Stone Carving Tools
Many of the tools used for stone carving have designs and principles dating from the earliest of times, Stonemasonry transfers principles of woodcarving into carving shapes and designs into stone of all types.
Alec Tiranti have been supplying specialist tools to sculptors, artisans and specialists for around 130 years. Our tools have been developed and selected for their quality and practicality, matching operators to tools as diverse as chisels, mallets and hammers, to workbenches and turntables.
Good tools are an important choice for any craftsman and the way a tools fits into the hand greatly influences the finished piece. Choosing tools is a very personal issue in any craftsman’s mind, the choice of tool, size, shape and weight are all key factors and can in fact have as great an influence as the type of stone being carved. We can also provide pneumatic and electric powered tools for Stonemasonry and carving.
From basic starter to comprehensive sets of tools for the experienced carver Tiranti can also offer informed advice and assistance too.
When a block of stone arrives, it can often need to be split into smaller pieces, using drills, feathers and wedges, the carver can shape the block of stone into a “rough shape”. Then by using “Bush Hammers”, “Claw Chisels” or pneumatic tools with “Claw” attachments the rough shape can be refined and even partially defined, moving on to using finer chisels and a “Lump Hammer” or “Dummy Mallet”.
Refined shaping can be done using the finer chisels and either a metal “Dummy Mallet” in the initial phase, or a wooden or nylon mallet to finish off. Final finishing work is usually done using a range of rasps, files and rifflers.
Choosing Chisels and other tools
Stone carving chisels are available several types: flat, bullnose, gouge, claw, punch and point.
The flat chisel is just as it sounds; the cutting face is flat and parallel to the striking pin, available as either light or heavy chisel. Bullnose chisels have a slight convex bow across the cutting face, ideal for cutting across a large flat surface, the chisel edges are less likely to dig in. Gouge chisels have a semi-circular cutting face, these are used for cutting circular shapes into a flat surface. Claw chisels are toothed for roughing out work, they remove large amounts on a single strike and leave a patterned finish.
Letter Cutting Chisels are usually tungsten carbide tipped, typically these are much finer and designed only for detail and finishing work. Lettering work is a specialist skill and requires patience and practice in equal measure, available in seven (7) chisel sizes from 3 – 12 mm across the cutting face. The type of mallet stroke used for letter carving is also different, typically a shallower angle and a lighter strike.
Most letter carvers use an iron dummy mallet, using multiple lighter strikes at a shallow angle to prevent the slimmer chisel from getting stuck in the face of the stone. The choice of tool is very personal, so experienced stone masons often have tools for specific applications, and often these tools are indistinguishable, but the experience operator knows by sight and feel.
Soft to medium stone only requires a carbon steel tool, but for the harder stones (granite or marble) then the tungsten tipped tools are much better suited – many of the specialists opt for tungsten tipped tools for all stone.
Hammers and Mallets are also a very personal choice. “Lump Hammers” and “Dummy Mallets” are made here at Tiranti, cast in malleable iron and fitted with a Hickory handle and steel wedges. These can be used with flat head chisels and tools.
Bouchard – “Bush” Hammers were developed for roughing out large flat surfaces, the heavily serrated inserts can be mounted onto the hammer head and are located using either a taper or an expanding spigot. The smaller hammers rely on the taper and the larger type has the expanding spigot. The advantage is that the inserts can be removed, replaced, cleaned or re-profiled to suit an application.
“Soft” hammers and mallets is a bit of an oxymoron, the term referring to the material used for the hammer or mallet head. These are also known as “Dead Blow” hammers and mallets.
Most typically the hammer or mallet head is made from wood, plastic, rubber or leather. This type of hammer or mallet is typically less damaging to the tool being struck.
For the finer sculptures the marks left behind by chisels are considered unsightly, these can be removed and shapes refined by using rasps, rifflers and sanders. Rasps are typically used initially (although these are considered too harsh for softer stone), they remove the deep impact marks and claw marks left by pneumatic tools in particular. Rifflers are finer than a rasp, smaller and finely shaped to allow the user to refine even the smallest detail. We can also supply diamond coated rifflers for ultra-fine finishing. Sanders can be simple cork blocks wrapped in sandpaper, to the specialist blocks and files with diamond coated surface for abrading hard to reach places.
To keep tools in the best condition possible we offer a range of whetstones and oil stones, available in a range of sizes and shapes to allow the re-sharpening of even the more complicated gouges and claws.
Alec Tiranti manufacture a broad range of heavy-duty carving stands, workbenches and turntables to suit all types and sizes of stone carving. Three heights of “Banker” work stands (specials also available on request) all with three different work table sizes, each of these is also available with our specially developed “Banker Turntable” mounted on steel rollers with a centre mounted casting and rigid trackways to support even the very heaviest of stone sculptures. The superb Sculptors Heavy Bench is constructed in a similar way to the carving stands and this too can be fitted with a Banker Turntable if required.
Alec Tiranti staff can offer advice and support either by phone or from our shops at Thatcham or London, we also stock a large range of books on stone carving to improve skills from the beginner to the experienced artist returning after a break.
Contemporary Stone Sculpture – how to select different types of stone, transporting and how to select tools and finishing. How to use hand tools, pneumatic and electric tools.
The Art of Letter Carving – guiding the novice through the basics of classical lettering, tool types, stone selection and finishing techniques.
Direct Stone Sculpture – for the more advanced sculptor, this book gives more detailed information on power tools and finishing process’ also covers repairs and methods of lamination and stone polishing.