Ironwoods Stone Entry Sign: Done and Dusted

Stone entry sign

Finished product

Earlier this week, blacksmith Lynda Metcalfe and I drove to Chapel Hill to put the finishing touches on our collaboration, the Ironwoods stone entry sign. It was satisfying to see this project through; discussions with the homeowner’s association had started a year ago November. The time invested was well spent. This sign is a work of art.

Stone entry sign

The sign sits on an island and is visible to traffic in both directions. Each side of the sign has its own flow of vines and is its own piece.

Stone entry sign

Lynda’s work has great depth. The letters are raised from the back panel and vines wind their way behind the letters, poking through here and there.

In this image from Lynda’s shop, you can see how she lined up the lettering on each side so that one set of fasteners reached through to catch the word Ironwoods running in both directions. Lynda’s primary focus in architectural metalwork; it was great to work with another artisan with such a strong construction ethos. We both aspired to create something strong and beautiful. Craftsmanship should be more than pretty.
(photo by Lynda Metcalfe)

All in all, the experience of working at Ironwoods was unlike any other I’ve ever had in my career. They know how to treat craftspeople. Concerned neighbors brought out orange cones to protect us from distracted drivers. Virginia made me soup. A kindly stranger delivered me hot chocolate (with whipped cream!) on a cold day. Ethan and Logan supplied me with marbles, since I forgot my own back home. I am sincerely grateful for the kindness and enthusiasm shown for the process and the finished product. It is a great joy to create work for people who appreciate it.

Special thanks are owed to Matthew Feldt who saw this project through from a seed of an idea to a fully grown vine. He navigated the design process with grace, championed the project from start to finish and lent his strong back, his photographic eye and even his garage to the effort. The sign doesn’t happen without Matthew. Thank you.

All of the photographs in this blog posting, unless otherwise noted, are by Matthew Feldt.

Elk Mountain Wall & Frog

I didn’t have a jar of marbles with me, so I made one from some red clay and cured it in the sun.

A Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) is an uncommon sight at any time, as they are well camouflaged, hide way up in trees and are entirely nocturnal. Odd then to find this little guy way out on a branch on a cold November morning. He was chilly and not inclined to move much. Once the sun hit him around lunch time he got more motivated and went into hiding.

Mailbox Vault Done: Stone Theory

Mailbox Vault Done

Here’s the scene at the entrance to the Rock Hill horse farm. The connecting wall will top out at about 28 inches, so there’s a bit more to go. The far column has some sample caps resting in place. Columns of this volume might require a massive cap to help visually anchor them. That decision hasn’t been made yet…

Mailbox Vault Done
Here’s a front-on view of the mailbox vault shortly after completion. I’m very partial to this style: structural quoins, solid stone lintels, serious gravity. It’s a mix of old school and new style. My conservative estimate puts each column weighing over two tons.

This is a plan from my tiny notebook that I eventually scrapped, in favor of thinner stones for the quoins, adding an extra pair of stones in order to make full height. I worried that at almost 7″ thick, the quoins as drawn would be out of scale to the rest of the work.

Detail looking down the quoins.

This Northern Fence Lizard spent the night resting in a nook in one the block I used for my low scaffolding. It was a very safe place until I started work in the morning. I had to move him because he was too cold to move himself. His tail is obviously shortened, perhaps by a predator, perhaps by not being careful enough around the stone pile.

Pebble March

Pebble March

Pebble March



Come visit me at the WNC Home Show at the Asheville Civic Center this weekend.