There are many types of stoneworking tools. These are used for everything from cutting and shaping to sanding stone materials. Some are made for specific stone types.
Professionals in many industries, from stonemasonry to construction, use these tools.
Choosing the Right Stoneworking Tools
To do stonework, you need the proper tools. The wrong equipment is not only inefficient but also dangerous. It’s essential to understand the right types of stone working tools for your project and how to use them.
Different kinds of stones often need distinct tool kits. At about 8 on the Mohs scale, granite is the hardest stone that is commonly carved. This durability is key to granite’s role in sculpture but makes it tough to manipulate.
Working with granite, therefore, requires some of the toughest stoneworking tools available. Few stone workers work with stones harder than granite. Some will carve basalt columns, which is harder than granite, but this is uncommon.
Different trades may use distinct tools, even where there is some overlap. For example, bricklaying and masonry both share much of the same equipment. Not every mason or bricklayer needs all the same tools, however.
This depends on their industry, their work, and the types of stone they use.
What Types of Stoneworking Tools Are There?
There are dozens of types of stoneworking tools. This makes sense because of how many types of stone and stone working projects there are. Chisels, for example, come in a wide number of shapes and sizes.
That’s because each chisel has a different function depending on its design. Still, there is a collection of basic tools that almost every stoneworker will use. The most fundamental tools used for stoneworking include:
- Masonry hammers
- Metal straight edges
Generally, these three tools give stone workers everything they need to make flat surfaces. This is where every other part of stonemasonry gets its start.
The trowel is the stonemason’s signature tool. There are a few different kinds. A trowel is a small triangular tool at the end of a short handle. They come in many sizes and shapes designed for specialized jobs.
Trowels are used to pick up and move mortar. Trowels are vital for spreading mortar on bricks before putting them into place. Bricks occasionally begin to set slightly out of alignment.
This is where the butt end of the trowel handles comes into play. Using the handle, bricklayers tap crooked bricks back into place. The square-notch or V-trowel is one of the most important tools in stonemasonry.
V-trowels have two sides that can be straightened and two that can be notched. The notches are where the trowel gets its name since they are V-shaped. These square notches serve as a metering system to help distribute mortar.
The notches are key to distributing mortar onto flat surfaces in the right amounts.
Pros & Cons
Trowels are essential tools for any bricklaying operation. They make mortaring and straightening bricks a cinch. Your options are pretty limited besides.
You could try getting by with a garden spade, but good luck passing inspection. That said, the shape and size used is often pretty specific to the exact work. While you can usually make any trowel work in a pinch, it’s not recommended.
Trying to work with bricks too heavy for a smaller tool is a pain. And using a trowel that’s too big for lighter stone is unwieldy. Plus, a trowel of the wrong size can make it either tough to keep mortar neatly in place or take too long to spread.
Be sure to pay attention to the details of the job when selecting your trowel.
Chisels are used for shaping and splitting stones. Different chisels are best suited for specific purposes, like different types of stone and projects. For example, granite is a hard stone requiring more durable tools.
But vitally, granite doesn’t bruise. This lets masons use more aggressive carving techniques and tougher chisels. Most stone workers prefer carbide-tipped chisels when working with granite because they are so durable.
Flat blade chisels are usually better than tooth chisels for carving hard stone. Rondel and flat chisels are key for smoothing textures left by rougher tooth chisels. This helps prepare the stone for finishing.
Stone bruises left by the tooth chisels can be removed with either a riffler file or a flat chisel.
Blocking chisels are made of heavy-duty steel. They can be as many as eight inches long. Designed for splitting large numbers of blocks with a mashing hammer, they’re more efficient for this than masonry hammers.
With a blocking chisel, you’re able to place the chisel exactly where you want. This gives you far more control over the angle and impact of your split. Using a masonry hammer risks a lot more inaccuracy.
Pros & Cons
Chisels are the most efficient way to split, flatten, and smooth out stone. While you could sometimes use other tools in place of chisels in a pinch, it’s futile to try real work that way. The specialty of stoneworking chisels can also be to your detriment.
Using the wrong chisel can be inconvenient and potentially disastrous. You can bruise stone if your chisel is too hard for it. If you use a chisel not up to the job, it might not split the stone at all– it could even break itself.
3. Masonry Hammers
Masonry hammers look a lot like claw hammers. They’re both shaped the same way with an elongated handle and two-sided head. But up close, there’s no chance you would confuse the two.
Whereas claw hammers have rounded heads for hammering everyday nails into wood, masonry hammers have a square face. This is a specialized shape made for pounding down masonry nails into stone. Instead of the forked claw on the opposite side, masonry hammers have a long head ending in a sharp tip, resembling a chisel.
The sharp tip is used to split bricks and split off small pieces of rock.
Pros & Cons
Masonry hammers are essential for bricklaying, much of sculpting, and general stonemasonry. The square-shaped head is essential for the efficient distribution of force on masonry nails. Trying to hammer masonry nails into stone with any other hammer is an exercise in futility.
Masonry hammers lack the general utility of other common hammers. They can’t be used in place of claw hammers or mallets, don’t try to use them as such. And despite their shape, please do not use a masonry hammer in place of a good chisel.
4. Masonry Saws
Masonry saws are super useful in tons of stoneworking projects. There are fundamentally two kinds of masonry saws you’ll encounter: hand saws and power saws.
5. Hand Saws
Masonry hand saws resemble ordinary hand saws at first glance. Looking closer, you will notice the masonry hand saw’s longer blade and bigger teeth. Stoneworking hand saws are long enough to cut at least most of the way through a standard brick.
When the blade is shorter than the brick (about eight inches), you can finish the cut with a masonry hammer. This saves a lot of time over trying to use a masonry hammer alone.
6. Power Saws
Power saws are a huge time-saver and, incidentally, feel pretty awesome to use. Stonemasons use circular power saws wielding diamond blades! They can slice through brick in seconds.
This means they have to be used with extreme caution, necessary safety equipment, and attention to proper safety protocol. For instance, it’s vital never to cut all the way through the brick with a circular saw. That’s because the blade will easily damage the surface beneath.
Both handheld and table-mounted varieties exist. Both of them do the job just as well. Nevertheless, power saws offer the cleanest cuts possible.
Pros & Cons
There’s really no quicker, cleaner, more efficient way to cut stone. Circular saws with diamond blades are used to cut granite with ease. Wet-cut circular saws are often used because they produce minimal dust.
But be sure to wear proper protective equipment and use caution when using power saws. Using power saws on stone can easily damage materials — and people.
Other Types of Stone Working Tools
1. Masonry Squares
Masonry squares resemble your typical contractor’s square. Typically, masonry squares are made of plastic or wood. Masonry squares are used to ensure bricks are angled at exactly 90° whenever two perpendicular walls form a corner.
2. Mason’s Levels
Mason’s levels resemble a standard contractor’s level. Mason’s levels have little vials in them at different angles just like standard levels do. Each vial contains an air bubble.
The vial’s center is marked by two lines. By checking if the bubble is in between the two center lines, the mason is able to ensure a level surface.
3. Straight Edges
Straight edges help make level or plumb lines longer. They’re usually six or 10 inches wide, 1 ½ inches thick, and as long as 16 feet. Straight edges need to have perfectly parallel top and bottom edges.
Any warp whatsoever can potentially ruin a project.
Masons use jointers to make mortar joints. These are the spaces between bricks where you can see mortar. Jointers typically look like long, flat, bent metal bars.
They can be flat, round, and even pointed, depending on what type of joint you’re making.
5. Mixing Tools
Stone workers use different types of mixing tools for mortar. These include various electric mixers. However, many just use a shovel or hoe.
6. Mashing Hammers
Mashing hammers are heavy– between two and four pounds. These heavier double-sided pounding heads are designed for use with chisels. Their heft helps split brick and stone.
7. Mason’s Lines
Mason’s lines are rolls of heavy twine used for marking out complete walls in one go. You set blocks securely in the ground at each corner. The mason’s line is wrapped tight around the blocks and runs between them.
This gives you a straight line to follow.
8. Tape Measure
Tape measures are incredibly handy for measuring out wall lengths and heights. There are ways to measure brick walls or stone structures without them, but you’ll typically want to have one within arm’s reach.
There are a variety of soft-bristled brushes that stone workers use. These are mostly used to remove or thin excess mortar.
What are Stoneworking Tools Used For?
Stoneworking tools are used for a huge range of tasks, from letter cutting and stone carving to sanding and shaping. They are used by stonemasons, monumental masons, and even sculptors. These tools are usually made from either steel or carbide.
Carbide-tipped chisels can be used for softer stone but you run a greater risk of bruising. Steel tools in general work best for softer stone, while carbide is most employed by those working with marble. There are also hammers better suited for softer stones.
Short-stroke pneumatic hammers have a lighter impact. This means you’ll run less risk of bruising the stone during a strike.
Do I Really Need The “Right” Tool?
Each mason needs a standard set of appropriate tools. These ensure that they can plan and measure their work and execute it to precision. Using the right stoneworking tools is essential for both accuracy and safety.