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How To Cut & Polish Petrified Wood: Follow These 3 Steps

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A great deal of petrified wood is not suitable for rock tumbling or lapidary work because it has too many faults and fractures. You should also be careful where you gather it because it is illegal in some places, while in others, you are restricted to a limited quantity. Cutting and polishing petrified wood by hand using only wet-dry sandpaper is likely to be too tiring and time-consuming.

The three steps to beautifying petrified wood are cleaning, cutting, and polishing. Cleaning requires only some mild soap, water, and a soft cloth. Depending on the rock’s size, you can use a wet saw with diamond pads or a Dremel for cutting. For polishing, you can use a Dremel or a wet polisher.

Despite its name, petrified wood is stone, so you can’t cut it with a handsaw or carve it with a knife. This article looks at how easily petrified wood breaks and tells you how to clean it, which cutting and polishing methods you can use at home, and the kinds of tools that will get the job done.

Is Petrified Wood Easy To Break?
Is Petrified Wood Easy To Break?

If you are interested in checking out the best dremels and dremel accessories for cutting and polishing petrified wood you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).

Is Petrified Wood Easy To Break?

Petrified wood is hard but brittle, and it, therefore, shatters easily. On the Mohs hardness scale, it typically rates as a 7.0 at the core of the wood. Consequently, you need to be careful which tools you use as their intense vibrations could potentially cause them to break.

Despite its name, there is no organic plant material in petrified wood. It consists of minerals, mainly quartz and silica, that took on the shape of the wood over millennia. Minerals like manganese, calcite, pyrite, copper, cobalt, and iron contribute to its stunning colors.

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):

Cleaning Petrified Wood Before Cutting & Polishing

Step One: Cleaning your petrified wood of dirt and grime.

Harsh cleaning methods using chemicals are not recommended for petrified wood. You can use a mild hand soap mixed with warm water and a few drops of apple cider vinegar in a bucket. Soak it for a few hours, then rub it gently with a soft microfiber cloth. 

If you think your petrified wood contains calcite, leave out the vinegar as it could dissolve it.

Don’t use kitchen scourers like steel wool on petrified wood. If your piece of wood is too big to fit into a bucket, you can wipe it down with some cleaning soap on a soft wet cloth and rinse it with the hose. Always use mild soap or dishwasher soap.

TIP: Not sure how to clean your rocks before cutting and polishing? Check out the methods on how to clean rocks in the article below:
How to Clean Your Rocks and Minerals: 5 Simple Ideas

How To Cut Petrified Wood At Home

How To Cut and Polish Petrified Wood
How To Cut and Polish Petrified Wood

Step Two: Cutting the petrified wood into the desired shape. Cutting and shaping stone as hard as petrified wood without an electric tile saw or rotary tool is difficult and time-consuming because although it is brittle, it is hard as steel. It may sometimes break off in flakes and chip unexpectedly. 

Using successive sheets of sandpaper with finer and finer grits is not the best way to cut and shape petrified wood, and you may end up disheartened at how much time it takes. It’s far better to use a saw or a Dremel.

Cutting Petrified Wood With A Saw

You can cut petrified wood into slices with a tile saw that uses water, otherwise known as a wet saw. A wet saw looks like a small table saw with a platform or guide to feeding the stone into the blade. It has a water pump that keeps it cool while cutting. Use a diamond cutting blade for the best results.

For pieces of rock with a diameter of more than twelve inches, you will need a custom-made motorized wet saw or large-scale rock cutters such as those used by some fossil shops. 

Mark out the places you want to cut with a felt pen. Put the wet saw on a stable, flat surface where it can’t tip over, and make sure you hold the petrified wood level. Guide the stone smoothly and evenly across the saw blade and don’t allow the equipment to overheat, which may damage it.

TIP: What can you use to cut rocks if you do not have the saw or dremel? Check out five different ways how to cut rocks in the article below:
What Can I Use to Cut Rocks? These 5 Tools are the Best!

Cutting Petrified Wood With A Dremel

You can carve petrified wood with a Dremel, but because it is so hard, shaping a large piece with one may be a prolonged process. Tools for cutting petrified wood must be robust and sharp. 

Ideally, you should use a Dremel 4300 -5/40 kit (Amazon link) for cutting petrified wood as it has a universal three-jaw chuck that can take any Dremel bit and a powerful motor. The Dremel 8620 is currently the most powerful cordless rotary tool.

When cutting rocks with any kind of tool, they can get very hot and eventually overheat, potentially burning out the device. This is why wet cutters use water. If you only have a small piece of petrified wood to cut, you can use a Dremel, but choose one of the more powerful ones with a cooling system.

Not all Dremels are suitable for cutting petrified wood, and you need high-strength bits. While Dremels come with their own bits, you can also buy bit kits such as stone carving sets or diamond drill burr sets. They are specially designed for use on rock, and many will fit in a Dremel or other rotary tool. 

TIP: The best tools for polishing rocks and adding a soft glimmer are the rotary dremels. Check out reviews for the best dremel drills on the market in the article below:
3 Best Dremels for Polishing Rocks & Crystals + Accessories

How To Polish Petrified Wood At Home

Step Three: polishing your petrified wood. There are several ways to polish it, including using a tumbler but don’t despair if you don’t have one. You can use a handheld wet polisher or Dremel instead.

Polishing Petrified Wood By Hand (Without A Tumbler)

You can polish petrified wood with an electrical handheld wet polisher/grinder using a diamond polishing pad kit with fifty, four hundred, eight hundred, fifteen hundred, and even three thousand grits. The tool has a water-feed attachment that keeps the pads wet as you work. This is ideal for working with stone.

Polishing Petrified Wood With A Dremel

After using the grinding bits to smooth it as much as possible, you can polish petrified wood with a Dremel buffing accessory until it starts to shine. You start with the lowest grit grinding bit and work your way up to the highest before using the felt buffing accessory.

You will need to clamp the petrified wood in a vice so that it doesn’t fly up and hit you in the face, and you should always wear eye protection. Using a clamp or vice will also save the delicate tips of your fingers from being cut by the tool.

Once you’re finished buffing, dip the bit into some polishing compound with the Dremel running at slow speed, and then apply it to the wood. You can also use some polishing compound on denim cloth and rub it to a final shine by hand.

Conclusion

Petrified wood is hard but brittle, so it could break when you work it. Cutting is best done using a wet saw or a high-powered Dremel with bits specially designed for cutting hard materials. Polishing can be done with a handheld wet polisher that uses diamond pads of varying grit sizes or a Dremel.

TIP: Do you know where to find petrified wood near you? And what locations in the United States are the best? Check out the complete guide in the article below:
6 Best Location for Finding Petrified Wood Near Me (USA)