Wymondham Abbey plaque……..continued

Well I was up early to check the size on the plaque mentioned in the last post. The size (or glue) was 12 hour, and when I checked it at 10 hours it was ready to go. Humidity and room temperatures make the timing a little unpredictable with gilding. If you put the gold on too early it wrinkles up and looks awful, put it on too late and it won’t stick. The trick to it is to check regularly, and put plenty of test patches on as you go. Then to check the size, you lightly press your knuckle or finger joint on the test patch, and lift, listening carefully. If it’s not ready you’ll lift off and feel a stringiness and stickiness, but no noise, if it’s good to go then you’ll hear a definite click as you lift off, and if you’re too late then you’ll get nothing……….and you’ll have to put another coat on. So here are some pictures of working towards the finished piece. The plaque will be blessed on September 14th and then installed once the building work is finished. Then I can photograph it in situ……….in about 18 months time.

gilding1 gilding2wymondham det2 wymondham det1  wymondham det3 wymondham 1

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!!



French limestone obelisk inscription

I have been working on an exciting project this month. I have been commissioned to carve four inscriptions on an obelisk near Bicester. The obelisk measures a huge 25 metres from plinth to apex. It is made from Massangis French limestone. The inscriptions are on all four sides of the base, two in Arabic and the other two being their English translations. One of the Arabic sides is calligraphy produced by Saadi Al Timimi, and the other Arabic inscription is a typeface. The Roman lettering is based on the Roman Trajan inscription, but tweeked here and there, especially regarding the weight of the serifs. I have been helped by Gary Breeze, Stuart Buckle and Martin Cook. I’m back on site this week to give the lettering a final going over and to think about mixing colours for painting the text. Although the inscriptions are deeply carved, they will need colouring to be legible from a distance of 30metres, which is where they will generally be seen from.

I’ll show more pictures once the work is finished. The four pictures below show sections of the lettering on all four sides of the base, prior to the inscriptions being painted.

Vale of Belvoir Angels

click to enlarge

I recently travelled through Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire on my way back to Norfolk from Worcestershire and took the opportunity to visit the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced beaver). I have known for years that there were many slate memorials in the East Midlands and recently became interested (if not obsessed) with them, especially those from the late 17th and early 18th century. There are many ornate and beautifully carved examples and due to the longevity of slate they are amazingly well preserved.

click to enlarge

There are bascially two different kinds to my eye, some more crudely carved and “naive” in appearance, and others that are beautifully executed and show the carver/designer’s knowledge of different typefaces, and the masons use of type sample books. I think both these kinds are beautiful but I am more drawn to the cruder ones which include angel carvings known as “The Vale of Belvoir Angels”. There’s a great book studying these memorials written by Pauline and Bernard Heathcote (available at amazon). It lists the memorials and locations and has many photographs.

click to enlarge

What I find particularly interesting is that these stones were not set out or drawn up before the carver started work and you can see this by the way some words are truncated or split and some letters carved really small above the line to fit in. What seems really odd to me is that some of the lettering is raised and therefore the background is being carved away leaving them proud, and even the carving of these was just started on the left hand edge and made to fit, one way or another. It is worth having a close look at some of these. Below is a detail from one.

click to enlarge

I have uploaded some more pictures on my flickr pages. Click here to see them.

what’s with the weird ” s ” and ” ſ ” letters in that last plaque, are they neceſsary ?

following a comment on my last post, which featured a plaque from Holt Church, I am posting some useful links for those who are wondering why a lot of 17-18th century inscriptions and earlier manuscripts have the different forms of the s – known as the long s “ſ” and short s “s”.

click to enlarge

The best information I found online is this:
from the TYPEFOUNDRY blog pages

there’s nothing I can add to this, it’s very thorough and has further links within it.

Eyam – layout issues, or should that be layou tissues

Following on from my last blog regarding letter spacing, design and layout on old memorials, I thought it worth adding this image of another stone in Eyam, there seems to be no regard for where the words fall whatsoever, with both surnames and first names being split. Surely this means the “designer” worked directly with the chisel, forming the letters as he went. I can’t imagine showing a design for this stone to one of my clients and getting the go-ahead. This is perhaps a shame, as I’d really enjoy the opportunity to make a memorial in this way, the sense of freedom would be refreshing, if a little unnerving!

If you look closely you’ll see that the spacing in general is really poor, for example the HE space right at the beginning of the inscription is very wide and yet the word spacing is relatively very tight for example: here/lies the/body who/died. But despite all this, or maybe because of all this, I like it.
The re’sno way I couldg et a way with it thou gh.