Scrubble: Carving the Big Tiles

Over the past few days I participated in a wonderful event called StoneFest. The four-day extravaganza brought together stonemasons, sculptors, and letter carvers to share their love for stone. My next few blog posts will focus on what I learned and saw. It was an eye opening experience as I have never worked with stone except to whack off pieces in the field.

Being both a lover of words and rock, my highlight of this year’s StoneFest was the creation of a huge scrabble board, dubbed the Scrubble board by its designer, master letterer Karin Sprague. Each of the 100 tiles was made from a six inch by six inch by two inch block of limestone. The board was a piece of canvas painted to resemble the regular game. It measured about eight feet by eight feet.

Not content with the simple lettering of the normal-sized version, Karin used a 3rd century Celtic font in what is known as the Uncial style. She then scaled her hand written font up to fit the blocks and traced each letter in red pencil onto the flat face of the tiles. Karin, as well as many of the participants at StoneFest carved each of the tiles. I was surprised how easily we were able to cut the letters.

I don’t mean to belittle what we did; the process went quickly because Karin was a good and patient instructor and because many of those who worked on the letters had extensive experience with stone. We also benefited from the soft, easy-to-cut limestone, as well as the high quality tools we used. It was revelation to me to see how skilled artisans shaped stone, especially the masters who cut with such confidence. You could easily see that every time they hit the chisel with the hammer, the chisel went exactly where it was supposed to go.

After completing our task, we played a round of Scrubble at our celebratory StoneFest feast. About 20 to 25 of us participated. We didn’t keep track of points. We all had fun and I think we all got a good workout hefting the heavy tiles around.