Planets In Orbit

A celestial planetary pattern immediately surrounds the ceremonial fire pit. It's made of cut bluestone and salvaged granite.

A celestial planetary pattern immediately surrounds the ceremonial fire pit. It’s made of cut bluestone and salvaged granite.

Cut bluestone surrounds the fire pit. Rays of Absolute Black granite stretch from the cardinal boulders to the fire pit. Nine planets (I included Pluto!) are made from salvaged granite.

Ceremonial Fire Pit II

Flagstone around a boulder

Flagstone surrounds the North Boulder. A ray of Absolute Black Granite connects the boulder to the fire ring.

We are installing rays of black granite that connect the fire pit to the four boulders. We’re cutting down slabs of a counter top material called Absolute Black. It has a leathered finish, so that it’s not slick when it gets wet. The rays are a design feature that focuses energy and attention of the center as well as create a path from the entryways- which are immediately next to the boulders- to the fire pit itself. I am cutting each one to marry to the boulder cleanly. It’s a fun and dusty pursuit. The rays run right up to the fire pit, but are held back a quarter inch, to allow the metal ring to expand when in use. I’m not even sure that’s a risk considering how thick the metal is, but better safe than sorry!

Drystone culvert

A drystone culvert allows water to escape the circular patio.

There are two culverts like this built into each section of wall. If the boulders are located at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, the culverts are placed to fill out the clock’s face. They allow surface run off to escape the central patio area during a gullywasher. Plus, I think they look super cool!

Fire pit and flagstone process

A view of the fire pit, granite ray and flagstone.

The outer path is three feet across. In this image you can see the suggestion of the outer path, two rays and the patio taking shape. Progress has slowed a bit with the holidays and some cold, cold weather. A design for the center is well underway and I’ll be buying some capstone material soon, so we’ll be ready to make hay when the sun shines.

Ceremonial Fire Pit I

Hammerhead Stoneworks has recently begun a new project, one that will keep us busy through the winter months. It’s a large ceremonial fire pit in a wide open part of the Asheville environs. When the wind blows out here, we feel it. These first few photos show the start up and our early progress. We have started by building a series of drystone walls. They are two-sided, free standing-walls that will top out at about eighteen inches, making the whole wall a very long stone bench. There are four such walls that terminate at the boulders which are located at the cardinal points of the compass.

Fire pit project layout.

Fire pit project layout.

On a large project like this, site layout is a crucial component. Everything hinges on the center point. We worked diligently to get the levels and shapes correct before we cluttered the area with stone and our tent.

fire pit and drystone walls

Free-standing walls encircle a ceremonial fire pit.

Ceremonial fire pit

Free-standing walls encircle a ceremonial fire pit.

Cold weather stone work

A car port frame laced with sheet plastic protects us from the elements.

The tent has been a huge asset. Two weeks in, I think the tent has saved us two and half working days. And even in cases where we could have tolerated the cold, we were more comfortable and able to do our best, most efficient work. It’s hard to set stone well when you’re so bundled up you can’t move your arms! It’s noisy in there on a windy day, but pop in the iPod and you barely notice.

drystone wall

A long curving free-standing wall as part of a ceremonial fire pit.

This is a close up of the first wall now ready for cap.

A Stone Fire Pit That Saves Patio Space

Invisible fire pit in use

Invisible fire pit in use


Hammerhead Stoneworks offers a stone fire pit design solution for small patio spaces. This past spring I built what I call an Invisible Fire Pit. This is a design solution for a small patio area. A typical stone fire pit can take up a great deal of space. In a small area, this can be problematic, as it limits the amount of outdoor furniture one can use, or make it hard to entertain in the space at times when a fire isn’t desired. The Invisible Fire Pit is built down into the ground, but has a stone cover, so that when not in use, it really isn’t noticed. You can walk right over it with no indication that the space beneath your feet is hollow. Of course, this raises the issue of how to access the fire pit. I had my blacksmith friend Lynda Metcalfe make wrought iron handles. These are drilled through the stone and rest in a small groove I cut into the top of the stone. With the handles recessed in this way, there’s no trip hazard. The stone is still heavy, so it’s best to lift it with a friend! Last weekend the client had us over and my boys roasted marshmallows over the fire with his daughter. It was a great fun and the fire pit will get plenty of use in the coming months, as the nights cool off so perfectly.

Lid for the invisible fire pit

Lid for the invisible fire pit

Invisible fire pit cover

Invisible fire pit cover

Recessed handles for the invisible fire pit

Recessed handles for the invisible fire pit

Lid of the invisible fire pit

Lid of the invisible fire pit

Contact Hammerhead Stoneworks for all you patio and fire pit design and construction needs.

Invisible Fire Pit

Invisible Fire Pit

Invisible fire pit

Invisible fire pit cover

My current project is a flagstone patio with a fire pit. The flagstone is laid dry over crushed stone. Because of the slope of the yard, I built a short retaining wall at the far edge, to support the patio. Two slabs steps provide access to the yard. The sandstone I’m using is from Tennessee and has some lovely color tones to it.

The fire pit is the fun feature. Because of the limited space, I designed the fire pit to be invisible when not in use. A slab of stone serves as a lid. In the images below you can see the fire pit with the lid on and off. I will install recessed handles that will help the homeowner to remove the lid whenever he chooses. The handles will be flush with the top of the stone when not in use and will be the only indication of the fire pit. There’s still a lot to be done before this is full realized. More pics to come!

hidden fire pit

The lid of this hidden fire pit in patio mode. Note the handles set into the stone.

 

Invisible fire pit handles

Invisible fire pit handles

 

Invisible fire pit

An invisible fire pit in use, roasting marshmallows!

Stone Grill

Stone Grill
I’m back to work in the Rock Hill area of South Carolina. I’m facing a grill with eight inches of stone- Arkansas Hackett and Tennessee sandstone. It’s the same mix as the columns I built on this horse farm a few months ago. In this picture you might notice a single piece of limestone (it’s a corner) and a couple of bits of Pennsylvania bluestone; I’m working on a sedimentary theme. I don’t do much facing like this, but I still like to lay everything in the bedded plane- as it was formed in the earth so long ago.

The next image shows the backside of the grill. The opening will have a pair of wooden doors and be used for storage. The lintel is supported by a steel shelf that’s anchored into the block and concrete structure.

The bottom image shows the face of the grill, from the deck. That jumble of stone in the middle is where the fire will be, after a steel insert is fabricated and installed. The overall design is by Jeff Mills, a gifted craftsman and builder from the area who recruited me to the project. The steel pipes will support a roof structure.

Stone Grill

 

 

Cutting Lintels

Cutting Lintels

Here is the step-by-step process I followed for cutting lintels for the pig roaster.

Here’s the stone I’ve selected and an assortment of the tools needed. The blue lines on the stone represent the cuts I’ll be making, one way or another. I decide to cut the right end off first, using feathers and wedges.


Before I use the hammer drill, I make small starter holes with the star-bit chisel. This prevents the drill bit from chattering on the stone, missing the mark and leaving unsightly scars. Before hammer drills, star bits were a traditional way to cut stone- swing the hammer, spin the chisel, swing the hammer, spin the chisel and on and on.


When cutting granite, I usually put feathers and wedges on three sides. To help guide the cut through the edges of the stone, I use my hand tracer, a recent purchase from Trow and Holden, to score a line where I want the cut to go.
Cutting Lintels

Sweet!
An argument could be made for making this cut with the hand tracer alone; granite is hard and heavy, but it behaves very well under tools. I decided to use the feathers to save time. You should trace all four sides and that’s no small feat with a stone this large, at least working by yourself.

Cutting Lintels
I followed the same process to make the longer cut along the width of the stone. Note how much straighter the ends are, where I traced the edges before splitting. It might have been a good idea to trace the whole line, though the rough line is in keeping with the overall aesthetic. I placed one wedge at the bottom of each side to guide the line.


The pencil line indicates the last cut to be made, to trim the top of the lintel. This is the face of the stone, freshly split showing a lovely line of quartz that will center over the opening of the roaster. Because of the clean line I want and the proximity to the edge of the stone I elect to use the hand tracer rather than the drill and wedges.

Cutting Lintels
Here’s the risk of this operation- I am cutting very close to the edge of the stone, particularly as it tapers towards the bottom. It is very likely that the cut I’m making will choose the path of least resistance out of the stone, which would be to the back, rather than the bottom. The top of the stone will spall, leaving me with stone to remove by other means.


The hand tracer is surprisingly effective; it cuts a very, very clean line.

Unfortunately the top of stone spalls, leaving excess material on the top where my cut was trying to remove the thinnest flake of stone. The blue line indicates what remains to be removed. The grinder is my weapon of choice.


I score the top of the stone with my seven inch grinder using a diamond blade. I put the score lines about an inch apart. I then use my chisels to remove the excess material. Notice the dimple on the face closest to the camera; a matching dimple on the opposite side made it possible to lift the stone.

Cutting Lintels
All that’s left is cleaning up the drill holes a bit.

Cutting Lintels

Complete!