Rubbing Elbows

How to do a cemetery rubbing:

Check with the cemetery or local historical society to find out if rubbings are permissible. Do NOTattempt a rubbing on a wobbly, flaking, chipped or crumbling tombstone. Take a photograph instead. You can bring out details in the photograph with many software programs today.

Clean the tombstone with plain water and a soft bristle (natural or nylon) brush. Scrub the stone from the bottom up to avoid streaking. Flush the stone with water after you have scrubbed.

Large flat crayons work well for rubbings or you can use charcoal, rubbing wax, or chalk. Use can use sheets of newsprint – you might ask for an end roll from the newspaper office (it’s usually free), butcher paper, rice paper or Pellon interfacing material for your rubbings, (rice paper, and Pellon can be found in arts and craft stores). Before going to the cemetery, cut the newsprint into poster-size sheets.  Soft brushes or cloths may be needed to remove dirt and moss from tombstones.  Never use harsh brushes or chemical cleaners, and if a stone is crumbling, do not attempt a rubbing.

Use masking tape to adhere the newsprint to a stone with indented letters or decoration.Rub lightly to start with, and then progressively harder to bring out the detail and letters. But be very careful and gentle so you won’t damage the tombstone.

If you used chalk, carefully spray the paper with chalk spray or hairspray to protect the rubbing but be careful not to get any on the tombstone. You can also use the masking tape to secure the rolled up rubbings.

Be sure to pick up and trash and leave the cemetery just as you found it.



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