PROCESS

Sigrid and I enjoy carving in slate because it is such a fine-grained stone and shows off beautiful lettering better than any other. The early settlers in New England used whatever slate was easily available and not all of it was of high quality. The black slate of Maine is extremely hard and dark. Slate also comes in purple, green and mottled hues from Vermont. We also frequently work in limestone, marble and granite.

FORMING THE LETTERS

We brush out our letters and other elements calligraphically, fine-tuning the work on paper overlays before transferring the finished design to the face of the stone. Typically, we v-cut letters into the honed surface of the stone, but we sometimes carve raised lettering.

CUTTING THE SLATE

When it is cut, slate leaves a whitish trail in the letter which naturally enhances readability.  All other stones are best darkened very slightly with an acetone-based, long-lasting stain. If appropriate, gilding in 23K gold or palladium can draw special attention to the lettering. The reflective quality of gilding is especially effective against the dark background of slate.

CARVER'S TOOLS

A letter carver’s tools are pretty simple. A one-pound hammer drives a carbide-tipped flat chisel against the two faces of the letter in repeating passes starting in the center and moving to the edges. This is called chasing a letter. Granites and some marbles require heavier steel mallets and a more aggressive kind of strike. The decorative work employs a broad range of hand-made chisels, each leaving a different effect in the stone. Sometimes, we will use an air hammer to remove material more quickly when we are creating larger letters, but every letter is finished by hand.

SETTING THE STONE

Most cemeteries have guidelines to help them ensure the responsible setting of the stones in their care. A few have very strict policies to follow. Our method of installation is generally well-respected and accepted by cemeteries. We pour two reinforced concrete "shoes" that are pinned to the upright stone, spreading the weight and enabling it to rise and fall with the deep frosts of New England. It is a simple, non-interventive way of stabilizing an upright memorial and, for our purposes, lets us easily pull the stone later and carve an additional name and date with relative ease.

Above; Purple/green slate with 23 K gilded cross.

Right; Letter in Limestone which has been darkened

Above; fine-tuning the work on paper overlays before transferring the finished design to the face of the stone.

Above; slate leaves a whitish trail in the letter which naturally enhances readability.  All other stones are best darkened very slightly with an acetone-based, long-lasting stain.

Above; A one-pound hammer drives a carbide-tipped flat chisel against the two faces of the letter in repeating passes starting in the center and moving to the edges.

Two reinforced concrete "shoes" are pinned to the upright stone

Above; Sigrid finishes placing her flat work on a deep bed of gravel. She has removed the blanket covers and is down to the thin plastic. We never install a stone without adequate protection to the work.