How to Choose the Tools You Need to Make Stone Sculptures

Posted on: 6 July 2015


If you are an artist who is ready to branch out into the classical art of stone carving, you are likely overwhelmed by the options and tools available to you. Getting started as a stone carver shouldn't mean buying every tool when you really only need a few to start practicing and developing your new skills. Start with the right air compressor and a couple of multipurpose attachments to transform your garage or art studio into a stone carving workshop.

Choosing an Air Compressor

You can't put the power of compressed air to good use until you have a heavy-duty machine in your workshop. Don't just pick an air compressor based on the horsepower rating if you're planning to carve stone; look at the cubic feet per minute (CFM) rating of the equipment instead. Higher ratings mean more air is moving through the hose and into your tool attachments, and you need to match the attachments to the CFM rating for best results and safety.

Small units producing up to three CFM will only work for very small engraving and sanding tasks. Most larger scale stone carving and sculpting projects will require about 10 to 20 CFM in total, since you'll be running a few different tools that all require some of the air flow. If you have specific attachments in mind, you can purchase them first and reverse engineer the CFM rating you need to run them by adding up their requirements. You can also invest in a big professional compressor with adjustable flow to use both the low- and high-end tools with the same machine instead of owning multiple units.

Investing in Air Hammers

If you only buy one piece of equipment for sculpting stone, make it an air hammer. Unlike the hammer and chisel sets for hand work, the chisel tip slides into the hammer attachment nozzle to create very small and fast blows that smoothly shear off small chips without flinging the bits of stone across the room. Nearly all handheld air hammer attachments will work for carving stone, with smaller devices providing better control over the results.

Unfortunately, you can't remove a lot of extra material quickly with this tool like you can with an old-fashioned pointed chisel, but it provides much cleaner results and better control than handheld tools after the rough cutting is done.

Buying Grinders, Sanders, & Polishers

Not in the mood for working with smaller and smaller chisels like Renaissance sculptors used to do? Try strong grinders and sanders normally used for metalworking to put a quicker finish on your first stone sculptures. Tool options in this category include:

  • Straight die grinders that spin discs covered in grit to remove a lot or a little of the stone with each pass
  • Polishing wheels, which are grinders with finer grit and built-in water sprayers to prevent stone dust from floating into the air
  • Angle grinders that work similarly to die models, but which offer a small edge better for cutting and doing spot sanding

Starting with Sandblasting

Once you've got an air compressor, all you need is a sandblasting box or enclosure big enough to hold the piece and some loose grit to start sandblasting. This blasting technique removes stone faster than grinders and other tools, and the technique leaves a smoother or rougher finish, depending on the grit you use. Both silicon carbide and aluminum oxide particles offer the toughness necessary for working on even the hardest stone and are easy to reuse over and over again to save money.

You might think that a chisel and a hammer are all you need to start experimenting with stone sculpting, but it is far easier and more rewarding to get an air compressor and the right tools first. You'll enjoy the experience more, develop your skills faster, and get better results from the beginning. Learn more about your equipment options by contacting companies like Compressor-Pump & Service, Inc.