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.
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Invisible Fire Pit
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All that’s left is cleaning up the drill holes a bit.