How to Cut and Shape Stones | Ask This Old House

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Shared March 8, 2016

Roger Cook demonstrates how to cut and shape stones for hardscaping projects. (See below for a shopping list, tools, and steps.)
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Shopping List for How to Cut and Shape Stones:
- Stone of various sizes and shapes

Tools List for How to Cut and Shape Stones:
- Gas-powered cut-off saw with diamond blade [https://amzn.to/2GYzdRx], for sawing stone
- Right-angle grinder [https://amzn.to/2VKgEse] with diamond blade, used to cut stone
- Rotary-hammer drill [https://amzn.to/2Li69IT] with masonry bit, for boring holes into stone
- Small sledgehammer [https://amzn.to/2PElXE8], used to strike hand tools
- Wedges and feathers [https://amzn.to/2IXiCzQ], for splitting stone
- Hand tracer [https://amzn.to/2DFHbwz], for splitting stone
- Stone buster [https://amzn.to/2vyRvCk], used to crack larger stones
- Hand set [https://amzn.to/2J9BXNn], for trimming edges of stones
- Hand point [https://amzn.to/2WiZLC5], used to chip off high spots
- Bushing hammer [https://amzn.to/2Limqh2], for finishing surface of just-cut stones

Steps for How to Cut and Shape Stones:
1. Use a gas-powered cut-off saw or angle grinder to cut stone.
2. To hand-split a stone, begin by using an electric rotary hammer and masonry bit to drill holes spaced 4 inches apart across the stone face.
3. Insert a steel wedge and pair of steel feathers (shims) into each hole.
4. Use a hammer to alternately tap each wedge into the hole.
5. Continue to lightly tap each wedge until the stone cracks in two.
6. To split a stone with a hand tracer, set the tracer on top of the stone and tap it with the hammer. Move the tracer down an inch or so and strike it again.
7. Continue in this fashion until you’ve a cut line across the stone.
8. Move the hand tracer back to the beginning and repeat, tap it, move it, tap it, move it, until the stone splits in two.
9. To crack large stones, use a stonebuster tool. Set the buster on top of the stone, then strike it sharply with a hammer to cut a line across the stone. Repeat until the stone splits.
10. To trim the edge of a stone, use a carbide handset. Hold the handset at an angle to the stone, then strike the handset with a hammer to chip off small pieces of stone.
11. Use a carbide-tipped hand point to chip protrusions and high spots off of a stone face.
12. To smooth and even out the surface of a stone, lightly tap it with a bushing hammer.
13. Continue to tap the stone until achieving the desired level of smoothness.

About Ask This Old House TV:
Homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions for us on smaller projects, and we're ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by our viewers—and we make house calls! Ask This Old House features some familiar faces from This Old House, including Kevin O'Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook.

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How to Cut and Shape Stones | Ask This Old House
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