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Why do some cemeteries allow any type of monument but others have strict restrictions?

Anyone who has worked in the monument business and has had to deal with cemeteries on a regular basis knows how much one cemetery’s restrictions differ from another’s. When I am contacted by a client to design a monument, one of the very first questions that I ask them is “Have you checked with the cemetery to ensure that the monument you would like to purchase is allowed?”. Sadly, many times people are not even aware that there can be restrictions on which monuments are allowed until it comes time to design and purchase one. If you have not yet purchased a burial plot for your loved one, or you are researching in order to purchase a plot and monument pre-need, please refer to my blog about what to know when purchasing a burial plot: https://mikeslaseretchingsartinmemorials.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/what-you-should-know-before-purchasing-a-burial-plot/

Typically, when a cemetery has restrictions on what type of monuments may be installed on their plots, it is for one of two reasons.

Religious Affiliation

The first of these reasons has to do with the cemetery’s religious affiliation. Although there are a few Baptist and Methodist cemeteries which require specific religious designs on the monuments placed within them, from our experience, Catholic cemeteries tend to be the most strict. When I am told that it is a Catholic cemetery, I can normally guarantee that the monument design is going to have to have the “praying hands” design or specific crosses. Although many cemeteries which have restrictions will bend the rules if the plot owner or their loved ones request it, Catholic cemeteries typically will not allow any exceptions to their restrictions, not matter how much a loved one begs them to reconsider.

I am not in any way “putting down” the Catholic cemeteries. From what I gather from speaking with several devout Catholics, the specific designs are required because according to their faith, even the monument on your final resting place should show your Catholic faith. The praying hands with the rosary and the specific crosses are meant to represent that you were a devout Catholic, who deserves to be in God’s good graces. Therefore, anyone who is purchasing a plot in a Catholic cemetery should know beforehand that there will most likely be severe restrictions placed upon what is and is not allowed. If, for whatever reason, you do not wish to include these Catholic symbols on your monument, it may be best for you to consider purchasing a plot in a non denominational cemetery.

Non-denominational and non religious cemeteries are typically the most laid back when it comes to the restrictions on what monuments can be placed on their plots. No matter where you live, you should be able to locate a cemetery which will allow you to have the type of monument you desire. From my research as well as what I’ve learned from working with people all over the country, you should be able to locate a non-denominational or a non religious cemetery in your area.

The only nation wide exception that I have found when it comes to the cemeteries which are the strictest is military cemeteries. Normally, there are no exceptions, ever, for any reason to what a military cemetery allows. The monuments in these cemeteries are normally a plain cross shaped upright monument or a gray flush marker with lettering for the names and dates only. But, its common knowledge that when you decide to be buried in a government run cemetery that its going to be fairly generic. That is a decision that must be made by the family. However, be sure to keep in mind that it is always possible to relocate your loved one if you do not feel comfortable with their resting place or you feel as if they are not being honored in the way they should. While this is not an easy process, it is always an option when your peace of mind is being disrupted.

Easy Maintenance

The other main reason for cemetery restrictions is to ensure easy maintenance of the cemetery. If you were to walk through an older cemetery and then take a walk through a newer one, you will most likely notice that there is much more variety in an older cemetery than in a newer one. It is only very recently that cemeteries began allowing only flush markers in their cemeteries. When a cemetery does not allow any upright or slant monuments, it is typically to ensure that the caretaker is able to quickly and easily cut the grass, without having to cut around each monument individually. When every monument in an entire cemetery is a flush marker, the caretaker needs only drive right over top of them to cut the grass. 

If your loved one’s final resting place is in a cemetery which only allows flush markers, do not get discouraged. I have had many clients contact me in tears because they felt as if they could not honor their loved one’s they way they felt they should with something as generic as a flush marker. Thanks to modern technology, we can do just about anything. Even if a cemetery requires that the flush marker be gray, or another color which does not allow laser etching, we have many options for designing a beautiful, unique memorial to your loved one.

Also, keep in mind that you can always create a memorial garden outside of the cemetery if you feel as if the monument placed on their burial plot has not done them justice. When I lost a loved one and was not able to help create the monument because their spouse did not want any suggestions, we designed a bench to honor our loved one and placed it in his mother’s garden. So, we have a place where we can go to remember him and we were able to create a beautiful memorial which truly reflected the person he was, as our final gift to him.

It is important to remember that each cemetery has a different set of rules and regulations. Prior to staring your search for the perfect monument, it is best to request a written description of these rules and regulations. In doing this, you will ensure that the monument you choose will be approved and accepted by the cemetery.

If you have any questions regarding cemetery restrictions in general, please feel free to leave a comment. To begin designing a monument for your loved one, visit our website at http://www.mikeslaseretching.com.

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Prior to any designs being sandblasted or laser etched onto a monument, the front and back of a monument is typically polished. There are some exceptions to this, such as when the back of a monument is rock pitched (not smooth). The sides of the monuments may or may not be polished, depending on the desired effect. However, any area on which a design or lettering is to be placed must first be polished. Polishing the granite creates a dark and shiny effect. The areas which are not polished look much lighter and dull when compared to the polished areas. The granite being polished allows for a much higher contrast once designs and lettering are sandblasted and/or laser etched into the surface.

What is sandblasting?

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Sandblasting is the operation of forcibly propelling a stream of fine sand against the surface of the granite under high pressure. This process removes the polished layer of the granite to reveal the unpolished granite underneath. When sandblasting, the lettering and designs are first all blasted to the same depth by a machine. In order to sandblast a monument, it must first be designed by a graphic artist. The artist will use vector software such as Monucad to create a file containing the lettering and designs that will be sandblasted onto the headstone. Only simple lettering and designs, often referred to as Line Art, can be sandblasted, as it is not possible to create small details using this method. Photos cannot be sandblasted.

In order to get the design and lettering needed, they are first cut into a rubber “mat”. This process can be done by hand or by machine. Here at Mike’s Laser Etching, we currently use our Vytek LSTAR Laser to cut the mats in a step we call Vector Cutting. The design and lettering must then be handpicked from the back of the stencil so the sand can cut it once it is in the sandblaster.  The headstone is placed on the workbench and stencil filler is applied to the front surface. The mat is then placed on the front of the headstone and is held in place by the stencil filler. The monument is then placed into the sandblasting cabinet, which will then propel the sand against all surfaces which are exposed and not covered by the mat.

Once all the designs and lettering are at the same depth, the monument is removed from the cabinet. At this point, a specialist hand shapes using abrasive air to create a smoother look to the lettering and to add additional detail which the machine is not capable of. The remainder of the stencil is then removed and the stone is cleaned to reveal the finished headstone. If an even higher level of contrast is desired, color can be added to the deepest areas of the designs and lettering.

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What color granite can be sandblasted?

Any color of granite can be sandblasted. However, when sandblasting an extremely light color of granite, such as white pearl, it is necessary to add color in order to ensure the design and lettering are visible. This is because the polished and unpolished surfaces of such light color granite are so similar that additional contrast is needed.

What is laser etching?

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The laser etching process removes the polished surface of the granite using a high powered laser to show the unpolished granite beneath in varying depths to create the image. You can think of the laser etching machine as a big printer, since the majority of the work is done on a computer and then sent to the laser for “printing”.  In order to produce a granite etching, it must first be designed by a graphic artist. The artist will use photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to create a BMP file containing the lettering, designs, & photos that are to be laser etched on the monument. Designs and photos must be carefully enhanced by the graphic artist so fine details such as the outline of a nose or teeth are visible in the granite engraving or marble etching.

The white and gray areas of the design are where the laser etches and the black areas are where no etching occurs and the black granite remains. This is why when a photo of someone with black or brown hair is etched a lighter background or soft glow outline around them is required to show where their hair starts and the background begins. The rest of the process involves the laser only. This process makes permanent photos on headstones possible.

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What colors can be laser etched?

Darker colors of granite are the best colors to laser etch because the darker colors create a better contrast between the gravestone and the image and bring out the most detail in pictures. Essentially, laser etching is likened to creating a grey-scale image that is emblazoned on the surface of the headstone. Grey-scale images work best against a dark background. With lighter shades of granite (such as beige), the colors barely bring out enough detail to discern the image from the granite. While lighter color granites do polish to a slightly darker tone, it does not bring out the breadth of detail that darker granites (such as black) do. Grey colored granite can be etched if it has a nice, even polished finish on the surface of the gravestone, but it also depends upon the type of etching that needs to be done.

Sometimes people choose to etch symbols and grave details into their gravestone markers, which is perfectly fine. However, most people will choose to etch very beautiful digital pictures of their loved ones or even photographs of hobbies or activities they enjoyed doing while alive. For example, if you’re loved one enjoyed fishing, an appropriate laser etch could include a photograph of your loved one fishing or a scenic image of their favorite fishing spot.

Laser etching adds a beautiful finish to the gravestone and a unique twist on the traditional concept of memorial designs. By selecting laser etching, you’re creating a distinct, creative headstone for your loved one’s legacy.

What options do I have if I want light colored granite but would still like a picture of my loved one included in the design?

Do not be discouraged! It is extremely common for our clients to request that a picture be added to a light colored monument. We have two options for doing so, and both are beautiful.

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The first option is to add a porcelain portrait to the design. Our Porcelain Portraits are created using the highest quality of 100% Italian Porcelain. We can use nearly any picture you would like, so long as the quality is good enough. The image can be done in color or in black and white and we can even edit out a background or a random hand or object that has appeared in the image.  When ordering a Porcelain Portrait with a monument, we will inlay the porcelain into the monument so that it sits flush with the granite. The Porcelain Portraits have a lifetime guarantee and are guaranteed to not fade or crack when exposed to the elements for hundreds of years.

For more information on our Porcelain Portraits, visit our website at:  http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/ceramic_portraits.html

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The other option for including an image on a light colored monument would be to add a Laser Etched Marble Portrait. These portraits are Laser Etched onto high quality marble and can also be inlaid into the monument in order to lay flush with the granite. Again, we can edit the image if you would like the background or an object removed. However, just like a laser etched monument, the final product would be a black and white image. If you would prefer the black and white, the Laser Etched Portraits are a perfect option for you and they are also guaranteed not to fade or crack!

For more information on our Laser Etched Portraits, visit our website at: http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/laser_etched_marble.html

Can I do a combination of both laser etching and sandblasting?

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Yes! We have created many designs which included both laser etching and sandblasting. These monuments were typically dark colored granite, as the laser etching cannot be done on a light colored granite. Each monument we design is completely customized using the information you provide us. If you would like to include both laser etching and sandblasting aspects into your design, all you need to do is let us know. Once we have an understanding of the desired outcome, we will review the options with you.

Contact us at 877-836-0332 or by email at info@mlestones.com!

If you can imagine it, we can create it!

To see pictures of some of our completed monuments, please visit our website at: http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/portfolio.html