Image of The Art of Hand Carving and Engraving

The Art of Hand Carving and Engraving

Posted Thursday, May 16, 2013
By David Quiring

Hand carving and engraving headstones is an ancient and artful practice. For centuries, artists and craftsmen have worked hard to transform raw slabs of various kinds of stone into beautiful memorials that use words and images to lovingly preserve the lives and legacies of those who have gone before us.

Throughout history, becoming a headstone engraver was difficult work. One typically needed to be apprenticed for years to a master craftsman before having the opportunity to work on one’s own. During this rigorous training, apprentices were taught how to properly wield all of the essential tools used in engraving headstones: chisels, files, dividers (or compasses), and mallets. Mastering these tools and learning to work with different kinds of stone were not easy tasks, demanding precision, steady hands, and plenty of patience. After all, there are no "do overs” when it comes to working with stone!

Though the craft of engraving headstones has evolved over time, the same principles and practices of hand carving still hold true as they did in previous centuries. Today, however, many craftsmen choose to use computers, laser etching and diamond tipped routers—a shift that has completely revolutionized the craft of headstone engraving. With the help of this new technology, craftspersons working today can now etch, for example, a replica of a photograph of a loved one directly onto the headstone itself. This, of course, would never have been possible in earlier times, when all headstone carving was done by hand.

Regardless of whether a headstone was crafted by hand or with the assistance of a computer, you can hopefully now recognize that it requires a great amount of training and skill to create headstones that will truly last the test of time. In an age of instant information and ready-made dinners, know that there are still people available to painstakingly craft a beautiful memorial that will faithfully represent your loved ones for years to come.


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