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How to do a Tombstone Rubbing

Here's How:

  1. Check with the cemetery or with the state or local Historical Society to learn if tombstone rubbings are permissible. This practice has been banned in some states and cemeteries due to the damage it can cause.

  2. Be sure that the tombstone that you have chosen is completely stable. If it is wobbly or the surface is crumbling, then DO NOT do a rubbing. Take a photograph instead.

  3. Clean the stone with plain water and a soft bristle (natural or nylon) brush. Scrub the stone from the bottom up to avoid further streaking and staining. Flush well with water when you are done.

  4. Cut a piece of plain white paper, butcher paper, rice paper or Pellon to a size slightly larger than the stone. You can obtain rice paper from art supply stores and Pellon from craft and fabric shops.

  5. Tape the paper to the stone. Make sure that it is secure so that it won't slide as you are rubbing and cause a blurred image, and that it covers the face of the stone completely, so that you won't get marks on it.

  6. Using rubbing wax, a large crayon, charcoal, or chalk, gently start to rub along the outside edges - creating a "frame" for your rubbing.

  7. Rub lightly to start with, and then apply more pressure to darken in the design if it suits you. Be very careful and gentle.

  8. If you used chalk for your rubbing, then carefully spray the paper with a chalk spray such as Krylon.Be very careful not to get any on the tombstone.

  9. When the rubbing is done, carefully remove it from the tombstone and trim the edges to suit your liking.


  1. Consider other methods of preserving the tombstone inscription such as photographs, dabbing, and foiling as an alternative to the potentially damaging rubbing.

  2. Practice on a rock at home, or check with a local monuments store to see if you can practice on one of their tombstones, before going to the cemetery.

  3. Check local laws before visiting the cemetery. Some countries don't even allow tombstones to be photographed without the permission of the cemetery keeper.


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