Natural stone takes many millions of years to form and requires considerable force to cut. Today's cutting machinery has advanced greatly since the earliest days of the craft, when Egyptian artisans created the pyramids using only hand tools. Learn about natural stone cutting machines, which speed up your carving projects and shape lengths of stone for kitchen and bathroom counters.
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Saws for Cutting Marble
Electrically powered saws are used to cut natural stone, aided by wedges and hammers. A number of slots are cut into the stone with a saw, then wedges are inserted into the gaps and pounded tightly into place with a hammer. As the wedges drive far into the stone, it splits into two sections, along the direction of the cut. This technique is for cutting large and thick pieces of stone. Two types of saws do this work: a circular saw, the same kind used to cut lumber and logs, with a 7-inch masonry blade; or cut-off saws, also known as chop saws, with blades up to 14 inches in length. The former is cheaper but limited in the depth it cuts. The latter is more expensive, easier to use and better suited to larger sections of natural stone. Saws and blades are available from hardware stores and speciality tool suppliers. For cutting harder natural stone, such as marble, you require a thin, sectioning diamond blade.
Hammer Drills for Cutting Granite
Electric hammer drills cut stone, not in slices or slots the way a saw does, but by making a holes. A series of holes are made in the required pattern and the stone in the middle of them is removed using a hammer and chisel. This gives you a way to cut circular, oval, square or oblong holes out of sections of natural stone for artistic purposes, or to fit sinks, faucets and hobs. These drills require tough carbide masonry tips to bite into natural stone, especially harder types, such as granite.
Mini-Grinders for Cutting Alabaster
Tools for cutting softer natural stones, such as alabaster, include mini-grinders. Models of grinders that take a 4 ½-inch blade are used to make several thin, parallel cuts. The stone between these cuts is removed by hammer blows. These mini-grinders, also known as grinding wheels, are small, electrically powered tools and are available from hardware stores.
Air Hammers for Cutting Limestone
Air hammers for cutting natural stone, such as limestone, are barrel-shaped and distinctly different from the type used on construction sites. The pressure of air generated by a compressor enters the hammer at one end and drives the chisel set into the other end into the stone. These chisels make small, back-and-forth movements against the surface of any stone you cut; the air hammer allows for greater precision in cutting stone than saws or grinders. Chisels that fit into an air hammer are specially designed and not the same as those you use with an ordinary hand hammer.
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