry. It’s exactly four feet long and eighteen inches from front to back. What follows is a brief view of installing such a bench. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures showing how I cut the boulders down which was mostly chisel work with some grinding to take off the ugly lumps.

I start by placing the supports. The googly eyes represent the center of the holes, where we start digging. If the orientation of the bench isn’t obvious, it’s a good idea to have a piece of cardboard or paper the same size as the bench slab. A life sized template lets you twist it this way and that, until you find the place the bench wants to be.

Once the holes are dug, I drop the supports in, onto a tamped base of pea gravel. Getting the supports leveled to each other and the tops flat is absolutely crucial. I use a cup wheel on my grinder to level off the tops. This is the most time consuming part of the installation. I had tested the design and assembly in BENCHLAB, but the way the stones relate in the actual installation means this step has to be refined in situ. Happily, I like making dust.

With the supports in place, I pour concrete around their bases. The top surfaces are flat, but I have used the grinder with a diamond blade to score the tops, giving the mortar a place to adhere. There’s about 7-8 inches of stone underground.

The seat slab weighs over 500 pounds. I use a pair of pressure treated 2″ by 12″ boards as a ramp to get the stone from the truck bed to the ground. I make sure it comes down the ramp facing in the right direction, with the top up. Then we just walk it up the ramp.
The first step up is a couple chunks of 4″ by 4″ scrap. Next, we lift it up onto standard 8″ blocks. From there we step up to the 12″ blocks. At each level, we remove the previous step, so there’s one less thing to trip over. It’s a heavy stone, but we’re never lifting it more than four inches and just one end at a time. The 12″ block is close to the full height. I bring a couple of extra bits of board to place under the stone to make sure it’s above the height of the supports. You want to set the slab down on the mortar bed, not slide it across it which risks pushing the mortar off.

Full disclosure, my helper Gary was there to make this install happen. I have done it by myself, but an extra pair of hands really helps.
I put a bed of mortar across the top of the supports and we set the slab on top. To finish it out, I adjust as needed to make sure everything is level, clean up the mortar joints and re-grade the area.

Then, I test the bench.

Yup, works.

BENCHLAB I


Allie tests out the latest design in BENCHLAB, a corner of my yard where I try out bench-making ideas. I loaded this bench on the truck and installed it today. Images of the installation and finished bench to come…