Nothing induces the same primordial trance as fire. It warms our bodies, cooks our food, even scares us. It also adds some great ambiance to any gathering on a cool summer evening in Portland. Whether you want to relax with friends and a shaken martini in the cozy glow of the flames, or get back to cooking with this most basic of methods, a backyard fire pit will enhance any occasion.

The easiest, most convivial of outdoor fireplaces is the simple stone pit, according to Kevin Roberts, owner of Big Sky Landscaping (503-257-9275, bigskylandscaping.com), an Oregon City company that has built dozens of fire pits in the area. You can seat more people around a fire pit than around an outdoor fireplace, and you have the option of adding a cooking grate to accommodate everything from an elaborate meal for a sophisticated backyard soirée to some simple hot dogs and s’mores for a kids’ camping party.

If you have some elbow grease to spare, you can be hosting a roast beside a fire pit you built yourself in no time. Here’s the basic how-to from Roberts.