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Making a Cemetery Gravestone

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How Cemetery Gravestones are made
Cemetery gravestones are made from granite. Granite is a natural stone that starts as molten rock. The type of granite is determined by the minerals that were mixed together and by the rate at which the granite cools and solidifies. If granite cools rapidly, it will result in a fine grain granite and if it cools slowly, the grain will be coarser. Granite is composed mainly of quartz and feldspar with minor amounts of mica, amphiboles, and other minerals. This mineral composition usually gives granite a red, pink, gray, or white color with dark mineral grains visible throughout the rock.

The process of quarrying granite has changed over time. For many years, explosives were used to remove the granite. However, modern quarrying techniques have now substantially limited the amount of explosives needed to remove blocks of granite. The current process of quarrying granite is done with the use of a jet burner. The jet burner is like a small rocket motor burning fuel oil and oxygen. The flame leaves the burner at about five times the speed of sound and at about 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. The burner cuts through the granite forming channels at the ends and back of what will become a block of granite. Holes are then drilled across the bottom to meet the backchannel and loaded with black blasting powder. When the explosive detonates, the block is “lifted” or cut free from the surrounding stone. The block, about 4 feet deep, 4 feet high, and 8 feet long, and weighing as much as 10 tons, is loaded on a truck for the trip to the manufacturing plant.

At the manufacturing plant, the block will be cut into slabs from 4” to 12” thick with diamond rotary saws about 14 feet in diameter. The slabs are then taken to an automatic polishing machine that polishes the slab to a beautiful, almost mirror-like surface. The granite slab is then cut into the required sizes for different styles of gravestones. The rough edges are finished and trimmed by skilled craftsmen using traditional hammers and chisels. The gravestone may now be polished on the edges or left rough depending on what is ordered. Once the granite gravestone is completed, it is packaged and shipped off to your local monument company.

Your local monument company will create a design for the family utilizing a computer design program. The design program is specific to the memorial industry, enabling the monument company to use a special knife-driven plotter to cut the stencil. The stencil is then applied to the stone utilizing special glue. The areas of the stencil to be sandblasted are removed and the gravestone is then moved into a blasting room to be sandblasted. The art of sandblasting compliments the artistry of the designer to get the monument to look just right. Many different textures or finishes can be applied during the sandblast process for a more unique appearance. When completed, the stencil is then removed, the gravestone is cleaned and it is now ready to be set in the cemetery.

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