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General questions on all kinds of stones

TOPIC: Advice wanted - User Queries and Answers by Expert

Advice wanted - User Queries and Answers by Expert 3 weeks 5 days ago #2451

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Q 2282: The Monongahela Cemetery has begun the restoration of its Civil War plot. There are 75 sandstone bases and tops that are from the 1890's. I began cleaning the stones with Orvis soap and water. The stones appear to have been sealed with a black stain or paint. The stones are in good shape and I would like to see them back to their original color black. What should I use? Mark, July 23, Reply
R1: Dear Mark: Black sandstone?? Well, no matter what, only some testing would enable me to give you an intelligent answer. So, unless you can send me a sample of the stuff to fool
around with ... Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA
Q 2263: What's the best way to remove patina from a bronze headstone on a grave please? Robin, July 19, Reply
R1: Sandblasting, Tom, USA.

A 2111: I would like to find Canadian suppliers of good quality paint for restoring old granite monuments. I am looking for colors: white, black and "gold". Please supply names, addresses ,telephone numbers or fax numbers. Kevin, Canada, June 25, Reply

A 2091: Is it possible to remove the brown/gold stains that have occurred on my husband's headstone and slab as a result of someone using well water to water the grass in the cemetery? Sonja, June 20, Reply
R1: Dear Sonja: I'm afraid not. It's rust and it's through and through. You may want to consider consulting with a local professional stone refinisher ... Who knows, maybe I'm wrong. I sure hope so. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA

A 2088: I would like information on how to properly clean marble monuments. Our family head/footstones are made of either Georgia or Colorado marble. They have not been cleaned in quite some time. Some of the particles are easily removed-soil, algae (with scrubbing), but I'm afraid that due to neglect, something has penetrated the marble. What should I do? Also, once I have things cleaned, should I seal the marble? Thank you, Elizabeth, June 19, Reply
R1: Dear Elisabeth: There are so many variables within your situation that, either I respond to you with a whole book, or I don't answer at all! You need to consult with a professionals stone refinisher on this one. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA, Expert Panelist.

A 1968: Would anybody know what material is traditionally used for war grave headstones and is there any meaning for this (iconography)? If specifics are required, I am talking about the GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY Gelderland, Netherlands for WWII serviceman. Any help you could provide would be very much appreciated. Thanks, Bob, May 26, Reply
R1: Dear Bob, The traditional stone used for Commonwealth war grave headstones is a white, oolitic limestone from Portland, Dorset, UK. It is of upper Jurassic age (about 165m.y.). About half a million headstones have been produced from this type of stone. The headstones at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery are also made from this stone. In addition, at this cemetery there is the Canadian Records Building whose structure is of Portland stone with a roof of Cornish slate. (Dr. Hans), Australia

A 1778: I have a new headstone design. Do I need to patent it? William, May 4. Contact

A 1769: Your web site is really a good web site. A question puzzled me for several days, can you help me? The tombstone made in China are divided into Japanese style and western style, do you know the main difference of them except the style? Does western tombstone have some special requirement for the colour, material?
In fact, we exported some tombstone to Japan market every week, but we don't have any experience of other market, the colour of our stone is gray (granite), does it suitable for the European market or other market? and regarding the price of European market tombstone, can you give me some reference message? We buy the raw material at about USD 500/metric ton, then process and export. If the cost is too high, then we have no chance. Please give me some instruction, even simple reply. Thanks, Catherine, China. April 30. Reply

A 1756: Can polished marble monuments (slabs) be cleaned using ordinary household bleach? Micheal, April 24. Reply
R1: Hello Micheal,
Answer NO. Household bleaches often contain sulphates and may cause exfoliation of the surface as these salts dry out and recrystallize in the surface pore structure.
Bleaches can also produce light brown staining after a period of time.
Try:
First, using clean water, dampen the entire stone gently without disturbing the dirt.
Once the stone has been saturated, use plenty of clean water and scrub the surface lightly and carefully with a natural bristle brush just hard enough to lift the surface soiling.
Cover the stone with a paper poultice and allow to dry completely, this will ensure that dissolved particles are deposited in the paper and not returned the surface of the stone.
Wash well with clean water. Roy, UK.

A 1625: I would like to get some information on how one starts a small business of
refurbishing headstones on site. I have done some minor work for people who wanted their monuments re-lettered etc. I would appreciate it if you could provide me with some information. Thanks, Allan, March 31. Reply

A 1623: We are a monumental company located on the west coast of Ireland. One of the requests we frequently receive is to clean old limestone headstones. We have traditionally sandblasted them. However this is not the ideal solution as damages the stone structure and allows them to become dirty again quite quickly. I need a system, chemical or otherwise that will allow a crew to clean the stone on the one visit, Pressure washing is not the answer as most of the cemeteries we operate in are very inaccessible without a water supply. Also the are ,very difficult to take equipment into.
In short a fast effective safe cleaning method for limestone headstones. Can anybody help!? Matt, March 31. Reply
R1: Hello Matt. BLEACH!! Just spray it on the stone, and let it do its thing. Never ever sandblast limestone if you want the stone surface to remain, and pressure washing limestone is also not a good idea. If other dirt and discoloring remains after bleaching, try a neutral ph soap with a soft brush. Of course you will have to carry a pump up sprayer to be your water source. JVC, USA,

A 1580: I am planning to open a cemetery monument business and need any info you may have concerning what engraving equipment and software I will need. I also need to find the best company to buy the granite from. Tannya, March 22. Reply
R1: Hi Tanya, I can help with both your queries - Where are you from please? ... Harry, Australia.

A 1568: Can anyone tell me the safest way to clean the old grave stones. If could let me know. Thanks Ellen, March 21. Reply
R3: Hi! Your thought must be: Why do I wish to clean this old headstone? Have I considered the character and patina that has probably taken years to accumulate. Then if you wish to reverse nature. first, using clean water, dampen the entire stone gently without disturbing the dirt. Once the stone has been saturated, use plenty of clean water and scrub the surface lightly and carefully with a natural bristle brush just hard enough to lift the surface soil. Any honest dirt that remains should be left. Cover the stone with a paper poultice and allow to dry completely This will ensure that dissolved particles are deposited in the paper and not returned the surface of the stone. OR !!! If you are unsure or the headstone is of particular emotional or historic importance, please employ a qualified conservationist. Roy, UK.
R2: Dear Ellen. Probably the most effective way to clean up any stone that has turned black from weathering is to use bleach. The discolorization is due to the growth of alga and fungus (quite natural) and the bleach will kill the growth, and lighten the stone. Just spray it on with a low pressure garden sprayer, or a squirt bottle, and let it do its thing. If the stone has been weathered for a long time, you will find that even though the gray/black discolor disappears, there will be a surface layer which is a case hardening due to the result of chemical reactions between the stone and the organisms that have been growing on it. A mild ph neutral stone soap and soft scrub brush will also help. Good luck, JVC, USA,
R1: Biological growths on headstones can be killed with a strong solution of bleach or household disinfectant. Apply the solution to the growths by spray bottle or brush and leave for at least a few days. Upon your return, you can attempt cleaning by using a warm water and a mild detergent. As long as the stone is not friable, cleaning can be carried out with a soft nylon brush. After the initial clean, rinse it with clean water and let it dry and evaluate your progress. If the stone is a marble or similar calcite based stone, there are likely to be black crusts left on the stone formed by the simultaneous deposition of grime and gypsum (hydrated calcium sulphate). These are hard to remove and can affect the longer term durability of the stone. If you want to remove this gypsum crust, you need to know that gypsum is more soluble in cold water than hot. The best way to remove them is to spray the surface with cold water, GENTLY scrub the surface with a soft nylon brush, rinse and repeat and repeat again and again. Above all, remember slowly and gently does it! Regards, Jim, Australia,
A 1385: I am responsible for the cleaning and maintaining of approximately 60,000 marble headstones. Any suggestions as to algae/moss/lichen control and/or any other environmentally kind products? Some of which are over one hundred years old. Must not kill grass or trees. Robert, Jan 29. Reply
R4: You can use bleach in a low pressure (pump up) sprayer. Each stone would need to be treated individually as a general spraying of the entire area would not be acceptable. We have also used cleaners with a sodium trisulfate agent on limestone, but to be perfectly honest with you, I'm not sure how effective this is, and if there is any chemical reaction with the stone itself. JVC, USA Reply
R3: Dear Robert, Cleaning of such a large number of headstones is a mammoth task. Many cleaners are available but we have to be very careful in selecting them as they will not only have an impact on the stone but also on the green surroundings. The humid atmosphere is a potential growth area for biological growth. The cleaner system to be used should be a mildly alkaline material which will not effect the stone and the alkalinity will inhibit the growth of moss etc. We manufacture a product which is a variant of one of a product which is being extensively used by the Archeological Department of India for cleaning of monuments. Hope the above information is helpful. Regards, Arun, India Reply
R2: Hi Robert, with so many headstones I suggest a portable water power washer. Then rub with a cloth clean water with a touch of bleach added. Simply don't touch the grass or trees. Always do a sample first. This will keep the moss at bay. John, USA Reply
R1: Dear Robert: Not a funny job!! I don't think there's anything to prevent or control the formation of algae and mildew, but I do have a terrific biological cleaner that will clean those soiling agent on contact without effecting the integrity of the stone. Contact me directly through findstone.com, and I will gladly send you a sample for you to try out. Ciao and good luck! Maurizio, USA Reply

A 1172: I am having a memorial built and one vendor states that Indian black will gray over time and Swedish Blacks will not. I am seeking best quality stone for a high contrasting black/white presentation. Having been lead to believe in the supremacy of Indian Black granite the Swedish entry has me worried. What do you think? Charles, Nov 8, Reply
R1: Dear Charles: Indian Black, Swedish Black and similar Belfast Black (South Africa), Zimbabwe Black are petrografically very closed. I do not see why they would change over time. It is necessary to choose the best quality with the most black shade from these types with respect to prices. Daniel, Slovakia
A 1162: Hello! I am doing an investigation in my environmental science class about the weathering of granite and marble gravestones. I need to talk about why people choose certain headstones (granite and marble) and why people choose marble even when granite is a lot more resistant to weathering. Could you please help me with these questions? Thank you. Phiona, USA, Oct 31. Reply
R3: Hello Phiona, I think we need to start with understanding our ability to effectively quarry and shape pieces of stone in a timely manner. Not until recently have we been able to mass produce blocks of granite.
Marble, being composed of calcite, is infinitely softer and easier to work. Further it appears to last a relatively long time. Finally investigate cost structures and consumer buying patterns in different centuries. I believe you will find that the headstones composed of marble and then granite are actually a much smaller percentage than other materials that deteriorated faster. In closing I believe that you can make arguments that cost dictated what people would buy. Cost would dictate what companies supply. Best of luck, Steven, USA

R2: Generally there are a few reasons why this is propably so. First of all marble being a much "softer" material is much easier to shape and carve and engrave than is granite. Granite is much harder to work with and requires more specialized (and expensive) tools. Secondly, marble/limestone is less expensive than grantie, especially once it has been carved or engraved (see reason above). Also for most people, having their loved ones or their own gravestone last "forever" is not a huge concern in peoples lives. Granite may indeed last alot longer than Marble or Limestone, but ask yourself this question..."How long does it REALLY need to last or stay "new" looking?" 1 or 2 generations maybe? Marble and Limestone GREATLY outlasts some of the other materials that have been used for grave markers in the past. Wood was quite often used for grave markers, and those did not last very long at all. Some facts and observations and opinions. Hope it helps. Bill, USA

R1: Dear Phiona: This is a good one, all right! The only ones that could answer your question are those who choose marble as a headstone. I know I wouldn't, but how could I answer for someone else?! As far as "granite" is concerned, there are too many stone traded as "granite" that granite are not (and by a long shot!), to enable anybody making a blanket statement by which "granite" is the way to go. Several "granites" weather poorly. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA

A 1113: I want to know which stone is the best and why between polished China, India or African Black. We are getting a stone for our daughter’s grave and these three are our choices. But we are told by some the China and some the African. We was wanting to ask someone that isn't trying to sell us which one? If you would be so kind to help us decide. Thank You, Debra, Sept 24, USA, Reply
R1: Just make sure the stone is not oiled to make it look blacker than it really is. See our Library of Articles.
The Indian stones are the best for monuments (See our Stone Album.) Do note that there are hundreds of quarries in India so there is a lot of variation. What is most popular (highest priced) are fine-grained deep black
granites. Finally, it is a question of what really appeals to you. Polish quality, workmanship, etc. are independent of the stone quality. Basically, you do not want material defects like flecks, etc. Generally, the bigger the grain size (crystals), the lower the price. Vinay, India,

A 1096: Is there any way to trace the maker of a headstone by the design of the marker? My request is in reference to two individuals who passed on in the 1830's. The markers that were there in my youth (1960's, 1970's) were historical in nature, standing about 3-4 feet tall, inlaid with bronze metal, and shaped like a revolutionary "three-cornered" hat on top. Both had a long paragraph type inscription. One was for Bathsheba Lincoln (Pres. Lincoln's grandmother) and the other was for my gr-gr-gr-grandfather, Captain John Henry Hibbs, "Revolutionary War Hero." The grave markers were side by side in the cemetery. (Cemetery: Mill Creek 1st Baptist Church Cemetery now known as the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Fort Knox, Kentucky) An organization (?) has more recently replaced Bathsheba Lincoln's marker with a newer granite stone (which has the same paragraph inscription I remember) but my grandfather's headstone is missing from the cemetery. I am deeply saddened by this. Any help/advice you can give will be appreciated. Thanks. Pamela, USA, Sept 9, Reply

R1: Look into The Association for Gravestone Studies. There are people who have made a study of who carved what stone, when, in colonial New England and AGS may have more ideas and resources on the general subject.
Good luck, Richard, Miami FL, Richard

A 974: How do I clean my husband's headstone and what do I use so that I do not ruin the surface? USA. May 2 reply

R1: Years ago, someone taught me to use Comet, of all things, on granite, and I find it to be very good. I use a mild solution with lots of water and a scrub brush for a general cleaning and RINSE WELL. I've also let it "cook"
on a stain, like you would in your sink. However, the materials chosen for memorials (granite, marble and bronze) are essentially permanent and I prefer to allow nature's stains to come and go, naturally, over time. It is amazing how a stain in stone may disappear after a season or two in the weather. And ANY memorial in these materials
will long outlast you or I. Bronzes MAY be refinished by the manufacturer, for a fee. If you could camp next to a memorial and keep it swept clean with a broom it would probably look like new until someone prepared your own memorial! Richard


A 997: I WANT TO ATTACH A PLASTIC BOX WITH A PHOTO ON TO A GRAVE HEADSTONE AND I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO USE TO ATTACH IT? GLUE? DOUBLESIDED TAPE? WHAT? CAN YOU HELP ME? SassyJo, USA. May 28 reply

R2: Sorry I didn't find this site sooner...You also want to find out what rules apply at the cemetery. Cemeteries have the right, if not the obligation, to protect their overall appearance for the sake of all their clients. They may remove such an application without notice, which would probably damage the marker. Even if you OWN the gravesite you may have to comply with rules - just like when you own a house! Richard


R1: A two part epoxy is probably the best bet. This will last as long as the plastic box. Regards, Jim, Australia,

Q 953: Can anybody point me toward an "all blue" headstone please? Malcolm, USA, April 21. Reply
R1: If I understand well you would like to know quite blue natural stones
for headstone. It is only some kinds of evident blue stones:
AZUL MACAUBAS - Brasil - quartzite - hard stone
AZUL IMPERIAL - Brasil - quartzite - hard stone
AZUL BAHIA - Brasil - granite s.l. - hard stone especially for interier
BLUE KING - Zambia - granite s.l. - hard stone especially for interier
AZUL CIELO - Argentina - marble - soft stone - sky blue
Daniel, Slovakia,

Q 899: I am looking for information on carving headstones as a business. I would like to know what all it would involve. I have never carved stone before. I can’t seem to find any info on the subject. Thank you. Janet, USA, March 9. Reply

R1: Janet, I got into the ‘headstone business’ back in 1990 when I went to Montréal and Béébe Quebec to start/learn how to work granite in life-size sculptural form. In this town I found many an artist who augmented their art income by working in the memorial business as labours and what not. The reason was that they were close to the suppliers and could scavenge scraps for free or at cost for their own work. Rarely was there a need for their abilities as a sculptor, except in special circumstances when a customer wanted something extra special, incredibly intricate or ‘custom’. You see most headstones are made using a computer generated, vulcanized rubber mat that is adhered to the headstone. Then the letters are peeled off and sandblasted (very cheap and quick). Now I only know of one firm that hand chiseled their letter after sandblasting to get that ‘V’ notched, hand cut look. Now they do this because the owner takes pride in his work and knows that reading the inscription is easier and the cut area, if honed after sandblasting, is less likely to absorb as much water, dirt and pollution and in turn the lettering stays crisper longer (over hundred years!) and the stone is less susceptible to spalling (from water entering, staying until a frost, then ‘spalling off’ a chuck of the monument when the moisture freezes). Because of the ‘manufacturing’ aspect of headstones you would never make any money if you used hand tools (this includes pneumatic as well).

Lastly, it is a sad business. Grief is such an infrequent emotion that I think people never acquire enough experience on how to handle it. You will never please a customer (or very rarely), the headstone they want is never done fast enough (they wish to get through this part of their life as quick as possible and close the book). Also it is the worst time for a person to make a decision and more importantly to spend a lot of money. Ethically, the industry is not well known for doing anything but steering the individual to the most expensive headstone using the phrase “How much did you love this person?”

I still do a few (maybe one or two a year) because it bothered me a lot when the person who was commissioning a custom job from me would come to my shop to see how I was progressing and then spent the next hour weeping over my work. It was heart wrenching for both of us. There is something to be said about picking one out of a catalogue, then never seeing it again until it is installed.

If you do start into it find a person who cuts computerized custom stencils and someone who will rent you their high-pressure sandblaster (with a bit of important safety training) and see how it goes. It uses many of the same tools and processes but it is just that your mistakes cost a lot more money. I always did a scaled mock-up drawing, then showed it to the client and told them that they need to review this carefully and if it is OK then sign-off. Then any spelling mistakes can be traced as being either yours or theirs.I hope I have been of some help and not too pessimistic, Janet. All the best. Andrew

A 951: How can I clean it? It's green (mold, I think) toward the bottom of the headstone. The headstone has been up since 1968. I have washed away the dust and winter grime with plain water over the years, but it doesn't have the shine it used to have. Also, how do I protect the ceramic picture in the middle of the headstone when I clean it? Someone suggested using Vaseline on it first. Any advise would be appreciated. Beitner, USA, March 28. Reply
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