New Panoramas & A Marketing Class


This is a photo montage/panorama of the steps I built this past winter in the Montford district of Asheville. The step treads are made of the full-color variant of Pennsylvania bluestone. The wall, columns and step risers are made of granitic gneiss, mostly from the Hooper’s Creek quarry in Fletcher. The steps and columns are mortared; the wall is completely dry.

Sandstone steps and wall buried in snow. Looks positively comfortable right now.


Last Friday I led an hour long workshop for craftspeople and artisans on how to market their work. It was part of Handmade in America’s Art, Craft and Design Expo at the North Carolina Arboretum. The main push of my talk was that marketing is education and that craft artists should focus their marketing efforts on the 3 P’s: product, process and person. I also talked a bit about setting goals, making a cohesive plan and punk rock.

Bench Class

A couple of weekends ago, I led a workshop at the NC Arboretum on building stone benches. First thing in the morning we studied images of various benches, stone-cutting techniques and ways to move heavy objects safely and with relative ease. Safety was a recurring theme throughout the day. After the classroom presentation, we went outside and built a free-standing bench, a style I call castle-block for the big chunks of stone that make up the supports. The bench we built is now a permanent fixture at the Arboretum, a rest station along one of the trails.


To facilitate ease of movement, we cut the big stone down in the back of my truck. In this image, Ronnie is using a star bit chisel to notch shallow guide holes in the top of the stone. This gives the drill bit a place to sit, reducing the likelihood of the bit bouncing around and scarring the stone.


Everyone got a chance to use the drill and work at cutting stone. Here Judy leans into the drill to get the proper placement.

Since our cut edges were going to be exposed, we took some time to clean up the drill holes. Here Carol is using a handset chisel to knock off the cut edge of the bench stone. We put the cut edge to the back of the bench, less visible to passers-by.

We spent some time doing bench math, designing everything so that it would be the proper height and balanced as a structure and as an aesthetic object. Here Carol measures the thickness of the slab, the starting point for figuring out the math. I handed out the following worksheet to guide the design and layout process.

By cutting it in the back of truck, we made the stone more manageable, but it was still a heavy chunk. Jason uses a rock bar to move the stone from the pallet onto the ramps we have set up. Using 2″ by 12″ pressured treated lumber as ramps, we slid the stone down to waiting blocks and from there into place.

We used mortar to set the bench. This design can be done dry, but the mortar reduces the risk of movement, particularly since the bench is in a public place.

We all felt good as we finished up. The bench looked great and we had built it efficiently and safely. It felt good to be leaving something cool and useful for everyone to enjoy. Tre and Ronnie test drive the bench and pronounce it good.

Grandpa Tony’s Bench: follow up

Memorial stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Memorial stone bench

My friend Matthew in Chapel Hill sent me this image recently of Grandpa Tony’s memorial bench surrounded by spring time flowers. He mentioned that some neighborhood kids circulated a flyer announcing a lemonade and cookie sale at Grandpa Tony’s bench, suggesting it’s already become part of the character of the place. That’s always gratifying to hear.

On May 15th I’ll be leading a workshop at the Arboretum on making stone benches similar to Tony’s.

Spring 2010 Classes at the Arboretum

The new class schedule for the North Carolina Arboretum was recently announced. I am leading three stonework classes this spring. DIY Flagstone Paths & Patios will be offered twice, on Saturday April 10th and on Friday April 16th. In the morning session, we discuss the basics of drystone flagging: necessary site prep, the principles of good structure and varying joinery styles. In the afternoon we go outside to the stone classroom and practice the essential skills: moving stone safely, shaping individual pieces and leveling the patio.

I am offering a brand new class this spring, called Stonework Special Projects: Making a Bench on Saturday May 15th. In the morning we will discuss the design and structural issues of building a stone bench. In the afternoon we will build a freestanding bench ourselves. Topics of note including cutting stone with feathers and wedges and how to move large stones safely.

 

Schwag: T-shirts

Hammerhead Stoneworks T-shirt logo

Hammerhead T-shirt logo

 

I just picked up my first T-shirts. They are white Gildan brand with this design on the chest. I have a few extra so if you are interested in acquiring one, send me a note and please include your size. Gildan brand tend to run large. I’m going to sell them for 15USD, shipping included to the continental United States. Shipping elsewhere will cost more. We can swap shirts too, if you’ve got something cool. Drop me a line at hammerheadstone@gmail.com

Sister Cities, Brother Benches

These two benches were cut from the same slab of Tennessee sandstone. The first was built as a free-standing structure in a Chapel Hill neighborhood to celebrate the life of one of their most beloved members, Grandpa Tony. The bench is mortared and features an adjacent boulder with a small plaque. I call this type a castle block bench, named after the material used for the base stones.

Memorial stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Grandpa Tony’s bench

The second bench is in Asheville, adjacent to a sidewalk. The sitting stone, seatback and arm rests were all cut from same stone as Grandpa Tony’s bench. It is a drystone structure and built directly into the retaining wall.

retaining wall bench

A stone bench set into a retaining wall in downtown Asheville.

Next spring I will be leading a hands-on class at the Arboretum on making a stone bench. We’ll be building a castle block bench together that day. The official class date hasn’t been announced, but let me know if you’d like to be updated when the class registry opens.

Cutting an S shaped Line in Stone

Cutting an S shaped Line in Stone

Up to this point, every time I’ve cut a stone using feathers and wedges, I have done so in a straight line. I decided to try cutting a S shape out of this particular slab of sandstone paving because it was just too large for the walkway under construction; it would unbalance the whole composition. I wanted a sinuous line to accent the rolling shape of the path and to avoid creating a uniform, tiled feeling with long straight lines and square stones.

Cutting an S shaped Line in Stone
I drew the line over a few times, trying to get the right shape. I wanted a subtle curve, figuring it would be easier to accomplish. The X’s indicate where the drill holes be, evenly spaced. This is the back of the stone, so my scribbles and drill marks will be unseen.

Cutting an S shaped Line in Stone
I drilled six holes. Why six? Because that’s how many complete sets of feathers and wedges I had at the time. More would have been better. The holes are fairly shallow, about two inches. The stone itself is only three inches thick. I was careful to not punch the drill bit through the stone, as it would have created ugly knockouts.

Cutting an S shaped Line in Stone

I placed the wedges so that they turned along the line. This ensures that the force applied pushed the stone apart along the desired line. They look like soldiers marching.

Cutting an S shaped Line in Stone

Ah, so close. The actual split wandered from the desired line at the very bottom of the stone. Looking at it now, it’s clear that the split followed the path of least resistance. Another wedge even closer to the edge might have helped this, as would have reorienting the line so that the desired line followed the path of least resistance. Tracing the desired line with a chisel might also have been helpful.
There’s a lot of surface flaking where the feathers are set. I believe the wedges are a fraction to big for the drill holes so that they bind at the top and cause the stone to pop like this. This was a secondhand set of wedges that I have since replaced. Another reason to do this on the bottom of the stone.

Cutting an S shaped Line in Stone
Here are the cut stones in the pathway. The two big, rust-colored stones to the left side of the image are the cut stones flipped and set. Note the ‘dog paw’ pebbling just above the gray stone, to honor Dixie, a regular visitor to my lunches during the project.