Stone-Working Tools

Written by norah faith
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Stone-Working Tools
Working with stone requires a variety of tools. (stone image by peter Hires Images from

Use professional stone-working tools for increased safety, durability and consistently satisfying results. Safety equipment such as goggles, ear protection, respirators and shock-resistant gloves protect stone craftsmen from dust, noise and loose chips of stone.

Hand Tools

The most basic hand tools used for working stone are hammers and chisels in a variety of weights and sizes. Chisels offer two choices, the traditional firesharps (tempered steel) and the newer tungsten- or carbide-tipped versions. Firesharp chisels are more durable and affordable, and adequate for beginners. Tungsten-tipped chisels are more fragile and sensitive to the angle at which a hammer hits the head; these tips shatter if used incorrectly. A basic set of 5 firesharp chisels includes 1/8-, 3/8- and 1/2-inch (scutch comb holder) hammer heads and 1/4- and 1/2-inch hammer-headed bullnose chisels. The scutch comb is a trimming tool with two cutting edges, somewhat like a pick, which stonemasons refer to as a claw holder. For hammers, a smaller 1 1/2-pound dummy hammer (for general shaping uses). and a lump hammer (for removing larger chunks of stone) between 0.9 and 1.13kg, are sufficient to begin stone working. Experienced stone masons use larger hammers in the 3-to-4-pound range for extended periods of shaping stone. Splitting large boulders into manageable sizes takes a hammer of up to 10.9 Kilogram.

Pneumatic Tools

Pneumatic hammers and chisels are similar to hand tools, stonemasons choosing from tempered steel (firesharps) and tungsten or carbide. Pneumatic chisels have a round shank that fits into the hammer; varieties include flat, point, gouge, tooth and roundel. A compressor provides air to run tools; the 5 HP size is sufficient for 3/4- to 1-inch hammers. Pneumatic hammers vary from pencil size to 1 1/4 inches. Fine hammers work for carving details, and larger ones remove unwanted sections of rock at a rate of many blows a second. Vibrations from extended use are offset by wearing anti-vibration padded palm gloves, which also reduce fatigue.

Power Tools

Power tools for working stone include grinders, hammers and diamond saws. Stonemasons use small power grinders (4 1/2-inch blade) combined with masonry discs made from carbide (for softer stone) or more expensive diamond-faced ones for tougher stone such as granite. Cutting stone with power tools requires the ability to make cuts in straight lines, because any deviation results in a trapped or broken blade. Small hammer drills with carbide masonry bits cut through soft stone such as alabaster and soapstone; larger drills are used for tougher stone such as granite.

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