old stone working machinery

We’re working away in Dewsbury this week, lettercutting some kerb stones for a garden of remembrance in Dalton Churchyard (see the main carving panels here). We are using workshop space in Calder Masonry stone yard, rather than transport everything twice. In the room we are in are some beautiful old stone lathes…………..just look at these, awesome. Made to withstand some serious pressure, and with lovely old paintwork and lettering. These are just like sculptures to my eye.

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Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital stone finally installed

hospital seat collage HOORAY!! This stone has taken a while to ‘realise’ from selection interview in November 2011 to installation today. We had an early start this morning as we had to avoid traffic and Hospital activity as much as possible and agreed to arrive on site at 5am to cause as little disruption as possible. This meant the crane arriving at my workshop at 4am this morning, so alarm set for 3.30am…….

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…..then we made the lift and with a bit of fiddling about getting it in exactly the right position, (and trying to get the straps out!) the job was done it a matter of minutes. It feels like the end of an era! The stone has been sat outside my workshop for over 2 years, I’ve enjoyed having it around and watching the light play on it and seeing it change in different conditions. I really hope that this piece is well used as a resting place and that people stop and touch it and enjoy it. While making this piece I was keen to create a textural piece, hopefully a therapeutic object with a grounding influence within this clinical setting with its angular architecture and hard lines. I hope that it draws people in and makes them want to touch and explore the different surfaces; the natural facets, the honed smooth areas and the claw-tooled and punched elements, as well as the carved surfaces. You will notice that on both of the smaller sides there is evidence of the quarrying of the block, you can still see that two of the drill holes are there which are how the block is split in the quarry; a series of holes are drilled in a line and then wedges called ‘plugs and feathers’ are hammered in in sequence until the block splits. I wanted to leave these in as they tell part of the story of the block. This sculpture was commissioned by The Hospital Arts Project and The Organ Donation Department (not using public money, but funded by private individuals). It was important to reflect the theme of organ donation in the words. It was difficult to find some text that seemed appropriate but then I had the idea of using wording inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’. The material is York stone (Woodkirk stone) and it weighs 3.4 tonnes. Thanks to RJ Crane hire for the lifting.

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a few close-ups follow……………….

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Hospital stone finally moving………..well on Monday

We had a little trial lift of the stone I made for Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital today. The stone is being transported on Monday morning (4am !) early in order to avoid busier times on site. I took a few snaps today on my phone. It turns out the stone that I thought was around 2.4 tonnes was in fact 3.4 tonnes. I am very excited about seeing it finally in place, and not outside my workshop where it seemed to be taking root. See the following pictures. I think on Monday I’ll take more….. maybe a video would be fun! The crane was really impressive!!

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Norfolk Granite! and some other local stones

I recently met a local chap who told me he had a boulder he wanted me to carve. I’ve been working on it today. “Where did he get it from?” Oh, I’m glad you asked me that. Well, he told me that an 18 year old farm worker Brian Sarsby was ploughing a field near Banningham, when there was a bang and his tractor came to a sudden stop. He’d bent a plough-share on a substantial lump of rock in the ground. I know that farm worker and he’s 81 now. The stone was removed from the field and ended up outside a house in Colby. It looks to me like granite, and I’d suggest it is a glacial boulder. There are pictures at the bottom of this post.

Norfolk has no natural stone for carving. We have flint such as was quarried in Grimes Graves (below) and other places. CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE


Then there is Carrstone, a rough sandstone or iron stone (also known as Silsoe or gingerbread!) quarried near Snettisham and used a lot for walling in that area, with brick quoins. It comes in two variants; a rusty red and a ‘silver’ variety. There’s some chalk too. So nothing for me to get excited about. I have cut a letter in flint and it is possible but not much fun. Here’s a picture of the strata in Hunstanton:


Generally speaking the further West you go in the UK the older the stone is. Guess I’m in the wrong county then…..BUT now I have a source of stone I can carve…..Norfolk Granite! I’m not a big fan of granite but it is ok. My previous blog featured a massive 7 tonne boulder which I carved with my assistant Dan. This one (below) is a lot smaller! I am being quite free with the lettering on this, sketching it out roughly and forming the letters as I go, the client just said go for it, ‘just do it’. This means letter shapes and spacing need to be refined as it progresses, and the weight and depth of the letters are done in an intuitive way – what looks right to me. There are one or two flaws in the stone so I had to set it out with this in mind. It has a kind of soft crust and then it gets HARD as you cut deeper. I will wash it down after carving, and then assess if it needs some paint in the letters. Often when the dust is washed out of the lettering there is not enough contrast or shadow, despite carving VERY DEEP. Also it does need to function as a sign, and needs to be noticed. It’s about 70cm wide I guess. CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE, bye for now!!



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Road trip: York stone, slate and granite

Dan and I have had a rather busy few days. We left the workshop on Wednesday morning in a large luton van, complete with tail lift. We were taking a large York stone memorial to Dalton Church near Liverpool (pictured below). This stone is interesting in that the lettering is carved in three different ways. The name is carved in relief, raised by around 12mm, which means taking back the surface to leave the material for the lettering. This is surrounded by incised letters. On the back of the stone (see second picture) the lettering is created by carving the spaces around the letters. This technique means the lovely surface of the stone could be left intact too. redmond4 copy redmondbk3 copy

We then journeyed on to Wales to collect some slate and explore a little, and then on to carve a massive 9′ tall x 6′ wide monolith in Snowdonia. It was in a retreat centre called Cae Mabon, near Llanberis. I had been sent pictures of the stone but was unsure what we were in for. It turned out to be granite as opposed to Welsh slate, and so we braced ourselves for a few hard days work. We had some lettering and various other symbols to carve into it. The lettering was around 9″ tall and took some carving being granite. We carve everything with hammer and chisel. The stone was so hard that we noticed it sparking as it grew dark.


Then there were various other symbols; a Kokopelli figure (a sort of ancient American mystical figure linked to fertility and storytelling) a Triskele, or triple spiral (a pre-Christian symbol often linked to fertility) an Aboriginal sun/star symbol, and another Aboriginal symbol representing a meeting place. We also carved some ogham script, a kind of early medieval runic writing system from Ireland. I translated three words into ogham; taliesin (an early poet) iachau (healing) and hud (magic). I painted the lettering for legibility as it is a sign as well as a sculptural object. See below;

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cae mabon bk2 copy cae mabon handprint copy cae mabon kokopelli copy cae mabon ogham copy cae mabon spirals copy  cae mabon2 copy cae mabon3 copy

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Lincoln Cathedral

l1I visited Lincoln Cathedral on the way back from installing a foundation near Liverpool, as I knew there were lots of medieval carvings here. I think this is a really amazing building, made from Lincolnshire Limestone, with some Purbeck marble here and there in the columns. The masons worked on this from 1088-1092, quite a feat and it is thought that £5,000,000/year in today’s money was spent on this. In For 238 years (1311–1549) it was the tallest building in the world until the spire fell in 1549. In 1141 the roof was destroyed in a fire and the building was substantially rebuilt and then in 1185 a large earthquake destroyed all but the Norman west facade, which is amazing, covered in fine carving. As a stonemason and carver I am always drawn to the details after the initial reaction to the structure and scale of buildings like this. The workmanship in the relief carvings is amazing and mind-blowing. The vaulting on the earlier part of the cieling is interesting too, quite experimental, breaking new ground in a somewhat haphazard way it seems, they worked it out better in the later additions, and after various disasters on the way (towers falling down and the like!). At one point the actual Diocese of Lincoln stretched from the Humber to the Thames, and there are seats in the choir area reserved for the vicar of ‘Leighton Bosord’ (Leighton Buzzard, near Luton) for example. The guide that took us around said that to those that saw this cathedral, painted white, gleaming on the hill, would have been so in awe of it – remember that the tallest thing they will have seen prior to seeing this would have been a large oak tree! Enjoy the pictures, some may take a while to load as they’re high res.

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Coventry Cathedral pictures

as a little ‘postscript’ to my article on Ralph Beyer’s lettering I wanted to put up some more pictures of Coventry Cathedral. It is such an amazing place.

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