What Should I Use to Cut My Rough Rock?

By Tracy Barnhart

Rough rock is a stone or mineral in its natural state, such as what you might find at a riverbank, outcropping or beach. Once it is cut and polished, this rock has a variety of uses, such as for jewelry stones, building materials like tiles or bricks, and carved ornamental statues. Most applications require that you cut the rock to a specific size or shape. You can use a variety of tools -- traditional hand and power tools or specialized lapidary equipment -- to cut the rock. Regardless of the tool that you use to cut the rock, you should always wear safety goggles, a dust mask and gloves as protection from rock chips and particulates.

Hand Tools

Small, soft rocks will cut readily with a hammer and chisel. However, the cut will not be as precise as if done with a power tool. The smoothness of the cut will depend on the natural tendency of the rock to break along straight lines. You can use pneumatic or rotary power tools with different tips, such as diamond blades, drills and cutting points, to get a greater degree of precision.

Dry Saws

For more precise cuts, a diamond-bladed circular saw or a tile saw work well, depending on the size of the rock slab that you are trying to manipulate. Jigsaws and hacksaws with the appropriate blades can cut rough rock slabs; however, these saws can be difficult to control in order to produce a controlled, straight cut through the specimen.

Wet Saws

Wet circular and tile saws use water to reduce dust emissions and keep the rock and blade wet for more precise and safe cutting. These saws may create a water and rock dust mix that can be messy, so use these saws in an area that can be cleaned easily and has a continuous water supply. Both of these saws will provide adequate precision for each cut through the rock sample.

Faceting Tools

A faceting machine will allow you to cut a precise facet, or slice, into the stone, rotate the rock and cut another slice. Faceting machines use a flat disc, called a lap, with different grits to cut and polish the rock as you progress through the faceting process. This equipment is available through lapidary suppliers. Sometimes, local rock and gem clubs will have equipment that you can use while you learn to cut rocks with precision.

© Demand Media 2011