Tools for Engraving Stone

Written by drew lichtenstein
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Tools for Engraving Stone
Even complex stone engravings were originally made with basic hand tools. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Archaeological discoveries show us that people have been practicing stone carving and engraving since long before recorded history. The tools and techniques behind engraving in stone have advanced considerably, and few craftsmen continue to engrave with just the basic hand tools in light of time and energy-saving innovations that have been invented as engraving technology has evolved.

Hammer and Chisel

The hammer and chisel are the fundamental hand tools for stone engraving. The chisel is held in place on the stone and pounded with the hammer to quickly remove large chunks of rock. The pairing of hammer and chisel types depends on the kind of rock being engraved. For engraving soft stone and marble, steel chisels are paired with hammers that have hardened steel heads. Chisels with carbide tips are required for harder stone such as granite, and they are used exclusively with soft-headed lump hammers. The use of a hardened hammer with a tempered chisel end can cause dangerous metal fragments to fly off the chisel.

The Tracing Tool

The tracing tool is a variation on the basic chisel that proves indispensable for engraving, since it allows for the carving of more precise and detailed lines. It resembles a chisel but is shorter with a wide, flat head tapering to a fine edge. The tracing tool is often used to break off the edge of a block of stone in a straight line.

The Pneumatic Hammer

The advent of the pneumatic pulse hammer represented a major innovation in stone engraving. This tool contains a small air-driven piston, which is capable of striking the rock surface hundreds or even thousands of times per minute. Pneumatic tools are accompanied by compressors, tanks containing pressurised air which is released to drive the hammer.

Laser Engraving Tools

Laser devices, which can cut and carve into stone using an intense and precisely directed beam of light, have lent precision and detail to the process of stone engraving.The development of laser technology has been accompanied by the use of Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), which allows a person to program a machine's movements, creating results more consistent and detailed than a human hand could produce.

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