Hammerhead completed the Sacred Circle Fire Pit in January of 2014 for clients hoping to use the space for ceremonial gatherings. The photo below is of the fire pit after completion from down here on solid ground.
And here is a photo of the completed fire pit from Google Maps from up above.
This is the Google Maps photo from before the project was completed. Note the 7 small squares below the site. Those are pallets of stone we brought down to build with.
Natural Stone Mosaic Yellow Wakerobin was commissioned as a Mother’s Day gift for a family in Maryville, Tennessee. Named after the species of trillium featured on the piece, it now resides in a niche on a brick fireplace. A conversation with the Mom to be celebrated inspired the design. A heart survivor, she loves the mountains and is devoted to her three kids. The heart shaped leaves of the trillium, which grows wild in these mountains, seemed like a perfect match. And the white dove very much fits the family’s values and aspirations.
Dove and Trillium detail
I tried a new technique when I was creating the Trillium Mosaic. Once all the pieces were cut, I flipped them over and placed them on a reversed template. Since I take all of my pencil sketches into a digital space to create my patterns, it’s very easy to reverse the design and have it printed as a mirror image. Working backwards or upside down like this is a very common technique for mosaic artists, but it was the first time that I’d ever tried it.
One immediate advantage is that you can see how well the pieces are actually cut and make quick adjustments. Once I had the fits as I liked them, I applied fiberglass mesh. I used a special epoxy that I trust with stone to adhere the mesh. In the picture you can see tons of little scraps resting on the fiberglass as it sets up. Many mosaic artists will take the piece in that form and bring it for installation. I felt like my pieces of stone were too heavy for that, so I applied it to the backer board right there on the table. The fiberglass mesh was to prevent the stones from moving while I set it.
Piecing together the dove
The images below show the two color options for the petals of the trillium. I sent these photos to the customer and they made the call between purple or yellow.
Trillium test with a purple stone option
Trillium test with the yellow stone option
Whoops! I mixed my thinset too wet and then got impatient. As a result some of it used through the joints (pictured below). When I flipped it over, it was well adhered but still green, so I was able to scrape the excess mortar out. It was my penance for impatience.
The mosaic with mortar
All grouted – the dove’s eye is a tiny black stone marble.
Yellow Wakerobin detail
Check out some other natural stone mosaics completed by Hammerhead Stoneworks:
Here are some new photographs of the sacred fire circle that Hammerhead completed in January 2014 for clients in Alexander, NC. Over 3 1/2 years later, the space is still well-used and can be viewed from outer space!
The overall design of the Sacred Fire Circle
Google Earth image of the prepped site before we began construction. The little white squares are the first pallets of stone.
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.
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!
The lid of this hidden fire pit in patio mode. Note the handles set into the stone.
Invisible fire pit handles
An invisible fire pit in use, roasting marshmallows!
Yesterday I got the fireplace up to mantle height. Once I have some design discussions with the woodworker about the installation of the mantle, I’ll finish out the area above and focus exclusively on the chimney. As it is right now, I have a long walk to retrieve forgotten tools.
Limited lighting in the cabin, hence the lower quality of the image.
This a view of the wedge and shims that got stuck in the end of the lintel. I’m calling this the truth window, after the openings they leave in a straw bale wall to show what’s behind the stucco rendering.
This little stone sets into place nicely, but is easily removed to see what’s behind the truth window.
The biggest spider I’ve ever seen not in a pet store. He was about two inches across, which doesn’t sound that large, but he certainly caught my attention. This is a wolf spider, a roaming hunting spider. A good reminder why I should wear gloves in the stone pile. All indications suggest this will be another banner year for black widows.
I lost a wedge and set of feathers in the lintel stone. The stone broke cleanly, but this wedge, at the front edge of the stone, didn’t split quite right. The wedge remains, well stuck in the stone. In this picture, the wedge is set about two inches back from the front of the fireplace. I am leaving a ‘truth window’ in the stonework, so that you can look inside this little pocket and see the stranded tool.
This is my work space in the cabin, morning light filtering in. The recessed floor is where the hearthstones will be set.
There are marbles throughout this project, including this playful little dragon, well hidden in the face of the fireplace.
This tiger beetle has been a shiny emerald skittering around my stone piles.
This spring has been the wettest in years and the salamanders are in seventh salamander heaven. Everyday I see a few, under stones, in the creek or sometimes just walking around in the damp leaf litter. I believe this to be a Mountain Dusky Salamander, but I am not certain of my ID.
Today I set the lintel on the fireplace at the cabin in Mars Hill. The lintel is 46″ long and approximately 9″ by 9″ square. I cut it from a large slab, that weighed just shy of 1900 pounds. Here I am waiting for a fissure to emerge. I’m cutting the end of the lintel off using feathers and wedges. It’s very gratifying to listen to the stone as it splits; it sounds like ice.
Reid and Zach were on hand to help with all the lifting. We used 6″ by 6″ blocks to make a very sturdy tower in front of the fireplace. This made it much easier to lift the stone into and out of place, three times total. The first time I saw the general placement and marked the bottom of the stone for shaping. The second lift was to check the fit. I made some minor shaping adjustments and then the third lift was onto a mortar bed.
The lintel leftovers, all 1,000 pounds of it, made a good step onto the cabin porch. We will adjust grade so that the step down is consistent across the face of the step, which will effectively hide the oddball build up stones.
A couple of the drill holes on the face of the steps broke such that they can hold marbles. These are easily removed by kids, but the others are a couple of inches down a hole that didn’t break open at all. Those will be tougher to get.
Below is a detail of the break between the lintel and the step stone, just after I split them.