How to Engrave Stone » VripMaster
Learning to engrave stones provides you with a way to create decorative, artistic pieces that will last a lifetime from material you can find just about anywhere. While the material itself is very hard, engraving doesn’t have to be. With the right tools, a few skills, and some practice you can learn to engrave beautiful designs into stones for your home, your garden, or to give away as gifts.
Gathering your Supplies
Find a stone. Your skill level and the design you want to create will determine the type of stone you need.
- Stones with a flat surface, such as river rocks, work best for beginners.
- Softer sedimentary rocks (such as sandstone, limestone and soapstone) are easier to drill into.
- Keep your eyes open for stones when you’re outside at the beach, in your garden, etc, or purchase engraving stones from your local arts and crafts store.
Purchase an electric engraver or rotary tool. Alternatively, you can use a point chisel and mallet or hammer to do your engraving, but an electric engraver will make the process much easier.
- Look for an electric engraver or rotary tool that allows you to change out the tip.
- A carbide tip is appropriate for engraving softer stones like sandstone, limestone or soapstone. A diamond tip is best for engraving harder stones or glass.
- Engraving tips come in various shapes and widths. For a basic design, the standard carbide tip that comes with your tool will be enough. Over time, you can add to the complexity of your designs by using a cone tip to create detail lines and a cylindrical shaped tip for shading and dimension.
- Electric engravers or rotary tools can be found at your local hardware store, craft store or online.
Get a wax-based pencil, marker, or stencil materials. Sketching your design onto your stone or creating a stencil before you start engraving will save you a lot of missteps along the way.
- Wax-based pencils, china markers or permanent markers can be used to draw your design directly onto the stone.
- You can make an easy stencil using cardboard or acetate and a craft knife.
- Beeswax and latex paint are optional design supplies that can be used to add color and shine to your stone.
Purchase safety goggles. Safety goggles should be used during all of your engraving projects. Engraving throws small pieces of stone and dust into the air that can damage your eyes.
Get a bowl of water. Prepare a bowl of water large enough to submerge the stone. This will be used to cool and clean the stone during the engraving process.
Creating a Design
Select a design for your stone. Your skill level, the size and shape of your stone, and your intended use for the stone will all play a part in creating your design. Inspirational words, a name, flowers, leaves, the sun, or other basic shapes are great design choices for beginners.
- Create your own unique design or write out a word you want to engrave.
- Look for stencil designs online that you can print and cut out.
- Create a design on your computer. Draw an image or write a word in a font you like. Size the design to fit your stone and print it onto black and white paper.
Create a sketch or stencil of your design. Whether you’re engraving an image like a flower or feather, or writing out a word, having a sketch or stencil to follow will make the process much easier and will leave you with a nicer finished project.
- Practice drawing your design on a piece of paper before sketching it directly onto your stone.
- Make a stencil. If you printed out a picture to use, lay a piece of tracing paper on top and go over it with a pencil. Tape the traced outline onto your cardboard or acetate and cut out the design with your craft knife.
Practice engraving on an extra stone. Get a feel for the engraving process using a stone similar to the one you’re saving for the final project.
- Use the engraving tool to create straight lines across the stone, moving in different directions.
- Vary the pressure you use to draw lines. Draw lines using light, feathered strokes. Go back and draw lines using more pressure. Notice the differences in the look of the lines.
- Draw circles or other shapes in the stone.
- If you’re writing a word on your stone, practice making the various letters.
Prepping the Stone
Clean the stone. Start by wiping any dirt or debris off of the stone with a damp cloth. Let the stone air dry or dry it with a clean cloth.
Transfer your design to the stone. Sketch your design onto the stone directly using your wax pencil or marker, or attach the stencil to your stone.
- Use a wax-based pencil to draw your design if the stone is rough or porous. Use a china marker or permanent marker to draw on stones with a smooth, glassy surface.
- Position your stencil where you want it on the stone. Secure the stencil with tape so it doesn’t move while you’re engraving your design.
Secure the stone. Once a mark is engraved you can’t erase it, so make sure your stone isn’t going to move while you’re working.
- If the stone is flat and won’t roll or slip, simply place it on a flat surface.
- Placing a piece of non-slip shelf liner under your stone will help ensure it doesn’t slide.
- If the stone isn’t flat on the bottom you can secure it using a desk vise or clamp, which can be found at your local hardware store.
Engraving the Stone
Go over your design with the engraver. Set the engraving tool on a low speed and slowly trace over your design using light, continuous strokes.
- Start by going over the primary lines in the design. Roughly scratch out a shallow groove to create an outline of the design.
- Continue to trace over the lines of your design with the engraving tool. Rather than pressing hard to carve out your design, go over the lines repeatedly using a light-hand.
- Periodically dip the rock into the bowl of water to cool it off. This will also help clean debris out of the grooves of your design so you can better see what you’re doing.
- Continue to etch out the lines of your design until they are the depth you’d like for them to be.
- Add shading or other details to your design. Engrave lighter lines, going in the same direction of the primary lines of your design, to create shading.
Clean the stone. When you’re done engraving, clean off the stone in the water bowl or wipe it off with a damp rag. Allow it to air dry or dry it off with a clean cloth.
- If you want your stone to really shine, use beeswax and a rag to buff and polish it. This will help your design stand out and give the rock an extra gleam.
- If you want to give your design some color, use latex paint to fill in the grooves. Black paint on a light colored stone or white paint on a darker stone can really make your design pop.
Show off your engraved stone! Place it inside your home, on your porch, in your garden, or give it away as a unique gift.
- Larger stones can be used to make unique stepping-stones for a garden.
- Heavy stones can be used to make door stoppers or bookends.
- Small pebbles engraved with inspirational words or special dates make great gifts.
- Grinding on stones creates stone dust & this stone dust is harmful to humans and animals. Stone dust can cause silicosis which is fatal. When grinding into stone you should always wear an approved respirator with p100 dust filters. Governments in Canada & USA have banned the use of silicon products for this reason.
- Always use safety goggles when engraving stone.
- Follow all manufacturer guidelines when using your engraver or rotary tool.
- Keep your engraver or rotary tool away from your bowl of water to avoid risk of electrocution.
Things You’ll Need
- An approved respirator with P100 dust filters
- Electric engraver or rotary tool.
- Safety goggles.
- Wax-based pencil, china marker, permanent marker or stencil supplies.
- Bowl of water.
- Optional items: beeswax, latex paint.
How to Engrave Stone | Our Pastimes
From ancient etchings on cave walls to crude stone deities and talismans to modern-day granite tombstones, man has been fascinated by stone engravings. Stone is a readily available material, and it can last for many centuries. The methods used to engrave stone have changed over the years, and now carvers can be much more precise in their etchings.
Choose a stone to engrave. For beginners, a stone with a flat surface, such as a river rock, is easier to etch. Cover a sturdy table with old newspapers. Draw a simple design on the flat surface with a china marker or wax-based pencil. Remember that etched lines will be lighter than the original color of the stone.
Put on your safety goggles. Select a ball tip appropriate to the width of your design and insert it into the electric engraver or rotary tool. Slowly and with light pressure, trace the outline of your design. Take your time and get the «feel» of how much stone is whittled away with each small pass of the ball tip.
Use a cone tip to engrave detail lines. Add shading and dimension to your design using a cylinder tip. Remember when shading to engrave your lines in a natural direction. For example, if engraving a long daffodil leaf, engrave the shading from the tip to the base of the leaf in the direction of the veins, not from the left to the right or vice versa.
Use a damp rag to clear the dust from the stone’s surface so you can see what you have accomplished so far and what you have yet to do.
Wash and dry the rock when the image is completed. To bring out the detail, you may fill in depressions on the light-colored rock with black latex paint. Wipe off any excess with a damp rag. For dark-colored stones, try white paint to make the image «pop.»
- Electric engraver with diamond tips
- Smooth rock
- China marker
- Safety goggles
- White or black latex paint (optional)
For large rocks with large images, you may wish to experiment with rubber stencils that you stick to the rock’s surface before sandblasting the image on the rock. This type of engraving is a popular method used on headstones.
Modern laser engravers are often used to engrave both words and images on granite monuments; such machines are computer-driven and are quite expensive.
Be sure to wear eye protection to avoid eye injury from flying bits of rock.
If using an electric engraver with diamond tips, read all the instructions beforehand and ensure the tips are firmly seated in the engraver.
If you choose to try sandblasting, be sure to do it outdoors and away from any surfaces you do not want to be harmed, such as cars or windows.
How to Engrave Tombstones | Career Trend
Knowing how to engrave tombstones by hand is almost a lost art. These days, the majority of tombstones are engraved by a machine. Whether you are seeking to craft a headstone for your family plot, or to restore the worn away engravings on a tombstone that is centuries old, this article can help you get started.
Select the type of stone you will be engraving. Popular choices include marble, granite, and sandstone, or slate. Granite is a great stone to use for a tombstone, as it is very durable. Most tombstones today are made from granite. However, it is very difficult to carve by hand. You may need advanced power tools such as a computer-controlled sandblaster. Marble and limestone are beautiful choices for headstones, but unfortunately, over the centuries, they can be destroyed by acid rain. Marble can be quite expensive. Sandstone was very popular in America for use as a headstone. However, it too can deteriorate over time in colder climates. It is a very durable stone, but it is also fairly easy to carve by hand. Slate is another popular choice, but it can also deteriorate due to environmental conditions. You can buy raw materials from a quarry to form your own headstone, or you can buy a blank headstone.
Gather your tools. You will need awls, mallets, and chisels. You can find these at hardware stores, but you may wish to seek out tools specifically designed with stone carving in mind. Try high-end art supply shops, or retailers that cater to stonemasons and sculptors. The Internet is a great resource for finding great tools at low prices. You should have a variety of differently sized chisels at your disposal so that you can create a variety of engravings. You may also want to consider purchasing pneumatic (air-powered) tools, which will reduce the amount of time and effort it will take you to engrave a tombstone.
To start, place the chisel tip against the stone. Tap the chisel lightly with your mallet. Working slowly, you will begin to create a divot in the stone. By changing your angle as you work, you can create straight lines for lettering, or curled lines to use as decorative elements. Always tap lightly, or you will risk losing a chunk of your engraving, or even creating a large crack in your stone. Experiment with different chisels and mallets to find what works best for your given project.
You may find that as you begin to chisel into your rock, there is a great deal of vibration. To dampen these vibrations, surround your headstone with canvas sandbags to absorb the impact. Absorbing the vibrations will help you create cleaner lines, and will also help to keep cracks from forming.
You may wish to wear protective gear such as goggles and dust masks to ensure your safety.