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Cutting in the Clouds - Architectural Lettering

Posted 30/04/15 in Typography in Workshop life

 

This time last week I was carving large architectural letters into extraordinarily hard grit stone in the wild Yorkshire winds with kites circling.

It was an experience far removed from the comfort and warmth of the workshop, but it was embracing and ancient and was stone carving in its purest form.

I returned home a week later, eyes bloodshot from the quartz chips, face slightly more weathered and sore hand bones from the pounding of the mallet.

Grit stone, traditionally used for sharpening metal is made up mostly of silica that ironically blunts your chisels fast, so one is consistently returning to the diamond sharpening block and soon the end of the chisel is tent-like and needs attending to at the bench grinder.

Setting out letters like this is a challenge; each face of the wall is 5 metres long.  Drawing each letter is not a problem, but when you are high up on narrow scaffolding, it’s hard to get a sense of the rhythm of the spacing. It is a good idea therefore, that a full size paper drawing is made beforehand; one that can be pasted to a wall that allows you to step back to see it properly.

Each face of the wall is made up of five blocks of stone and the initial thought was to line them up on the ground before they were laid and carve them in a warm covered area, but I could foresee too many future problems with this method, the biggest one of all, relying on the builders to register each block absolutely perfectly.... a near impossible task. Also some of the letters are carved through the mortar joints, and it is much easier to carve these after mortaring. In this case the mortar was the same hardness as the stone which was perfect.

Over time these freshly cut letters will weather and darken and the contrast will improve. 

The short video gives you a feel for the technique and the beautiful v-cut letters.  I speeded the carving sequence up by 1.5.

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