How To Make a Grave Stone Rubbing

A grave stone rubbing is a great way to bring home some of the interesting history that many graveyards hold. While they were more popular in a time before everyone had access to a camera, they're still a great activity for graveyard enthusiasts or to do with children. There aren't many materials needed, and anyone can learn to make a grave stone rubbing.

Grave stone rubbing is a great way to preserve history and bring home a record of visited historical or family graves. Commercial kits are available, but most grave stone rubbing beginners can easily assemble all of the tools and materials needed with a trip to a craft store or craft section of a large store. Thin paper is needed to best pick up the details of the grave stone, but for practice normal copy paper can be used. Masking tape is helpful for holding the paper onto the stone during the rubbing, as trying to hold the paper still with one hand can be tricky.

A marking material is the other most important component for grave stone rubbing. If quality doesn't matter or the activity is geared towards children, large crayons work just fine. For adults looking for a higher quality reproduction, charcoal, rubbing wax or lumberman's chalk is recommended. Rubbing wax is designed for grave stone rubbings, but can be pricey. Lumberman's chalk works just as well and can be found at hardware stores. It is also less expensive than quality charcoals or rubbing wax.

Care must be taken when doing the rubbing not to rip the paper or damage the grave stone. Some stones are old and weathered enough for the engraving to be damaged by the pressure of a rubbing. Check around the lettering for flaking or chipping before attempting a grave stone rubbing. Also, check for large cracks or instability before leaning or stepping on part of a grave stone. Rough, lichen covered, or badly eroded stones won't make a very clear rubbing, and it's often necessary to clean a stone before attempting a rubbing. Don't try to remove anything that can't be brushed away or cleaned off by a little water. Attempting to chip or scrape off anything attached to the stone, even lichens, could damage it permanently.

Start by taping the paper to the stone. Cover as much as you can of the stone, giving plenty of extra paper around the design to avoid marking the grave stone. Using the broad side of a piece of chalk, crayon, or rubbing wax, gently run the marking material over the design to be reproduced. Use long, smooth strokes, until the design begins to show and the color begins to build up. Then use the end or edge of the marking material to highlight deep recesses or hard to capture details.

Once the grave stone rubbing is completed, preserve it by using a fixative product available from craft stores. This keeps the marking material from getting smudged or damaged, and allows for the rubbing to be framed or kept in a scrapbook. Grave stone rubbing is a wonderful hobby, and can add a new dimension of interest for genealogy buffs. It's also a good way to get children interested in history and art at the same time.


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