lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Architectural lettering – 2

The Bathurst plaque was commissioned by Eton College in the UK, to replace the original limestone plaque that had deteriorated over the years. The material is Welsh slate and size is 760mm by 460mm. The brief was open, so I submitted a free style, using plenty of compressions, such as of and in along the first line. This was actually forced on me by the line length, but worked so as not to overly distract the viewer.

Once the drawing had been approved the design was transferred to the slate through carbon paper, and then redrawn.

Subtle amendments were made as carving continued.

The finished piece is, I think, fresh and clear, conforming to a semi-classical style yet moving forward. [Click on images to enlarge.]

lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Architectural lettering – 1

Architectural lettering means plaques. Architects often commission pieces to record a building, the topping out or the end of the project. This piece shown here was for a house in London, placed many years after the event as a permanent record. The piece was carved in slate.

The lettering style is my own freely adapted. What one is after is a freedom rigorously controlled.

Click on image to enlarge.


lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Slate lettering – Dante inscription

After paper bags a return to stone. A reason why I work in stone – it is immortal, which implies it has a soul.

This piece I made from a fragment of slate left over after removing a circle for a house number. The slate was riven (that is not smooth – retaining its natural surface) and was 280mm in diameter. The text is from Dante, the opening to The Inferno: Midway along the journey of our life, a text which has even more resonance now than it did when I made the piece, since I have hit, indeed passed, 50.

The slate was set into a piece of wood. After some years the wood deteriorated and I re-set the stone into limestone.

When I moved to Australia I gave it away. I don’t know where it is now but I still like this piece for its simplicity, not least the text.

I made one or other two pieces using the Dante theme. Time to return there I think.


Elements of Lettering

Elements of lettering – 4

Concerning the G and D – also can be used for the C.

Thoughts on lettering

Carved lettering

These are pieces I made some years ago. The first is a sort of sign for what I do, cut in limestone and coloured.

The next is a simple stone bench. It was made from limestone with slate insets. The text is from TS Eliot. The channel was filed with copper leaf and patinated, something which became a signature item for pieces I make.

Elements of Lettering

Elements of lettering – 3

Here we start with the O – the most basic of the capitals, and probably the hardest both to draw and carve. Symmetry is the key here – although there are many other ways to draw an O, some of which will be recorded in future blogs. Anyhow, to get started with the classic Trajan O please refer to the illustration. (Click to enlarge).

Elements of Lettering

Elements of Lettering – 1

Here are some thoughts on how to approach hand lettering, taken from a guide I produced  for my students. This is the first page in a series, which will demonstrate basic techniques. Please subscribe to the feed to be alerted to updates on the site.


Contemporary stone lettering is generally based on, and adapted from, a script used by the Romans and known as Trajan.

It is believed this letterform was first painted on to the surface of the stone with a brush. Image taken from The ORigin of the Serif by Edward CatichThe same craftsman, or another, would then have carved the painted inscription with a mallet and chisel.

Today, letter carvers first draw the inscription on paper and only after having resolved problems with letter shape and spacing will then transfer the design to stone.

It is important to be able to draw a letter with pencil on paper at full size to understand the dynamics and proportions of each letter.

Note – the line illustration is taken from The Origin of the Serif, by Edward Catich, 2nd edition, 1991. This is the primary source for those wanting to know more about the traditional Roman letter form.

The other illustration is my own.


Anatomy of a design

I will be showing you how I design for stone carving.

It begins with a pencil sketch. This is it.Preliminary sketch for stonecarving

The sketch is at half scale in this instance, with the carving to be done on a piece of sandstone, 300mm by 300mm. The text is a line from a Louis MacNeice poem. You will notice the free flowing lettering, with letter  height at c40mm, for the ascenders.

This may be adjusted as the drawing develops into a final version.

The letter design is my own style, with use of a capital G prominent and the ampersand (in the original text this is spelt out, and).

The drawing is done on tracing paper, using a 2H pencil.