Steps involved in engraving photos onto stone...

How does a stone go from the plain look on the left to the finished look on the right?  Here's how...

 

The Process...

1. Scanning in the photo...


Typically we begin the engraving with a color photograph.  In a photo retouching software, we usually use Photoshop, we drop the colors so we can begin our work with a grayscale like the picture in the center.

The art really begins at this point. Nearly all of the detail will be dropped away, leaving only the lines and the basics that will give the image its true identity but be simple enough to lend itself to laser engraving and sand carving.


2. Observing the stone's qualities to determine placement & sizing of image...


At this point we're like Michelangelo Buonarroti, really like any worker in stone, because we try to select a stone and then to visualize how our image might be situated on it to give the impression that we are after.  In this case the church steeple seems to "ask" for and reach for the point of the rock at the top.  And the curved surface on the bottom of the rock seems to define the bottom of the image to be produced. 

3. Additional photo touch up...

Now a little more computer work will be necessary to respond to the rock's shape.  We're going to crop off much of the foreground trees to match the curved portion of the rock  Not only will this allow us to match the rock surface but it also gives us the opportunity to eliminate much of the black in the foreground which distracts by its sheer weight from the image of the church.

 

4. Prepping the stone...


Now for some mechanic work.  The stone will need to be very sticky with adhesive for a masking material to stick firmly enough to endure the laser engraving and sand carving processes.

  

5. Applying a resilient mask to the stone's surface...


Rough surfaces like stone do not generally have a surface upon which a mask (like the green one you see here) will firmly stick. It will stick, however, if the adhesive applied to the rock is sticky enough and if the masking material is extremely flexible.  Notice that the green mask material is sticking firmly to the rock's surface.  This rock is now prepared for the laser engraving step. 

6. Laser engraving through the green mask to reveal the image...


We are using a different image in these photos.

First we level up the stone in the laser engraver so that the focus may be kept over the entire image area.

 

 

Then we laser engrave the image through the mask and the layers of adhesive below it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The portions that appear white (or very light) are the portions where the rock has been fully exposed.  All areas that still are green have remaining a coating of resilient mask material.

7. Sand carving into the stone...

Our abrasive isn't sand, it's a high tech material called silicone carbide.  And this process may be called sand blasting or sand carving.  You will notice that we have masked off all the area of the rock except the portion that will be sand carved.  We are very careful to avoid marring the surface of the rock in any way, and even inadvertent blasts of abrasive to an unmasked area could change the color or texture of the rock surface.

 

 

 

We try to carve as deep as we can without blasting away the mask material.  By blasting deep into the rock we will provide a more permanent reservoir for the paint fill that will be our next step.     

8. Filling the stone with color...


Sometimes we spray color into the area where rock has been removed and sometimes we brush it into the exposed areas.

9. Removing the mask/cleaning up the stone...

 

 

 

Now's the time to remove the mask material.  We give the rock a careful "shave" with a razor blade.  Again we're very tender with the rock surface because even an inadvertent scrape with a razor blade will deface the rock's surface.

 

 

 

 

We generally lather the surface with a soap-like shaving foam.  

10. The finished product...


Once the rock is cleaned up, the image is revealed in all of its beauty and simplicity.

11. Placing the finished stone into the fireplace...


Now the engraved rock will take its place with other stones in the masonry project.  Stone masons are very careful to install these engraved stones without scuffing or spilling concrete in the image areas.

 

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