Stone carving is an activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, stone work has survived which was created during our prehistory.
Work carried out by paleolithic societies to create stone tools is more often referred to as knapping. Stone carving that is done to produce lettering is more often referred to as lettering. The process of removing stone from the earth is called mining or quarrying.
Stone carving is one of the processes which may be used by an artist when creating a sculpture. The term also refers to the activity of masons in dressing stone blocks for use in architecture, building or civil engineering. It is also a phrase used by archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists to describe the activity involved in making some types of petroglyphs.
The earliest known works of representational art are stone carvings. Often marks carved into rock or petroglyphs will survive where painted work will not. Prehistoric Venus figurines such as the Venus of Berekhat Ram may be as old as 800,000 years[ citation needed ], and are carved in stones such as tuff and limestone.
These earliest examples of the stone carving are the result of hitting or scratching a softer stone with a harder one, although sometimes more resilient materials such as antlers are known to have been used for relatively soft stone. Another early technique was to use an abrasive that was rubbed on the stone to remove the unwanted area. Prior to the discovery of steel by any culture, all stone carving was carried out by using an abrasion technique, following rough hewing of the stone block using hammers. The reason for this is that bronze, the hardest available metal until steel, is not hard enough to work any but the softest stone. The Ancient Greeks used the ductility of bronze to trap small granules of carborundum, that are naturally occurring on the island of Milos, thus making a very efficient file for abrading the stone.
The development of iron made possible stone carving tools, such as chisels, drills and saws made from steel, that were capable of being hardened and tempered to a state hard enough to cut stone without deforming, while not being so brittle as to shatter. Carving tools have changed little since then.
Modern, industrial, large quantity techniques still rely heavily on abrasion to cut and remove stone, although at a significantly faster rate with processes such as water erosion and diamond saw cutting.
One modern stone carving technique uses a new process: The technique of applying sudden high temperature to the surface. The expansion of the top surface due to the sudden increase in temperature causes it to break away. On a small scale, Oxy-acetylene torches are used. On an industrial scale, lasers are used. On a massive scale, carvings such as the Crazy Horse Memorial carved from the Harney Peak granite of Mount Rushmore and the Confederate Memorial Park in Albany, Georgia are produced using jet heat torches.
Carving stone into sculpture is an activity older than civilization itself. Prehistoric sculptures were usually human forms, such as the Venus of Willendorf and the faceless statues of the Cycladic cultures. Later cultures devised animal, human-animal and abstract forms in stone. The earliest cultures used abrasive techniques, and modern technology employs pneumatic hammers and other devices. But for most of human history, sculptors used hammer and chisel as the basic tools for carving stone.
The process begins with the selection of a stone for carving. Some artists use the stone itself as inspiration; the Renaissance artist Michelangelo claimed that his job was to free the human form trapped inside the block. Other artists begin with a form already in mind and find a stone to complement their vision. The sculptor may begin by forming a model in clay or wax, sketching the form of the statue on paper or drawing a general outline of the statue on the stone itself.
When ready to carve, the artist usually begins by knocking off large portions of unwanted stone. This is the "roughing out" stage of the sculpting process. For this task they may select a point chisel, which is a long, hefty piece of steel with a point at one end and a broad striking surface at the other. A pitching tool may also be used at this early stage; which is a wedge-shaped chisel with a broad, flat edge. The pitching tool is useful for splitting the stone and removing large, unwanted chunks. Those two chisels are used in combination with a masons driving hammer.
Once the general shape of the statue has been determined, the sculptor uses other tools to refine the figure. A toothed chisel or claw chisel has multiple gouging surfaces which create parallel lines in the stone. These tools are generally used to add texture to the figure. An artist might mark out specific lines by using calipers to measure an area of stone to be addressed, and marking the removal area with pencil, charcoal or chalk. The stone carver generally uses a shallower stroke at this point in the process, usually in combination with a wooden mallet.
Eventually the sculptor has changed the stone from a rough block into the general shape of the finished statue. Tools called rasps and rifflers are then used to enhance the shape into its final form. A rasp is a flat, steel tool with a coarse surface. The sculptor uses broad, sweeping strokes to remove excess stone as small chips or dust. A riffler is a smaller variation of the rasp, which can be used to create details such as folds of clothing or locks of hair.
The final stage of the carving process is polishing. Sandpaper can be used as a first step in the polishing process, or sand cloth. Emery, a stone that is harder and rougher than the sculpture media, is also used in the finishing process. This abrading, or wearing away, brings out the color of the stone, reveals patterns in the surface and adds a sheen. Tin and iron oxides are often used to give the stone a highly reflective exterior.
Sculptures can be carved via either the direct or the indirect carving method. Indirect carving is a way of carving by using an accurate clay, wax or plaster model, which is then copied with the use of a compass or proportional dividersor a pointing machine. The direct carving method is a way of carving in a more intuitive way, without first making an elaborate model. Sometimes a sketch on paper or a rough clay draft is made.
Stone has been used for carving since ancient times for many reasons. Most types of stone are easier to find than metal ores, which have to be mined and smelted. Stone can be dug from the surface and carved with hand tools. Stone is more durable than wood, and carvings in stone last much longer than wooden artifacts. Stone comes in many varieties and artists have abundant choices in color, quality and relative hardness.
Soft stone such as chalk, soapstone, pumice and Tufa can be easily carved with found items such as harder stone or in the case of chalk even the fingernail. Limestones and marbles can be worked using abrasives and simple iron tools. Granite, basalt and some metamorphic stone is difficult to carve even with iron or steel tools; usually tungsten carbide tipped tools are used, although abrasives still work well. Modern techniques often use abrasives attached to machine tools to cut the stone.
Precious and semi-precious gemstones are also carved into delicate shapes for jewellery or larger items, and polished; this is sometimes referred to as lapidary, although strictly speaking lapidary refers to cutting and polishing alone.
When worked, some stones release dust that can damage lungs (silica crystals are usually to blame), so a respirator is sometimes needed.
Basic stone carving tools fall into five categories:
More advanced processes, such as laser cutting and jet torches, use sudden high temperature with a combination of cooling water to spall flakes of stone. Other modern processes may involve diamond-wire machines or other large scale production equipment to remove large sections of undesired stone.
The use of chisels for stone carving is possible in several ways. Two are:
There are many types and styles of stone carving tools, each carver will decide for themselves which tools to use. Traditionalists might use hand tools only.
Powered pneumatic hammers make the hard work easier. Progress on shaping stone is faster with pneumatic carving tools. Air hammers (such as Cuturi) place many thousands of impacts per minute upon the end of the tool, which would usually be manufactured or modified to suit the purpose. This type of tool creates the ability to 'shave' the stone, providing a smooth and consistent stroke, allowing for larger surfaces to be worked.
Among modern tool types, there are two main stone carving chisels:
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called "engravings". Engraving is one of the oldest and most important techniques in printmaking. Wood engraving is a form of relief printing and is not covered in this article.
A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal by hand, struck with a mallet, or mechanical power. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or of wood with a sharp edge in it.
In archaeology, a hammerstone is a hard cobble used to strike off lithic flakes from a lump of tool stone during the process of lithic reduction. The hammerstone is a rather universal stone tool which appeared early in most regions of the world including Europe, India and North America. This technology was of major importance to prehistoric cultures before the age of metalworking.
Marble sculpture is the art of creating three-dimensional forms from marble. Sculpture is among the oldest of the arts. Even before painting cave walls, early humans fashioned shapes from stone. From these beginnings, artifacts have evolved to their current complexity.
A saw is a tool consisting of a tough blade, wire, or chain with a hard toothed edge. It is used to cut through material, very often wood though sometimes metal or stone. The cut is made by placing the toothed edge against the material and moving it forcefully forth and less forcefully back or continuously forward. This force may be applied by hand, or powered by steam, water, electricity or other power source. An abrasive saw has a powered circular blade designed to cut through metal or ceramic.
Stonemasonry or stonecraft is the creation of buildings, structures, and sculpture using stone as the primary material. It is one of the oldest activities and professions in human history. Many of the long-lasting, ancient shelters, temples, monuments, artifacts, fortifications, roads, bridges, and entire cities were built of stone. Famous works of stonemasonry include the Egyptian Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Cusco's Incan Wall, Easter Island's statues, Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Tihuanaco, Tenochtitlan, Persepolis, the Parthenon, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, Chartres Cathedral.
Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large-scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills, processes, and tools.
Wood carving is a form of woodworking by means of a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the sculptural ornamentation of a wooden object. The phrase may also refer to the finished product, from individual sculptures to hand-worked mouldings composing part of a tracery.
A file is a tool used to remove fine amounts of material from a workpiece. It is common in woodworking, metalworking, and other similar trade and hobby tasks. Most are hand tools, made of a case hardened steel bar of rectangular, square, triangular, or round cross-section, with one or more surfaces cut with sharp, generally parallel teeth. A narrow, pointed tang is common at one end, to which a handle may be fitted.
A gemcutter is a person who cuts, shapes, and polishes natural and synthetic gemstones. In historical use it usually refers to an artist who made hardstone carvings or engraved gems, a branch of miniature sculpture or ornament in gemstone.
This page describe terms and jargon related to sculpture and sculpting.
Metal fabrication is the creation of metal structures by cutting, bending and assembling processes. It is a value-added process involving the creation of machines, parts, and structures from various raw materials.
An air hammer, also known as an air chisel, is a pneumatic hand tool used to carve in stone, and to break or cut metal objects apart. It is designed to accept different tools depending on the required function.
Japanese carpentry is carpentry in Japan.
Sharpening stones, water stones or whetstones are used to sharpen the edges of steel tools and implements through grinding and honing.
Sharpening is the process of creating or refining a sharp edge of appropriate shape on a tool or implement designed for cutting. Sharpening is done by grinding away material on the implement with an abrasive substance harder than the material of the implement, followed sometimes by processes to polish the sharp surface to increase smoothness and to correct small mechanical deformations without regrinding.
Polishing and buffing are finishing processes for smoothing a workpiece's surface using an abrasive and a work wheel or a leather strop. Technically polishing refers to processes that use an abrasive that is glued to the work wheel, while buffing uses a loose abrasive applied to the work wheel. Polishing is a more aggressive process while buffing is less harsh, which leads to a smoother, brighter finish. A common misconception is that a polished surface has a mirror bright finish, however most mirror bright finishes are actually buffed.
This glossary of woodworking lists a number of specialized terms and concepts used in woodworking, carpentry, and related disciplines.
A Stone sculpture is an object made of stone which has been shaped, usually by carving, or assembled to form a visually interesting three-dimensional shape. Stone is more durable than most alternative materials, making it especially important in architectural sculpture on the outside of buildings.
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