Whether you intend to create a patio deck or make a sculpture from stone, learning how to cut stone allows you to customize the size and shape of your pieces. Cutting stone is hard work, but stone lasts a long time. Make sure to work slowly when cutting stone. Take safety precautions, such as wearing a dust mask and safety goggles, to avoid accidents or injury.
You have probably seen the work of a skilled stonemason, like the beautiful natural rock columns in hotels or on the side of that fancy house, but it takes a lot more work than you would think. When you look at the finished work of a stonemason, it appears that all of the stones were carefully selected to fit perfectly into the design, but they weren’t. Stones rarely fit together perfectly, and this means that the stoneworker often has to shape them to fit where he needs them to. Using a saw would give you a saw blade finish, which doesn’t look good with natural stone. Check out the video below to see how you cut a rock in half with hand tools.
Whether you want to cut a rock in half or trim off a little bit on the outside to make it fit into your pattern, you will have to use a hammer and a form of a wedge. You may be able to break a rock by hitting it with a hammer, but then you can’t control the shape. If you want to be precise, it’s time to bring out the stone drill and start making holes in that rock. Once you do that, you shove wedges and shims into the holes and start hammering away. Be careful when you hammer, you need to drive the shims in slowly and equally. Even when you take time and be careful, sometimes it doesn’t work as you had planned and you have to give up and try a different stone.
If you have a smaller rock, you can use a tool called a hand tracer, which is like an axe for rocks. By hitting the tracer repeatedly along a line, you can make stones split along the lines you need.
Check these stone cutting blades for your next stonework.
How to Cut Stacked Stone Veneer
Installing stacked stone veneer is a challenging but achievable project for most DIY’ers. One of the first questions we get when talking with potential customers is “How do I cut it?”. Stone is a new building product for most people, unlike more traditional mediums like wood, metal, concrete, and tile, so bridging that gap with easy to understand knowledge is something we know our customers appreciate. The short answer is that stacked stone veneer panels are best cut using a combination of two tools – a wet saw designed to cut tile and stone, and an angle grinder for more precision and unique cuts. Let’s take a look at each of these tools and some things a first time stone veneer DIY installer will want to know about each of them.
A Tile Wet Saw with a continuous rim diamond blade is going to be your primary cutting tool for a stacked stone veneer panel installation. A wet saw works on the concept of water being applied to the blade and to the tile or stone to provide lubrication as the blade cuts through. The water is typically recycled through a close loop system which allows for it to drain off the tile and into a reservoir where a small pump is located which cycles it back up to blade. One of the most important things to remember when working with a wet saw is to be refreshing the water constantly, especially when cutting stone since the heavy sediment the saw creates when cutting the stone will start to diminish the water’s ability to lubricate the saw.
A continuous rim diamond blade sounds fancy, but its actually a fairly prevalent type of blade available at most hardware stores and certainly any tile and stone shop. Diamonds are one of the hardest naturally occurring materials on earth and are exceptionally good with cutting through tile and stone.
A wet tile saw will typically either have a stationary blade and a movable tray where the stacked stone veneer can be placed and then pushed through the blade. Alternatively, some saws have a fixed tray and a movable blade set up. Depending on the complexity of the cuts you need to make, tile saws can also have a blade that can be tilted or the amount that can be fixed to the tray to allow for inside and outside mitre cuts on the stone veneer. Either way, the stone should cut nice and easy on a wet saw.
Probably the most important thing to remember when cutting stacked stone veneer on a wet tile saw is safety. Eye protection is a must, and ear protection is a good idea as most units can get loud. Working with electricity and power in the same tool requires extra diligence as well, so be sure to read the instruction manual and plug the saw into a grounded outlet.
While a wet tile saw will account for probably 95% or more of the cuts on most stacked stone veneer jobs, a handheld angle grinder is the tool of choice for everything else. Whether you’re cutting a curve to fit around a pipe, or cutting a rectangle out of the panel to go around a light switch or outlet, an angle grinder is a tool for the job. Since angle grinders don’t use water as a lubricant like a wet saw, cutting stacked stone veneer takes a little bit longer, can be ear screechingly loud, and create a lot of dust. Blades also will need to be replaced much more frequently as compared to the wet saw. Besides wearing eye and ear protection, heavy gloves are a great idea to protect hands and fingers from stone chunks and the blade itself.
Tile wet saws are very commonly available to rent at local hardware equipment rental locations at a reasonable charge. Unless you’re getting ready to do a bunch of tile and stonework, it’s generally worth renting this equipment, where you’ll typically get a higher grade saw than purchasing a lower-end one. Quality angle grinders are available at reasonable price points if you can’t borrow one from a neighbour or friend.
How to Cut Stone With a Circular Saw Or Angle Grinder
- Begin by using an electric rotary hammer and masonry bit to drill holes spaced 4 inches apart across the stone face.
- Insert a steel wedge and pair of steel feathers (shims) into each hole.
- Use a hammer to tap each wedge into the hole alternately.
- Continue to tap each wedge until the stone cracks in two lightly.
How to Cut Stone With a Hand Tracer
- Set the tracer on top of the stone and tap it with the hammer. Move the tracer down an inch or so and strike it again.
- Continue in this fashion until you’ve a cut line across the stone.
- Move the hand tracer back to the beginning and repeat—tap it, move it, tap it, move it—until the stone splits in two.
How to Cut Stone With a Stone Buster Hammer
- Set the buster on top of the stone, then strike it sharply with a hammer to cut a line across the stone. Repeat until the stone splits.
How to Trim a Stone Tile Edge
- Hold the carbide handset at an angle to the stone, then strike the handset with a hammer to chip off small pieces of stone.
- Use a carbide-tipped hand point to chip protrusions and high spots off of a stone face.
- To smooth and even out the surface of a stone, lightly tap it with a bushing hammer.
- Continue to tap the stone until achieving the desired level of smoothness.
Cutting Stone for a Wall
Gather your supplies
Before you begin cutting into stone, make sure you gather all the proper supplies. You can pick up most of the following at a local hardware store. If you can’t find them at a hardware store, look online.
- You will need a chisel as well as an electric grinder with a diamond cutting blade to cut the stone. If your project is small, it may be less expensive to rent the grinder.
- You’ll need a stone mason’s hammer (these are similar to small sledgehammers).
- You will also need safety gear. You’ll need protective goggles, a full face shield, and hearing protection. You can get hearing protection, which are earmuffs designed to block out loud sound from machinery, at most hardware stores.
Measure how big of stone you need
If you want all your stones the same size, you may already know the dimensions you’re using. However, you may not be using one specific dimension. If you need a piece of stone to fit into a particular space in the wall, measure that space’s dimensions with a measuring tape. Make sure you have the proper dimensions in mind before you begin cutting.
- Mark where you’ll split your stone.
- Mark around the stone where you will make your cut.
Chisel along your line on the “face side.”
The face side of a stone is the side that will face outward on a wall. The chisel will help achieve a cleaner break than the grinder wheel. You’ll want a more even break for the face side, as this gives it a smoother look. Use your chisel and sledgehammer to begin the cut on the face side. Put on eye protection before you start using the hammer and chisel, which can send sharp chips of stone flying.
- Take your chisel and hold it in a vertical position on the stone, with the blade of the chisel on the line you wish to cut. Take your sledgehammer and hit it firmly on the end of the chisel to make three or four small marks, about an inch apart, running along your line on the stone. Then, fill in the spaces between these marks by once again tapping your chisel with the sledgehammer.
- Keep working the line until you have a groove the entire length of the face side. Use single, solid taps against the chisel with the sledgehammer, working back and forth up the line.
There are many tools for cutting stone, but stone cutting blades are the best.
Put on a face mask and hearing protection.
The next step involves working with an electric grinder. Make sure, for your safety, to put on your safety goggles, hearing protection, and face shield before you begin working with your grinding tool. Small debris may fly off the stone at this point, and the noise from the grinding tool can cause hearing damage.
Use a grinder to cut the lines on the other sides
Rotate your stone so that one of the other sides is up.
- Use your grinder to cut a straight line across one side of the stone. Cutover the line a few times, until you have a small indent. Go slowly to make sure the line is cut evenly across the stone.
- Turn the stone over and repeat this process on the next side of the stone. Then, turn the stone over again. You should repeat this process on all of the sides of the stone other than the face until you have a good groove on each side of the stone.
Use your chisel to finish cutting the stone
Once you’ve cut into all sides of the stone either with your chisel or your grinder, you’re ready to finalize the cut.
- Start with the face side, and give 3-4 good blows with the hammer along the groove in the face.
- Rotate to the next face, and repeat.
- Continue this process (it may take a while) until the stone breaks.
How to Cut Stone Tiles and Stone Veneer With a Wet Saw
When you take on any DIY projects requiring the installation of real stone tiles or stone veneer, you will need to know how to use a Wet Saw. Wet saws come in many sizes physically as well as various motor sizes, blade depth and various options. The Wet Saw is an important tool to provide the finished look for your stone project, allowing precision cuts to be made to form the exact fit required and look desired. A wet saw makes cutting stone products easy.
Depending on the job requirement, there are several types of Wet Saws to choose between. Portable handheld wet saws allow you some flexibility as to where you can cut the tiles. The precision is not as good as a bench or table type wet saws, but these work well where a rough cut is all that is required. These generally are best suited for stone tiles alone due to the depth of cut limitation.
The bench-type of wet saw is great for those precision cuts and does allow for thicker stone tiles and even many stone veneer facings. I have purchased my bench-style wet saw as they are relatively inexpensive. Since I had taken on many DIY stone tile and stone veneer projects, the bench wet saw paid for itself in no time. I used this saw for cutting the stone tiles and trims for my stone tile shower surround, slate stone tile floor and also my stone veneer fireplace surround, all DIY home renovation projects.
If you have large stone tiles, up to 30 inches in length or if you are looking at installing stone pavers for your sidewalk, patio or driveway, you would be wise to look at renting a Bridge Wet Saw. These wet saws come mounted on a set of rails pre-mounted on a table. With these type of wets saws, you slide the saw to make the cut. The stone tiles or pavers are locked in place and do not move. When I installed my patio stone pavers, I used this type of saw, and it cut them effortlessly.
Taking Safety Precautions
Use safety goggles
When working with stone, you should wear safety goggles. You can purchase safety goggles at a local hardware store. Safety goggles will help protect your eyes from bits of stone that may fly off the main piece while you’re chiselling.
Read instructions from the products you’re using carefully
You should learn about the materials you’re using. When you purchase a stone, it will usually come with safety instructions. There are also generally safety instructions on tools you would use from the hardware store. Do not disregard these rules. Read them in their entirety before you begin to cut stone.
When you’re cutting stone, you should make sure you dress in a way that will help prevent accidents. Take some basic safety precautions before you begin cutting stone.
- Remove any jewellery before you begin working. If you have long hair, pull it back into a ponytail.
- Avoid wearing shorts, as pant legs can protect you from bits of stone that may fly away from the main piece while you’re cutting.
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Work in a clean, well-lit space
Where you work is also a safety concern. Make sure you work in a space that’s clean and well lit. If an area is full of debris, you could trip and hurt yourself. You also want to make sure you have adequate lighting so you can see what you’re doing.
Wet cutting is highly preferred over dry cutting. Suppose you’re going to do a dry cut out of absolute necessity. In that case, you need to make other preparations: a special blade for dry cutting, a respirator mask and cut only in a well-ventilated area.
If you are dry cutting, again, out of absolute necessity, you will have to give the blade time to cool down quite often. You won’t be able to make one deep cut but will have to work in several shallow passes.
Whenever you are using a stone saw, let the machine do the work. If you try to push the blade into the stone too fast, all you’ll do is wear out the blade faster.
Likewise, don’t exert any sideways pressure on the stone or blade while cutting. This could cause your blade to warp, or worse, snap and send shrapnel flying in your or an innocent bystander’s direction.
Finally, there might come the point when your diamond blade looks like there is plenty of cutting edge left, but it just stops cutting. This is usually because the metal band that is holding the diamonds onto the blade has melted over them. You can get it working again by “dressing” the blade.