Ellettsville, IN: Hand Carving at the Indiana Limestone Symposium

Two years ago I came to an Open House at the Indiana Limestone Symposium and decided I wanted to try carving limestone myself. This summer, I spent three days carving and learning the tools.

My instructor was Sharon Fullingim (whose commissioned work I admired two years ago). I explained to her what I wanted to carve and she helped me pick a stone. The stone for the symposium is all donated by Bybee Stone Company, whose quarry is where the symposium takes place. There were many different sizes and shapes for the stone we could use. I used a 12" by 12" by 4" (or so) piece.

My plan was to carve a 3D letter "W" for our wedding/future house, so my first step was to outline my letter on the stone. (If I had been smarter, I would have lined the bottom edges of the W with the bottom edge of the stone... but now I know.)

Then I used the chisel and a technique called "half-on half-off" (and Sharon's help) to outline the W in the stone. Outlining it like this protects the edges and lets you see where to carve away. Most of the other participants were making reliefs, not 3D images, and they used this technique most of the time in their carving.

It took most of the morning to get to this point (instruction happens from 9am-noon on hand carving days) and I was pretty happy with how it was turning out. The brown thing in the photo below is the handle of the hammer sticking up.

Once I had the outline ready, all I had to do was chip away the rest of the stone I no longer needed.

This is the part that took me forever (I spent about 18 hours total at the symposium, and 15 of them were devoted to getting rid of stone. Yes, a saw would have made it a lot faster, but the hand carving instruction doesn't include any power tools, only hand tools.)

Eventually, it looked more and more like what I envisioned in my head.

The hand carving instruction happens under a big tent with the other participants. There were about 8 or 10 of us working on various ideas. Everyone was so nice and supportive. Some people had done this before and others were like me. Some were artists in other realms (clay, glass) and some were like me (did you notice I made something will only straight lines? ha!). It was really fun to get to know the other people and watch their pieces come together.

The tools we used were chisels of various types. There is a point, a flat chisel, a gouge, and a three-point tool. We also had a hammer. You hold the chisel with your non-dominant hand and the hammer with your dominant hand. My right arm wanted to fall off after the second day of the symposium (I spent 6 hours hammering away) and actually I wound up not really being able to move at all that night since I had stood up all day. Please don't be like me - take breaks :) No one else had this problem - some of the others' shoulders hurt, but no one else was as tired. My theory is that it was because I was definitely hammering away stone instead of making a relief.

Eventually I got to the point where it could stand up on a flat surface, which was my goal. I was pretty exhausted by this point (the third day) and had spent a lot of time hammering and filing to get here. I thought it looked great and called it complete for the time being.

The back is also flat. My original idea was to inscribe "E & M EST. 2017" into the front, and have the back for inscribing other important names and dates (like future kids). Sharon showed us how to do the inscription, called hand lettering, but I decided that I was a) exhausted and b) didn't trust myself enough to not mess up my hard work, so I did not do any lettering. My plan is to find a limestone artist to hire to do the inscriptions for us. It still looks cool as just the W so I am not too upset.

Besides the chisel tools, at the end I used a lot of various files to smooth down the sides and get into areas that were hard to reach with the chisel. I liked filing a lot! The limestone is an easy stone to work with; it doesn't have a grain (like wood does) so you can go in any direction and it'll all work the same way.

Here are a few things the people around me were working on:

And here is the rest of the symposium set up:

And here is a scale for you to see just how big the W is!

The final symposium open house is this week on Thursday from 1-4pm. You can still do hand carving this week through Friday if you are interested. Check it out here.
Ellettsville, IN: Hand Carving at the Indiana Limestone Symposium Ellettsville, IN: Hand Carving at the Indiana Limestone Symposium Reviewed by Maria on 1:27:00 PM Rating: 5


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