'But above all, take pains to choose intelligent workmen who are well-grounded in these Letters, because nowadays there are few lettercutters who understand them and can cut them correctly, clearly and with patience; consequently there are even fewer who realise the difficulty, effort and time involved in good cutting and drawing; and so it comes about that because the pay is so bad in these miserable times, there are few who take up the occupation of drawing and cutting letters properly'
Giovan Francesco Cresci 1578
Hand carving into stone differs from machine cut stone in a number of ways. The most notable perhaps is how the inscribed letters would be viewed in cross section. Hand carved letters are usually (but not exclusively) ‘V’ cut into the stone using a chisel and mallet (known as a dummy), whereas machine inscribed letters are formed as rounded channels, like a ‘U’ cut. This makes a subtle but noticeable difference to the overall effect of the lettering and means that the depth of the V-cut varies according to the width of the cut, as the angle of the chisel remains consistent a narrower stem will naturally be more shallow than a wider stem.
Lettering and relief designs can be carved by hand into any sandstone, limestone, slate and marble, but it is not recommended for granite.
Carefully designed hand carved letters which have been created by a lettering artist will strike the viewer as being crisp and fine, with an elegance or character which is difficult to duplicate using computer ‘fonts’ or ‘typefaces’. Designs are drawn by hand onto paper before being cut into the stone; a discipline which takes its roots from a long and reputable tradition of fine letter carvers, craftsmen, designers and calligraphers.
Stonewriters are proud to offer this special service and should point out that an inevitable consequence of the nature of the process is that designing and making fine memorials by hand is not a cheap option. Both drawings and inscriptions can take many days, sometimes weeks.
People tend to commission hand carved memorials for two main reasons; the first is where traditional values are important to either the person commissioning the stone, or to the deceased. The second reason is when original artwork and designs are sought, which can not be found elsewhere.
Artwork can easily be incorporated onto memorial stones, commemorative stones and house names etc using a combination of carving and painting.