How to engrave stone by hand

Updated March 23, 2017

Engraving in stone is an art form that has been around since the dawn of man. Today, lasers and computer-operated engraving machines do the job in less time than it takes by hand; however, some craftsman still enjoy the laborious task of engraving stone by hand. Hand engraving stone takes patience, skill and time, but the resulting engraved stone can leave you with a satisfied feeling of accomplishment.

Select the stone material you want to engrave. Consider starting with a softer stone, such as limestone, alabaster or soapstone. Granite and marble are harder and more expensive, so you might want to wait until you've become more skilled before you attempt engraving on them.

Purchase a set of stone carving and etching tools. Many types of chisels, rasps and etching tools are available. Depending on the design you're working on, you could put any of these tools to use and should have them available. You can find stone-carving tools at some hobby and craft shops or at any of the many websites specialising in these tools.

Find a place to work where you will be able to leave your project when you aren't working on it. The engraving can take several days, or even weeks, to complete. Consider a dedicated workshop if you intend to do this regularly.

Stencil a design or lettering on your stone with an erasable black marker if you aren't confident enough to engrave without a guide. The stencil lines will be removed as you engrave.

Remove large areas of stone with a flat chisel and a heavy hammer. Reserve these tools for taking away stone you won't be using in your engraving. You won't need to be precise here as long as you're only removing large areas of stone to rough out the engraving.

Hammer away the rough edges of your roughed out engraving with a handset chisel. Use a lighter hammer. Hold the flat edge of the small chisel at a 45-degree angle, and lightly remove the rough edges from your roughed out engraving.

Clean the engraved areas with an air-compressed sandblaster. This high-powered tool allows you to easily remove debris and cut away bits of excess stone to help you give shape and definition to your engraving.

Engrave letters and intricate designs with a point chisel. Take the depth down a little at a time. You can always remove more stone, but if you go too deep, correcting the mistake can be difficult.

Sand and shape your final engraving with a small riffler. The curve of the riffler allows you to access hard-to-reach engraved areas. Use the riffler to apply a smooth finish to your engraving.


Although hand engraving typically involves the use of chisels and hammers, you may consider using an electric engraver or even a Dremel power tool to engrave your designs.


Consider wearing a respirator to avoid inhaling stone dust, especially when working with granite, which contains silica.

Things You'll Need

  • tone-engraving tool set
  • Stone
  • Stencil
  • Erasable black marker (optional)
  • Air-compressed sandblaster
  • Steel hammers (small and large)
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
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About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.