How to Break Slate Tiles

Written by larry simmons | 13/05/2017
How to Break Slate Tiles
Break slate tiles for fit with a slater's stake and slate hammer. (slate image by BONNIE C. MARQUETTE from

Installing slate tiles on a surface often requires that you specifically shape the tiles to fit that surface. Whether it’s to create a surface edge or to fit the tile around obstructions, pieces of the tile must be removed to create a smooth, continuous surface. For thin tiles up to half an inch in thickness, a slate tile cutter or tile nippers can complete the job, creating the tile shapes you need. You must break thicker tiles, however, to create the shapes you require. With a slater’s stake and a slate hammer, you can quickly break the tiles.

Mount the slater’s stake for use. The slater’s stake is a strong metal T-shaped bar, with a point at the base of the T and a thickly bladed edge across the top of the T. Drive the point of the T into solid ground or a large wooden block to hold the stake steady. Use the slate hammer to help drive the stake if necessary, with the bladed top of the T parallel to the ground.

Use the point on pick located on the back of the hammerhead to scribe a cutting line on the rear of the slate tile as a guide for making your cut.

Place the slate tile onto the blade of the T, scribe side up, with the scribed line aligned with the blade. Hold the slate tile firmly in place against the blade.

Hold the slate hammer with the bevelled edge of the hammer shank toward you. Cut the slate using the bevelled edge against the edge of the slate tile. Use a chopping motion on the edge of the tile, driving the shank against the tile top to force the slate to break along the blade of the slater’s stake. Pull the stake free when you’ve finished cutting the tiles as needed.


Wear work gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself from flying stone chips.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear work gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself from flying stone chips.

Things you need

  • Slater’s stake
  • Wood block
  • Slate hammer
  • Slate tiles

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