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Breaking Big Stones

When it comes to shaping stone correctly, using the correct tools and techniques is crucial

Not all stone breaks the same way -- or the way you need it to break. You can increase your chances of shaping stone more precisely by using the right tool for the job. In this magazine extra from the June/July 2007 article, Stone Steps, learn how second-generation stonemason Cody Macfie shapes stone with a chisel and hammer. Breaking stones is more of an art than a game of chance; certain nuances can make -- or break -- a stone correctly.

Use a rock hammer and a chisel when accuracy is important. Chip away at a larger section in small pieces, as I did here, using a 3-lb. to 4-lb. rock hammer and a blunt chisel. Hold the blunt chisel at a 45° to 60° angle. Strike the edge sharply. 

Use a rock hammer and a chisel when accuracy is important. Chip away at a larger section in small pieces, as I did here, using a 3-lb. to 4-lb. rock hammer and a blunt chisel. Hold the blunt chisel at a 45° to 60° angle. Strike the edge sharply. 

A rock hammer alone works well when accuracy isn't important. To trim the edge of a stone with a rock hammer, position the hammer slightly at an angle and strike the edge of the stone about 1/4 in. to 1/2 in. of the edge. It helps to make a straight line with a pencil and to follow the edge with the hammer. Note: Don't try to break away large portions of the stones with this hammer. It doesn't work, and you'll become frustrated and exhausted. A rock hammer alone works well when accuracy isn't important. To trim the edge of a stone with a rock hammer, position the hammer slightly at an angle and strike the edge of the stone about 1/4 in. to 1/2 in. of the edge. It helps to make a straight line with a pencil and to follow the edge with the hammer. Note: Don't try to break away large portions of the stones with this hammer. It doesn't work, and you'll become frustrated and exhausted.
Photos by Chris Ermides
From Fine Homebuilding188