How to Chisel Stone

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Carving stone with chisels is a craft that will never go out of style. Stone has been used for architectural pieces, furniture and decorative sculptures for hundreds of years. Being able to chisel a piece of soapstone, alabaster, limestone, marble or granite into a beautifully finished piece is a skill that anyone can learn. With the right tools, a steady hand and time, you can take an uninteresting chunk of stone and turn it into a work of art.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandbag
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Leather gloves
  • Pitching tool
  • 1 1/2-lb. rectangular tempered steel hammer
  • Point chisel
  • Five-point tooth chisel
  • Flat chisel
  • Vixen file
  • Rasp
  • 120-grit wet/dry silicone carbide sandpaper
  • 240-grit wet/dry silicone carbide sandpaper
  • 480-grit wet/dry silicone carbide sandpaper
  • 960-grit wet/dry silicone carbide sandpaper
  • 1,920-grit wet/dry silicone carbide sandpaper
  • Stone polish
  • Cloth

Wet your stone with water to determine the direction of the stone's grain pattern. The water makes light and dark lines appear on the stone that run in one direction. That is the direction of the grain.

Place the stone, with the grain running lengthwise, on a sandbag, and sketch your design onto the stone with a pencil, with the length of the sculpture running with the grain.

Put on safety goggles, a dust mask and leather gloves.

Place a pitching tool (large chisel) 1 1/2 inches from the edge of the stone, where you have to remove large sections of stone. Position it at a slight angle away from the stone's edge and strike the top of the chisel with the hammer. Continue removing any large sections of stone with the pitching tool until all of them have been removed.

Carve your shape with a point chisel. Hold it at a 45-degree angle against the stone and strike it with the hammer, to etch parallel lines approximately 1 inch apart in the stone. Go back and chisel between the lines to chip off sections of the stone. Use this chisel pattern to define all of the large geometric planes.

Smooth the rough edges left by the point chisel by placing the five-point tooth chisel at a 45-degree angle against the stone and striking it with the hammer. Follow the contours of the form and define all of them with the tooth chisel.

Place a flat chisel, at a 45-degree angle, against the stone and strike it with the hammer to remove all of the texture left by the tooth chisel.

Place a vixen file against the stone and push it away from you along the stone's surface. This will provide additional shaping.

Refine the sculpture with steady away pressure applied to a small rasp against the stone. Remove all remaining chisel and file marks with the rasp.

Sand the stone piece with a series of wet/dry silicone carbide sandpapers, starting with a 120-grit, under running water. Allow the piece to dry before continuing the underwater sanding and drying process, with the sandpaper that is double in grit from the last, until you have reached the desired surface smoothness.

Allow the piece to dry overnight.

Apply stone polish to your finished carving, in a circular motion, with a cloth dampened with polish and then rub it off with a clean, dry cloth.

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