Making a Field Stone Fire Pit – PARTIAL FAIL

So one of the things that West Virginia has is mountains and stone; no real surprise to anyone who has been there. However, I have a lot of extra fieldstone lying about in piles from the pasture field, and I am looking for something to do with it. First, fieldstone is the stone that is exposed from the earth while farming. It damages equipment and prevents growth in the fields. It has to be removed, quite often by hand. Prior to my purchase, it looks like there are probably a few decades worth of fieldstone that has been removed from the earth.  I have been doing my own rock picking as well, and adding to the piles.

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In the top picture, you can see the decades worth of stone that has been placed into a pile; there are a few of these around the perimeter of the pasture. Below, is some that I have drawn out and started adding to the pile. I thought that maybe at some point I could make a small perimeter around, something to be determined, with a fieldstone wall. But before doing that, I should know what I want, and learn how to work with the material.

So, I decided a small stone fire pit would be a good choice. Also, with the unexpected winds, I thought this would be safer as well. Placing a grate in the bottom of the fire pit will improve airflow, and reduce the amount of smoke thats always chasing you when you are sitting around a fire pit. So the first thing I did was, order a specialized grate from Amazon.

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Once received, I then painted it again with a special high temperature spray paint for an extra level of protection. This is because it will be exposed to high heat which could crack the paint, and also because it will be on the ground. Any cracks in the paint will then expose bare metal to water.

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The next thing I wanted to do was get a bunch of rock, so I gathered up a bunch of rock in the area. However, after inspection, I determined that just any stone won’t work. This rock, for example, was too small. I needed larger rock that would make for a better, more stable fire ring.

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After gathering up some decent fieldstone, and playing with it a bit, I started setting the base stones for the fire pit. I also double checked to make sure I liked the placement on the mountain, cause… it won’t be moving after this (or so I thought).

Next was making mortar. This process was okay, but ultimately lead to the fail. I followed the directions closely and used an earth auger / bulb planter attached to power drill. The earth auger / power drill combo worked fantastically well to mix the mortar. However, when I went to use the mortar, it felt a bit too thin, had no stickiness, and set way too quickly. I am going to have to redo the project because of this. Time to research the correct type of mortar for fieldstone work. I ended up throwing away the whole bucket and mortar combo. Other lesson learned, make your mortar in batches, not all at once. Make what you need, then use it… repeat. However, I am glad I started on a small project like this, and not a larger one (like a fieldstone wall).

 

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I decided to go ahead and keep making the fieldstone fire pit anyway. I had the stone and the time, and I wanted to at least see how it was going to finish up. Basically, I just kept stacking rocks on top of rocks and tried to make it as stable as possible, despite no mortar. It surprised me how stable it actually turned out, especially when wedging small stones into the gap. One thing: I didn’t level out the ground below prior to building the fire pit. I just used stones of different sizes to force it to level near the finish.

At this point, it was time to “crown” the fire pit. I worked on leveling it out a bit more and wanted to make it summer time functional. So, I also purchased a grill cooktop for it as well. Additionally, if it gets really windy on the mountain, it can help contain the fire within the fire pit and prevent incidents. Anyway, I sprayed it down with more high temp spray paint (both sides), let it dry, and set it on top.

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I am pretty pleased with the results, even though it will have to be rebuilt again in the future. It has been put to use a few times already, and has worked out pretty well. The fire pit is pretty large, and can hold a lot of wood, which could be a draw back in the future (more wood cutting). That said, time to go learn more about different types of mortar.

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