This is a NEGenWeb Project web page
There are two fairly easy ways to read old tombstone inscriptions. These are so successful that there are reports of reading inscriptions this way that have failed using other methods.
The first method is very simple, using shaving cream. First, wet the stone. Then cover a section of the stone with the shaving cream. Scrape the excess off with a flat piece of styrofoam. The shaving cream stays in the inscription, making it readable. The shaving cream must be wet to work, though, and neither will damage the stone. This works very well for photographing a tombstone.
The second method is to make rubbings. The paper to use is sometimes referred to as "synthetic rice paper" or "printers paper". Anything that does not tear easily will probably work fine. Non-woven interfacing or pattern materials sold in fabric stores, such as PELLON, will also work. A carpenter's crayon or lumberman's crayon can be used, or a crayon from the thick box of crayolas will work to do the actual rubbing. You will also need masking tape to hold the paper to the grave stone and an old-fashioned fiber (not metal) scrub brush to clean the stone first. Don't use anything that has stiff bristles as that could damage the stone. You may want to take something to sit on, especially if your legs or knees get stiff.