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.


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.

DIY Flagstone Class: August 22nd

DIY Flagstone Class
On Saturday, I led the first DIY Flagstone class of the season at the NC Arboretum. Ten people took part in the workshop which started at 9 and lasted until 4. In the morning we looked at several samples in a slideshow and discussed the stones, tools and structural elements of a good drystone patio. Just before lunch, we reviewed the safety concerns we might encounter working together. After lunch we headed outside to the ‘Stone Classroom’, a corner of the Arboretum grounds where they have built a gigantic sandbox for paving projects. After a couple of demos, people worked in teams of two to build their own section of flagstone patio. People had fun and did some great, creative work.

Upcoming Classes

bluestone patio

Dimensional bluestone makes a lovely patio behind this modern Asheville home.

There are two new sections of the Do-It-Yourself Flagstone Paths and Patios workshop now registering via the North Carolina Arboretum’s website. The classes take place on Saturday, August 22nd and Friday, September 4th. They begin at 9:00 a.m. and run until 4:00 p.m. After a morning slideshow and discussion, the class moves outside. The Arboretum built a stone classroom in a clearing in the woods with a gigantic sandbox just for us. After some brief demonstrations of basic safety, stone-moving, and shaping techniques everyone gets to work applying what they’ve learned. Please contact me: marc (at) hammerheadstoneworks (dot) com with any questions or if you need help registering.

Flagstone class

flagstone paths

Dry-laid flagstone path

In April I led a class on creating do-it-yourself flagstone paths and patios at the North Carolina Arboretum. It was a perfect day for it. We started with a classroom presentation that covered the basics of setting flagstone as well as aesthetic choices and safety issues. after lunch we went outside to the Arboretum’s Stone Classroom and played with some Tennessee sandstone. Flat and easily worked, sandstone is a good starter stone for DIYers. People worked in teams of two and laid small areas of flagging.

In this picture I am apparently demonstrating the proper technique for making sure your stones don’t float away while you are working them.

Photo credit: Mac Franklin of the NC Arboretum. Mac and his crew built the classroom, including the gigantic sandbox I used for the class.

We have scheduled two more classes for August and early September. The dates will announced to Arboretum members soon. If you are interested, Contact Marc at (828) 337-7582 or