Carved In Stone 
 
“A Comprehensive Guide to Monumental Sandblast and Shape Carving”
 
Ron and Sallie Clamp
2005-2008
Contributors: Heidi McKee, John Benson, Mark Carroll
Consultants: Charlie Clamp, Jimmy Parham, Boyd R. (Randy) Parham, Ronnie Brown, Mike Fernandez, Nick Benson, Gary Wallace, Frank Bone, David Via, Jonathan Appell
 
 
sandblast   (s nd bl st ) 
 
NOUN: 
1.
a.An apparatus for propelling a jet of sand, as for engraving patterns on stone or glass.
b.A machine used to apply such a blast. 
TRANSITIVE VERB: 
sandblasted, sandblasting, sandblasts 
To clean or engrave by means of a sandblast.
-New International Webster’s 
 
PREFACE
 
Historically stone carvers were seen as equals to doctors, lawyers and clergy. Much of the respect that was once held for all manual trades has evaporated over the last 100 years. With industrialization, many of skilled aspects of the industry no longer require a skilled craftsman. While sandblasting did replace many of the tasks that sculptors once did, it is still a skilled position. Sandblasting, as a technique, is only a tool, amongst an inventory of tools, which a stone carver has at their disposal. How well any tool is used is totally dependant on the user. Very few people that utilize sandblast thoroughly understand their craft well enough to qualify as a journeyman or master engraver.
 
The technique of monumental sandblasting has a relatively short history. Sandblasting was first invented in 1870. It was used primarily to clean metals. 
 
The following description of the history of stone carving was written by Heidi McKee (used with permission) as part of a research paper that she wrote while working on her Ph.D. in writing studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Although it is written from a layman's perspective of the industry it is fairly accurate and very informative. 
 
(17th-19th Centuries)
The designer would hand draw the chosen image and words on stencil paper. 
The selection was limited to what the designer could easily draw or trace and to what the stone-worker (often one and the same person) could carve. 
The stencil would be cut-out by hand and laid on the stone and the image would be traced. 
Following the markings traced on the stone, the stone-worker would use chisels and hammers to shape, cut, and carve by hand. 
These were time-intensive tasks and the more complicated the design the higher the price by a substantial amount. 
In the 1800's mass-produced metal stencils and letter die-casts made it easier for designers to trace images and letters. However, customers' selections would often be limited to the stencils the monument company had available unless the company employed a designer who could draw or would hire an artist, one who was knowledgeable of what images could successfully be hand cut into stone. 
1894 – mid 1980’s
The development of air hammers and chisels at the end of the 19th-century speeded up the cutting process, but images and letters still had to be hand drawn on the stone. 
With the advent of electric enlargers (machines that used light and mirrors to redirect images),designers had the option of tracing more images, but the image still had to be converted into dimensions that would work with stone and traced onto the stone--processes that were all done by hand. 
Then in the late 1920's sandblasting machines were introduced to the industry. By literally blasting a sand mixture at the rock, these machines eliminated some of the hand cutting techniques, but special carvings or ones with especially fine detail still needed to be done by hand. Also, until the 1960's or so, the sandblasting machines had to be held by hand. 
The automation of the sandblasting machines helped to speed up the process because, as Lou Ann Herstead from Scottsbluff, NE explained, they "freed a man up to continue working on something else and improved the quality of the sandblasting [by enabling greater] uniformity because the same speed, direction, and distance from the stone is maintained".
Because the sandblasting machines would wear away any unexposed rock surface, a means to protect uncut areas had to be devised, so rubber stencils were poured onto the stone. According to Lew Herstead, the process initially went like this: "The stone had to be perfectly level and a border of plaster put around the area to be covered. The stencil was melted in a pot with sufficient water to allow it to pour, and this would be poured onto the stone to a proper thickness of 3/16 and allowed to cool overnight. . . The next morning the cutter would draw the carving and lettering directly on the poured stencil and then proceed to cut out the work with a stencil knife". 

Later the stencil came in rubberized sheets that were glued onto the stone, but the process of having to cut the stencil by hand before the sandblasting could begin was the same well into the 1960's. 
Even after stencil presses, to press the letters into the stencil, were introduced cutting stencil by hand remained an incredibly time-consuming task. 
mid-1980's to present
Computers have not changed the basic process of designing monuments (images and fonts still need to be chosen, the layout planned and applied to stone, the stone surface cut and finished for the cemetery), but they have transformed the ease and speed by which that process is done. 
With available clip art, the speed of scanning technology, and the monument design programs that enable drawing (and redrawing) of micro-precise images right on the computer, almost any image a person would like put on a monument can be done. 
Because changes can easily be made, designers can redesign jobs without the tedious process of erasing and redrawing. With a click of a button images can be deleted, enlarged, manipulated in ways not easily possible with paper-based designing. - Lew Herstead, second generation owner of Herstead Monument Co., Scottsbluff, NE
Besides making designing easier, computerization led to computer stencil cutters. This substantially reduces the cost of the monument because after setting up the computerized stencil cutter, the designer can just hit a computer key and go onto another task. 
 
INTRODUCTION
 
In the recent past, monumental sandblasters strived to become journeyman sandblasters.  It required a three year apprenticeship covering three basic skills: sandblasting, layout/rubber cutting, and shape carving. The rubber cutting and shape carving were considered skilled positions, whereas the sandblasting was considered a labor position. Today, draftsmen and rubber cutters have been replaced by the use of computers. Automatic sandblast machines have replaced much of the sandblasting by hand. One true skilled position remains: shape carving. 
 
Even a very good monumental shape carver is typically not an artist. He is a craftsman. That does not mean that his or her work can not be artistic. Unfortunately, a large majority of the work produced in the United States today can not even be considered well crafted, let alone artistic. Typically less than 10% of the monuments in any cemetery exhibit decent workmanship. Even fewer exhibit really good workmanship. Lack of education and lack of a thorough understanding of the craft are the root of many of these problems. The bar has not been set very high for anyone striving to be an “above average” sandblast/shape carver.
 
Producing monuments, like anything else, is influenced by three factors: quality, service (time), and price. The customer can only choose one of the three. The higher the quality of craftsmanship a customer wants, the more time it is going take to produce. If the customer wants the product quick, then less time is available to put into the quality. If a customer just wants cheap, then they usually get what they pay for. 
 
In order to run a profitable, reputable business, a balance of quality, service and price has to be found. My personal belief is that if you maintain respectable quality and excellent service then a slightly higher price goes unnoticed.
 
This manual is not a short cut guide to making monuments. It is a guide to making monuments correctly. This guide is not based on scientific research or library references. It is based on years of experience sandblasting. It is based on my personal experience and on experiences of masters of the trade like Jimmy Parham, Charlie Clamp, Frank Bone, and Boyd R. (Randy) Parham just to name a few. Much of this is the result of knowledge gained by trial and error over many decades. 
 
That being said, let’s get started!
 
 
FILLER
 
 
The primary purpose of filler is to fill any irregularities in the surface of the stone. Even a good polished surface has open pits and pores that sand and air can get into when sandblasting causing the stencil to lift from the stone. The secondary purpose of filler is to act as an adhesive. As the quality of polishing has improved over the years less emphasis has been placed on filling pores and more placed on the adhesive qualities when choosing a product.
 
Most people use one of two types of filler on monuments. The filler number varies by manufacturer but, unless otherwise noted, we are going to refer to the product numbers used by 3M. 
 
The decision on which filler to use can usually be based on which type will be easier to clean off the rock as opposed to which does the best job of adhering. Other things to consider when choosing the type of filler are the type of finish the stencil material is being applied to and which type of stencil is being used. 
 
When referring to stencil numbers/types, unless otherwise noted, I will be referring to Anchor Continental brand.
Stencil #154 used on polished granite will generally adhere with no filler applied;  however,  it is actually more difficult to remove the Mylar film from the stone when finished. Also, it will tend to “blow up” easier during sandblasting.
 
It is my experience that #3 filler is easier to clean off the stone after sandblasting, but #2 filler adheres better. Both types should be stirred well before using and each can be diluted with white gas or Coleman fuel and still bond well. Stencil filler #3 in particular, is very thick, so thinning it helps to get a nice even coat when applying to a polished stone. On other finishes it is best applied thick so descretion should be used when diluting. 
 
The stone must be dust free before applying filler.  Use a heavy towel to get the bulk of the dust off the rock and then a smaller one to clean up any dust that is left. Next, carefully check the stone for moisture. If the stone is damp the stencil will not stick. A low temperature torch or a heater can be used to dry the stone. In the summer, depending on humidy, a fan may help. Setting the stone in direct sunlight can also be helpful. Remember that if the stone is sitting directly on the ground, it will wick moisture from the ground almost as fast as it can dry. 
 
Once the stone is dust free and dry, apply a thin coat of filler using a paint brush. Apply the filler to the center of the stone first and then use the brush to sweep filler over the edges. This will prevent the filler from running down the sides. Be careful not to let filler get onto the rock pitch edges of the rock. It is hard to get off! The filler has to dry completely before proceeding. Test the stencil with a knuckle to see if it is dry. Fingers have more oil in them and also have a tendency to be dirtier than knuckles. 
 
Always be aware of the weather conditions.  If filler is applied when the temperature is 75 degrees and the dew point is 73 degrees the stone will start to “sweat” as soon as the temperature reaches the dew point. The stencil will not stick if the stone is damp. Just because the stone was dry when it was cleaned it does not mean it will be dry once it is ready to apply the stencil. If the stencil was applied before it started to sweat, it should adhere and not cause any problems.
 
For the environmentally conscious, Anchor Continental has filler #333 which is water soluble. This filler adheres well. It is generally best to sandblast and clean the monument within 24 hours of applying the filler, otherwise it may be very difficult to clean, especially if applied to a polished finish.  Caution also has to be taken if the temperature is below freezing because the filler will freeze. Citrus filler removal is recommended for clean up when using water soluble filler. Citrus cleaner will also work with any of the other types of filler. It just requires substantially more time and elbow grease than mineral spirits.
 
For death dates 3M has a transfer tape that replaces the use of filler. If using stencil without a Mylar backing, use acetone to remove the talcum from the face of the stencil and apply masking tape. Remove the backing of the stencil and apply the 3M transfer tape to the back of the stencil. At this point remove the masking tape if used. When ready to “stick up” on the stone remove the transfer tape’s paper backing and apply to the stone.  The glue membrane of the transfer tape holds the stencil intact when removing the rear paper lining.
 
Stencil #116 is a high tack stencil which does not require any filler when sandblasting brick, cast concrete or wood signs. The front of the stencil does require the use of masking tape on the face during application to hold the stencil together.
 
For optimal adhesion and cleanability use a combination of #3 and #2 fillers, especially if sandblasting on a steel finish. Apply a thin coat of filler #3 to the stone and let it dry. Next apply a thin coat of filler #2. When the stencil is removed after sandblasting, the filler will be pulled off with the Mylar. If any traces of  filler remain, use your thumb or the back of the used stencil to rub it off. This 3-2 combination works well on any finish. On a polished or honed finish, time can be saved by mixing filler #3 and filler #2 together and applying to the stone at the same time. 
 
 
“STICK UP” and “LAYOUT”
 
 
The industry standard for measuring monumental stone is plus or minus ½ inch. Architectural stone standards are plus or minus 1/16 inch. Unless the CAD operator measured the actual piece of stone, the finished stencil probably will not fit exact. There are a hundred exceptions to every rule in sandblast. The golden rule is to trust your eye. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.
 
Hopefully, the CAD operator left some guidelines on the stencil for use when “laying out.”  Preferably, they will have cut the joint (the bottom of the rock) with hash marks marking the corners and one hash mark marking the center of the joint. Most designs will work well if applied from the joint. 
 
Align the bottom of the stencil with the joint of the stone. Use the hash marks on the edges to center the stencil by equally splitting the difference between the two sides or align the center hash mark on the stencil with the centerline on the stone.
 
After centering the stencil check to see if the fits the height of the stone. If not, move the stencil up or down enough to split the difference between the top and bottom. If the stencil has to be moved in either direction make sure to keep the joint on the stencil parallel to the joint of the stone. Never lay out the stencil from the top of the monument. The only thing that anyone can be relatively sure of is that the joint will be straight.
 
If anything about the placement of the stencil does not look right to the eye then there are several measurements and angles on the stone that need to be checked. Measure from the joint to the top of each shoulder on a serpentine top die.
 
Monuments with serpentine tops that are 4 foot in length or shorter usually have 1 ½ inches of drop. The exception to this rule is if the stone is a polished 3 or polished 5, then a 2 inch drop is standard. Anything above 4 foot will have 2 inches of drop and the drop will become progressively larger as the stone size increases.
 
Check the sides of the monument. Most monuments have straight ends. Check them with a square. If they are not square, then determine the amount of diminish in order to adjust the stencil accordingly. Do this by placing the square against the bottom and aligning it with the corner of the shoulder. The measurement from the square to the bottom corner is the amount of diminish. Using the straight edge, make sure that the ends are not convex or concave. If they are not straight, place a straight edge on the corners.  The amount of rise or fall at the center of the stone is the amount of convex or concave respectively. Next, check the rise of the serpentine to make sure the stone cutter used the correct pattern.  Sometimes the stone cutter will place the top pattern off center and this will cause a problem with the top being true. The peak of the monument on a serpentine top die should be at its highest point in the very center of the stone. After checking the stone, double check the stencil to make sure that everything was properly drawn, is square and centered on the rubber.
 
As soon as stencil placement has been determined, roll the stencil with a roller without removing the backing. This will help prevent the stencil from shifting. Another helpful trick is to place a weight in the center of the stone. Pick up the end of the stencil and pull the backing off 6 or 7 inches. Ease the exposed stencil back down onto the stone. Take a hand and slide it over the material and then roll it down with the roller. Be sure to start in the corner and roll up and down, gradually working back to where the backing is still on the stencil. This will prevent bubbles from getting between the stencil and the stone. Remove the weight and roll the stencil up into a roll. Take the exposed backing and pull it off. Keep it low to the stone while pulling it off and be sure to pull straight while applying even pressure from the center of the stencil or from both corners. Again, the goal here is to prevent bubbles of air from getting between the stone and stencil. With the roller, continue rolling the material down starting where you quit previously, using the same technique as before.
 
Check for air bubbles as soon as the stencil is rolled down. The stencil is likely to come off the rock when sandblasting if there are air bubbles. Also, stencil that has air pockets under it will burn easier when it is being sandblasted. Using a rubber knife, stencil pick, or “Exacto” knife, remove the air bubbles. Keep the holes in the stencil small. Insert the tool and roll out the air bubble with a finger while pulling the tool out of the hole.
 
The stencil can be “weeded”, “picked” or “pulled out” before or after it is applied to the rock. If you have trouble seeing the design, rub some chaulk dust on the stencil. Sidewalk chaulk works wonderful. This will help highlight the lines. A little dirt rubbed on by hand will do just as well. 
 
Good lighting is also important. Take advantage of adjustable lighting by placing a light low and at an angle to the stencil. This not only places good light on the work area, it also causes the design to be more easily seen. 
 
Air pockets are less of a problem if the stencil is weeded after it is on the rock. If weeding on the stone, be sure to roll the stencil down again after weeding because the Mylar will sometimes separate from the stone as the letters and lines are weeded out.
 
Weeding the stencil in advance also has its advantages. Less expensive labor, such as office help, can be utilized to free up more expensive skilled labor. It is also work that can be completed while waiting on stone to arrive or dry out, glue to dry, etc. No matter when the stencil is weeded it is important to prevent the material from getting creases or becoming crinkled prior to use. It is best to either store the stencil flat or roll it back onto a stencil roll. 
 
In the process of weeding, pieces are sometimes pulled out that were suppose to stay. (i.e. the centers of the letter “A”) Usually, these can be pushed back down firmly and it will work fine. If anyone were to touch the adhesive with their finger, apply a thin coat of #223 filler (Anchor Continental) before sticking it back down. Remember that the filler has to be completely dry before reapplying the stencil. If the piece were to get dirt on it, cut another piece the same size from clean stencil. Remove the Mylar backing before placing it back where the missing piece belonged.
 
After the stencil is on the rock, patch any exposed areas of stone. It is also wise to patch any hair lines that may have been cut into the stencil. Apply #223  filler (Anchor Continental) to the area being patched and let it dry. Overlap a piece of patch stencil over the area and roll it down. If the stencil was cut in more than one piece, the space between the pieces of stencil needs to be patched. If blowing with an air driven automatic sandblast, the edges need to be double patched. 
 
Some automatic sandblast curtains hesitate when reversing directions. Where the automatic hesitates, the stencil will burn. Use any stencil that sticks out over the edge of the stone folding it to stick to its own backing to protect the sides of the stone. This will stiffen the edges of the stencil preventing sand from hitting rock pitch edges and discoloring them. It prevents the abrasive from burning the edge of the stencil and will keep the airflow from pulling the stencil off the stone. 
 
If the stone is all polished or has a polished top it might be wise to patch any exposed areas to protect them from over spray. The stone can also be protected by applying a heavy coat of filler to the exposed polished areas. This will not protect it from a direct hit, but it will give it some protection from over spray or sand bouncing from the walls or ceiling of your sandblast room. It is a good idea to line the sandblast room walls with some type of rubber mat. It protects the room and it cuts down on the possibility of sand dulling the finish on the ends, top and back of the stone.
  
 
SANDBLAST PROCESSES
 
SINGLE PROCESS
 
Single process shape carving looks best from a distance. (To read and understand more of the advantages of single process refer to the chapter on Personas, Second Person.) When single processing, apply the stencil, then sandblast all of the v-lines and exposed areas to the desired depth. It helps to draw the v-lines 3/32 wide or wider. Typically, it is best to sink all of the v-lines nice and deep. This not only gives better shadowing but also helps when it comes time to mud pack because the mud will stay in the lines better. If sandblasting with an automatic, it is helpful and looks better to sandblast the carvings and family names a little deeper than the rest of the monument.
 
After sinking the lines to the desired depth, begin shape carving (See the chapter on Shape Carving). When shape carving try to preserve any v-lines in the carving (i.e. the veins in leaves) that are going to be blued or hold lithochrome. 
Once the shape carving is finished apply the lithochrome. We will cover the correct techniques in a later chapter.
 
MUD PACKING
 
Mud packing is used in single process shape carving to protect the areas that will not be frosted. 
 
After the paint is dry pull off all of the panels and anything that is going to be frosted. The stone is now ready for mud packing. (“Packing mud” can be purchased, but the best mud packing medium comes from the dust collector. Ideally, dust from a dust collector will be so fine that if someone dropped a quarter in it the quarter would sink straight to the bottom of the container.) Water should be added to make the mud moist, but firm enough to hold its shape. 
 
Push the mud into all of the letters, carvings and recessed areas. Use shaping dust or fine sand from the floor of the sandblast room to run over the top of the mud. This will help dry out and pack the mud. With a stiff brush, take off the excess mud. Using a mud packing trowel, pocket knife or rubber knife remove the excess mud from any area of the carvings that should not have paint or that a frosted or blued finish is desired (see chapter on Bluing and Frosting). Keep the mud in the veins of your leaves! If having trouble keeping the mud in the lines this process may need to be repeated more than once. This technique becomes easier with practice.
 
Using shaping sand and a medium size shaping nozzle, “dust” all of the exposed areas. The goal is to remove all of the polish and the lithochrome that is not supposed to be in the carvings or on the panels. Do not blow any of the mud out of the areas that are supposed to remain painted or blued. Add more mud as needed. Concentrate on not rounding the edges of the lettering and carvings. Looking at the panels at an angle, directly into a light, will allow any polish that may have been missed to be seen. 
 
After removing all of the polish and excess lithochrome, use a medium size nozzle and very low pressure to “flash” the panels and carvings with flint shot. (Recommend 40 psi) This will whiten the exposed areas. Make sure to keep the nozzle back far enough from the stone to whiten but not blow out the mud. As the sand hits the stone it will cause thousands of small stun marks. Low pressure will cause the stun marks to be wide and very white. Using higher pressure will cause the stun marks to be deep as opposed to wide and they will not reflect as much light, thus producing less contrast. Higher pressure will also cause the excess mud to be sandblasted away and the letters to be rounded. 
 
To get the panels even brighter use water to wash the dust from the areas to be frosted before using flint shot. This will cause a notable difference in the brightness of the panel. This is also nice because as the sand hits the stone it dries out the moisture making it is easier to tell what areas have been sandblasted.
 
Keep an etching tool with a diamond stylus handy. It can be used to remove any particularly difficult speck of lithochrome while frosting or Mylar missed when pulling 0ff panels. Course sandpaper can be used to whiten the spot. If a small piece of Mylar is accidentally left on the panel and then it is frosted, it will look just like the rest of the frosted panel. Months later the Mylar will come off and the polish underneath will be exposed.  
 
Before taking the stone from the room, check the rock pitch top and ends for stun marks that the stone cutter might have left. On light stone, use shaping sand to remove them. On darker stone a torch may have to be used (refer to the chapter on Stuns).The stone is now ready to clean up. Wash out the mud with water and pull off the stencil. Wash off the glue and any other marks such as crayon marks. White gas, citrus cleaner, mineral spirits, clear kerosene or naphtha will clean the stone and not damage the lithochrome.
 
Mud packing is the number one cause of inferior work while using the single process method. The results of shoddy technique include rounded off letters, lithochrome missing in the letters and carvings, polished glaze in the panels and uneven frosted finish. Most of these deficiencies can be attributed to poor workmanship while mud packing. 
The most common causes of these mistakes are failure to sandblast the lines deep enough to hold mud, not using fine sand to remove the paint and polish, using incorrect air pressure while frosting and failure to repeat parts of the process when necessary.
 
Single process can be used to complete high quality work if done correctly. The reason single process has a bad reputation with some is because of poor workmanship during mud packing. 
 
 
DOUBLE PROCESS
 
With double process, the lettering is usually crisper and it is easier to apply the lithochrome. The drawback is that it takes significantly more preparation time. (To read and understand more of the advantages of double process refer to the chapter on Personas, First Person.)
 
First, apply the stencil to all of the areas that are supposed to remain polished. Make sure to keep dust from getting on the removed stencil panels and carvings otherwise the stencil will have a hard time sticking to the stone.
 
Now complete the shape carving. By virtue of the technique, shaping cannot be nearly as deep nor have as much detail as single process shaping is suppose to have. We will go into more detail on shaping techniques in later chapters. 
 
Next, using shaping sand, remove all of the polish from the exposed areas, then use flint shot to whiten the panels.
Apply the filler and start applying the rest of the stencil. It is useful to use a rubber mallet to get the stencil to stick in the areas that have been shape carved. Veins usually are added by hand. If they were precut, they would open too wide due to the stretching of the stencil over the contour of the shape carving.
 
Once the stencil is on the rock, sandblasting the recessed lines can begin. The v-lines usually look better if they are narrower. Most people who double process draw their lines somewhere between 1/16” to 3/32.” Sandblast everything to the desired depth.
 
Apply the lithochrome into the recesses.
 
The stone is now ready to have the stencil removed and lines and glue cleaned off.
 
PROCESS AND A HALF
 
Process and a half is a combination of single and double process. Basically, the carvings would be single processed and the panels and the remainder of the stone would be double processed. Doing this takes advantage of the strengths of both techniques. This technique produces deep shape carvings with maximum detail and nice crisp letters and panels. Most of the legendary double processed, deep carved Barre roses are actually done using process and a half.
 
This technique works exceptionally well on extremely large projects that have large frosted panels and only have small or limited areas of shape carving.
 
PERSONAS
 
Monuments in a cemetery are primarily viewed from three distinct distances. The distance from which the stone is viewed changes the impression that the stone will give.
 
The style, depth and techniques that are used to sandblast any stone should be influenced by how and where the stone will be viewed. The real challenge is to respect the three perspectives in order to achieve a complimentary balance.
For instance, shape carving that is relatively shallow but smooth can look very realistic from the first person perspective. From the second person perspective the same carving will look almost flat.
 
FIRST PERSON
 
is not a specific distance but refers more to a range. This range varies between approximately the length of a person’s arm up to about their height in distance from the stone. When a person is viewing a monument from the first person perspective they are usually not looking at the overall design but instead are looking at the individual elements on the stone such as the given names and dates. They can be enjoying the individual carvings or reading text. 
 
From this perspective, the carvings should look the most natural. Leaves should appear natural with smooth rolls and transitions. The person studying the rock from this distance will be able to see and appreciate the detail and time that was spent on the carvings. Any mistakes will also be much more visible from this distance.
 
From the first person perspective shadow is nice but detail is more important. The choice of letter depth from the first person perspective is also an important consideration.  For example, skin line letters on a black sign with white litho will show up really well from a distance. The skin line letters will reflect the maximum amount of light causing the letters to be seen. From the first person perspective the same lettering will look as if it were simply scratched into the surface. They will have the appearance of being painted on. If the sign were next to a walkway, U-round lettering might be the best choice. If it also will be viewed from the road, skin cut letters might be the best choice (see the chapter discussing Letter Styles).
 
Double process letters and carvings lend themselves well to being viewed from first person. The crispness of the lettering, smoothness of the shaping and the neatness of the lithochrome application all compliment the stone.
 
SECOND PERSON
refers to a distance from the stone that is equivalent to three times a person’s height. This is actually the perspective that most monuments are viewed from.
 
Detail is still important from second person but shadow plays a more important role. For best results, the carvings should be shape carved deep with a lot of undercutting. The carvings that look best from second person actually look a little exaggerated from the first person perspective. From second person the lettering and lines should still be distinct. 
 
From second person it is the shadows in the carvings that make the carvings come to life and look real. Letters blown in the polish on dark stone should be deep enough not to appear scratched on but still shallow enough to reflect light. The brightness of the frosted panels should reflect lots of light from this distance. Crystals will probably be seen sparkling in the frosted areas.
 
The person viewing the monument from this distance is close enough to be looking at the individual elements but is also able to view the monument as a whole. From this distance it is important that the design be balanced and pleasing to the eye since the person will be able to encompass the whole monument.
 
Single process carvings, with their emphasis on shadow, work extremely well from second person.
 
FIRST IMPRESSION
or third person, can be viewed from any distance or angle. Geography dictates from where and how far away people will view the monument. This is generally the perspective from which large monuments and signs are viewed.  Typically, the distance will be from far enough away that the design alone will have to attract the person’s attention.
 
 While designing monuments is the realm of the draftsman, the sandblaster still plays an important role in the success of the final product. From third person the most valuable asset is contrast. It is important that frosted panels are bright. Any lithochrome, frosting or bluing needs to help enhance the design so that the lettering or design does not just blend into the finish.
 
Proper font selection is vital from third person. The lettering needs to be legible while hopefully achieving some artistic taste (see the chapter on Lettering Styles and in particular read the article by John Benson).
Ultimately, a monument will generally be viewed from all three perspectives. Finding the balance that compliments the stone from all three is the trick. Time, experience and some forethought will determine how to proceed in order to achieve the best balance. 
 
For this very reason, sometimes there is a distinct advantage to actually completing a larger project on site. Being able to envision how a monument is going to be viewed dictates the best way to carve a project. These decisions sometimes can be made best only on site.
 
Before custom designing any project or a monument, spend time studying other people’s work. It is important to understand basic design, job location and the median that is going to be used in order to develop a sense of balance. Even if trying to design a contemporary piece, it is still vital to study and understand proportion and balance. 
Study the nations many public memorials. Learn to think objectively, as opposed to critically, about why parts of a project really does or doesn’t work and how it could have been improved. This will enhance your own ability to think “outside the box” and enhance your skills.
 
There are plenty of good design books to study and learn from. Keep in mind that just because a company has a book of designs printed, it does not mean they are designers and understand the best applications to use in the field. 
It is easier and more forgiving to draw something on paper than to cut it into stone. It has been my experience that the best draftsmen were rubber cutters first. 
 
Design Mart, in Elberton, Ga. offers design books that are full of well-balanced designs. They have years of experience and their knowledge of monument design is undisputed. It is a good idea to invest a good deal of time absorbing design ideas from people and books that understand the product. 
 
The “McNeel” series published by McNeel Marble Company, Marietta, GA in the 1920’s is a monument design classic that every person in the industry should also study.
 
MEDIANS
 
All of the sand types discussed here are suggested medians for hand blowing. There are hundreds of other options. This has been kept simple for training purposes. 
 
Silica is dangerous because it causes a lung condition known as silicosis. Proper respiratory protection is crucial to the person using it and the surrounding area. Proper dust collection is not only common sense, but mandated by law. No matter what median is used to sandblast you are still exposed to silica. Granite is 68% silica. Other medians that are commonly used are even more dangerous because they can be absorbed through the skin. Read the warning labels on any products used.
 
Every median producer uses a different numbering system. Usually, the higher the number, the finer the sand will be. Many sand producers indicate on their bags a range of grit. A range of 35 would indicate “course” grit sand. This sand should be ideal for frosting, depending of course, on how wide the range is. If the sand is ¾ #35 grit and the other ¼ is very fine then the sand will be bluing the panels at the same time it supposed to be frosting. The goal is to buy as narrow a range as possible in order to control the shades being produced. Most suppliers refer to this as flint shot. This can be used at low pressure to frost or at high pressure if a course steel finish is desired.
 
#55 is relatively course. Most suppliers refer to this as course. It can be used to sandblast and it will cut fast with adequate air pressure. It can also be used to produce a velvety steel finish. 
 
#70 is fine grit. It is referred to throughout the manual as shaping sand. It can be used to shape carve and can produce very smooth finishes. There is quite a large difference in the contrast between #70 and flint shot.
 
Because few people still do any bluing #200 is a special order item. It is also wonderful to shape with. Many people who do statuary use it for fine detail work. It will leave the stone a dark shade of gray on most colors of granite. For that reason, it is referred to as bluing sand.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hirons Memorial
Automatic Sandblast Unit
Setting Unit
For 40 years Design Mart has helped memorial counselors and manufacturers alike assist their clients in the creation of personal memorials. With more than 20 titles to choose from, we offer a design series to fit virtually any cemetery requirement or budget.
Gravestone Preservation - Jonathan Appell
Be sure to visit this great industry resource!
This page was last updated: December 8, 2014
Hyatt's has been selling professionally-designed Monument Production Systems since 1997. Please contact us to receive a customized system proposal, or to learn more about design and production training. 

"Carved In Stone" is available for purchase either in paperback or hard back. Since 2005 over 6000 people have read "Carved In Stone". Those that have read it have said it is a useful tool for a better understanding of monumental shape carving. The following is a small sample of the manual for review prior to purchase. The pictures and charts have been removed so that the document will open quicker. It is our hope that the manual will continue to be a useful reference and will continue to be a resource for the stone carving industry. For those interested in shape carving classes please follow the SandBlast-Shape/Carving link!
"Carved In Stone" is available for purchase either in paperback or in hard back. Since 2005 over 6000 people have read "Carved In Stone". Those that have read it have said it is a useful tool for a better understanding of monumental shape carving. The following is a small sample of the manual for review prior to purchase. The pictures and charts have been removed so that the document will open quicker. It is our hope that the manual will continue to be a useful reference and will continue to be a resource for the stone carving industry. For those interested in shape carving classes please follow the SandBlast-Shape/Carving link!