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Stone cutting is an important step in the lapidary process. The gem-cutters, also known as lapidaries, cut rocks to use in jewelry making or collecting rocks. Rockhounds are also interested in scraping rocks to discover interesting things like fossils or the rock’s inner layers. So what can you use to cut rocks?
The best tool for cutting rocks is a diamond saw due to its hardness and cutting accuracy. Since diamond saws are very expensive, a suitable alternative for cutting rocks is to use a Dremel drill, which provides sufficient quality at an affordable price. Other options for cutting rocks are Geologist’s Hammer, Chisel, or Grinders.
Taking the correct safety measures and knowing what tools are fit for this activity is very important. To find out more about what to do with these tools and how to use them, continue reading.
If you are interested in checking out the best tools for cutting rocks you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
Breaking / Cutting Rocks
It is well known that rockhounds’ mandatory tool is the Geologist’s hammer. It is useful for breaking and cutting rocks; however, this is not the only instrument in rockhound equipment. Other tools used by them are the diamond-tipped saw, chisels, dremel drills, and grinders.
These tools have various geology or masonry uses, so knowing their functions and specifications is essential.
Breaking apart stones is quite different from perfectly cutting a gemstone, and if a rock hammer can be used for the first action, a different tool is needed for the second one. So let us see some of the best tools for cutting rocks and their different uses.
The Best Tools for Cutting Rocks
To be able to cut rocks, it is important to use a material that is harder than the rock itself. Finding the rock hardness is done via the Mohs Hardness Test.
According to the Mohs scale, the toughest mineral is the diamond (10), and the softest is the talc (1). Diamond will be incorporated into the cutting tools built as its hardness makes it perfect for slicing rocks.
However, as any experienced rockhound knows, some minerals can be fragmented with the help of a simple chisel and sledgehammer despite their hardness. It is important to know where the weak spot is located and how the rock composition can work in your favor.
With that being said, the best tools for breaking or cutting minerals are:
- geologist’s hammer
- stone chisel
You can consider these top five cutting tools as the best for rockhounding, so let us talk about them separately.
The Geologist’s Hammer
The Geologist’s hammer is also known as rock hammer, rock pick, or geological pick. IT is similar to the usual hammers having two heads, one on either side. Commonly, one head is flat like any other hammer while the other side is either a chisel or a pick.
Chisel heads are used for removing the debris or for investigating open crevices. This hammer is very practical for those who want to find and study fossils.
A hammer with a pick head is the favorite tool when it comes to studying harder rocks. The sharp point delivers the maximum pressure, and this is why a geologist should choose a hammer forged of solid steel while the hand should have a cushioned slip-resistant grip.
Rock hammers types vary, and they are highly dependent on what type of fieldwork is done:
- Pointed-tip rock hammer (known as rock picks) is used by geologists when working with hard geodes like granite. The hammer’s square head is used for cracking open rocks while the pointed end is used for scraping out mineral samples.
- Chisel-edge rock hammer, also called fossil hammer, is designed to be used on soft rocks where fossils can be found. The chiseled end is perfect for splitting apart the layers of the rock.
- Crack hammer, known as the sledgehammer, is perfect for breaking, splitting, or cracking rocks. They are useful for driving chisels and pry bars into cracks.
- Hybrid hammers are not solely used to crack rocks. They have some features from the other types of hammers.
If you are interested in buying some of these hammers, here are my choices for all types of hammers listed above (Amazon links):
TIP: If you are interested in the guide on how to cut rocks with a hammer and chisel, I wrote one ultimate guide for you. Check it out here:
Hard materials can be cut using a saw blade with diamonds fixed on its edge. The diamond blades come in different shapes and forms. The main types of blades are:
- Circular, these being the most used.
- Gangsaw blade, used for cutting raw stone blocks.
- Diamond band saw, which is a flexible steel band with fixed diamonds on edge.
Diamond-tipped saws are utilized in the gem industry for cutting stone, concrete, glass. They are widely used in the construction industry, but also it is an important tool for hobbyists.
The diamond blades are designed to operate wet or dry; although they work better when wet, don’t they always do?. Water prevents the blade from overheating, reduces the dust created by cutting, and, most importantly, extends the blade’s life.
These blades can be quite expensive, but the value comes from the fact that they last for a longer period. The cheap versions of these blades can be tricky as they may cut only three or four stones.
Buying a saw is not a cheap affair. Therefore, I have chosen two options for you, the first saw (Amazon link) is more expensive and the second one (Amazon link) is one of the cheapest. Both have excellent ratings and are great options for cutting rocks. I recommend looking at both and choosing the one that suits you better.
One of the simplest ways to cut rock is by using a hammer and a chisel. However, if this method is chosen, some things should be considered: angle the hammer and chisel correctly, holding the rock in the right position, and apply the right level of force needed.
Chisels are used mainly for splinting stones like granite and limestone, and these rocks, due to their hardness, are widely utilized in the construction industry.
The chisels used for splinting granite should be forged from wrought iron. The chisels used in masonry include the following types:
- Moil chisels, also known as bull points, are used mainly for demolition work.
- Flat chisels are usually used for applying details or smoothing surfaces.
- Asphalt cutters, as the name suggests, are ideal for breaking up road surfaces.
- Carbide bushing tools are perfect for evening out concrete surfaces.
- Clay spade or clay spade breaker is a useful tool for demolition work.
- Tamper is widely used for cutting or carving stone.
When using a chisel, safety measures should always be considered. Long-sleeved shirts, glasses, and gloves are mandatory as sharp splinters often fly when rocks are being cut.
A lot of different types of chisels were mentioned above but I recommend buying this chisel set only (Amazon link). The set consists of two chisels, one with a flat head and one with a pointed/spearhead.
The most effective tools for cutting flagstones are the electric angle grinders. Their angle might vary in size, but a 4 or a 4 1/2 inch grinder would do the work for flagstones.
When choosing the rock cutting model, the best option is a grinder with a motor that draws between 5 and 9 amps.
These tools come with a set of accessories and different cutting wheels attached to the grinder. For masonry work, dry-cut diamond wheels should be used. Since they are expensive, it might be a better idea to rent one instead of purchasing one.
Using the grinders requires a set of safety measures due to the flying fragments and debris that might kick back in the face. The tool’s position should be oriented so that the wheel can spin away from the angle.
Before starting to cut, the diamond blade should run for several minutes to ensure it works properly and is usable. Defective wheels might cause damage to the stone and even injuries to the operator.
If you are looking for buying a grinder for cutting your rocks, I recommend this 4 1/2 paddle switch cut-off/angle grinder by Makita (Amazon link). It comes with a powerful 7.5 AMP motor for high output power and offers great value for the money.
For those interested in crafting jewelry using gemstones and who don’t want to invest in a faceting machine, a Dremel hand tool is the best option. This versatile rotary tool can be used for a wide range of activities, not only gem cutting.
This device is also very useful when it comes to sanding, buffing, and polishing. To cut precious stones, all you need is a cordless Dremel with cutting accessories. Attaching a rotary diamond wheel to the Dremel makes it useful when cutting marble or concrete.
Using a Dremel tool for cutting gems requires though some level of experience. For example, if the tool’s speed is too high, it may damage the rock due to deep cuts. Also, if the Dremel is held for too long in one spot, a hole might form.
Consider this before using a Dremel: it is mandatory to familiarise yourself with the model, its attachments, and the correct speed to use for each activity.
Lately, due to the technology assault, the Dremel tools became very popular even for carving stones, a job done historically by the rock hammer and chisel. The Dremel rotary tool starts to be a very popular component of the rockhounds kit.
Similar to the other cutting tools, safety measures should not be ignored. Always wear protective equipment and make sure the device is working according to the factory specifications. Good luck out there!
I recommend buying this dremel drill (Amazon link) with variable speed from 5,000 to 35,000 RPM with electronic feedback for consistent performance and with additional accessories, and plastic storage case included.
TIP: Dremel drills are not only great tools for cutting rocks but also for polishing them. That’s why I wrote a step-by-step guide on how to polish rocks with a Dremel drill, check it out here:
FAQ about Cutting Rocks
Still did not find the answer to your answers about cutting rocks? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
If you want to cut stones by hand, you will need the right hammer and chisel. The best hammer for rockhounding in the Geologist’s hammer, while a good chisel should always have a carbide tip, but it all depends on what type of rock you want to cut. You can also use machine tools such as planers, saws, cutters, grinders, and polishers.
Diamond-tipped saws don’t actually cut; they grind. This saw’s edge is coated with tiny diamond particles, which scratch the stones as it spins around on the blade, which causes millions of little scratches that eventually lead all the way through the piece of stone. Because they work this way, a Diamond-tipped saw is much safer to work with.
The best tool for scraping geodes is the diamond-tipped saw. Though expensive, you can use this tool to cut hundreds of geodes in half, rather than just one or two. If you want a less pricey alternative, you can use a chisel and a metal claw hammer, but the process requires more time and greater focus.
TIP: Don’t forget to stay safe when you cutting rocks with all these tools. You can get injured easily with no proper safety equipment. I made a list of recommended safety equipment for rockhounding and related activities. Check it out here: