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November 15, 2010

We’re building a fire pit.. come make s’mores!

We chose “red chisel stones” that are cut on an angle so it made our circle a lot easier to create. Our pit is five feet in circumference (16 stones) and three blocks tall (about 3 ft). So we needed 48 stones. You’ll need to recall some basic geometry for this … don’t panic, google can help.

We determined the stones of our pit would be 12 inches deep. You’ll have to dig a little bit of a trench.  To make a perfect circle tie a string to a spray paint can, anchor it in the middle and spray in a circle. Do it again for the inner part (for us, a foot inside). Husbands are useful for the trench digging part and they think the spray painting is fun – so lead with that.

Now for the tedious leveling part. The first round of leveling can be “good enough for government work.” We found four metal bbq skewers and tied string over the pit. Find a four foot level and adjust. Then you just measure the space between the ground and the string and keep digging until you’ve done this at eight points around the circle. It won’t be perfect. Which is why gravel and cement is next – its a lot easier to push around wet cement and gravel than dirt is to dig out.

We needed two 80 pound bags of cement for this. Mix, pour enough that you can’t see dirt below but you are still under the trench rim. Now level again. This time you want to have two strings going across the pit and make sure they’re touching in the middle – so they’re at the same height. This way you should be closer to getting the cement level all the way around. Now – get a beer and go watch football. Lucky for you cement needs at least eight hours to set.

Welcome back! Today we get to lift all 48 stones multiple times. Hope you work out. Set out the first layer in the pit so you can work out spacing. Don’t just start mortaring the suckers into place or you’ll end with way too much space between the last few. You want slightly mushy mortar for this bottom layer so you can, once again, re-level these suckers. Done? Go rake leaves for an hour and let that set.

Repeat two more times. For each new level, we alternated the bricks so the 2nd level brick sits on two of the bottom level and centered each brick on the space between the bottom two. This also helped with spacing the upper levels – the spaces will get bigger since you’ll push them slightly further out (believe me, it just looks better).

Someone told us to avoid getting too much mortar on the outside face of the stones – presumably because its hard to get the red color back. We eventually gave up on this. We didn’t like having un-filled gaps between the bricks so we made a judgement call. We’ll see if they can be cleaned in weeks to come.

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