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Step-by-Step: How to Cut Rocks with Hammer and Chisel

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Learning how to cut and break stones the way you want to can be a challenging task to learn. The best way to accomplish most types of rock cutting is to use a simple hammer and chisel. When it comes to using a hammer and chisel, you’ll need to learn how to angle and position your hammer and chisel correctly. Once you learn how to hold the rock correctly, you’ll need to master the level of force needed when using the hammer so that you break rocks and stones effectively.

You can cut rock with a hammer and chisel by placing your chisel’s tip on the part of the stone that you want to break. Then you’ll need the chisel and cut a line across the stone where you want the break. Once you find that position, put the chisel at an angle and hit the chisel with your hammer across the line.

Since there isn’t much information available on the Internet today about how to cut rock with a hammer and chisel, I’ll cover a few different strategies to help you. First, I’ll cover how to break the stones with a hammer and chisel. After that, I’ll assess how to score the edge of the stone. Then I’ll cover how to cut rock and stone pavers with a hammer and chisel.

How to Cut Rocks with Hammer and Chisel
How to Cut Rocks with Hammer and Chisel?

If you are interested in checking out the best rockhounding hammers and chisels you can find them by clicking here and here (Amazon links).

How to Break Rock Stones with a Hammer and Chisel

It can be challenging to break stone rocks with a hammer and chisel the way you want them. By using a chisel and hammer, it’ll be easier to accomplish this task the right way.

Remember that the angle you put the chisel at and the force you use with the hammer will all factor into cutting the stone correctly. To help you break rock with a hammer and chisel, I’ll give you a step-by-step outline below.

Prepare the Chisel’s Point

Before you do anything, make sure you put on your safety goggles. After that, you’ll need to position the tip of the chisel on the part of the stone that you want to break.

Position the chisel, so that it is leaning in the direction of the larger stone area. Make sure you don’t hold your chisel perpendicular to the stone, or you might chip apart from the entire stone, ruining it.

Cut a Line Across Your Stone

Now you’ll need to cut a line across the area of the stone that you want to break or cut. Once you’ve done that, place your chisel at an angle and then lightly hit the edge of the chisel with your hammer.

You’ll need to keep moving like that, tapping the chisel with your hammer, all the way across the line on the stone to make the break.

Get Ready to Hit the Hammer Forcefully

You’ll need to put the point of the chisel at the center of your original line. Keep in mind that you’ll again need to place your chisel at an angle to break the rock apart correctly. Now, grab your rock hammer and hit the top of the chisel with force this time.

It’ll need to be a powerful hit, not like the tapping you just did above. If you only tap at this point, you’ll only be chipping the stone and not breaking it.

As you move across the line, your rock should break apart right across the line. After you’ve completed that, you’ve successfully broken your rock apart. However, learning how to break or split rock isn’t the only strategy you’ll need to learn to chisel rock correctly.

You’ll also need to learn how to cut the edge of the stone if you have any plans for decorating or using the stones to stylize your house or create stone carvings.

So, I’ll cover how to cut the edge of a rock stone in the steps below as well.

How to Score the Edge of a Rock Stone with a Hammer and Chisel

If you’re learning how to cut rock and stone because you want to fit flagstone to decorate a pathway at your house correctly, or if you want to learn how to make stone carvings, then you’ll also need to learn how to cut the edge of rock stone. If you are looking to cut hard rock, like marble or granite, you may need other pneumatic tools.

However, rock that is softer, like flagstone, can be cut easily with a hammer and chisel. The steps you need to follow are repetitive and simple and should allow you to cut the rock easily without cracking or damaging the stone.

Get Your Safety Gear and Prepare the Rock

First, you’ll need to grab your safety gear. You should, at the very least, be wearing safety goggles to protect your eyes from any stone or rock shards that might fly up as you are breaking apart and scoring your rock and stone with your hammer and chisel.

Now, get the piece of rock ready and place it on a bag of sand. Now, twist the rock until the sand molds to the bottom area of the rock. That gives your rock a lot of stability, letting the sand hold the rock still as you are going to chisel.

Next, you need to measure out the edge you want to cut and mark it. I suggest measuring with a tape measurer and then grabbing a pencil to draw your edge for guidance.

TIP: Safety always comes first and therefore pay attention to your health. I wrote about the best safety equipment for rockhounding and working with rocks, check it out here:
Recommended Safety Equipment for Rockhounding: Stay Safe!

Tap Your Chisel

Get your chisel ready and hold it so that it is perpendicular to the surface of the rock. That means you’ll need to put the chisel at the cutting line’s edge. Now, lightly tap at your chisel head using your hammer. You want a moderate amount of force here.

Keep going until you see a shallow groove forming in the rock. That shallow groove you’ll see is called “scoring.” Keep scoring the other portion of the rock’s cutting line by repeating the chisel tap until you go over the entire marked line.

Strike Your Chisel

Position the chisel at the start of the scored cutting line. Hold the chisel so that it is perpendicular to your rock’s area. Now, strike the head of your chisel on the scored line using more force than you previously used with the hammer.

Each time you finish a strike, move your chisel up about a half-inch along your scored line and strike the chisel again. Keep repeating this step until the edge of the rock splits and can be removed.

Now that you know how to score the edge of a rock or stone, we’ll discuss how you can cut and modify stone pavers as well. That way, you’ll be able to utilize this approach to decorate your house.

BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):

Types of Tools Required for Working with Rock and Stone

Cutting rocks with hammer
Cutting rocks with a hammer

When it comes to working with rock and stone, you will need to ensure that you have a few specific tools. While a hammer and a chisel are, of course, essential here, there are a few other items I will cover here as well to give you an idea of what you’ll need to purchase so you can start doing some rock and stone cutting.

If you can afford to purchase better tools, then I recommend doing so. High-quality tools make a huge difference when you are trying to cut stone and rock. With better tools, you can:

  • Shape rock and stone faster.
  • Accomplish certain shaping techniques that aren’t possible with cheaper tools
  • Improve your shaping and cutting accuracy
  • Save time

So, when opting for what types of products to purchase, don’t skimp out if you can afford a better tool. While I understand the limitations of a budget, the better the product, the easier it’s going to be to cut your rock and stone.

Picking Out Trimming Hammers

You’ll need a high-quality trimming hammer to accomplish rock and stone cutting. These types of hammers feature a head that has a square end. The square end can be used for trimming.

On the other end, you’ll find a blade that can be used to more easily split rock. You’ll be using the square end of your trimming hammer most of the time. Because of that, some trimming hammers don’t come with a blade.

Most decent trimming hammers weigh about two to three pounds and give you all of the flexibility and versatility you need to get the job done. Some good options for these types of trimming hammers include:

  • The Estwing Trim Hammer (Amazon link) is an imported sixteen-ounce steel trim hammer. It comes with a fourteen-inch straight handle and also offers a straight face.
  • The Estwing Finish Hammer (Amazon link) is both a finishing and a trim hammer. This hammer is sixteen ounces and is comprised of drop-forged steel. It is also both tempered and heat-treated.

The other good news, which you can probably already see from our above list, is that a decent trim hammer isn’t all that expensive. If you have about ten bucks, you should be fine.

Selecting Decent Brick Hammers

If you’re going to be working with a lot of stone and rock, you’ll also need to consider purchasing a good brick hammer. Brick hammers are another trimming hammer.

However, if you plan on working with softer, lighter stone and rock, then you’ll also need one of these. Most brick hammers feature an eighteen-inch long handle, which gives you a lot more power. They are also designed to be lightweight and easy to use for work.

Luckily, brick hammers are also not too pricy, and you can get a decent brick hammer for about twenty dollars. A couple of excellent options in brick hammers are listed below.

  • Estwing Rock Hammer (Amazon link) comes with a limited lifetime warranty, weighs thirteen ounces, and also offers a fiberglass handle, which makes it very lightweight.
  • Estwing Brick Hammer (Amazon link), which features a steel head wrapped up into a very lightweight hammer that’s great for easily shaping stone.

TIP: Do you know how to cut pavers with a hammer and chisel? It’s not as complicated as it could look. Follow these simple steps described in the article below:
5 Simple Steps on How to Cut Pavers with Hammer & Chisel

Picking Out Your Chisels

Cutting rocks with chisel
Cutting rocks with a chisel

There are many chisels available on the market for this type of stone and rock work. Remember, the wider a chisel’s blade, the more direction and control you’ll have over the split.

However, at the same time, if the chisel’s blade is wider, it becomes more challenging to diffuse the impact on the stone or rock.

Purchasing a chisel that’s one and a half inches wide gives a decent combination of both power and balance when it comes to cutting most types of rock and stone.

You may find that you prefer a certain type of chisel over another. For instance, a tracing chisel will work when it comes to tracing a line in the rock or stone.

If you sharpen that chisel to seventy degrees, you’ll also get a wonderful tool for splitting. However, you’ll need to be careful when using a tracing chisel that way because you can damage it on a hard stone if you ever cut against the grain.

The best way to go about buying chisels is not to buy one chisel at a time, but instead, you should purchase an entire set of chisels. That way, you’ll have all the chisels you’ll need once you start working on your stone and rock projects.

The good news is that you can purchase a decent set of chisels for under thirty bucks, so that means it’s an affordable way of approaching things. I personally recommend buying this one:

Consider Some Carbide-Tipped Tools

If you want to get more skilled at cutting and shaping rock and stone, then consider some carbide-tipped tools. While you don’t necessarily need them if you are going to create a rock or stone sidewalk and then never touch pavers again, if you are somebody that loves working with stone or rock, then you will want to purchase some.

Carbide-tipped tools help keep the cutting edges on your chisels a lot sharper, and also help increase their lifespan. They also work incredibly well on stone and rock which is very hard.

However, the downside to these products is that they are costly. Also, if you don’t know how to utilize them correctly, they will wear out.

So, unless you are planning to work with rock or stone a lot, you can skip on this option and instead stick with the steel tools, like what I mentioned above.

However, if you still want to purchase a carbide-tipped set of tools, a good set will cost about $200 or so. Two great options are listed below.

Buying a Stone Buster’s Hammer

Another good tool idea to purchase is a hammer that’s made to be hit by another hammer, also known as a stone buster’s hammer.

A stone buster hammer offers precision like a chisel, but also a lot more power when it comes to striking. So, these hammers are very versatile.

These hammers are used by putting the blade part of a hammer on the stone, as if it is the chisel, and then striking it back to back with the other hammer.

By hitting your rock or stone this way, you don’t need precise aim like you would when using just one hammer.

Also, these types of hammers provide good vertical and horizontal blade arrangements. That means you can save yourself time with some of the repetition of steps when it comes to breaking stones.

While these hammers are wonderful to own and will help you save a lot of time, they are relatively expensive. So, if you don’t have the budget to purchase one, you can still get your work done without one.

However, if you do have the money, you will save quite a bit of time. For a hammer-like, like this, expect to spend about eighty dollars. Here are a couple of great options:

Final Thoughts

I’ve covered different methods you can use for splitting, scoring, and chiseling rock. Now that you know how to work with rock and stone, you can purchase the correct tools and get started.

There are plenty of wonderful chisels and hammers available for purchase on the market today. With the right products, getting the job done should be easy for you.

TIP: Do you know what other tools you can use for cutting rocks? Check out the best tools in the article below:
What Can I Use to Cut Rocks? These 5 Tools are the Best!