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Make a DIY monument to mark a burying place for a loved one. Gravestone made at home.

Updated on February 2, 2014
Examples of hammers to chip away granite inside the letter outlines, very slowly over several hours.
Examples of hammers to chip away granite inside the letter outlines, very slowly over several hours.
Local pile of rejected efforts by local monument facility.
Local pile of rejected efforts by local monument facility.
Sometimes you can buy a piece of stone, to do your DIY project..
Sometimes you can buy a piece of stone, to do your DIY project..
Made from scrap marble, placed near place where family member's ashes were scattered.
Made from scrap marble, placed near place where family member's ashes were scattered.
Used electric engraver for name on top of  'NANNA' stone.
Used electric engraver for name on top of 'NANNA' stone.

We barely had enough cash, after a quick chat with the bank, to bury mother-in-law.

No way to buy a monument, even very simple, small markers can be 3000 dollars. It is hard work, on durable materials, and they often last centuries.

Found a piece of scrap granite in a field near the monument works.

So I found a piece I could barely move, and wrestled it into the back of my station wagon, it took three people. Took it to mother-in-laws house and pushed it out of the car, onto the ground, by the porch. I began to think how I was going to get the name onto the stone. So I got all the ball peen hammers that anyone had, to begin making letters of the name. One of the ball peen hammers I used was pretty beat up with a split handle, it ended up working pretty well.

You will need lots of time and patience.

The stone won't chip out any faster with hard strikes, you simply wear yourself out quickly. Steady firm taps that don't bounce back will chip small amounts of stone. Use a brush to move the chipped pieces out of the striking area, using a bare hand will cut your skin.

Marked an outline of the letters of the name.

Took the stencil I needed and outlined the biggest letters I could find onto the stone with a black marker. After tracing them a few times to get them dark as I could, I began knocking small chips out of the inside of the lines. Using the ball end of a ball peen hammer, I began striking the area inside the letter outlines. Tap, and a small chip would come off, tap and another series of stone chips and powder would break off. I put a bandana over my mouth and nose, I was getting grit in my mouth.VERY IMPORTANT use safety glasses, as the stone dust and chips can injure you, and will scratch your prescription glasses.

Find the best size stencil for the space you have, out line with magic marker.
Find the best size stencil for the space you have, out line with magic marker.

Prepay for final expenses?

How are you managing final expenses?

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Only 5 capital letters.

Thankfully the name was pretty short, each letter was more than 90 minutes to chip out, with three different weight's of ball peen hammers. As I was chipping away, I was able to reflect on the person I was making this for, and I felt like I was doing something useful. It helped to manage the grief, a bit, a kind of therapy in a way.

Consider a masonary chisel.

A masonary chisel is a special tough, hardened chisel used to break concrete blocks into the size a mason would need to complete a project. You can find chisels for carving stone, they come in different sizes and the ends are shaped in different ways to get diifferent textures. I used one on the NANNA stone to help shape the serifs in the letters. The marble I used for the Nanna stone was surprisingly soft. We were knocking chips off the edges each time we moved it. It was much easier to work than the granite. It will damage fairly easily.

Granite and marble form in different ways.

Granite is hard and very resistant to forming, small quick hits, over and over can form your letters, using an extended time period. Marble will powder and crush causing uneven results. Use a number of taps to loosen material, then smooth out area with a carbide chisel, or a masons chisel and a 1 pound or 2 pound mason's hammer. Marble forms much easier, and can damage much easier than granite.

Available in home centers and online, use a 1lb or 2lb hammer to shape letter features.
Available in home centers and online, use a 1lb or 2lb hammer to shape letter features.

Any striking of tools is DANGEROUS.

Use gloves, safety glasses, and dust mask. The chips will cut and scratch surfaces. The powder, from marble and granite, will irritate your eyes and throat. Pieces of flying stone will end up in eyes near the work area. When striking the end of a chisel, metal can fly off from the tools and cause injury, safety glases, gloves, and a heavy shirt will help you to work safely.

Some steps I followed.

1) I found The piece I wanted to work on. Mine was salvage, often a piece of usable granite or marble can be bought from monument works or places that make granite counters.

2) Obtain some stencills, place on your work surface and heavily outline letters. The dust and chips can remove your lines. You may need to retouch lines that begin to fade out.

3) Try a couple of taps, to get an idea of how your stone chips. I began in the middle of a letter, as I chipped the pieces broke into the void left by the previous chip, and made the chipping a little easier.

4) As you chip you will get a feel for what works best, you will learn that steady, firm taps, that don't bounce back, will give you the best progress.

5) Different wieghts of ball peen hammers wil help, use the smaller hammer close to your lines, heavier hammers can help remove material in the middle of the work area, you have less control, but a larger chip will break out.

6) As you get to the final shape of a letter, go back and smooth the inside, to get the best look for the inside of your letter.

7) I brushed all the letters out, all dust and chips were removed. I checked for smoothness and did some final chipping, to smooth before painting the inside of the letters.

7) When I felt I was done chipping, I painted inside the letters with quality, exterior, high gloss black paint, This was recommended by a monument worker, the chipped out area is porous, and absorbs the paint just a little.

8) The paint has lasted two years and still looks good. I know I can repaint as needed.

I did find some online sites that talk about working stone.

These site were useful, all emphasied patience and safety. Using tools has the potential for injury. I was able to move the heavy stones with help from several people, also used heavy dollies and furniture moving equipment to get the stones to the burial site.

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