Italian stone carving draws on a rich heritage, including sculptors of the Italian Renaissance, such as Donatello and Michelangelo, arguably hailed to have been some of the finest sculptors of any age. Modern stone carvers still look to Italy, including when seeking carving tools. You may find a number of the most common carving tools that are Italian made.
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One of a stone carver's fundamental hand tools is the chisel. From Michelangelo's times to the present, the essential principle of the chisel's operation has changed very little. The carver uses a hammer to drive the chisel's sharp tip against the stone, driving away unwanted material. Variations on the chisel form fulfil slightly different functions. A pointed chisel is useful for breaking off large pieces of stone to arrive at rough forms. A tooth chisel helps to further shape the form down, and flattened chisels help the stone carver to add detail or smooth surfaces. While stone carvers each have their own preferences among the chisels available, admirers of Italian-made chisels cite their relative strength, thicker shafts, longer teeth and effective "bite" into the stone.
A stone carving hammer, when paired with the chisel, provides the carver's most elemental set of tools. Hammers vary in weight, length, form, material and balance. The optimal combination of design factors varies widely according to the strength and size of the carver's hands. Fine Italian-made hammers may be handmade, crafted from hardened steel to work with granite or iron to work with marble. Hammers made from synthetic materials work well for sandstone carving.
Rifflers, also known as files, use long, flat faces to remove stone gradually. Italian-made rifflers are valued for their durability, along with structured carbide files. A consistently-used Italian riffler of good quality will last years without dulling. You can select from 8-, 10-, 12- or 14-inch sizes, depending on the size of your project. As an alternative to traditional Italian rifflers, carbide rasps will cut stone when applied in both directions. Whatever type of riffler you select, you may choose a rough or fine texture. A lower number indicates a coarser grit, which will remove more stone with every stroke.
Handsets, also known as pitching tools, are similar to chisels in that the carver uses a hammer to drive them against the stone, removing chunks of material. The handset has a larger driving edge than the chisel, making it effective for removing large amounts of stone with each blow.
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