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Gravestone Preservation - Jonathan Appell
Be sure to visit this great industry resource!
This page was last updated: January 15, 2015
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"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. 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!
"Sleeping Lion of the South" Oakland Cemetery - Atlanta, Georgia
Sallie and Ron Clamp
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 )
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.
sandblasted, sandblasting, sandblasts
To clean or engrave by means of a sandblast.
-New International Webster’s
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.
• 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".
Pictures courtesy of the Elberton Granite Museum - Elberton, Georgia
• 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.