Black Mountain Stone Patio

Drystone patio in Black Mountain, North Carolina

Our current masonry project is a drystone patio in Black Mountain, North Carolina. There’s a square of concrete pavers at one end, where the clients’ new hot tub will soon be located. You can see the tail of the electric line that will power the tub. I prefer to use concrete pavers for hot tub pads because they are more perfectly flat. As meticulous as we try to be, we’ll never get natural stone as flat as that!

Drystone patio in Black Mountain, North Carolina

The wall was already there and not our work. We did locate a trench drain under this patio, to help convey rainwater out from this contained backyard. We also installed a water bar on the slope above, to divert water away from the patio.

If the idea of a water bar really, really intrigues you, this NC Forest Service PDF is more than you ever wanted to know.

Fourfold Mosaics Grouted

Grouted the mosaics

I grouted these two mosaics this weekend. These are my first experiments with geometric patterns, these based on Islamic tile designs. The colors really pop in this image because I’ve just rinsed them with water. Another example of how stone mosaic so closely resembles quilt patterns.

Mosaic Update

We’re still plugging away at “The Treehouse Orchestra.” Here’s a couple of recent pics:

Jonathan laying out the bass from “The Treehouse Orchestra.”

Jonathan is seen laying out the bess that he cut from a lovely stone called Stalatiti Bronze.

First draft of the boy who will be playing the tambourine

This is the initial cutting of the face for the boy who will be playing the tambourine.

Stone Steps

We built these two sets of steps at home just outside of downtown Weaverville. They replace wooden steps they were breaking down. This is a particularly tricky way to build a wide set of steps. To ensure that the seams between the stones are clean and consistent and suitably narrow, you have to square off the ends. That can get fussy. These pieces were anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds, thick ones maybe more. ‘Test-fits’ require a lot of work and more than one person. I think the driveway stack is the largest set of wide slabs we’ve ever done. I think it’s likely to stay that way too!

Slabs of Tennessee sandstone comprise this stack of steps.

Slabs of Tennessee sandstone comprise this stack of steps.


The design on the steelpan from the Treehouse Orchestra mosaic is a reference to the Phoenix Rising mosaic, the first we completed for Norfolk.

phoenix stone mosaic

The Treehouse Orchestra

Current status on the mosaic at the shop

Here’s a quick update on the latest mosaic. We have all of the foliage cut, as well as the tree branch. Four of the kids are completely done. The background stone has been ordered and is en route.

Yellow travertine becomes very blonde hair

Persian Gold is the trade name os a very lovely yellow travertine that I like to use. In this case it’s crazy bright yellow hair. This was a tricky choice; I wanted blonde because there are already so many kinds with black or brown hair. The more muted ‘blonde’ colors were too similar to the stone I used for the face. It’s seems rather vivd on it;’s own, but I like the way it brightens up the foliage in the overall mosaic photo, above. At this point I’d say it’s 50/50 that we keep this hair or change it out for something else.

The mounting system for the triangle in the new mosaic

The boy in the lower center of the mosaic it jumping to strike a triangle that’s hanging from the tree branch. I thought it would be cool if there was a real triangle in the piece, and of course wanted it to be able to ring out if struck. This is the arrangement we’re working with for the installation. When purchased, the triangle had a single hole with a piece of sturdy monofilament through it. It rang beautifully with a long sustain. I needed this to be stronger and able to withstand some measure of abuse or misuse. We added a second hole. Being pinned like this will keep the triangle from hitting and damaging the stone behind it. It also makes it harder for young hands to grab at it and pull it loose. Two bits of stainless threaded rod poke through the background marble. They are welded to a thin plate. Little nuts behind the triangle help to hold it off the stone. Honestly, it doesn’t ring as well as it would were it able to hang freely, but it sounds pretty good. There’s less sustain. A little bit of tape over the threads inside the holes helps it ring longer than when it was just resting on the bare threaded rod.

Slab Steps

Our current project has been a slow roll because of the weather. We are replacing some old wooden steps in Weaverville. We started a week ago removing the old staircases; there’s also a set on the front of the house. It took us a week to get back there because of the snow cover and low temps. The next Friday we got these two in place and one ten foot wide step laid out front. More snow coming this weekend, so we’ll see when we get back there! Hopefully soon…

Eight feet across, these slab steps are a sturdy replacement for failing wooden steps.

Seating Wall

Things are slow here with the weather, so I’m raiding the archives for older pics that I haven’t posted before (I hope!) This one gets points for greenery and flowers. Ready for winter to be done.

Xylophone Girl

We’ve been finding time to work on the Treehouse Orchestra mosaic, hiding out in the shop on the rainy days that winter brings. The xylophone girl is cut and on the table awaiting detailing, which is when we tidy the fits so that it looks just so, and apply tape to the face of the mosaic for transport and installation.

Here’s the whole piece, laid out on the table. We’re working on the foliage right now. I have to order some background stone for down below; I think it’ll be a white/gray marble.

On the table at the shop