Stones : Artisans Meet Technology
by Liz Hekimian-Williams
May 24, 2003
Have you ever seen an engraved garden stone, address marker rock
or memorial stone and wondered, "How did they do that?" The process
of etching words and designs onto such dense and strong objects
is actually accomplished through a masterful combination of imagination,
art, skill, technology and nature.
Stones found in a South African cave dating back about 77,000 years,
etched with lines and triangles, appear to be among the earliest
hand carved engraved stones. Time intensive hand engraving with
chisels and hammers actually continued as the primary manner of
etching stones even into the 19th century. Technological advances,
however, have since helped many stone artisans with their craft,
resulting in finely engraved rocks that are created with more efficiency.
And while hand engraving tools still find a place within the stone
artisan's toolbox, sandblasting has become a more common technique
for carving into stones nowadays.
Interestingly, the first patent for sandblasting equipment is traced
back to 1870. That is when a Benjamin Tilghman is said to have obtained
the British patent. However, sandblasting machines seem to have
become more widely available and used only after about 1930. What
is a sandblaster? It is like a pressure tool that blasts out sand.
It uses compressed air or steam to force sand particles at high
speed onto the rock. This wears out the targeted areas on the stone
surface that the artisans direct the nozzle towards. As you can
imagine, sandblasting equipment has helped stone engravers to greatly
reduce their production time. So this has become an invaluable tool
in their trade.
Before the actual engraving work begins, the stone engravers must
first select the right stone and work on design and layout issues
for each custom job. This includes deciding on or including specified
font type and size, designs, and layout of the elements on the stone.
Locating and selecting the right one-of-a-kind stone with attention
to size, coloring and shape for the current stone engraving project
also requires the artistic eye of the stone artisan.
Then, a stencil is prepared and attached somehow to the stone before
the engraving starts. Here again, technology has come to the rescue.
It used to take the stone artisans many more hours than it does
now to complete a stone engraving project. But the design and preparation
phase is much speedier now thanks to computers, scanning technology,
drawing software, rubber cutting machines and rubber or vinyl stencil
sheets already complete with adhesive backings. Finally, the stone
artisans use sandblasting and hand engraving as desired to deeply
engrave the message or image requested into the rock. Cleaning the
stone and, if requested, painting inside of the engraving, finishes
up the engraved stone project.
Throughout the ages, etchings in stone and rock have been used
as long lasting symbols for meaningful communication and decoration.
This continues today. Personalized engraved stones and rocks can
be carved to include individual names, family names, dates, corporate
logos, memorial or commemorative words and sentiments, designs,
single words or even your favorite saying.
Ideas for personalization and for uses are only limited by a person's
imagination. Custom engraved stones are often used as home and garden
decor accents and unique personalized gifts. However, many individuals
continue to use engraved stones for special and meaningful communication.
A recent stone engraving project we completed illustrates how this
particular person used the stone for a very important message and
also as a symbol of strength and longevity, one that will stand
the test of time. The engraving on the stone elegantly read: "Will
You Marry Me?" Romantic proposal, wasn't it?
- Liz Hekimian-Williams
Liz Hekimian-Williams is owner of Giftsprings.com, an online
gift shop featuring gifts, home decor and personalized gifts including
custom engraved stones and rocks. To see the variety of stone
sizes, fonts and images that are available, visit the engraved
stones department here: http://www.giftsprings.com/category/estones