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Headstone with glasses



We set out the stages of commissioning work to guide you through the process

We set out the stages of commissioning work to guide you through the process

Stoneletters 2021 03 06 0228

Meeting Fergus

We always encourage you to make an appointment to visit if you can. It will give you a chance to see the work close up and to meet Fergus. You are encouraged to be involved in the process as much as possible. There are always many headstones and commissions in progress which can provide inspiration and ideas. It is helpful to bring details of the churchyard regulations and any ideas you may have already. Reading our book before visiting can also be helpful.

beautiful greenslate headstone

Choosing Materials

Most of the materials we use are from British quarries and we have now a brilliant supplier who knows our quality of work and appreciates the need for the finest stone and slate. We give him the exact specifications for a particular job. Most of the masoning is done by hand ensuring a beautiful and breathtaking finish.

The material takes on average 6 - 8 weeks to arrive in the workshop ready for drawing out.

choosing a headstone

Choosing the wording

Choosing the wording for a headstone or memorial plaque can be very difficult. At Stoneletters we can help you. Our advice it to take your time, and the words often come when you least expect them. Do not feel hurried and remember that often "less is more". Take inspiration from poetry, literature or music. Fergus will be able to guide you. We have also written several blog posts to help you including long lists of epitaphs and headstone inscriptions.

Design for a headstone

The Design

Once he has gathered the information he need, Fergus will create a drawing. Rather than sending out lots of different sketches and suggestions, he will work on one, which can then be altered if necessary. As every commission is unique there is no catalogue, but inspiration and ideas can be found in our booklets and book.

We always start with the wording, and the design and shape of the stone evolves from there.

Obtaining permit for hedstone

Obtaining a permit

Once the design has been accepted, permission for the memorial will have to be sought from the vicar or council. Hannah has a wealth of experience in obtaining permits, and she will arrange this for you. Once approval has been granted, the unworked stone is then ordered.

Fergus wessel in workshop

Drawing Out

This is the point when the lettering comes alive. We do not make a full size drawing on paper and trace it on. Instead the words are pencilled directly onto the stone. Every time we draw out an inscription it is an opportunity to improve it.

This stage often takes longer than the actual carving. It has to be right because as soon as the chisel touches the stone is it too late to re-think. The drawing requires great discipline and if it's not quite right, we must be prepared to start again.



Once the stone has been prepared, and the inscription has been penciled out, you are now invited to view the work so far, before any carving is underway. It offers the opportunity to make any final changes and usually a visit back to the workshop is worthwhile. We can also post or email photographs if visiting is difficult.

Gilding a headstone
Carving a headstone

Carving and finishing

The final decisions with letter-spacing are made during the carving. At least three letters are roughed out then adapted if necessary to correct any minor spacing issues. After cutting the lettering will sometimes need painting; this usually only applies to slate, and it is done in a tasteful way that mimics the natural cut surface of the stone.

Installing an headstone

Installing the work

This is one of the most important parts of the job. Many people seem surprised that we install (or fix) all of our own work, no matter how far away. But we think it's crucial that we finish the job whilst making sure it goes up level and scratch-free. You are very welcome to come along and watch should you chose to. Many people however prefer to go and see the headstone quietly once we have left.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to bring to a meeting for a new headstone?

Sometimes the first meeting is a starting point when you just come to have a look and then go away again until you feel ready to commission a headstone. This may be several years later, and there is nothing wrong with taking your time. If you want to take the first step in getting a headstone commissioned, then it would be helpful if you bring the following information when you visit:

  1. A copy of the churchyard or cemetery rules and regulations.
  2. The name and address of the registered grave owner if it is not you.
  3. Any thoughts or ideas you have about the wording or any ideas you might have for a carving.
  4. Any photographs you might have seen that inspire you.
  5. Any information about your loved one which might help me with the design, such as their character and their interests.

What if I live too far away to visit?

We encourage you to visit the workshop if you can, even if it is only at the outset, as there is so much to see and feel and it is always good to work face to face. However, we have many clients who are not able to visit and it is perfectly feasible to work remotely using photographs and email. If you live in London, we have good train connections, with our closest station being Charlbury or Kingham, just over an hour from London Paddington.

Do you work all over the UK?

Yes! We welcome clients from all over the UK and we always try to install our headstones ourselves even if it means staying overnight somewhere. When headstones are to be installed overseas we offer to come and install them ourselves but it tends to be more cost-effective to ship the headstone and arrange a local mason to install it.

What does your work cost?

The cost of our work is a reflection of the care and attention we give to each piece and the amount of time we dedicate to their making. The cost usually includes installation and as many revisions as you need to get the piece right. We do not have a price list or catalogue, but if you would like an idea of cost please do not hesitate to get in touch.