The grown up version

Reading an “unreadable tombstone”


There is nothing more frustrating and intriguing than an “unreadable” tombstone. There are several ways I highlighted on a previous post to read a so-called “unreadable” tombstone.

The first thing I want to highlight is that tombstone rubbing – the process of taking a paper and crayon and rubbing it over the surface of the stone is an act of vandalism and as such, is extremely disrespectful. No tapophile, tombstone tourist or graving enthusiast would ever endorse such a practice. The vigorous rubbing across the surface of the stone can chop away the fragile surface. The pressure of this process onto the stone can also cause the stone to tip over, which can cause the stone to break. That also could result in personal injury. Here are some safer practices:

  1. Grind up chalk in a blender and with your hand (hand, I tell you!), rub it onto the stone. The words will jump out at you.
  2. Use cheap flour. Place it in your hand and RUB it GENTLY onto the stone. During of my boy’s school projects, it suddenly occurred to me that flour plus water (i.e. rain), equal GLUE.  Although this type of glue is very water soluble  – It may take several rains to wash this mixture off. Take a brush and water with you. Brush off all excess when you are done and then give it a good rinse before you leave. The next rain storm will take care of the rest. I checked with a chemistry teacher friend of mine who assures me that the flour and water mixture will not damage the stone, nor will it hold contaminants onto the stone long enough for damage to be done.
  3. Take aluminum foil, tear off a sheet and hold it onto the stone. With your finger or the eraser tip of a pencil, lightly press into the stone until the words pop out. This takes time, patience and foil is kind of expensive. But the results are cool looking.
  4. Use a mirror to reflect the image. I’ve seen a fellow tombstone tourist use a cheap, long mirror, place it in front of the stone and tip the mirror slightly until the words can be
    We were struck by the iconography here. Why was the hand pointed down? Was that a broken chain? But we couldn't read the writing.

    We were struck by the iconography here. Why was the hand pointed down? Was that a broken chain? But we couldn’t read the writing.

    read. This is best accomplished on a clo

    IMG_1432We use a super soft small brush (from the dollar store). The more we brush, the better the print shows up.

    udy day.

    IMG_1428

    These stones are under a lovely evergreen cedar tree. However, over time the sap runs down over the stone and the engraving (not as deep as today) is occluded.

    After the application of only a small amount of flour and with light brushing, you can see the writing more clearly.

    After the application of only a small amount of flour and with light brushing, you can see the writing more clearly.

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