At Wellsmere we are committed to helping you choose a lasting and fitting memorial for your loved one. In this page, we provide some of the design features and options often available to you when choosing a monument. It is our hope to broaden your knowledge of how the parts work together to help make choosing a monument easier. Please contact us at Wellsmere Monumental Works if you have further questions about monument designs or about the process of choosing a monument.
What are the factors you need to consider when choosing a monument?
The cost of the monument is determined by a number of factors and options. Often the first limiting factor is cemetery regulation. The rest is a matter of practicality and your personal taste.
The size of the monument is dictated by the cemetery. Each section of the cemetery has a size requirement related to the number of graves you have purchased. The general thinking is that stones in a section should be the same size as the surrounding stones. Often when cemeteries describe the size requirement they use industry shortcut lingo such a two by one or three by one. This lingo describes the size of the base (see COMPONENTS below). Height may vary but it is generally proportional to the base size. Alternatively, the size may be described as a single or double, reflecting the number of graves represented by the monument.
The typical gravestone or ‘Upright Marker’ is made of two parts, the base and the die (the ‘gravestone’). The base is wider and longer than the die and the die normally sits in the center of the base. By spreading weight over a larger area, the monument is more stable. These parts are attached by a unite product that begins as a putty and dries to form a permanent bond.
Monuments are mass produced in stone sheds near the quarries from which the stone is harvested. There are any number of standard forms, shapes and designs, all of which can be customized.
The simplest standard form is the flat marker or Grass Marker. These are one piece markers, usually four, six or ten inches thick. Often they are two feet wide by one foot long, but may be larger. One piece markers can also be partially upright, as in the case of slant face markers.
The standard ‘die’ portion of the upright memorial is available in the following shapes:
- Serpentine Top
- Straight Top
- Oval Top
Other shapes can be hybrids of the standards. For example, we offer a heart shape with the book of life as a top feature.
Monoliths are one-piece dies, usually four inches thick. They are longer than normal dies because instead of using a base for stability, they are partially buried. Often monoliths are found in historic burial grounds.
Custom shapes are also available. These shapes can be as simple as a teardrop or as complex as a motorcycle. Elements such as scotia, rabbet, chamfer fillet and rounds area also available.
The standard finishes are ‘polished’ and ‘unpolished’ (or steeled) and ‘rock pitch’. Polished finishes are produced from a process of rubbing and buffing the granite until the natural polish shows through. Generally, there is nothing on the granite to make it shine. Exceptions can be found in some Chinese and Indian granite. Steeled finishes are produced by gently sandblasting the surface. Rock pitch is a rough finish produced by splitting the granite. This finish is normally seen on the sides of the die and base and on the top of the die.
These finishes can be mixed to provide texture and contrast. For example, a die may be ‘Polished two’ (Polished on two sides – front and back.) with the balance rock pitch (Top and sides split). Or a die can be polished on all sides (polished five) or have a polished top with rock pitch sides (polish three).
Custom finishes such as flamed, stippled, and scalloped are also available.
Granite is available in a spectrum of colors from the lightest gray to jet black. As a rule, as the granite gets darker the price increases. This is not a function of quality, but rather represents the distance the granite travels, the density (black granites are heavier and cost more to ship) and availability. Some other colors are as expensive as the black granite because they are rare or produced in smaller quantities. The basic color palette includes: Gray, Pink, Red, Brown, Green, Purple, Blue and Black. In each color category there are variations, depending on the granite’s origin. As an example, Black is available as Jet, Misty, Impala, Speckled, Gold Speckled and more. It must be noted that granite is the result of a naturally occurring process and color variations are expected. Place your mouse cursor over the image on the left to enlarge each color example on the pallet. You will also be able to see more closely the "Grain" of the granite.
Often the grain pattern within a color provides shading and contrast. Granite with large grain patterns are more commonly found in other applications such as counter tops. When granite has contrasting grain patterns within the base color the grains may look like waves. This is referred to as motion within the granite.
The designs cut into the stone vary widely. Almost anything you can imagine can be designed for a monument from emblems, national symbols, religious icons, flowers, or characters. With the advent of computer designs, special symbols are available including sporting team logos, outdoor activity designs or images that represent personal interest, an alma mater or profession.
Almost all designs in granite are produced by sandblasting. In order to get a line carved into the stone a template is created. On that template parallel lines are cut. By removing the piece of template between those lines the underlying granite is exposed. By hitting that exposed granite with sand which is mixed with air and shot at the template, the granite is worn away, creating a sandblasted line. Every single line cut into granite is the result of a double, parallel line cut into the template. The art is in knowing how wide to cut the template lines, the smoothness and evenness of the parallel lines and knowing how deep to allow the sand to cut the granite.
FLAT CARVING, SHAPED CARVING, SCULPTURE
Simple sandblasting through a template produces flat sandblasted lines in the granite. These lines create, essentially, two dimensional designs. They are actually three dimensional because they have depth, which creates shadow. But from a distance they look as if they were applied to the surface of the die. Sandblasted designs are used for creating letters and most other design elements on a typical monument.
Flowers and other features can be shape carved in order to give them a true third dimension, also known as relief. Shape carving adds delicacy and warmth to flowers and leafs.
Sculpture offers the greatest degree of detail. Figures are usually carved as base relief into the die. It is unusual to find a fully carved statue going into today’s cemeteries. This work is done by hand with pneumatic chisels. In the case where the carving is of a person, we start by making a mock carving using plaster.
On black granite and some dark red granite, images are produced using laser etching. There are many stock designs such as landscapes, figures and flowers available. Often the laser images are of people. In order to create these images a photograph is scanned and the die is placed on a table. The laser transfers the scanned image onto the granite. Essentially the laser is ‘frosting’ the image on to the granite by removing dots of polish that correspond to the pixels on the photograph.
This feature is created by applying a photograph to a piece of porcelain. The photograph is treated with UV protection and a special hard coating is applied. The porcelain is glued to the face of the die with an epoxy. Unlike an etching which is a black and white image, the porcelain portrait can be a color image attached to any color stone.
The standard lettering is sandblasted. Letters are cut from a template placed over the flat surface of the die. When the sand from sandblasting apparatus hits the granite exposed by cutting the template, the letters are cut into the granite. As the granite wears away, a Venturi effect is created. The center of the area being sandblasted cuts deeper than the edges, creating a V-shape cut. These are called V-Sunk letters. In some cases the sandblasting stops before the center begins to cut. In this case a U-Sunk letter is created. Some other lettering options include double outline, square raised, round raised or hand cut V-Sunk.
Almost any font can be used for V-Sunk and U-Sunk lettering although Times Roman is the font of choice. Times Roman provides good shadowing and large serifs that contrast well as a sandblasted letter.
On lighter granites with polished surfaces it is necessary to remove polish where letters are carved. The unpolished area is called a panel. Panels are created by lightly sandblasting or frosting the surface. Once the panel is frosted, it is re-stenciled and V-Sunk letters are sandblasted. On darker granites, U-Sunk lettering is possible without a panel. Instead of having a shadow effect, the lighter letter stands out against the polished background.
The process of stencil and sandblast is also used when adding a name to an existing stone is necessary. Portable equipment is brought to the cemetery and the monument. An area is stenciled and letters are cut in place.
Historically, granite, slate and marble have been used in making memorials. Of those, granite is the most durable. Moh’s scale is used in science to gauge the hardness of materials. On this ten point scale, where diamonds are rated at ten, granite is rated 6.5 to 7. Marble is rated 4 to 4.5. Granite has 2.5 times the abrasion resistance of marble and more than three times that of slate. Slate is sedimentary rock which tends to split and cleave into thin layers.
The majority of modern cemeteries will not allow marble and slate monuments.
If you have any questions regarding your monument design and choosing a monument, please feel free to contact us at Wellsmere Monumental Works.