Stone-cutting tools

Written by shane grey
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Stone-cutting tools
A variation of the cold chisel chips away at stone. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Although the common expression "hard as rock" implies that cutting stone is difficult, even a novice builder can cut stone with the right tools and equipment. Stone-cutting power tools consist of two essential components: a powerful motor and a durable, abrasive blade. Alternatively, many modern builders continue to use hand tools to cut stone. The right type of stonecutting tool for a particular project depends on the scope and scale of the job; become familiar with the types of stonecutting tools and choose the one that suits your application.


The original stone cutting tool, the chisel, remains in use to this day. The modern mason generally uses three types of chisels to cut natural stone: the bolster chisel, the pitching chisel and cold chisel. The bolster chisel has a wide, spatula-like blade and is used to cut and shape the surface of a stone, such as during levelling or smoothing. The pitching chisel's head shares its shape with the bolster chisel, but is much smaller. A mason uses the pitching chisel to split stones that have been scored by a bolster chisel. Finally, the chisel tip of the cold chisel doesn't fan outward like the bolster or pitching chisel, but tapers inward to a flat edge. The cold chisel serves as a general purpose shaping and cutting tool.

Circular Saw

Equipped with masonry blade, the average portable circular saw can cut through natural stone. However, the quality of the blade overwhelmingly determines the success of the cut. There are basically two types of masonry blades used to cut natural stone: the abrasive disc and the diamond-coated disc. Both types of blades attach to the circular saw as would a toothed, woodcutting blade. Mineral-grit, such as carbide, coats the edge of the abrasive disc, while diamond-grit coats the edge of the diamond blade. Diamond blades leave smoother edges and cut more easily through natural stone than abrasive discs.

Cut-off Saws and Walk-behind Masonry Saws

Cut-off saws and walk-behind masonry saws are heavy-duty versions of the portable circular saw. The majority of cut-off and walk-behind saws have gas-powered motors that provide substantially more power than the electrically powered circular saw. Although the cut-off saw is hand-held and portable, like the average circular saw, it is heavy and typically requires dual-handed operation. As suggested by its name, the walk-behind masonry saw mounts to a set of wheels and handles. The walk-behind saw's blade protrudes from the machine's bottom as a mason pushes the machine across a concrete or natural floor. Both the cut-off saw and the walk-behind masonry saw employ large diameter, diamond-edged cutting blades.

Wet Saws

The term "wet saw" refers to cut-off saws, walk-behind saws and table-mounted saws that distribute a stream of water across the cutting surface and blade during operation. Water reduces dust and cools the blade and stone to facilitate smooth cutting and prolong the diamond blade's life.

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