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Cemetery Memorial Restoration Procedures


The old style 2-4 inch thick stone that is broken in half at the center as shown here:
 

As you can see the task here is to put the two parts back together so that they appear to be a part of one stone again. In the process we will need to set the stone upright instead of leaving it in a leaning position and also bond the two broken parts together. It could be said at the outset that the stone broke in half due to the thinness of the stone and because the stone is leaning badly. But the specific cause was probably the result of being struck by a falling tree or limb or perhaps another reason. Stones that are 6 to 12 inches  in thickness of quality Granite rarely break in half unless subject to very violet circumstances, but this stone is only about 3 inches thick.  Older Stones of the nineteenth century were rarely thicker than four inches. While one could simply straighten the base and place the broken top back on the bottom half that would be a temporary fix and would result in failure with the slightest vibration. The solution will need to be addressed from two approaches.

1. The base must be leveled and set in a 40 lb bag of Quickset Concrete to keep it upright. If the main part of the stone is loose at the joint from the base two or more bags will be required to cover the main part of the stone which sits into the base. 
      2. The two halves must be cleaned at the fracture seam and bonded with the latest efforts and materials to yield a sustainable upright strength.
This method will be accomplished by first bonding the two halves together at the seam with the latest Stone bonding materials. Next a rectangular Aluminum back-plate about 3/8 inch thick of varying rectangular sizes based on the need of the repair is pre-measured so that no drilling and bolting will occur around the inscription. Four holes are drilled into the back plate at each corner and then four matching holes are drilled into the stone. That is two in the upper half and two in the lower half. This must all be have been pre-measured and planned out so that the the four holes drilled into the four corners will match the holes in the bottom and upper broken halves of the stone. We should have a tight fit everywhere as errors will only cause quick failure.

The tools needed for the above repair are as follows: Carpenter's level, a shovel and a rake, a stiff plastic bristle brush and maybe some other non-acidic of alkaline cleaning supplies, a good quality portable hand drill (or use a drill press if one is available) with a drill that will bore thru a 3 or four inch stone. This should be a  3/8" diameter titanium, diamond or concrete drill bit. Also needed is a carpenters measuring tape, and a lead pencil with a sharp point, plastic pail for mixing a 40 lb bag of concrete. Enough water for one or two 40 lb bags of concrete and cleaning. 
The materials needed are: three tubes of exterior grade epoxy glue, one tube of concrete bonding cement and sealer for filling the fracture, one or two bags of Quickset Concrete,  three 3/8"  by 4 1/4" (or long enough to go thru the thickness of the stone and fit snuggly to minimize the repair) stainless steel or galvanized steel bolts with the nuts. 

To repair the above stone on site (assuming one has made the preliminary measurements and purchased or cut the aluminum plate the size that is needed and predrilled the four holes in the four corners of that) one proceeds by removing the top half and set it out of the way temporarily. The area around the base is raked clean to get at the base and soil. The soil is pulled back from the base for about a two square foot area or enough to be able to set the base upright and level. This may require digging out as much as the top 4" or more of soil with the shovel. When enough soil is removed to straighten up the base go ahead and stand the base upright & straight taking care not to stress the base joints by applying too much pressure to the straightening effort. If the main stone is loose from the base and moves back and forth you will need to set the main stone into concrete thereby replacing the sloppy base joint. If the base is tight against the stone and it becomes clear that the stone cannot be straightened by a small amount of effort then dig out more soil. Repeat this until the base is loosened enough to be straightened. Now dig out more soil around the base to make a place for the concrete to bond to the base and increase its size and strength. Next using the carpenters level check and adjust the bottom half accordingly to get the stone standing perfectly upright so that it no longer leans toward the ground. Be sure to check the plumb upright from two corners to be certain the stone is upright and not leaning back, to the front or to the side. A bag of quickset concrete is then mixed and poured into the dug out area around the base to anchor the base and the bottom half of the stone. When finished the soil is raked back into place to cover the base of the stone as it was before. Wait thirty minutes until the concrete is set enough to proceed without loosening the stone. Of course one may need to modify the instruction above for a stone that was set shallow in the ground. In such a situation set the stone base deeper into the ground than it was before.  At the opposite spectrum when the stone is set abnormally deep into the ground it may need to be dug up and set in place with less depth. However, modify your procedures above as needed according to the depth of the stone. If you remove the stone be sure you line it up in the same place it was before. Never move a stone without an original drawing of its exact place in the cemetery even if that is not the place where the stone was originally set. It would be a disaster to historians and laws may be broken to place Joe Blow's stone next to John Doe's in error. Old cemeteries rarely have perfect rows for the graves and memorials. Clustering families in group burials was more important to our ancestors than perfect order throughout the cemetery.

Now that we have the base half well anchored in concrete in the ground and standing straight upright we must turn our attention to bonding the upper half to the bottom half at the fracture line. First give the two halves a quick inspection looking for superficial cracks. If these are found then special attention will be required for that. For the sake of this discussion we have found the two halves to be sound and ready to proceed. To work with the stone you may will need to clean the fractured surface of both the bottom and top half. Take the brush and scrub the fractured face of both pieces until they are both free of debris and clean enough to set tightly together and support the glues. Use other cleaning supplies if needed but do not use harsh acid or alkaline cleaning compounds. 

Some preliminary work and planning must have been done for  this repair method. We must know the size of the back support plate that supports the joints. That is because if we are not careful we will drill holes in the inscription which is a NO NO. We must have the backside plate large enough to be able to drill the holes thru the stone so that the inscription can still be read. Drilling holes around the inscription is a quick way to shorten the life of that.  
Next we will measure and drill the four holes into the Aluminum Plate first with a different drill bit made for metal. Then the four holes are bored into the stone.  The drawing below depicts that process. Afterward the bolts are set in place in Epoxy Glue to support the two halves. 


The holes must match up or the two fracture lines of the stone will not set together properly.  The pins will be bonded into the stone halves with Epoxy glue to insure a long term outcome. If there is loose slop the upper half of the stone will fall or a large crack will show between the two halves leaving room for future failure.  I must add here that accurately drilling four holes with into stone is no easy feat. A drill press works much better than a hand drill for this process because the process can be stabilized and set up as a fixture. If it requires a drill press one would remove the stone from the cemetery. In that case first put into place a temporary marker with the vital stone inscription. Afterward one could proceed to the site where the drill press is set up. Also before removing the stone from the cemetery one will need to notify the proper cemetery authorities so that permission may be granted and an accounting for the whereabouts of the stone is available at all times.

Last we will need to apply the concrete bonding cement over the surface of both the upper fracture and the lower fracture to seal out the water from the break. This must be done quickly so that the epoxy for the bolts is not past its hardening prime.

And viola we have the result shown at left for Robert Ozni Alexander of the Reeses Chapel Cemetery. I did not do this restoration. It is however an excellent example of a restoration using this method.