AGRUSTIC SOMNACUNI || ROMANY || CRADLE || LET US PRAISE THE ROM || CHUPPA || MEDIATHECA 'FIORETTA MAZZEI' ||  'ENGLISH' CEMETERY || AUREO ANELLO || Blog on 'From Graves to Cradles', etc. Hebe Wilcock/ Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu/ Julia Bolton Holloway 2017



I invited my friend's twin daughters, Hebe and Alice, to come to Florence to teach our Alphabet School how to cut letters in stone so these could be used in our Swiss-owned, so-called 'English' Cemetery. Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu asked also for written instructions, for a manual, that he and you could consult. This is what Hebe wrote:


Before you begin
Start by drawing your desired inscription onto your (clean) stone. Make sure that you've rubbed the surface smooth (if it isn't already so).
Use the triangle to check that your letters are upright and the ruler to check that your letters are a consistent size. Also the spaces between each letter should look consistent (I'll talk about this more.)


When you and your client are both happy with the proposed lay-out of the inscription, then you are free to start cutting.

Start by cutting the skeleton of the letter, stopping before you get to the top and bottom.

You should be holding the chisel with your left hand. You generally cut from bottom to top and from right to left so you can always see what you're cutting.

Decide which 'Stroke' you want to cut first.
A 'Stroke' is from when you wrote with a brush or pen. If you have a thin Stroke, start with that


For example

Start with the sideways Strokes, going into the upright stroke.

Cut the serif of your thin stroke first.

How to cut a serif.   

Lightly cut the outside edge of the serif.
A serif can look different depending on what style of letter you are cutting. So make sure you've studied and drawn what you want if you are doing it to match a previous inscription.

Once you have cut the serif, widen your skeleton line into a 'v'. Remember to cut each side of the 'v' a bit one side then gradually widening it up to the drawn edges. Take your time.


Cut all the thin Strokes first before your thicker Strokes, and slow down, cutting more carefully where Strokes bisect, the corners are weaker
For example:


When cutting, try to keep the middle of the 'v' a consistent depth, and nice and straight. Visually it is the line of the skeleton. You want your letters to have good posture!

Three ways of cutting

1. Stabbing.
This is quick, but less subtle. Hold the chisel flat on the stone, angled slightly out each side of the 'v'.

2. Chasing
This is the traditional way and requires most patience and skill. You run the chisel up each side of the 'v' gradually shaping it. You have to do this with curved shapes, and it is also the best way to tidy up a letter.

3. Chopping
I like this way for getting out stone quickly but with more control than stabbing. It is sort of half stabbing, half chasing.

Do quick little stabs, pointing the chisel in at an angle, moving up the edge of your outline.
When you've done both sides, there will be a zigzag shape of stone in the middle. You can chase up it to 'clear out' the middle, making a straight skeleton line

Things to remember
* Your lettering will look much neater if you keep within your ruled lines. The only exceptions are.
The point on an 'A' and an 'N' can slightly go over
This should be subtle though, lightly skimming your top line
* If in doubt, stop and think. As Ted used to say (my old teacher) 'You can take it off, but you can't put it back on again'.
So don't cut more and more if it's going wrong. You can always go back to it later.
* Mistakes happen, even if you've been cutting for years. Sometimes there can be a flaw in the stone, that you don't know is there 'til you cut it. Don't give yourself a hard time if it's not perfect, that's what gives it life.
* Finally a word on spacing.
This is relevant for when you are drawing an inscription.
Give your letters room to breathe, personal space, but don't let them float so far apart that words are broken. Serifs of two uprights should stand near each other, but not touch

If you have an angled letter, the serifs can just touch.


A curved letter can come a little nearer than an upright to another upright and nearer still to another curve and an angled letter.


Above all, you want consistency of space. Learn to look at the spaces between letters as areas rather than measurements between outer edges.
Trust your judgment, try to get the shapes to look balanced.

Very last of all, it's best to cut when you're not angry, hungry or in a rush. You're more likely to make a mistake. Stone requires you to be measured and patient. I think of stone as living with a slower heartbeat.

Good luck, enjoy it and don't be afraid to try.