Stone Carving Process

Stone Carving History

The art of stone carving is older than civilization itself.  Prehistoric sculptures were usually human forms, and the first was a series of Venus figurines which began appearing across Europe from about 30,000 BCE. Later cultures carved animal, human-animal and abstract forms in stone.

Stone Carving in Progress

Working with Stone

Stone is a unique medium. Unlike painting where you apply paint, weaving where you entwine fibers, or clay works where you build up a shape, stone carving requires the artist to remove material to reveal the form within.

With a concept or design in mind, the stone carver selects a stone of suitable material and colour. The outline of the sculpture, for instance a human form, is drawn in pencil or builders crayon on all the sides of the block of stone. The material to be removed can be determined and verified on all faces of the block before the first cuts are made. For complex shapes the carver usually makes a miniature clay model to test the design and integrity of the structure before carving the stone.

Shaping and Finishing a Stone Carving

For soft stone (soapstone or alabaster) shaping can be done by hand with a riffler (a type of file), a handsaw and a hammer and chisel. Harder stone (limestone or marble) usually entails using grinders, air hammer chisel and power saws. Once the primary shape is defined, head, shoulders, torso and legs, the piece is refined with smaller tools to define the face, hands, elbows and knees. The sculptor decides on a textured, matte, or glossy finish as appropriate to best represent the object. The finish is accomplished by selecting the chisel or file to texture the stone or the degree of grit in the sandpaper. The finishing can take as long as the shaping.

Interview with the Stone Carver / Artist

For further explanation contact me or view this short TV interview and demonstration recorded on “daytime” for Rogers Cable.

Graham Bowden TV interview about carving stone