• Stone Center
  • Blog
  • How to Cut Stones for Your Outdoor Project: Rock Cutting Techniques & Tools




How to Cut Stones for Your Outdoor Project: Rock Cutting Techniques & Tools

Table of Contents

Estimated Time
$10 and up N/A

If you're planning an outdoor project in Ohio, cutting the rough stones to fit your design is an essential skill. Whether you're working on a walkway, patio, or retaining wall, knowing how to cut stone can make all the difference in achieving a polished and professional look.

In this guide, our team at the stone-cutting fabrication Stone Center, with locations in Columbus and Cincinnati, will explore the various techniques and tools used for cutting stones for your outdoor project. From basic hand tools to power tools, we'll cover everything you need to know to make precise cuts and create a stunning finished product. So, let's get started to cut stones like a pro stone mason!

Stone Cutting Tools

how to cut stepping stones

When it comes to working with natural stone, having the right tools is essential for achieving a precise and polished finish. From basic hand tools that can be found in any hardware store to advanced power tools and everything in between, there are a variety of stone-cutting tools available for different purposes.

The Rock Hammer

The rock hammer is commonly used for cutting and shaping natural stone. Here are some steps to follow when cutting stones with a rock hammer:

  • Choose the right rock hammer for the job. There are different types and sizes of rock hammers, and selecting the right one can make the cutting process easier and more efficient.
  • Mark the stone to indicate where you want to make your cuts. This will help you achieve the desired shape and size.
  • Use the rock hammer to make shallow cuts along the marked lines. Start with small taps and gradually increase the force until you make a deeper cut.
  • Use the chisel to break off the pieces of stone along the cut lines. Be careful not to hit too hard and damage the stone or injure yourself.
  • Smooth out the edges of the stone with the rock hammer or a rasp file until you achieve the needed shape and finish.

A Directional Point or Chisel

To create the desired shape from the rock, stone cutters like yourself can use different rock-cutting tools such as a point chisel.

First, create an outline of the rough shape and then use the hand-point chisel to further refine it. Scraping the chisel along the stone will create small lines, which will be smoothed out later using a claw chisel.

When using the claw chisel, hold it at about a 45-degree angle, adjusting it accordingly for rougher stones. Make sure that you wear the right eye protection in addition to a face shield or a face mask during this process.

To level the stone, make a series of small lines around the exterior of the shape with a spacing of 1 to 1.5 inches.

Then, create a crosshatch pattern by drawing lines in the other direction. This will create small bumps that can be removed with a claw chisel.

While the stone may still be bumpy and uneven, it will be taking shape. Remember to work slowly and carefully with rock-cutting tools.

Mason Chipper or Hand Tracer

If you're wondering how to cut rocks by hand, a mason chipper or tracer is a useful tool to have in your toolkit. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Use these tools for cutting stone to make a series of shallow cuts along the marked lines. This will create a groove that will guide your subsequent cuts.
  • Gradually increase the force of your strikes with the mason chipper or tracer until you make a deeper cut.
  • Use the chisel to break off the pieces of stone along the cut lines. You may need to repeat the process to remove larger sections of stone.

Tile Saw

how to cut stepping stones

A tile saw is a versatile stone-cutting tool that can be used for cutting a variety of stones, including paver stones. Here are some steps to follow when using a tile saw to cut stones:

  • Mark the stone where you want to make your cuts.
  • Fill the saw's reservoir with water to lubricate the blade and reduce dust.
  • Place the stone on the saw's table and adjust the saw's fence to guide your cuts.
  • Turn on the saw blade and slowly lower it into the stone. Make sure to use light pressure and let the blade do the work.
  • Move the stone along the fence to make your desired cuts.
  • Once you've made all of your cuts, turn off the saw and let the blade come to a complete stop before removing the stone.

By following these steps, you can cut paver stones and other types of stones with a tile saw with ease and precision.

Feather and Wedge System

The feather and wedge system is a traditional method for cutting stones and is still used today for precision cutting, especially if you are interested in how to cut stepping stones. Here are the steps to follow when using the feather and wedge system:

  • Place the feathers and wedges in a line along your small marks. The feathers should be pointing inwards towards the center of the stone.
  • Tap each wedge gently with a hammer, starting with the center and moving outwards towards the ends. This will create a split in the stone along the marked line.
  • Move the feathers and wedges further along the line and repeat the process until you've made all of your cuts.

We understand that it requires patience and practice, but this system can produce precise cuts with a clean finish.

Angle Grinder

An angle grinder is a powerful tool that can be used to cut and shape a variety of stones. Here are some steps to follow when using an electric grinder to cut sandstone, for example:

  • Wear protective gear such as gloves and safety glasses.
  • Attach a diamond blade to the angle grinder and adjust the blade depth to the thickness of the stone.
  • Turn on the grinding wheel and slowly lower the blade into the stone, using light pressure.
  • Move the grinder along a straight line to make your desired cuts.
  • Once you've made all of your cuts, turn off the grinding tool and let the blade come to a complete stop before removing the stone.

Tile Nippers

Tile nippers are useful for cutting small pieces of natural stone, such as mosaic tiles or small decorative pieces.

  • Hold the stone with one hand and the tile nippers with the other hand.
  • Position the tile nippers over the marked line and apply pressure to make a small cut.
  • Continue making small cuts until you've achieved the desired size and shape.

Choosing the Right Natural Stone

rock cutting tools

When embarking on a project involving natural stone, it's important to choose the right stone type for your needs. Here are some tips to help you choose the right natural landscaping stone for your project:

  • Consider the intended use of the stone. Different types of stone are better suited for different applications, such as outdoor patios, indoor floors, or wall cladding.
  • Look at the color and texture of the stone. Natural stone comes in a variety of colors and textures, so choose one that complements the overall aesthetic of your project.
  • Consider the durability of the stone. If you're cutting stone for outdoor use, choose a stone that's weather-resistant and durable enough to withstand heavy foot traffic or other elements.
  • Think about the cost of the stone. Natural stone can be expensive, so factor in the cost of cutting stone and other installation expenses when deciding on a realistic budget.
  • If you're cutting a rock in half, make sure to choose a type of stone that is suitable for splitting. Some types of stone, such as granite or basalt, are more difficult to split than others.

Safe Stone Shaping Tips

Stone shaping is a process that requires skill and safety precautions, but with the right knowledge, you can achieve success. Here are some tips to help you shape stones safely:

  • Wear protective gear, including safety goggles or a full-face shield, leather gloves, and a dust mask.
  • Learn how to split stones safely. Different types of stone require different stone-cutting tools, so make sure to choose the right ones for the job.
  • Keep your work area clean and free of debris. This will reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Take breaks when needed. There's no denying that stone shaping can be physically demanding, so make sure to take breaks and stretch to prevent muscle strain or fatigue.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area. Stone cutting generates a lot of dust, so make sure to work in a space with good air circulation.
  • If you're unsure how to shape a particular type of stone, seek guidance from a professional or experienced stone worker.

Remember to always take your time and prioritize safety to avoid accidents or injuries.

Safety always comes first. When using electrical tools around water, it's important to prioritize safety to avoid potential hazards. Our team has outlined some helpful guidelines that you can follow:

  • Keep the tile saw at least 6 feet away from the electrical outlet to reduce the risk of water coming into contact with electricity.
  • Avoid lining up the saw blade directly with the outlet to prevent water from being thrown into it.
  • Keep a towel or shop rag on hand to quickly disconnect the saw if necessary to prevent electric shock.
  • Use a drip loop whenever possible to prevent water from running into the electrical outlet and causing an electrical hazard. This is a crucial safety measure when using electrical tools around water.

Some More Vital Rules for How to Cut Stone

how to split stone

When it comes to breaking stones, the size and weight of your hammer matter. For smaller stones or those with a thin surface, a 22-ounce brick hammer should suffice. However, for larger boulders, a 16-to-20-pound sledgehammer is required. If you notice a high-pitched clang or a bouncing sensation when you hit the stone with your hammer, it's likely too light.

While the weight of your hammer is crucial, it's not as critical as the speed of your swing. A fast swing is more effective than a forceful hit when it comes to breaking stones.

Many people make the mistake of hitting a stone with light strokes numerous times, believing that they will eventually break it. We understand that this is easy to do, especially if you are doing so for the first time. However, many light hits are not as effective as one hard, fast strike. In some cases, they can only cause the stone to vibrate without breaking it.

The way a stone is supported underneath is essential in determining how it will break. This means that it's necessary to ensure that the stone is correctly supported before attempting to break it.

Using hammers alone is faster and more powerful than using chisels, but it requires a high level of skill to use them precisely. While chisels may be slower, they offer better precision. If you strike the stone 3 to 5 times and see no visible progress, it's likely time to stop and reassess. Consider changing the tool you are using, how you are striking the stone, and whether you are supporting it correctly.


Even if you're a novice when it comes to gem cutting, as long as you're willing to put in the work and educate yourself, you can achieve success in your project! Make sure that you obtain the right tools and techniques and you'll be able to create a beautiful and lasting outdoor space that you can enjoy for years to come.

Remember to take your time and approach the project with care, and don't hesitate to consult with experts like Columbus and Cincinnati Stone Center for professional stone-cutting services and high-quality products. We know that jobs like these might be intimidating or off-putting, and we are always here to guide you in the right direction. We have been a leading Ohio stone fabricator and supplier since 1952! Call us today to see how we can assist you with your upcoming project.


No items found.
Jon Smiley

Jon, the owner of Stone Center, is a knowledgeable expert in natural stone products, specializing in various types of stone for landscaping and architectural projects. Passionate about promoting the beauty and versatility of natural stone, Jon aims to use these blogs to inspire readers with creative ideas to upgrade their homes.

Check Out Our Products You May Like

No items found.