Engraved Stones : Rock Artisans Meet Technology

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 countertop stores 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 th