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Granite Etching

By Joann Strunk

Granite engraving, (often called granite etching) is the practice of hand carving a portrait or other image onto a stone. The image is carved into the stone with a handheld engraving tool and diamond tipped bits. Today, the process can also be done by laser, melting the stone and resulting in a different look and feel, but many people still prefer the quality and look of a hand made image.


An image can be added to any stone that is dark in color with a fairly even surface texture. The image is created by carving away darker polished areas allowing the lighter unpolished stone to show through. The stone must be dark enough to provide good contrast or the image will simply not show up well. Streaks and flecks in the stone will also affect the image, and a stone with a heavy pattern of them may not be a good candidate for an engraving.


I became interested in the process several years ago while helping my neighbor, Frank Carter of Nicholasville Monument Company, with his work. I was intrigued with the beauty and variety of the art I saw on the stones in the cemeteries. I asked him how the engraving was done and he explained. I told him I could do it. I don’t think he believed me. So I bought some diamond tipped bits, talked him out of a scrap of black granite and made my first engraving, a Great Grey owl. It was frustrating at first. For an artist used to drawing dark on light and the process felt backwards, but with lots of practice it became second nature. It is a very rewarding experience, making an image that means so much to others, creating a tribute to someone who is loved and missed, and preserving these images for the future.


I can engrave the image on any suitable stone. With permission, I can do the work at a monument company, or even in the cemetery on a stone that is already set in place. Cemetery regulations vary widely so it is necessary to check with them to see if it is allowed.


One popular alternative that is both simple and affordable is an image on a granite tile. The tile can be set outside (I can show you a couple of different methods to set it) or displayed at home.


How long the process takes depends on a variety of things, the size and complexity of the image, my schedule, and even the weather if the work is done outside. I draw and engrave each image by hand. The result is a one of a kind work of art that will endure for many, many years.


Prices for 12x 12 Black Granite tile:
Name and dates: $50
Portrait (up to 5 x 7): $150
Portrait with name and dates: $200
(If shipped add $15.45)

For other prices, more information, or to place an order contact me at or call (859) 803-5649.


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