Do Not Migrate

Materials Conservator Jason Church demonstrates how to properly reset stone grave marker.

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The accompanying Resetting a Stone Grave Marker Booklet is available as a PDF.

The accompanying Resetting a Stone Grave Marker Booklet is available as a PDF.

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JASON: Hello, in this video we’re going to try and cover the basic procedures for resetting a stone grave marker.  The first and most important thing to remember is to do no harm.  These are delicate structures and a great amount of care must be exercised when moving and handling them.

JASON: Now, before we get started, we want to make sure that all of our parts are secured and stable. To do this we will probably have to move the headstone away from the base to give use room to work.

JASON: Now, that we have separated our two parts we are going to first focus on the base. The monuments base is the most important part. Without a stable and plumb base any repairs done to the stone will risk the chance of failing in the future.

JASON: We can see that this limestone base once had two small bronze pipes inserted to try and stabilize to headstone. For what every reason in the past these pins have failed. Our next task is to remove these old failed pins. Many times you can remove the old pins with a pair of vise grip pliers. If this does not work or the pins have severely corroded as with the case of most iron pins, you may need to drill out the pins. We will do that with an electric angle grinder fitted with a masonry coring bit.

JASON: When choosing the coring bit to use, select the one closest to the size of the original hole. There is no reason to remove anymore original material than is necessary. This procedure will need to be done to both the base and headstone.

JASON: Once the pins are removed and the hole is cleaned out we need to measure the depth and diameter of the hole. Now we will insert new pins made out of stainless steel all-thread. Stainless steel will not corrode over time the way bronze and steel pins will. You want to make sure that your new pins are just slightly shorter and smaller that the holes. This helps eliminate movement due to expansion and contraction.

JASON: The next thing that we notice about our base is the traces of the old failed hard mortar. We must remove and loose mortar to get a good bond when the stone is reset. We are going to carefully remove the old mortar with a hammer and chisel. This procedure will need to be done to both the base and headstone.

JASON:  Once we have removed any old materials, such as the pins and mortars. It is time to clean the stone. Pay particular attention to the two surfaces that we need to bond together during the resetting.

JASON: After the stone is washed, it will need to dry out before any more work can be done.

JASON: Now that our stone is dry we can prepare the base for the headstone. For this reset we are going to use a monument builders setting compound. This material will stay flexible to allow the stone to expand and contract overtime and not break the bond. Also, the setting compound can easily be removed if needed in the future, this causes minimal impact to the historic stone.

JASON: We start by laying out the compound around the edge of the stone about a half inch away from the edge of the headstone. In the center of each side of the headstone I am laying a thin lead spacer. The lead will help to hold the stone slightly apart from the base so that all of the compound does not push out under its weight. This is particularly important in larger stones but may not be needed in smaller ones. The lead is soft enough to flex and help level the stone.

JASON: Now it is time to place the headstone back on the base.

JASON: Once you have checked that the headstone is level and plumb and made any adjustments necessary. You must remove any extra setting compound.

JASON: And that’s it.


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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
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